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: 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: Halloween/Creepy Freebie

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

October 30: Halloween/Creepy Freebie

This week I’m just sharing some lesser know stories to give you the creeps this Halloween.

51mrrhc1ol-_ac_ul436_11. Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp- Louisa Armory is nineteen and she’s stuck watching her twelve year old niece, Jane at Jane’s grandmother’s house over the summer. But when Jane becomes obsessed with Emily, a girl who lived in the house years earlier, and died before her thirteenth birthday, Louisa grows concerned.  Jane is talking about her as if she still exists, and even begins to act like her (cruel and selfish), and Louisa finds herself battling with a bitter, malevolent,  spirit to save her niece. I read this as a child and it scared me a lot. I read it again years later, and while it didn’t have the same menace it was still a nice psychological chiller.

51gpogblafl-_ac_ul436_2. Ring by Koji Suzuki– Many people are familiar with the film adaptation of this novel about a videotape that kills viewers seven days after they watch it.  The premise is very similar to the film but the execution is different in several ways. Interestingly the book seems to be asking what would happen if the technology on which we are increasingly dependent was hijacked by something malevolent that was intent on getting to as many people/victims as possible. The book, written in 1990, couldn’t have anticipated a form of technology that could be spread the way a digital video can, but when you think about that, the implications become even more frightening. Another interesting element that is absent from the film is the Japanese cultural attitude toward women, which plays a role in the tape’s origin story as well as the action of the novel itself.

81pojvpt08l-_ac_ul436_3. The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell– Elsie marries Rupert Bainbridge, a wealthy heir, and believes that she’s destined for a happily ever after. But when she’s widowed just weeks after the wedding she finds herself living with her husband’s cousin, Sarah, amid disdainful servants and hostile villagers. When Elsie discovers a painted wooden figure in a looked room in her house she doesn’t think much of it. When Sarah discovers an ancestor’s diary, she and Elsie learn more about the history of their home and the origin of the wooden figure. Then more and more figures begin to appear. The book was published in 2017 but does an excellent job recalling Victorian ghost stories. I would recommend it to fans of Daphne DuMaurier, Shirley Jackson, and Susan Hill.

91nzafowepl-_ac_ul436_4. The Girl in A Swing by Richard Adams– Alan is a pretty boring fellow. He falls in love with Kathe, a beautiful stenographer who is sent to assist him on a business trip to Denmark. To Alan’s surprise, Kathe appears to return his feelings.  They get married after a whirlwind courtship, but the reader has the sense that something isn’t right about Kathe. She has a secret that puts her and Alan’s happiness (and possibly their sanity) at risk. Her secret isn’t explicitly told to the reader, much most readers will guess based on the clues that come from her fears and the visions that Alan has.  The supernatural elements of the book are also ambiguous. You can read it as a tale of the supernatural or you can read it as a story of horror that is all too possible.

41-kxlbhnl-_ac_us218_5. The Other by Thomas Tryon– Niles and Holland Perry are thirteen year old identical twins living in a small New England town. Their father recently died in an accident and Mrs. Perry is still buried in her grief and stays in her room, leaving the boys to run wild for most of the summer.  But Holland’s childish pranks grow more sinister as the summer progresses. One twist in the story is somewhat predictable, but that’s just a single piece of the puzzle. For some reason, Amazon lists this as “Vampire Horror” which makes no sense to me because there are no vampires in this.

41fzolyra1l-_ac_us218_6. The Ruins by Scott Smith– Jeff, Amy, Eric, and Stacy are four American friends on vacation in Cancun. When they meet Mathias, a German tourist, they agree to help him find his brother Heinrich, who was last seen heading to check out some ruins with his new girlfriend. They follow in Heinrich’s footsteps to the ruins, ignoring and misinterpreting signs that they’re headed for danger. When they find the themselves stranded on a Mayan ruins facing an ancient evil, they learn that the true danger may lie within their group.

515upl9wobl-_ac_us218_7. The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons-Colquitt and Walter Kennedy are a happy couple in an Atalanta suburb. When the vacant lot next door, that they had thought would remain undeveloped turns into a construction site, they’re disappointed in the  loss of their privacy. But when  people move into the house and face tragedy after tragedy, Walter and Colquitt realize that something is horribly wrong. The house is brand new. Surely it can’t be haunted! But it seems to destroy everyone who lives there, and the destruction isn’t confined to the house…

61r5owovtul-_ac_us218_8. Ghost Story by Peter Straub– In a small town in upstate New York, four old men meet up to tell ghost stories. When one of their group dies, the remaining men begin to suffer nightmares, and the stories they tell become more and more terrifying. As things get worse, they realize that a secret that they’ve kept for half a century is coming back to haunt them. This is a really entertaining supernatural revenge story, but it is a slow burn, so give it time to unfold.

51blghuph3l-_ac_us218_9. Down A Dark Hall by Lois Duncan– When Kit Gordy’s mother remarries, she decides to take an extended European honeymoon, meaning that Kit must enroll at the Blackwood Academy, a boarding school for young girls.  When she first arrives, Kit realizes that some thing is wrong. Only four girls have been accepted as students this term. Kit begins to dream about playing the piano, only to wake up with her hands and fingers sore. Her attempts to call/write to people outside of Blackwood always turn out unsuccessful. When Kit discovers the tragic fate of some of Blackwood’s previous students, she realizes that she and her classmates are in constant danger.  Apparently this had a film adaptation earlier this year, but I haven’t seen it yet.

61ftpdsyagl-_ac_us218_The Changling by Victor LaValle– Apollo and his wife Emma have just had a beautiful baby boy. Despite the fact that they both adore their new son, they soon find themselves anxious and exhausted. So when Emma starts acting strangely, Apollo figures it’s Post Partum Depression and he encourages her to see her doctor. However, he’s totally unprepared for Emma’s next, horrific action, or her disappearance following it. Reeling from the ruins of his life, Apollo begins a dark journey through a world he thought he knew. A mysterious stranger may hold the key to getting him answers, if Apollo can accept that  the city he’s lived in his whole life, the wife he’s always loved, and even the child he adores, are are strangers to him.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR

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

September 19Top Ten Books On My Fall TBR List

I decided to list  books on my TBR with a sort of “autumnal” feeling to them.

41hn3x56n9l-_ac_us218_1. Autumn by Ali Smith– This is the first in a quartet of of stand alone books that are described as “separate, yet interconnected and cyclical”. I’m going to try to read them during the seasons for which they are intended! I’m also intrigued because this book is said to be about the platonic relationship between a man and a woman at very different points in their lives. I think that’s a topic that’s often unexplored.

 

41hv3ouqj9l-_ac_us218_2. The Break by Marian Keyes– Mostly I just want to read this because I tend to like Marian Keyes. This book is about a man and woman in a generally happy marriage. So the woman is surprised when her husband announces that he wants to take a six month “break” and go to southeast Asia. Mid-life crisis? Perhaps. But a break isn’t a break up. But will these two reunite and be the same people left?

 

51bkzcrevpl-_ac_us218_3. Tanglewood and Brine by Deidre Sullivan- This is described as thirteen “dark, feminist retellings of traditional fairy tales”. Um, yes, please!

 

 

 

613s3rdz4l-_ac_us218_4. The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell– This is said to be a ghost story inspired by Susan Hill and Shirley Jackson. I love both of those authors and consider both to be very good fall reading. Hopefully this will be too!

 

 

 

 

61keae7jdll-_ac_sr160218_5. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman– I’m a fan of Hoffman in general, and her Practical Magic, is a seasonal fall fave. So naturally I’m excited to check out this prequel!

 

 

 

51bn3helxpl-_ac_us218_6. The Revolution of Marina M by Janet Fitch– I love Janet Fitch, and I love historical fiction. I don’t know how Fitch will do with the genre, but I’m excited to see. Even though this takes place in Russia (which I tend to associate with winter rather than fall, though I’m sure they have fall too…) it’s being released in early November.

 

 

41ilzuecpol-_ac_us218_7. Heather, The Totality by Matthew Weiner- Several things in early reviews of this debut novel from the creator of Mad Men, make me think it’ll be a good fall read. The novel about a privileged Manhattan family and a dangerous young man, has been compared to Patricia Highsmith (even though I called The Talented Mr. Ripley a Summer book in a previous list, I consider her an “Autumn writer” in general), Evelyn Waugh,  and Muriel Spark, who are all writers I tend to associate with autumn. It’s also described as a “classic noir” which I tend to think of as an autumn genre (if such a thing exists)

51qc4pa9qol-_ac_us218_8. Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America by  Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding– By the time this book comes out it’ll be about a year since the 2016 election. I’m holding off on Hilary Clinton’s What Happened, because I think it’s still too raw to read the intelligent, reflective, well considered words of the woman who should have been president. But even though I have a self protective instinct to bury my head in the sand, we do live in the real world and we can’t hide from it all the time. This book looks at how women in such a divided country can unite and support one another. It features contributions from 23 leading feminist writers from all walks of life. 

61me9em-swl-_ac_us218_9. Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History by Tori Telfer– With a few notable exceptions, murder, especially serial murder, is generally considered a man’s game. We’re often fed a narrative that women are the victims of serial killers rather than being serial killers themselves. Statistics do show that most serial killers are male, but there are notable exceptions and they’re often relegated to easy explanations: hormones, witchcraft, femme fatale, black widow, a man made her do it…. It’s sort of interesting how even with something like murder, we try to place people into categories with which we’re comfortable.

51jqyyajdol-_ac_us218_10.Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdich- I consider Erdich to be another “autumnal author” and this is dystopia, which is a genre I associate with fall (death/endings I suppose). In this book, evolution has reversed itself, which is a concept that I find interesting.