Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books of 2020

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

December 29: Favorite Books of 2020

I know this was from last week, but I missed it then, so I’m doing it now. I also know that it’s not Tuesday anymore, but I’ve had an eventful few weeks, so this is when I’m getting to it!

I reread a few old favorites this year, so I set a rule that rereads aren’t allowed on my list. These are the top ten books I read for the first time in 2020.

1. Mariana by Monica Dickens- I read this as part of the Persephone readathon back in January. I think this was a case of the right book finding me at the right time. But it continues my literary love affair with Persephone.

2. Gravity is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty- This was a weird book. It’s about a woman, Abi, whose brother disappeared on her birthday 20 years earlier. That same year she started getting chapters from some sort of self help manual, The Guidebook, in the mail. So when Abi is invited to an all expense paid weekend retreat to learn “the truth” about the Guidebook, she links it with learning the truth about her brother’s disappearance. And all of this happens in roughly the first 50 pages of the book. I don’t want to give away too much, but this book goes in a direction I never expected- in a good way.

3. The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins- I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone looking for a fast read, but if you’re looking for a thriller that takes its time with the set up and execution, this is one. It’s about Olivia, a British historian with a high flying career and a beautiful family. She also has a research assistant, Vivian. But we quickly come to realize that Vivian has ulterior motives for helping Olivia; motives that reach back into the women’s’ past, and may lead one of them to murder.

4. The Book of Speculation by Erica Swyler– This was a dual timeline story, where one of the tales bordered on fantasy, without ever fully taking the jump into it. It’s about Simon, a librarian, who lives alone in his family house on Long Island. When a rare book dealer sends him a volume that may have some connection to his family, Simon gets caught up in the tale of a misfit, living and working with the circus. But it may also reveal a curse on Simon’s family. If that’s true, only the book can save them. This book had sketches by the author alongside the text. I’m always amazed my people who can do two things (in this case writing and drawing) well.

5. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor- This book is nicknamed the Nigerian Harry Potter. It’s about a girl who was born in New York City but lives in Nigeria. Her features are west African but she’s albino. She doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere. But when she discovers that she’s a “free agent” she realizes that she’s got latent magical power and a lot of catching up to do. As she’s learning her footing, she and her friends are asked to track down a career criminal who also knows magic. The Nigerian setting and folklore gives this book a unique flavor.

6. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware– Rowan is a nanny for a family living in the Scottish highlands. The house has an advanced communication system built into it. “Happy” is an app that controls everything from ordering food when the fridge runs low, to turning on the lights and drawing the curtains. She’s not put off by the fact that four previous nannies left the job in the past year. But soon Rowan comes to wonder if the ghostly tales that were told about the house are true.

7. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell- When the Durrell family could no longer endure rain soaked England, they fled to the sun soaked Greek island of Corfu. I read this because I love the tv series The Durrells in Corfu, and this was the basis for the series. The animals of Corfu soon became a common sight in the Durrell home.

8. Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner– Hotel Du Lac isn’t a big adventure with a complicated plot. I’d call it “quiet” book. It seems to be moving along at a slow pace, but then it sneaks up at you with it’s wit. It’s about Edith Hope, an author of romance novels which she writes under a different name. But when she realizes that her life is resembling one of her novels (and not in a good way!) she escapes to the quiet luxury of the titular Swiss hotel. But when she gets to know the other guests, she realizes that they all have their own drama. I loved the characters in this book. They started to feel like old friends after a while. Apparently it was adapted for TV in 1986, as a joint production between the BBC and A&E Television Networks. I’ll have to give that miniseries a look to see how it translated to TV. If done properly, I can see it working well.

9. The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares by Joyce Carol Oates. When I was in college I interviewed Joyce Carol Oates for our campus newspaper The Bard Free Press. Well, “interviewed” might be overstating my role in the process. A fellow reporter asked her legit questions, and I nodded emphatically while slightly starstruck. But in the process of becoming totally dumbstruck by awe of Oates, I gained an appreciation for this author who doesn’t subscribe to genre pigeonholing at all, who moves from novel to short fiction to drama and back again. Who is incredibly prolific. When I saw this book consisting of a novella, and six short stories, I was intrigued. Oates often shines when she tackles the dark complexities of the human psyche, and that’s certainly the case of these seven intense tales.

10. The Witches of Crannock Dale by Thomas M. Kane– Full disclosure requires me to reveal that the author of this book is a friend of mine, so I may not be an unbiased judge. But it carves a unique place for itself in the fantasy fiction landscape. Set in a fictional place at an indeterminate time, the book follows the coming of age of 11 year old Mara Bennett. When her aunt is arrested for witchcraft, Mara vows to do what she can to help. But her efforts to learn more lead her deep into local politics, power struggles and threats of war. Mara makes a likable young protagonist, in a complicated world, trying to keep her family safe and close amidst a dangerous situation. I look forward to following her through the series.

Anyone have any must reads this year?

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)

Fall Book Tag

I saw this on BookWyrmKnits‘ blog and thought it look like fun so I decided to go for it. It’s originally from Bionic Book Worm

I decided to stick to books I’ve read in the past year or so too.

Rules:

  • Please link back to Bionic Book Worm as the creator of this tag!!
  • Use the graphics – if you want
  • Have fun!

The Witches of Crannock Dale by Thomas M. Kane is a twisty espionage story mixed with a coming of age tale. They’re not genres that lend themselves to being combined easily (most eleven year olds don’t engage in spycraft!) and I’m not sure who the intended audience is. Adult readers? YA? Or both? Because I think it can appeal to readers of different ages.

Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key certainly surprised me. The twists, when they were revealed made sense with the story. I was able to look back on what I’d read and see little “clues” and “hints” where I’d missed them before.

Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals is the first of his Corfu trilogy about his British family’s move to the Greek island of Corfu in the 1930’s. Young Gerry’s adventures with animals of the island, and his mother and siblings adventures and misadventures with the people, are funny. The Durrells come to feel like family as you read. This trilogy was also the basis for the TV series The Durrell’s in Corfu.

The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James features beautiful fall colors on the cover. It’s also a spooky story that might be appropriate for Halloween season (which makes it even stranger that the story is in June!)

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes had a lot of action, but I don’t recommend the book. I found it to be gratuitously violent and gory, which is fine, if that’s what you’re into. I’m not though.

I think this means something still on my TBR, so I’ll say Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. It’s one of many books on my TBR, but I’ve also heard really good things about it from several sources. I love gothicness and I love the idea of a Mexican setting.

This is sort of an old tag (2017) but fun. I’m not going to tag anyone, but if you decide to do this, let me know in the comments, so I can check it out!

Top Ten Tuesday: The Last Books I Read Based on Recommendations

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

October 20: Books I Read Because Someone Recommended Them to Me (tell us who recommended them, if you want!)

For this one, I decided to make it the last ten I read based on a recommendation.

1. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey– People have recommended this book to me for years. I put it off for a long time due to the size, but I finally read it this fall. I gave it 3/5 stars on goodreads. There was a lot to like about it, but I had a lot of issues with it too. Will I finish the series? At some point, perhaps.

2. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire– This series has been recommended by many people over the years, and I’m glad I finally got to start it! I look forward to spending more time with October Daye in the future.

3. You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann– This was recommended by someone in my book club. Actually, if you’re looking for a good haunted house story for Halloween, you might check out this novella. It’s very quick and easy to get through. It was recently given a film adaptation, but I haven’t seen that yet. It doesn’t seem like something that would lend itself well to film though.

4. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware- Another book club recommendation. But I would have read this one anyway, because I like the author.

5. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett– I saw this recommended all over the place last winter. I probably would have gotten to it eventually anyway, because I like Ann Patchett, but it got bumped up my TBR because I heard there were some fairy tale themes here (there are, and it was a good read).

6. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo– I consider this a cautionary tale. Around February, everyone was talking about this. I saw it on numerous blogs, and people whose taste I tend to trust gave it five stars on good reads. I didn’t like it. I don’t think it did what it set out to do, and I have some issues with what it did instead.

7. Final Girls by Riley Sager- This was another book club recommendation. I’m noticing that a lot of them tend to be murder mysteries, thriller and horror. Hmmm…

8. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman– The person who recommended this said that it was about someone like me. I think they just meant someone who reads a lot, though, since in non bookish ways my life is quite different from Nina Hill’s.

Top Ten Tuesday: Upcoming Releases for the 2nd Half of 2019

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

June 18: Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2019

91jsy6np7vl._ac_ul436_1. The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis– I’ve enjoyed Fiona Davis’ previous novels The Address and The Dollhouse. Like those, this is set in historical NYC, which is one of my favorite literary settings.

  • Publication Date: July 30, 2019

81aluwjrekl._ac_ul436_2. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware–  I liked several of Ruth Ware’s previous thrillers (In A Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10) and I really enjoyed her most recent The Death of Mrs. Westaway, so hopefully this one continues that trend.

  • Publication Date: August 6, 2019

71x4baxyxvl._ac_ul436_3. The Testaments (The Handmaid’s Tale #2) by Margaret Atwood- I have mixed feelings about this sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. While it was a very influential book in my life, I do wish a sequel didn’t feel as timely or relevant as it does. But I’m definitely curious about Atwood’s response to some of what has happened since the publication of The Handmaid’s Tale.

  • Publication Date: September 10, 2019

81r6y57acfl._ac_ul436_4. Akin by Emma Donoghue – Emma Donoghue is another favorite author of mine. I loved The Wonder, Room, and Slammerkin. The setting of this one (Post WWII France) intrigues me too.

  • Publication Date: September 10, 2019

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5. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern– I really enjoyed Morgernstern’s debut The Night Circus and I’ve been eagerly awaiting her follow up.

  • Publication Date: November 5, 2019

81ypuey8lbl._ac_ul320_6. I Like To Watch by Emily Nussbaum– I think that Emily Nussbaum’s essays arguing for new ways of criticizing TV have the potential to be both entertaining and insightful.

  • Publication Date: June 25, 2019

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7. The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West– I think that this look at the sociopolitical moment that we’re in has the potential to be incisive and funny.  In this book, West looks at films, TV shows, internet phenomena and lifestyle guru’s who have created our culture.

  • Publication Date: November 5, 2019

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8. The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James–  (is this cheating since technically it’s released in early 2020?) I discovered Simone St. James last year and I really like her gothic romantic suspense. She seems to be moving into more contemporary stuff with her last few books but as of now, I’m still along for the ride.

  • Publication Date: February 18, 2020

9124eym6u8l._ac_ul436_9. Where The Light Enters by Sara Donati– I’ve been looking to Sara Donati’s follow up to The Gilded Hour for a while. I really enjoyed the first book in her new series and I’m eager to see how she develops the plot and the characters.

  • Publication Date: September 10, 2019

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10. The End of Forever Saga by Paullina Simons– I’ve had really varied reactions to Paullina Simons as a writer. But this trilogy, that incorporates romance and time travel sounds like it might be up my alley. The first book has already been released and reactions seem pretty polarizing. Some loved it some didn’t. Then other two books are being released over the next couple of months so I’m sure I’ll get around to them at some point soon.