July 20: Books I Read In One Sitting (or would have if I had the time)
For this one I just decided to keep things simple and go with the last ten.
1. Weather by Jenny Offill- This was one I read because I’d seen it recommended several places. It was short and had brief chapters so it went quickly, but it was also beautifully written, so it made me want to read more.
2. Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill- I sought this one out because I enjoyed Weather so much. It was written in a similar style, so I read it in about an afternoon. I don’t know if these are technically novels or novellas.
3. The Guest List by Lucy Foley- This had short chapters, and most of them ended on a cliffhanger or with an unanswered question. So I’d want to read another chapter, and the next one was short too, so I did… I read most of the book that way!
6. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro– Ishiguro’s writing just flows so beautifully that it makes me want to keep reading it. I think it probably actually took me a couple days to get through, but I did read it pretty quickly.
7. The Mother in Law by Sally Hepworth– This one was clever about showing something from one character’s perspective that seemed inexcusable, and then showing the same event from another character’s point of view and letting us see that there were valid reasons behind it. That back and forth kept me interested.
9. You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann– I read this for a book club. We were supposed to read a horror book for Halloween, but I wasn’t in a horror mood, so I just went for something short. It was pretty compelling though and and I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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 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!
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.