Top Ten Tuesday: Guilty Pleasure Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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This week’s topic was:

July 14: Books That Make Me Smile (For any reason! Maybe tell us why? Submitted by Julia @ pagesforthoughts)

I tweaked it a bit and made it about guilty pleasures. These books make me smile because they are are trashy, tropey, and soapy. But they also make me smile because they’re fun.

91jgf9xfe0l._ac_uy218_1. The Luxe series by Anne Godberson– Soapy melodrama in an Edith Wharton setting. I love it.

 

71vfsf-jfl._ac_uy218_2. The Shopaholic books by Sophie Kinsella– Well really just the first few. After that I stopped reading the series because I got annoyed at the character making the same mistakes over and over. But the first 3 were I Love Lucy– esque fun.

 

41mq0rfvfvl._ac_uy218_3. The Dollanganger series by VC Andrews– By this I mean the original 5 books series, not the new add ons.  VC Andrew was my middle school guilty pleasure. I still have  nostalgic fondness for her work but I’m hesitant to reread because I’m fairly sure it won’t live up to my memory.

 

b1fhmjabubs._ac_uy218_4. The Flappers series by Jillian  Larkin– Along the lines of the Luxe series (see above) this is pure historical soap.

71gkvh61vl._ac_uy218_5. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory– This kicked off a Tudor obsession when I was in my early 20’s. And not the historical Tudors or the TV Tudors (never got into the show) I was all about the soapy novel Tudors.

51tkzsftjl._ac_uy218_6. A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Devereaux– I wasn’t sure if this qualified as trashy enough to put on the list (IMO a book doesn’t belong on this list purely because it’s romance!) but this one is bodice ripper-y enough to qualify I think

71xd7ivfuel._ac_uy218_7. The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon– I read this when I was about 14. I don’t think I looked up from the page once for the whole two days it took me to read it.

81vvgnqiaol._ac_uy218_8. Scarlett by Alexandra RipleyGone With the Wind is too upscale for this list! In my defense I read this mostly because I wanted to see Scarlett and Rhett back together on better terms.  I got that, so I was happy.

b1vjcbcumqs._ac_uy218_9.Tarien Soul series by CW Wilson– Because it’s  so tropey. One after another after another. But I’m invested and I want to find out how it ends. I’m up to the last book.

810izexapdl._ac_uy218_10. American Royals by Katharine McGee– This soapfest imagines the American royal family that we might have had (in present day) if George Washington had accepted the crown that was offered to him some 200 years ago.

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I’ve (Probably) Read The Most Books By

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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Today’s topic is:

July 7: Authors I’ve Read the Most Books By

But since Goodreads got rid their Most Read Authors page, I can’t be sure. So I decided to add a “probably”, since this isn’t really scientific.

51j6zrifyl._ac_uy218_1. Ann M. Martin- As a kid  I was a Babysitter’s Club addict. I also read her Little Sister spin off series. Since they came out with a new book every month or so (in retrospect I think a ghost writer might have had something to do with it) I’m sure it added up to a lot. Yes, I also watched the film and TV series. I’ve also watched the new netflix series and plan to blog about it soon. At heart, I’m still very much a nine year old girl!

81liithy6el._ac_uy218_2. Francine Pascal– I also read a lot of  Sweet Valley books in my childhood. There were Sweet Valley Kids, Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High. I was too young for the Sweet Valley University books that emerged at some point. But I’m sure it added up to a lot. And yes, I think a lot of these were from a ghost writer too.

71vhhjdel._ac_uy218_3. Carolyn Keene– Nancy Drew was another favorite series in my childhood. I read the old school series and the newer ones. I’ve since learned that “Carolyn Keene” was the pseudonym that the Stratmeyer Syndicate authors used. Many of the Nancy Drew books were written by Mildred Wirt Benson, but other ghostwriters used the name as well. So I suppose I should say that I’ve read a lot of books by the various authors who used that name.

51ge6nyeul._ac_uy218_3.RL Stine– Yet another one from me youth. I read the Goosebumps books when I was little and the Fear Street series when I got a little bit older.

71i9zxpntfl._ac_uy218_4.Dean Koontz– I had a whole shelf full of his books at one point. I think he was the first “adult” author I read, when I was about 12. I was really interested in scary stuff  and someone recommended them to me. I think I was as enthralled with reading “grown up” stuff as I was with the books themselves. I haven’t read anything by Koontz in years.

41mq0rfvfvl._ac_uy218_5.VC Andrews– These were my 12 year old guilty pleasure. I devoured them! Though VC Andrews herself only wrote the Dollangager series, My Sweet Audrina (the sequel to this one was written by the ghostwriter), and the first books in the Casteel series (Heaven, Dark Angel, Fallen Hearts) before her death. The rest of the books were penned by a ghostwriter hired by her family after she died. Supposedly the ghostwriter had a lot of notes and drafts for other books to work from. I used to imagine exactly when he/she ran out of material is when the quality declined sharply. I’d try to identify where that was. Again, I haven’t looked at most of these in years.

71xd7ivfuel._ac_uy218_6.Sidney Sheldon– I stayed with my Grandmother one summer when I was about thirteen and she had a lot of these books. I devoured them and then sought out more! I remember very little about them except that everyone was beautiful and had evil secret plans. According to wiki he wrote 18 books but it feels like I read more than that… It’s been many years since I’ve read one of these though.

51nw7swclrl._ac_uy218_7. Lisa Gardner- For years Lisa Gardner has been a go to writer for me when I want a fast moving plot that will absorb me while I  read it, but not as too much of me in the way of outside investment. I think she’s got about 25 total. She also writes romance under the name Alicia Scott but I haven’t read any of those yet.

81epj1g-5vl._ac_uy218_8. Karin Slaughter– I got to this author for the same reasons as the author above. The quality of her work has been pretty consistent over the years. But she does sometimes get a littler darker than I’d like for “mindless reading.” I think I stopped reading her Grant County series at one point when I was upset about a plot development but I picked the series back up and went along with it as it morphed into the Will Trent series) According to wiki she’s written 18 novels, but again it feels like more.

81jwx0nliyl._ac_uy218_9.LM Montgomery– I’ve loved LM Montgomery since I was a kid, and that love has continued into adulthood. In this case I’ve read most of her novels (she wrote 20: 8 “Anne” books, 3 “Emily” books, 2 “Pat” books and several stand alones) but I also have several volumes  of her short fiction. I still love her work.

71vfsf-jfl._ac_uy218_10.Sophie Kinsella– I think Sophie Kinsella might also deserve a place on this list. I gave up on the Shopaholic series about  5 books in (around the time when the main characters antics crossed the line from cute to grating, IMO) but I’ve also read most of her stand alone titles and the books that she wrote under her real name (Madeline Wickham) She’s good for a laugh and an escape from reality, which is why I find myself returning to her often over the years.

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Thanksgiving/Thankful Freebie

For That Artsy Reader Girl‘s Top Ten Tuesday:

November 20: Thanksgiving/Thankful Freebie

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Last year I did a list of ten books that made an impact on my life (or the world in a way) that I’m grateful for. But this year I’m doing ten books that gave me a much needed escape from my real life and the real world. There have been times when I think having that ability to escape has kept me sane and I’m grateful for that. These aren’t all great books by any stretch of the imagination. But I found them at a point in time when they were just what I needed.

51culgbrdcl-_ac_us218_1. The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. Ja whmes– I read this one when things at work were kind of crazy and overwhelming. It was a relief to be able to come home from work and escape to a murder mystery and romance in 1920’s London.

 

 

518ejevmohl-_ac_us218_2. The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn– This past summer there was a job opportunity that I really wanted that didn’t work out. Naturally I was disappointed, and I was replaying my interview and getting angry at myself for not being more impressive. But it was great to pick up this book about a woman who had a much bigger reason to be angry at herself than I did, and much bigger problems than a temporary disappointment!

 

51o8egjihul-_ac_us218_3. My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella– I read this one when I was getting ready to start a new job and I was kind of nervous. The heroine here is also in a professional limbo but that was really the only similarity to my own life. It was sweet and funny and light enough to float on for a while.

 

 

51dqnh9enml-_ac_us218_4. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye– I was in a stressful situation regarding a friend of mine when I read this. Sometimes in stressful times I want to revisit an old favorite (like seeing an old friend), and sometimes I want the novelty of something I’ve never read before. This darkly comic re-imagining of Jane Eyre offer both novelty and familiarity.

 

 

61ezfwf-vnl-_ac_us218_5. Falling for You by Jill Mansell– Remember the election of 2016? It was a horrible time where each day you felt like the world was descending further and further into a black hole. And in ended in the worst way possible… I read a lot of Jill Mansell at that point. Her light, funny, romantic comedies were about all I could handle and were an escape to a world where people were nicer…

 

51mmrr0hqcl-_ac_us218_6. Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal– In 2015-2016 I suffered several significant losses in my personal life. It was an incredibly stressful period and the Glamourist series was the complete break from reality that I needed at the time. Think Jane Austen but writing fantasy. Yep, that’s what I needed.

 

 

41tmygolmvl-_ac_us218_7. The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marion Keyes– Anyone who deals with a chronic health condition can probably relate to the heroine of this book who feels like her life has been stolen by illness. But there’s an element of wish fulfillment too as that very illness ends up delivering fame, fortune, and Mr. (or in this Dr.) Right to her doorstep. Realistic? No. But living in a fantasy world can be fun too!

 

51d6qta-nll-_ac_us218_8. Spells at the Crossroads by Barbara Ashford– You know when you’re writing a novel and you’re on the seventeenth draft and wondering if you should just trash the whole thing? Well I was lucky to find this weird fairy tale- musical theatre hybrid story when I was feeling totally blocked creatively. It isn’t a great book by any means but it combined two things I love in a totally bizarre way that drew me in and reminded me that there are no rules that you have to follow when it comes to creativity.

51ilpdd3pwl-_ac_us218_9. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wrecker- I was just in one of those periods where everything feels like too much when I read this tale of two mythical beings set in turn of the century NYC. It helped to know that I could deal with reality during the day, and then come home at night and spend some time in a fantasy.

 

 

515oqah-rtl-_ac_us218_10. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid– This was another book I read in 2016 which was a horrible year for me personally as well as the world in general I think. A lot of what I read at the time was an attempt to escape into fantasy. This isn’t fantasy per se, but the life of a glamorous movie star in Old Hollywood is also about a far away from my day to day existence as you can get!

 

 

So this year, I’m thankful for books that let me escape the stress of reality.

2018 Mid Year Book Freak Out

I’ve seen this tag on a lot of blogs, so I thought “why not mine?”

BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ SO FAR IN 2018

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Idaho by Emily Ruskovitch– While I enjoyed the plot, this wasn’t a book to read to find out whodunnit or what happens next. If you read it for clear, unambiguous answers, you’ll be frustrated. But there are passages in this book that are so exquisitely written that I almost had to stop reading for a moment. There is ugliness in the plot. People do ugly things. But those are written about so beautifully that you almost can’t help but find something lovely in them, even when you don’t want to. The book consists of this torturous pairing of sadness and hope, and love and pain.

BEST SEQUEL YOU’VE READ SO FAR IN 2018

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Actually, I don’t think many of the books I’ve read in 2018 qualify as sequels. Probably one of the only ones is Messinger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear, which is the 4th in the Maisie Dobbs series. While somewhat grim (set in the aftermath of WWI and the looming shadow of WWII) the characters developed in interesting ways. One of the characters’ circumstances took a turn that I didn’t quite expect. I’m eager to see what becomes of him in the next book.

NEW RELEASE YOU HAVEN’T READ YET BUT WANT TO

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The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is one that I’m very anxious to read because I’ve heard good reviews from several fairly reliable sources. The combination of fantasy and historical fiction is right up my alley.

MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASES FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE YEAR

There are a lot. At the moment, the most notable are these.

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Bellwether and The Clockmaker’s Daughter are the long-anticipated new books by two of my favorite authors.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

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After Anatevka by Alexandra Silber

I think that I wanted to like this more than I did. I’m a fan of Alexandra Silber as an actress and a blogger and I wanted to love her debut novel. She played Hodel in the 2007 London production of The Fiddler on the Roof and Tzeitel in the 2016 Broadway revival of the same show. In this book, she imagined Hodel’s life after she leaves the stage (Hodel is last seen getting on a train to Siberia, where she will join her lover, Perchik in a labor camp). Tzeitel is also given a voice in letters she writes to her sister. I thought that this was a great extension of the creative process, from an actress who clearly has a strong connection to the material and the characters. Which makes my biggest problem with it surprising. An actor is supposed to show who a character is and what s/he feels by illustrating it with their body and voice. But in this book, we’re told things about the characters rather than shown. We know for example that Hodel loves Perchik because we’re told that this is the case, but not because we see it. So ultimately I liked this less than I wanted to.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

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I read this because I’d seen it recommended many times, rather than any interest I may have had in a Nigerian couple struggling to conceive. But this story of the traditional culture coming into conflict with modern life drew me in right away. I found that I cared about the characters and the things that happened to them. The plot twisted in directions that I didn’t expect, but it never felt contrived.

FAVORITE NEW AUTHOR

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I look forward to reading more from Susanna Fogel, author of Nuclear Family. According to her bio she’s written a couple of screenplays and some stuff for The New Yorker. But her first novel has a really nice blend of the humor, love, and exasperation that makes family what it is. Granted, the Fellers are their own unique kind of dysfunctional, but the blend of wanting to simultaneously hug some of these people and never see or speak to them again is something that many people will understand. The chapters consist of letters that the family writes to the main character, Julie. They have names like One of the Eggs You Just Froze Has a Question, Your Mom’s Rabbi Has a Great Idea for a TV Show!, Your Uncle Figured a Mass E-mail Was the Best Way to Discuss His Sexuality, The Gerbil You Drowned in 1990 Would Like a Word With You, and Your Intrauterine Device Has Some Thoughts on Your Love Life.  Yes, some of it’s weird, but Fogel pulls it off.

FAVORITE NEW CRUSH

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I haven’t really encountered any new literary crushes. I’ve recently discovered Simone St. James though, and while her books aren’t great literature, they’re good fun. Her romantic heroes tend to be compelling enough for me to fall for, for the duration of the book, even though they’re not likely to become long-term book boyfriends.

FAVORITE NEW CHARACTERS

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Probably Sir Anthony Peters, Beth Cunningham, and Alex MacGregor from The Mask of Duplicity. All three are intriguing. I’m eager to get to know them all a bit better in the next book in the series.

BOOKS THAT MADE YOU CRY

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Commonwealth by Ann Patchett probably came the closest. It takes place over five decades but the events in two time periods really got to me. One is when several children in a blended family are playing one summer day. The other is when one of those children is caring for her sick father, nearly a half a century later. When she and her father are directly confronted with the events of that summer day, I got a bit of a lump in my throat. I won’t say more, because I can’t without giving away spoilers.

A BOOK THAT MADE YOU HAPPY

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Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson

The movie has always been one of my “happy movies”- something I put on to make a bad day a little bit better. I found the novel on which it was based to be even frothier and lighter than the film. In some ways, I actually wished for some of the additional weight that the film added, but the book definitely left me in a good mood.

MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOKS YOU’VE BOUGHT SO FAR THIS YEAR

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Cheerful Weather For the Wedding by Julia Strachey. Like most Persephone Classics, it’s a small work of art, as an object. Its cover features Girl Reading, a painting by Harold Knight. I like the colors in the painting and the general state of repose of the figure. The endpaper features a printed dress fabric design by Madeleine Lawrence. It’s also beautifully written.

WHAT BOOKS DO YOU NEED TO READ BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR?

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The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien– I’ve never actually made it through the Lord of the Rings books. Finally, the prospect of being a fantasy writer who had never read Tolkien was too much. I’m making my way through this slowly, in between reading other things. I will finish it before the end of the year though!