Top Ten Tuesday: Books From Old TBRs That I’ve Actually Read

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

The prompt this week was:

December 15: Books On My Winter 2020-2021 TBR (or summer if you live in the southern hemisphere)

But I thought that since I’ve done so many TBRs, I’d go through them and comment on what I’ve actually read.

  1. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey– This is one I readalong and I’m glad I did read it that way, because I don’t know if I’d have made it through if I didn’t have that holding me accountable! I was very unsure of how to rate this (I eventually gave it 3/5 stars on goodreads) because, while I can see what others enjoy it and it had qualities I enjoyed, I don’t think it’s for me. (Mentioned in: TBR Procrastination)

2. The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis– This was another 3 star read, but that was more or less in line with my expectations. I love historical fiction set in NYC, and the period stuff was great, but I found it lacking in terms of plot and character. (From: Upcoming releases for the 2nd half of 2019)

3. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware– I gave this one 4 stars. It wasn’t great literature and it didn’t try to be. It embraced what it was: a twisty thriller. (From: Upcoming releases for the 2nd half of 2019)

4. The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern– I loved The Night Circus, so my expectations for the follow up were high, but this lived up to most of them! I think it’s a tough book to describe, it’s more like an experience. I’d like to give it a reread at some point because I’m sure I’ll notice new things. (From: Upcoming releases for the 2nd half of 2019)

5. Autumn by Ali Smith- It’s hard to explain precisely why someone should read Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet, but they should! Each book is a stand alone but connections emerge if you read them all . It’s very alert to where the world is right now. (From: Fall TBR 2017)

6. The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell– This is definitely a good Halloween read. Not everyone in my book club enjoyed it as much as I did though. So take my recommendation with a grain of salt, I suppose! (From: Fall TBR 2017)

7. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman– I’d say that this prequel to Practical Magic lived up to the original. There’s another new prequel to them both out now. I haven’t read it yet though! (From: Fall TBR 2017)

8. The Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdich– This was a disappointment. I think I gave it two stars. The quality of the writing was very good, but it didn’t explore the premise enough. (From Fall TBR 2017)

9. Idaho by Emily Ruskovitch– I remember that I loved this book but on amazon and goodreads there was a very so-so reaction amongst other readers. It was ambiguous, which I liked, but I guess not everyone did. (From: Winter TBR: 2017)

10. The Bear and the Nightengale by Katherine Arden– This is one of the rare cases where I liked a books sequels better than the book itself. Not that it was a bad book by any means! It was very good! I just felt like the story opened up a little more in the second and third novels. (From: Winter TBR 2017)

Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons I Love Fairy Tale Retellings

For That Artsy Reader Girls Top Ten Tuesday:

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May 19: Reasons Why I Love [insert your favorite book title, genre, author, etc. here]

I decided to go with what I know and what I write. Fairy tales!

a1bbvb76hsl._ac_uy218_1. They can be scary: Example: The Changeling by Victor La Valle made the familiar and beloved things seem alien and menacing.

a13yyhpaeml._ac_uy218_2.  They can be intricate: Example: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth is a Rapunzel retelling that weaves together three narrative strands, like a braid.

81-bxm7f5dl._ac_ul320_3. They can create new worlds: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier launches Marillier’s Sevenwaters series. It’s a six book series set partially in Ancient Ireland as well as an Otherworld based on Celtic mythology. These should be read in order. Following Daughter of the Forest, there’s Son of the Shadows and Child of the Prophecy. Then the second trilogy that makes up the series is Heir to Sevenwaters, Seer of Sevenwaters, and Flame of Sevenwaters.

51spwrt1xrl-_ac_us218_4. They can give us new looks at old worlds: Example Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series is set in an alternate version of the history we know, similar to what we know in many ways with a bit of extra magic thrown in. These don’t need to be read in any order, but I recommend the early books in the series, which are much better than the later ones. My favorites are The Fire Rose, The Serpent’s Shadow, The Gates of Sleep, and Phoenix and Ashes. 

41oyve54sgl-_ac_us218_5. They can be romantic: Example I found Juliet Marillier’s Beauty and the Beast retelling Heart’s Blood to be beautifully romantic in addition to having great historical and fantasy elements.

71oqghfkyhl._ac_uy218_6. They can be funny: Example Sarah Pineborough’s Tales From the Kingdoms (Poison, Charm, Beauty) trilogy made me chuckle at several points. They probably work better if they’re read in order, but you can probably still understand everything that’s happening even if you don’t.

51u1puwi8ol._ac_uy218_7.  They can be tearjerking and heartbreaking: Example: Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan is a beautifully written but harrowing tale (trigger warnings here)  with an ending that is ultimately bittersweet but in the moment may seem more bitter to some readers. Not all stories have happily ever afters, and even in the ones that do, those happy endings don’t apply to all.

a1klhsokiol._ac_uy218_8. They can be innovative: Example: I first discovered Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber in a college class I took called “Innovative Contemporary Fiction.” I’m glad I read this for the first time in an academic setting because it gave me a chance to really dig into the text and notice things I would have otherwise missed. There’s a lot happening between the lines of these stories!

81hs1pgkzml._ac_uy218_9. They can be beautiful: Example I found Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy to be beautiful in terms of story, setting, and prose.  It satisfied on almost every level. These should be read in order. It’s The Bear and the Nightingale, The Girl In the Tower, andThe Winter of the Witch.

91jxemsjivl._ac_uy218_10. They’re what I do: Example: Once again it seems I’m not above promoting my own book. My first novel, Beautiful: A Tale of Beauties and Beasts is a Beauty and the Beast retelling. It’s my first published novel. I’m working on a follow up right now, that’s based on The Snow Queen.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books Read in 2018

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For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday: 

January 1: Best Books I Read In 2018

Happy New Year to all! Let’s kick off this year with a look at some of the great books I read last year.

  1. 41yjnrznaol-_ac_us218_Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo– This novel of tradition coming into conflict with modern values surprised me several times.  Yejide and Akin are a young Nigerian couple. They don’t have any kids yet but aren’t really worried, until immense pressure from their families causes Akin to take a second wife, despite the couple’s desire to avoid polygamy. In response, Yejide decides to do anything it takes to get pregnant. Both Yejide and Akin make tremendous sacrifices for the sake of family.  Both want to do the right thing, but each sacrifice has lasting consequences. Set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing culture and world, this story broke my heart.

2.61ciiq0YV9L._AC_US218_ Idaho by Emily Ruskovich– Years ago, Wade’s first wife, Jenny murdered their younger daughter, while their older one ran away. Now Jenny is spending the rest of her life in prison. Wade has married Ann, and is starting to lose his memory. Ann suspects that there may be more to the incident that destroyed Wade’s family than he lets on, but how will she ever know? This book unfolds from multiple points of view over the course of about thirty years. The mosaic of voices eventually comes together to suggest the truth, but that remains unsaid and ambiguous. I appreciated the craft (gorgeous prose) and the ambiguity, but I can see where some might not like it.

3. 41Q9fVyDjRL._AC_US218_ All New People by Anne Lamott– Nanny Goodman enters adolescence as America enters the 1960’s. Her father is a writer and her mother is an endless source of material. As Nanny comes of age, she sees a culture mirror her as it descends into drugs. There is a mass exodus of fathers from her town. Real estate and technological development change the landscape of the small California town where she lives. An adult Nan narrates she childhood memories with humor and emotional complexity.

4. 41Krb0iOt7L._AC_US218_The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell- Elsie thought she’d found her happily ever after when she married the wealthy Rupert Bainbridge. But when Rupert dies only a few weeks into their marriage, Elsie is stuck with Rupert’s cousin amidst resentful servants and hostile villagers. When Rupert’s cousin, Sarah,  discovers a carved figure that looks a lot like Elsie, as well as a diary, Elsie doesn’t think much of it. But when the figure’s eyes begin to follow Elsie, she starts getting nervous… This eerie, atmospheric Victorian Gothic ghost story, is wonderful tribute to the likes of Shirley Jackson and Daphne DuMaurier.

5. 51uyvcmgxil-_ac_us218_Commonwealth by Ann Patchett– When Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party and kisses her mother, he sets in motion a chain of events that breaks apart both their marriages and joins two families. Spending the summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children form a bond that is later tested when a tragedy sends shockwaves through both families. The story takes place before and after the tragedy, over the course of fifty years. We do eventually learn what , happened that changed everything (yet again) for these families, but before we do, we learn what led up to it, and what the consequences were.

6. 51W3InymdaL._AC_US218_Tangerine by Christine Mangan– I was surprised to see that  this book has a lot of negative reviews on Amazon and goodreads. I think the reason for that is that none of the characters are very likable. But if you’re OK with that, I found this atmospheric, noirish whodunnit to be a lot of fun. A British ex-pat is living in Tangier with her husband in the 1950s. When her former college roommate turns up at her door one day, memories of the past (including a violent death) begin to emerge. It turns out that both ladies have things they want to hide, and that the beautiful city of Tangier might be an exotic ground against which their struggle plays out. I think that this would appeal to fans of Patricia Highsmith.

7. 51wn17e1xil-_ac_us218_Nuclear Family by Susanna Fogel– Over the course of three decades we read letters to a heroine who we never meet directly. These letters come from her family: her father is a narcissistic former child prodigy. He has divorced her mother and married a traditional Chinese woman. They have a son who wears suits to bed. Her mother is a therapist who never remarried, but may be in love with her Rabbi and overshares on a regular basis. Her sister may have given up on college in order to own guns and land in Arizona. We read letters from all of these characters to our heroine, Julie. We read thank you notes, condolences, family gossip and more. Also included are gems like “The Gerbil You Drowned in 1990 Would Like a Word With You”, “Your Uncle Figured a Mass E-mail Was the Best Way to Discuss His Sexuality” and “Your Intrauterine Device Has Some Thoughts on Your Love Life.” It made me snort with laughter at several points.

8. 518ejevmohl-_ac_us218_The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn– Anna Fox is a child psychologist who suffers from Agoraphobia so debilitating that she can’t leave her Harlem townhouse. She spends her days watching old movies, interacting with people online, and spying on her neighbors (just a little!). When she sees a crime take place in a house facing hers, she calls the police. But her copious consumption of alcohol and prescription drugs means that she’s not the best witness. Anna’s fondness for old film noirs permeates this book and makes it feel like an homage. I definitely recommend this to Hitchcock fans!

51njfgrvqcl-_ac_us218_9. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden– This is the first book in Arden’s Winternight trilogy and it definitely has me interested in reading more in 2019. Vasilisa lives in the Russian wilderness with her family. When her mother dies, her father brings a new wife from Moscow. Vasilisa’s stepmother is a religious woman who forbids the family from honoring the traditional household spirits. Vasilisa fears the potential consequences of these actions as misfortune comes to the village. We see several conflicts play out in this book. Traditional religion plays out against Christianity (which was still somewhat new at the time this book was set). Vasilisa also comes into conflict with her stepmother. But really I see the primary conflict in this books as the independent, strong minded Vasilisa coming facing the limited roles that her her world offers for women. 61ftpdsyagl-_ac_us218_

10. The Changeling by Victor LaValle– When Apollo and his wife Emma have a baby boy, they’re thrilled. But soon, like many new parents, they’re exhausted and stressed. When Emma starts behaving odd, Apollo worries it’s Post Partum Depression and encourages her to see the doctor. But before that can happen, Emma commits a horrific act and then vanishes. Apollo must venture into a city that he only thought he knew, to find a forgotten island, a graveyard full of secrets and a forest full of legends. It’s only by working alongside a mysterious stranger whom he may not be able to trust, that Apollo can hope to regain what he thinks may be lost forever.

Top Ten Tuesday: Cozy Winter Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

December 4: Cozy/Wintry Reads (Make this prompt suit your current season if needs be.)

There’s nothing I love more than curling up under a blanket with a good book and some hot cocoa while the snow is falling outside. Here are my favorite cozy winter reads:

51lz9ueudjl-_ac_us218_1. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie- Hercule Poirot is on a train that is trapped by an avalanche, just before a passenger is found murdered. Poirot is on the case and the thirteen other passengers in the car are his only suspects. The only problem is that they all have both an excellent motive and an airtight alibi. Just an FYI, the recent film changes some elements of the ending, so even if you’ve seen that, you may still be surprised.

51mxt4oifll-_ac_us218_2. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden- Vasilisa grows up in a home in the Russian wilderness that’s snowed in each winter. She spends the season with her siblings listening to their nurse’s fairy tales. When her mother dies, her father brings a new wife home from Moscow. Vasilisa’s stepmother is religious and won’t allow the family to honor the household spirits as they always have. Though the family acquiesces to her wishes, Vasilisa suspects that this decision will have grave consequences in this re-imagined Russian fairy tale.

41d0oywr9zl-_ac_us218_3. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey- A childless couple in Alaska in 1920 indulge in a bit of silliness on the night of the first snowfall. They build a child out of snow. The next morning, the snow child is gone but Jack and Mabel start to catch glimpses of a little girl, running through the trees. This child seems to survive alone in the Alaskan wilderness. Is she their snow child come to life or are her origins more mundane? Jack and Mabel come to love this girl, whom they call Faina as if she were their own. But will they be able to care for her as they would a normal child?

51qgclwqxal-_ac_us218_4. Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin– This is kind of a love it or hate it book (though don’t judge it on it’s bizarre film adaptation!). In New York City at the turn of the 20th century, Peter Lake attempts to rob a mansion that he thinks is empty one cold, winter night. It’s not empty. Beverley Penn, the daughter of the house is there, dying of consumption. They fall into a love so powerful that Peter, an uneducated thief will embark on a quest to stop time, bring back the dead and cure disease. It’s full of symbolism and beautiful writing, but some readers will find it overlong and indulgent.

51c-asvgcil-_ac_us218_5. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield- I read this one snowy day, and I’ll always associate it with winter for that reason. Vida Winter (is the name a coincidence?!) is a reclusive author who has made up stories about her life, but hidden the truth of it. Now that she’s old and sick she hires biographer Margaret Lea to tell her true story. It’s a tale of gothic strangeness, and a ghost, a governess, twins, a topiary garden and a house fire.

 

218weryp6kl-_ac_us218_6. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton– The title character of this slim novel is a farmer burdened by a barren farm an a hypochondriac wife, Zeenia. When Zeenia’s cousin, Mattie visits, Ethan falls in love with the warm girl who is everything that his wife is not. But his attempts to escape with Mattie may doom them all to a cold life on Ethan’s unproductive land.

 

518ejevmohl-_ac_us218_7. The Woman in the Window by AJ Flinn- Anna Fox is an agoraphobic who spends her days in her Harlem townhouse drinking wine, watching old movies and spying on her neighbors. When she witnesses a  murder in one of the their houses, the police don’t believe her (she’s a drunk with a history of psychological issues). We learn more about the chilly roots of those issues, and the mysterious events of that happened in her neighbors house, as we read.

517vbd5d37l-_ac_us218_8. Still Life by Louise Penny– There’s been a murder in the tiny town of Three Pines, a rural village just south of Montreal. When Inspector Gamache and his team arrive, everyone assumes that middle aged artist Jane Neal was killed in a tragic hunting accident. But Inspector Gamache soon discovers that Three Pines is hiding some dark secrets. While the village seems cozy and the food is described as yummy, the murders would probably keep me from wanting to move to Three Pines.

51zrrxlch9l-_ac_us218_9. The Loop by Nicholas Evans- In Hope, Montana, a Rocky Mountain ranching town, a pack of wolves has emerged and reawakened a tension that existed a century ago between humans and wolves. Helen Ross is an environmentalist who is sent to Hope to protect the wolves. Her mission brings her into conflict with Buck Calder, a brutal but charismatic rancher, as well as his son, Luke, with whom Helen begins an affair.

 

51laj9fuhcl-_ac_us218_10. A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick– In 1907 Wisconsin, 58 year old Ralph is waiting for his mail order bride to appear. He put out a classified ad, and is expecting his new wife at the station, but with Catherine Land gets off the train she’s not at all what he expected. She has plans to slowly poison Ralph and leave Wisconsin as a wealthy widow. But on Ralph’s snow bound estate, he reveals to Catherine that he’s a man with secrets and plans of his own.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: My Winter TBR

For The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday:

This week’s topic is pretty self explanatory!

51lsmzwntfl-_ac_us218_1. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton– This has been on my TBR for a while. It’s about a young man who goes to New Zealand in 1866 to word in the goldfields, but he and his coworkers get caught up in a series of mysterious events. It definitely seems like the kind if thing to tackle over many a cold evening, curled up in my pajamas with a cup of tea!

 

51q2yi-diil-_ac_us218_2. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin– I like the premise of this one: if you knew the date of your death, how would that inform the choices that you make in life? This book is four siblings who learn when they’ll die. It follows them as they try to live the rest of their lives with that information.

 

 

61sxhqmwaql-_ac_us218_3. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman– This is a prequel to Practical Magic. Enough said! Actually I think of Practical Magic as a “fall” book but I can imagine reading this on a snowy day and getting a warm magical glow.

 

 

 

51wxqincjul-_ac_us218_4. The Revolution of Marina M by Janet Fitch-  This is another one I’ve really been looking forward too.  I loved Janet Fitch’s White Oleander, and I’m very curious to see how she does with historical fiction. Plus, the Russian setting seems very wintery to me.

 

 

51los6asx-l-_ac_us218_5. The Cage-maker by Nicole Seitz–  This novel is about a 21st century blogger who inherits an exquisitely detailed birdcage from an unknown relative. In a hidden compartment in the birdcage she finds letters, journal entries, and newspaper articles that tell the story of her family. It’s a bit love story, a bit gothic thriller, a bit historical fiction, and it definitely seems like the perfect read for a cold night.

 

61jrknqrsel-_ac_us218_6. A Column of Fire by Ken Follett– This is the third Kingsbridge book, and a follow up to Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. It’s set in  and around the same Cathedral in the sixteenth century. At 927 pages, this seems like a good book to take into hibernation.

 

 

 

51p5mwk1-hl-_ac_us218_7. The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone  by Olivia Laing- I think more attention is being paid to being alone lately, which is good. In some ways it’s a new thing. I don’t mean feeling alone. That’s existed for about as long as people have! But more people are opting not to marry and have families, or putting that off for the future. That leads to more young people physically being alone. This book looks at loneliness through the lives of iconic artists. It also addresses how technology factors into all this. Does it allow us to connect to the outside world, or trap us behind our screens, and keep us from interacting? To me winter has the potential to be a lonely season. You’re indoors keeping warm, rather than in public space. So this seems like a great read to keep me company.

617j4awgzul-_ac_us218_8. Idaho by Emily Ruskovich– A friend of mine recommended this very highly. It’s told from multiple perspectives and is about a woman whose husband is losing his memory. As his mind fades, she becomes increasingly interested in finding out what happened to his first wife. In some ways I see winter as a season where things fade or are buried by snow. For that reasons it’s also a time when people don’t see things or only see parts of them. So it seems like this would be an appropriate book for a season where things are so uncertain.

51njfgrvqcl-_ac_us218_9. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden– This is a retelling of Vasilisa the Wise, a Russian fairy tale. It’s set in Russia in the 1300s, which I definitely picture as a sort of deep winter world, where people huddle together to stay warm. I imagine them telling stories to pass the time by the fire as they do that (I’m sure the real fourteenth century Russia was a lot less pleasant than I’m imagining it!). This would be one of the stories that they tell.  It’s the first in a trilogy called the “Wintersnight trilogy” so I think I’m on the right track here.

51dyrlatcxl-_ac_us218_10. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey– This series has been recommended to me over and over again. The initial trilogy (later books continue the story in another generation) is made up of three big books set in a vivid, complicated world. Perfect for a season when you’re trapped inside by a snow storm and want to escape somewhere else.