Top Ten Tuesday: Freebie: Celebrity Book Clubs

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

January 31: Freebie

Once I started doing some research this turned out to be more than ten! I had no idea so many celebs have book clubs!

I think there are different “levels” of celebrity book clubs. Some are more casual, while others seem to be almost a business. I also think the celebs have different levels of personal involvement. But I like seeing what celebs are reading. It’s my favorite form of celeb “gossip” and I think these can often inspire nonreaders to pick up a book.

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Oprah WinfreyOprah’s Book Club – I think this was one of the first such clubs, starting in 1996. In 2002 Oprah closed it for a while, saying she couldn’t keep up with the reading for the club, while still finding books she enjoyed. It was revived in 2003 with books being recommended on a more limited basis. In 2012, she launched Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 as a joint project between OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network and O: The Oprah Magazine. In 2019 a revival of the video book club appeared on Apple TV+

Some of the (most recent) books:

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Reese WitherspoonReese’s Book Club – Every month, Witherspoon picks out a book with a woman at the center of the story. She also has a tendency to make film/tv adaptations of these books either as an actor or a producer (or both). Members download the book club app and set up a profile. The Readership is a pay it forward platform aimed at promoting literacy, advancing diverse voices and making books widely available. The club also includes Lit Up, a fellowship for unpublished, underrepresented female writers. Fellows participate in a writers retreat and are matched with mentors leading up to the publication of their work.

Some of the (most recent) books:

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Natalie PortmanNatalie’s Book Club – This seems to take place mostly on Instagram. Started in 2020, Portman interviews the authors of her book pick, posts quotes and discussion questions, and also features author’s book recommendations.

Some of the (most recent) books:

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Emma WatsonOur Shared Shelf – In 2016, Watson started this feminist book club as an extension of her work with UN Women. Initially starting on Goodreads, Watson selected a book each month and posted questions and prompts for discussion. These discussions took place on Goodreads and Instagram. However, in 2020, Watson stepped back from the Goodreads club, leaving the boards unmoderated, but leaving all previous conversations open. She also continues to make Instagram recommendations using the #oursharedshelf.

Some of the books:

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Emma RobertsBelletrist – As a kid, Emma Roberts and her BFF Karah Preiss lived on opposite sides of the country. They would send each other books with notes on them in the mail. In 2017, they launched Belletrist, which started with a monthly recommendation, independent bookstore of the month, author interviews and more. It’s expanded over the years, and they’ve recently partnered with BookClub to introduce video content and audio conversations with featured authors.

Some of the (most recent) books:

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Caitriona Balfe Caitriona Balfe Book Club – The star of the Outlander TV series launched this club in 2020 on Instagram, It doesn’t seem like the picks are at regular intervals. She seems to select a book and then schedule a discussion which takes place on IG Live. However, the last one was in March 2021, so I’m not sure how active this one remains.

Some of the books:

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Florence WelchBetween Two Books – Florence Welch, of Florence + the Machine started this club in 2012, when a teenage fan suggested the idea to her. It’s led by Florence Welch and a small team of others, but also features guest recommendations from various celebs. Book discussions take place on social media, along with readings and author interviews.

Some of the (most recent) books:

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Patti Murin Patti Reads Book Club – Patti Murin might not be a household name, but for theater geeks like me she is! The star of the Broadway production of Frozen, and prolific audiobook narrator, suggests books each month. Then that book is discussed on a forum. However it looks like the forum hasn’t been active since 2019. In 2022 Murin tweeted this, and it looks like she’s migrated to Instagram for sharing reads and recommendations.

Some of the (most recent) books:

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NonameNoname Book Club – Each month rapper and poet, Noname, along with a guest, select two books by authors of color to read and discuss. This club has various local chapters around the country. There’s also a monthly national zoom discussion call about the picks. They also send their monthly picks to incarcerated people through their Prison Program.

Some of the (most recent) books:

  • Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Hartman
  • Care Free Black Girls by Zeba Blay
  • Intimate Direct Democracy by Modibo Kadalie
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Kaia GerberKaia Gerber Book Club – Model Kaia Gerber launched this club in 2020 during lockdown. She recommends books via Instagram and then hosts an IG live discussion with the author of the book (or star of the movie, on occasion)

Some of the books:

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Gwyneth Paltrow Goop Book Club – Many people know that Paltrow runs a lifestyle company called Goop. They may not know that there’s a Goop book club. The books are listed on the website and discussed in a private Facebook group and across social media with #goopbookclub. Author Q&As and live video discussions are also posted frequently.

Some of the (most recent) books:

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Jimmy Fallon Fallon Book Club – The Tonight Show host, Jimmy Fallon and his team periodically select books for viewers to read and discuss. These discussion happen on the Facebook group and social media using #fallonbookclub. Fallon actually joins in some of these discussion from time to time.

Some of the books:

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Sarah Jessica ParkerGoodreads page – This is more of an overall book cheerleader presence than “club.” In 2016 Parker entered the publishing business, launching the SJP for Hogarth imprint dedicated to publishing work from emerging and established writers. From 2017 to 2019 Parker also served as the chair of the American Literary Association’s Book Club Central, an online platform for book clubs and readers. Book Club Central is no longer active, but you can still see some past pics on Parker’s Instagram, as well as more recent recs. In 2022 it was announced that she was launching a new imprint, SJP Lit, where she says she wants to acquire books about “unfamiliar territory” regarding people and places.

Some of the books:

Jenna Bush HagarRead with Jenna – Hagar is the co-host of Today with Hoda and Jenna. Each month, she picks a book that the club reads and discusses on the private Facebook page, as well as Instagram and across social media with the #ReadwithJenna. In addition to recommending her book club picks, she also often recommends related books (aka “readalikes”)

Some of the (most recent) books:

AmerieAmerie Book Club – Singer/songwriter/author Amerie launched this club in 2018 with a commitment to highlighting diverse authors and unique perspectives and voices. It’s driven by a social media schedule on YouTube and Instagram using the hashtags #ABC #AmeriesBookClub and #ReadwithAmerie. At the end of each month, an IG Live session takes place where the author will answer reader questions.

Some of the (most recent) books:

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Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-Me Authors of 2022 That Made Me Want More

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

January 24: New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2022 (If you didn’t read books by 10 new authors, share new-to-you authors whose books you added to your TBR in 2022. Get creative, if needed!)

Rachel Harrison

In 2022 I read: Cackle

Next I want to read: Such Sharp Teeth

Why: Cackle was a fun, feminist, witch story, so I decided to see what Harrison does with werewolves! Actually I also looked at her other book, The Return, which I’ll also get to at some point, hopefully.

Ava Reid

In 2022 I read: The Wolf and the Woodsman

Next I want to read: Juniper & Thorn

Why: The Wolf and the Woodsman is a dark, sometimes ugly, fairytale that incorporates Hungarian history and Jewish folklore. While not a sequel, Juniper and Thorn is Reid’s second book, and it is set in the same world.

Grady Hendrix

In 2022 I read: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires and The Final Girl Support Group

Next I want to read: How To Sell a Haunted House

Why: The two I read in 2022 were weird hybrids of horror and humor that appealed to the strangeness in me. Hendrix tends to explore a different subgenre in each of his books, and I’m interested in reading his take on the haunted house story.

Byrd Nash

In 2022 I read: A Spell of Rowans

Next I want to read: The Wicked Wolves of Windsor

Why: I won A Spell of Rowans in a Goodreads giveaway, and really enjoyed it. It combines a genre I often find comforting (small town witch story) with a darker story of trauma, and a murder mystery. I definitely want to read more of Nash’s work, and The Wicked Wolves of Windsor appealed to me most at first glance.

Alice Feeney

In 2022 I read: Sometimes I Lie

Next I want to read: His & Hers

Why: I won Sometimes I Lie in another Goodreads giveaway (I had bizarrely good luck with Goodreads giveaways in 2022!) and I really enjoyed the domestic thriller/murder mystery. Feeney has a few others that look good but this had the highest rating so I might try for this one first.

Susan Meissner

In 2022 I read: The Nature of Fragile Things

Next I want to read: Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

Why: The Nature of Fragile things told a compelling personal story against the backdrop of historical events: in this case the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Stars Over Sunset Boulevard is a dual timeline (a device I love) set in contemporary LA and Old Hollywood (I’m an old movie buff!).

Sylvia Townsend Warner

In 2022 I read: Lolly Willowes

Next I want to read: The Corner That Held Them

Why: My book club read Lolly Willowes and I loved the weird hybrid of character study, family drama, and the third act transition to witch story! I think it also reads nicely as a companion to Cackle (above), which turned out to just be good timing on my part. I did a bit of googling about what to read next, and came across this review, which intrigued me, so I decided to go with The Corner that Held Them next.

Barbara Comyns

In 2022 I read: Our Spoons Came from Woolworths

Next I want to read: Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead

Why: Our Spoons Came from Woolworths was another book club read. I had an interesting response, in that I liked it more after reading than I did while I was reading. I wanted to read more so I did some research. This blog says that Our Spoons is probably not the best place to start with Comyns (oh well!) but recommends this and another one. This sounded more interesting at the moment.

TJ Klune

In 2022 I read: The House in the Cerulean Sea

Next I want to read: Under the Whispering Door

Why: I had a slightly conflicted reaction to The House in the Cerulean Sea (explained here) but I did really like it and want to read more from the author. This and In the Lives of Puppets both look good really, so I’ll see which I get to first.

Taylor Adams

In 2022 I read: No Exit

Next I want to read: The Last Word

Why: No Exit was just a fast, exciting read. Sometimes that’s all I’m in the mood for! I looked through Adams’ other work and The Last Word sounded most interesting to me at the moment.

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Goals for 2023

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

January 17: Bookish Goals for 2023

The Luminaries – Toward the end of 2022 I tried to read Elinor Catton’s The Luminaries. It was difficult going and I put it down, because I heard about an instagram read along of the book taking place in February and March of this year. I think having the support of a read along will be helpful for tackling this long, dense book.

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Rereads – I’m not usually much of a rereader because I tend to get distracted by all the new books out there. I’m also afraid of favorites not living up to my memory. But there are some books that I want to revisit, so I’m going to try to do that this year. Here’s a post about them.

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Unread books – Like many of us, I’ve got an accumulation of books I haven’t read yet sitting on my shelf. Some I’ve been procrastinating quite a while, either because I’m intimidated, or because I haven’t been in the mood for them. But I’m definitely going to try to reduce the quantity of unread books on my shelf.

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Finish drafting my WIP – This is related to writing, but since I’m writing a book (or what I hope will be one someday), I think this is relevant. I’ve described some of my struggles with the the book I’d been working on, so I put it down and started to work on something else. Well, really I picked up something I’d put down several years ago. After a struggle and an attempt to pre-plot that didn’t work out, I finally gave myself permission to pants, and feel reinvigorated. I want to finish at least one draft of this in 2023.

Read more indies – I follow some indie writers on social media that are really creative and inspiring. I want to read more of their work in 2023. I also want to read more from small press authors. Some on my TBR:

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Remember that goals are supposed to be fun and not the source of stress – Like most goals I have a tendency to put pressure on myself to meet reading goals. I always try to remind myself that reading goals are for fun and nothing else. My reading isn’t measured by how many books I read in a year, but by what I get out of them.

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Be open to surprises – Bookish goals and TBRs are fun, but I also want to be open to picking up a random book and discovering I love it. I want to leave room to let that happen, by sometimes breaking a book buying ban, or stopping in at the library when I mean to go straight home.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books About New Year’s

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

Todays prompt is:

January 10: Most Anticipated Books Releasing in the First Half of 2023

But since I’m trying to read what I have and NOT to make a million more TBRs, I decided to do my own thing. Since we’re starting a new year, and looking ahead, I’ll share some books set on/near New Year’s, or that have significant New Year’s scenes.

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore – New Year’s Eve 1982. The title character is set to turn 19 at the stroke of midnight. She faces some big decisions in the year ahead. But as the countdown to the New Year begins, Oona faints. When she wakes up, it’s 32 years in the future, and Oona is 51 years old physically (mentally she’s still 19). She is greeted by a stranger who tells her that for the rest of her life, she will leap to another age at random. So from 19 she leaped to 51. From 51 she might leap to 25… Oona tries to build a life given her “condition.” There are perks and drawbacks and we watch Oona grow up (and down, and up again) on the outside, while developing normally on the inside.

Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding – This book opens on a New Year, when the title character decides to make some resolutions. These include, but are not limited to:

  • develop a functional, adult relationship
  • go to the gym 3x a week
  • learn to program the VCR
  • keep a diary all year

Some of these resolutions are more successful than others naturally!

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby – Four people meet one New Year’s Eve at a popular London spot for suicides. They all have the same plan for midnight. In four alternating first person perspectives, we get to know who these people are, and why they got to this point. Once they all meet, they end up sharing their stories and agreeing to postpone mortality (at least temporarily) to help each other.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith – This starts on New Year’s Day in 1975 and circles around to another New Year’s later on in the book. At the beginning, Archie, who’d planned to start the New Year with his suicide, ends up at a New Year’s party instead. At this party, he meets his future wife. The book itself is actually more about his friendship with fellow WWII vet, Samad Iqubal, but New Year’s party, and the resulting marriage, definitely set Archie’s life on a different path.

Middlemarch by George Eliot – This novel begins on New Year’s Eve, at a party given by the Vincys. It seems cheerful but there are a lot of tensions under the surface. Rosamund’s husband bores her. Mr. Lydgate has money problems. Mr. Farebrother is flirting with Mary, which makes Fred jealous. We get to know these people and their various problems big and small over the course of the novel.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – While the knights of Camelot are having a New Year’s feast, a gigantic green knight shows up. Gawain wins a fight with him, but the knight tells Gawain that he will return next New Year’s to take his revenge. Not the most promising start to a year…

Mixed Doubles by Jill Mansell – One New Year’s Eve, three friends are sharing their resolutions. Liza wants to get married this year. Pru wants to stay married, and Dulcie wants a divorce. Over the course of the next year, best laid plans will naturally go awry. Things get even crazier when the characters try to help each other.

Baby-Sitters Little Sister: Karen’s New Year by Ann M. Martin – When I was about seven years old, I thought that Karen Brewer was a kindred spirit. Case in point: on New Year’s Eve, Karen encourages her friends and family to make resolutions. Karen joins in, making a number of resolutions herself. To help make sure people are doing what they should, Karen takes up spying on them. Surprisingly, Karen’s nearest and dearest don’t appreciate this! They spy on her in return…

Fear Street Superchillers: The New Year’s Party by RL Stine – Another nostalgic New Year’s book, this one that actually begins at a Christmas party. A prank turns fatal when it turns out that the intended target had a heart problem. Naturally, the pranksters decide to hide the body and swear secrecy (because is there another way to handle it?). But then the body they’ve hidden disappears. In the lead up to the New Year, the pranksters start to die, one by one.

Happy reading in 2023 everyone!

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2022 (Part 2)!

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

January 3: Favorite Books of 2022

Because I had a good year reading-wise I had to break this list into two part. This is part 2, and you can find part 1 here.

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner – I read this toward the end of the year and it closed things off on a good note. Sophie Whalen is an Irish immigrant, so desperate to get out of her NYC tenement that she agrees to marry a stranger. Martin Hocking is a widower, looking for a wife to be a mother to his five year old daughter, Kat, and give his home the appearance of happiness and health. Even though she’s put off by Martin’s coldness, she loves Kat, and settles into their new home in San Francisco. One day, a strange woman comes to the door making a shocking revelation. Before Sophie can even process what’s happened, the earth moves. Literally. In the wake of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, Sophie must protect Kat and the stranger to whom she feels a responsibility to as well. She must find a way to get them to a place where they can all find answers.

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland – Ten years ago, Iris Hollow and her two older sisters disappeared from a Scottish street on New Year’s Eve. One month later, they returned, changed, with no memory of what happened to them. Ten years later, when the oldest sister, Gray Hollow, disappears again, seventeen year old Iris, and the middle sister, Vivi, try to find out what happened to her. As Iris and Vivi investigate, they discover that Gray left clues, that tell a bizarre story that suggests they aren’t the only ones looking for Gray. They also realize that the answer to the mystery of Gray’s disappearance may tie in to whatever happened to them all ten years earlier. I rated this book four stars, but I think I would have given it five if the ending had been slightly different. I can’t say more about that without spoilers though. It’s a modern fairytale in the darkest sense: mysterious, confusing, and occasionally eerie and grim.

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James – I often lament that Simone St. James doesn’t still write the historical gothics she started with, even though I still enjoy her current stuff. But this takes all those fun gothic elements and puts them in a (mostly) contemporary setting. In 1977, two random men were murdered with the same gun and a note near the bodies. Beth Greer was accused of the murders but acquitted. Forty years later, Shea Collins, who runs a true crime website, meets Beth by chance and asks for an interview. When they meet at Beth’s mansion for the interviews, Shea is immediately on alert. Something isn’t right. Is Beth a murderer, a manipulator, or is story Beth tells of forty years earlier actually true? And is Shea safe in the Greer mansion long enough to find out?

Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor – The elderly Mrs. Palfrey arrives at the Claremont Hotel, where she will spend the rest of her life. She meets her fellow residents, all elderly people like herself, looking to end their lives in a generally pleasant environment. She’s disappointed when her grandson, Desmond, who lives nearby doesn’t visit. When Mrs. Palfrey strikes up a friendship with a young writer named Ludo, she tells a small fib to the residents of the Claremont. She says he’s her grandson. And Ludo and Mrs. Palfrey each provide the other with something that the other needs in a number of ways. This has a film adaptation, which I enjoyed, but I didn’t like that it felt the need to give it a contemporary setting. It also wasn’t content, as Taylor was, to let things remain sort of ambiguous. Still as far as movie version go, it wasn’t bad!

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune – I went back and forth quite a bit about whether to include this one, for reasons described here. Those issues are why I gave this four stars rather than five, and why I can’t quite recommend the book as wholeheartedly as I might otherwise. It’s about Linus, a caseworker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, who is tasked with evaluating an orphanage for said youth. When he arrives at the orphanage, overseen by the mysterious Arthur Parnassus, he finds something he never imagined could exist. It’s something that more beautiful than anything Linus has ever known, and something Arthur will do anything to protect. It’s a shame that I know some of the problems I have with the premise, because it is a lovely story of found family, with humor, magic and danger.

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman – This is an old favorite that I reread in anticipation of the the film adaptation, and enjoyed just as much as ever. Catherine feels trapped by the role and expectations of a fourteen year old girl in 1290. Her father wants her to marry anyone who can pay enough for her. She’s pretty good at scaring off potential suitors but she’s aware that this is a temporary solution. The book is a diary she keeps all year, and it turns out to be a very pivotal year in her life, in many ways. I liked the film too, and I discuss it a bit in comparison with the book here.

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart- Gilly Ramsey was a lonely child whose life was brightened by her cousins occasional visits. When her cousin dies, she leaves Gilly her cottage. Thornyhold comes with a black cat, a lot of herbs (though the recipe book is suspiciously absent), carrier pigeons (with secret messages), as well as some potential friendships and romance. It also reveals some secret gifts Gilly may possess. This is sort of a hybrid of gothic suspense, romance, and fantasy. It’s what I’d call a slow, gentle, book thought. The stakes aren’t really life and death, but that’s a good thing because it’s a sort of comforting experience to read.

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow – While Harrow’s debut novel The Ten Thousand Doors of January was a five star read for me last year, this was more like 4.5. But that’s still pretty good! Set in an alternate 1893, there are no more witches. Since the burnings, witchcraft has been all but eradicated in the US. When the Eastwood sisters, each with their own pasts and baggage, join the women’s suffrage movement, they discover a power that could turn the tide for witches and for women. My problems with this were more like slight quibbles than anything else really. For example, it didn’t have to be as long as it was. But it’s definitely worth a read. I’m just now realizing that a lot of witch books make up my “favorites” for last year!

Survive the Night by Riley Sager – This book is set in 1991. That turns out to be a very important detail here, because there were no cell phones. If there were, this would have been a very short (fairly dull) book! Charlie is a college student sharing a car with someone she met on a ride share board. She’s looking to go home to Ohio after the murder of her roommate and BFF at the hands of the Campus Killer. Josh, the guy she’s riding with, wants to get home to see his sick father. But as they drive, bits of Josh’s story don’t add up. And why won’t he let her see what’s in the trunk? As they head into isolated territory, Charlie begins to suspect she’s in the car with a killer. But the truth is more involved than she ever imagined. I thought this would be a standard cat and mouse thriller. It definitely was that, but it also had some twists and turns I didn’t expect. I had a quibble with the ending which knocked down the rating, but didn’t interfere with my enjoyment. It’s not great literature but it doesn’t try to be. I ran through this in about a day.

Have you ever read any of these? What did you think?

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent Additions to My Collection

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

December 27: Most Recent Additions to My Book Collection (What books did you get as presents this holiday season? Or what did you buy with gift cards?)

Some of these were gifts, some were things I bought with gift cards (or otherwise…)

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner – This was from my dad, recommended by the lady in the bookstore. I read it just after I got it, and it was pretty enjoyable: interesting personal story against the backdrop of dramatic historical events. I was actually so interested in the character’s journey that when the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 happened, I was like, “Wait, I wanted to find out what happens with the others stuff!” But I think that reaction was definitely intended on the author’s part.

The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama– My dad gave me this one too, and said he wanted to get me something I wouldn’t get for myself. While I wasn’t planning to buy it, it was on my library list, so I got to read it sooner than planned. Overall very good. A few times it veered into slightly too-self-helpy-for-my-taste territory (but even then, it’s never cloying) but overall it was in interesting combination of anecdotes from her pre-, during, and post-White House life that explain and illuminate her advice for tough times. And “tough times” can apply to pretty much whatever feels tough to you.

Song of Flight by Juliet Marillier – This was from my Aussie book buddy. I haven’t gotten to it yet but I plan to read the whole Warrior Bards trilogy next year, and this is the final one.

Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko – Another gift from my Aussie book buddy, I’m always a fan of magical schools, so I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while. Actually I just now got the idea to maybe do a list of books set in magical school next year…

Heavens to Betsy and Betsy In Spite of Herself by Maude Hart Lovelace – This is the second volume of Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series. I read the first volume at the very end of 2021, and I look forward to continuing. So far, at least, they’re wonderful comfort reads. I bought this for myself at a pre-holiday used book binge!

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl– Another from the pre-holiday used bookstore haul. I’ve really enjoyed Pessl’s other books, and I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while. It’s my current read, and I’m enjoying it so far, but it’s definitely not the kind of thing everyone would love (at least so far!)

Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree – All through 2022 I was pretty good about not buying new books, but I had a week last month of the year! I was heading to see family, there was a bookshop at the bus station, I had time before my bus came, and I’ve heard really good things about this one. I mean, who can resist those circumstances?

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna – This was purchased at the same store and same time as the above. But this felt slightly less self-indulgent, because I had a good excuse for buying this one: it’s a potential comp title for my WIP.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books After Death

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

Today’s topic was:

December 20: Books I Hope Santa Brings This Year

But rather than make another wish list (which could get very long!) I decided to do my own thing with a totally random idea I had one day. These are all books featuring either a dead protagonist, significant numbers of dead characters, an afterlife, and/or a personification of death. Yes, maybe the idea is a bit morbid, but I decided to go with it!

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders – This was probably one of the weirder books I’ve ever read! In 1862, President Lincoln’s son, Willie died at the age of eleven. Newspapers reported that the president was grief stricken, returning to his son’s tomb several times to hold his body. That much is true. But in the book, Willie is in a sort of midpoint between life and death, amidst a number of other ghosts, each with their own arguments, regrets, penances, and gripes. None are able to give up their earthly lives completely. Will Willie Lincoln join them, or move on to whatever comes next? And will his father be able to put his grief aside and do what needs to be done?

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – I actually didn’t like this book as much as a lot of other people seemed to. That said, I think if it had had less advance hype I would have enjoyed it a lot more. Fourteen year old Susie is raped and murdered by her neighbor on her way home from school one day. From heaven, she watches over her grieving family and friends, the detective trying to solve her murder, and her murderer, himself. One thing I liked about this book was everyone getting their own version of heaven. Susie’s is sort of an idealized high school with none of the bad stuff!

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb – Helen died 130 years ago, but isn’t able to enter heaven because she carried guilt with her at death. She attaches herself to human hosts to sustain her spirit. Her most recent host is a high school English teacher. Sitting through his classes one day, she realizes that one of his students, is a spirit also. But James doesn’t attach to a host the way she does. He actually possess the body of one of the teacher’s students. He shows Helen how to inhabit a body too, and Helen and James fall in love. But they must reckon with their own lives and pasts, as well as those of their host bodies. Billy and Jenny. This has a sequel, Under the Light, which I haven’t read yet. I’ll have to reread this one before I can read that one though.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman- Technically, the main character of this book, Bod, is alive. But everyone else is dead! Bod was raised in a graveyard by ghosts (and a werewolf a vampire, and various other supernatural beings) following the murder of his family. It’s one of my favorite books by Gaiman (who I tend to have mixed reactions to) because as weird as it is, it also has a lot of heart. It was inspired by The Jungle Book, and it’s sort of a weird twist on the idea.

Passage by Connie Willis – I’m going to try to write about this without spoilers! It’s about a psychologist who volunteers for a project that simulates NDEs (Near Death Experiences). Her NDE has a sense of deja vu to it, and each time she goes under, she has a sense that something terrible is coming. And that’s about as much as I can say without spoilers! Mostly this book is filed under the heading “weird” in my brain.

The Returned by Jason Mott – Harold and Lucille’s son, Jacob, died in 1966. Many years later, he shows up on their doorstep, the same age he was when he died. He’s not the only one. All over the world people are coming back from the dead, unchanged. This was made into a TV series called Resurrection, because there was a series called The Returned, with a very similar premise that came out near the same time.

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl – A year ago, Beatrice’s boyfriend died and she left her boarding school and friends in the shadow of that tragedy. When they reunite, Beatrice and her friends get into a car accident. Fortunately no one is hurt. Or so they think. When they get home, a stranger arrives at the door and tells them they died in the crash. Only one survived. Now they’re in Neverworld Wake, sort of a halfway station, where they have to decide who the survivor of the crash was. Until there is a unanimous decision, they will be trapped, reliving the day of the accident again and again. The friend group soon realizes that their possible redemption lies with the truth about what happened to Beatrice’s boyfriend a year earlier. I really liked this one.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion –  R is a zombie. He and his friend M spend most of their time shuffling around and eating brains. But when R eats a brain, he gets a bit of that person’s memory. So when he eats the brain of zombie-killer Perry, he sees Perry’s memories of his beloved Julie. For some inexplicable reason, R doesn’t want to eat Julie. He cares for her… This is sort of a zombie version of Romeo and Juliet that wasn’t bad, but I didn’t read any of the rest of the series.

Remember Me by Christopher Pike – Shari wakes up in bed with no memory of going to sleep. The last thing she remembers is being out with friends. When she leaves her room her family ignores her. Then, there’s a phone call from the hospital. No one will tell Shari what happened, so she goes with her family, and sees herself in the morgue. Even though her death is ruled a suicide, Shari knows she was murdered. She investigates her murder, visiting her friends in their dreams, while also facing a threat known as the Shadow. This is the start of a trilogy. I read it a million years ago, but I only remember reading the first book.

Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan – Bibi Chen plans to lead a group of twelve friends from China to Myanmar. Unfortunately, she dies before that can happen. The group decides to go on the trip anyway though, and Bibi tags along in spirit form. Then, the group disappears. I think Amy Tan’s fans are probably split on this book, since it’s a departure from her usual work. But really liked it. I found it weird and funny.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – This one is narrated by Death himself. It’s set in Nazi Germany, and is actually about a foster child names Liesel Meminger, who along with her foster father, saves/steals books from neighbors, graveyards and book burnings. She shares them with her neighbors and the Jewish man who lives hidden in her basement. Death (the narrator) distances himself from humanity for the sake of his own sanity, but Leisel breaks through his defenses, without even knowing it. I could go on about the narrative perspective in this, and whether the main character duties fall on Leisel, Death, or both. But it’s definitely a unique, haunting look life and death, in all their forms.

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt – I read this years ago, and I think I liked it, but I don’t remember it too well. It’s about a girl who charms Death with her storytelling abilities. He agrees to spare her from…well, death…. if she can find true love in the next 24 hours. It’s sort of a gothic fairytale, and now that I’m writing about it, I’m thinking about rereading it…

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Winter Reread List

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

December 13: Books on My Winter 2022-2023 To-Read List

I plan to reread some old favorites in 2023. I’ve been meaning to revisit these for a while, but there are just so many books I haven’t read yet that I get sidetracked… Will I get to all of these in 2023? Probably not! But maybe I can aim for one a month or so. In many/most cases the reason for the reread is simple forgetfulness

The Eight by Katherine Neville – I read this in college and enjoyed it. There’s a sequel that I still haven’t read, but I think I’m at the point where I need to reread the first one before I get to that…

The Quincunx by Charles Palliser – This is another one I read in college. I loved it at the time. It was a neo-Victorian novel written in a Victorian style. I didn’t notice that much at the time because I was reading so many Victorian era novels for school, but I was recently talking to someone about it, who found it really dense. I’d like to reread it and see if the Victorian stuff is as natural for me as it felt then. I also want to refresh my memory as to plot and characters.

Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews- I read this when I was about 10 or 11. In retrospect, I was way too young for much of the content at the time! But it did give me a taste of gothic tropes I would love for years into the future. I’ve put off rereading it, because I think that being so young when I read it the first time, made me blind to a lot of its faults. I didn’t want to reread it and see all those faults. But I am sort of curious about it after all this time.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt – I read this my senior year of high school and I loved it. I think part of the reason I appreciated it so much was that my English class was reading Crime and Punishment at the same time, and some of the thematic similarities enhanced the reading experience. I want to see how this holds up independently.

Little Women series by Louisa May Alcott – I had a recent conversation during which the conclusion of this series, Jo’s Boys, came up. I had a memory of the conclusion of the series which I couldn’t discuss with any confidence or authority because my memory is so hazy. So I want to correct that, but I feel like if I’m going to do a reread I should probably start from the beginning.

Emma Brown by Clare Boylan and Charlotte Bronte – When she died, Charlotte Bronte left behind the beginnings of a new book. More than a century later, Clare Boylan wrote an ending to the novel. I read this in college and I remember really liking it, but that’s about all I remember!

Exit Unicorns by Cindy Brandner – This book starts a series. I read it a few years ago, liked it, and wanted to continue with the series, but I got sidetracked. I’d like to finish the series in 2023, but I need to refresh my memory of this one. Other series starters I need to reread mentioned here.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck – I think someone else (can’t remember who!) mentioned this in a post a few months ago, and I realized that when I read it, I was probably too young for it. I’d like to revisit it now that I have some more experience of the world and the people in it.

Top Ten Tuesday: Fiction Featuring Real Writers

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

December 6: Freebie

These are novels featuring real authors as characters.

Jane Austen Mysteries by Stephanie Baron – I haven’t read all of these, but I have read a few and they’re fun. I don’t know what made Stephanie Baron think Austen would make a good detective, but hey, it works!

The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente – The young Brontes enter the fantasy world they created. I don’t know if there’s a big market for middle grade novels based on Bronte juvenilia (presumably the target audience hasn’t been exposed to much Bronte yet…) but I’m glad this exists nonetheless. IRL the Bronte children did invent fictional worlds, write about them, and play games with them. Were they really transported into them? I don’t know…

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan – This is based on a true story of of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife Fanny. Fanny was an American divorcee, ten years older than him, with several children. They’re not a couple one might expect, but they’re definitely interesting!

Passion: A Novel of the Romantic Poets by Jude Morgan – I read this one quite a while ago, so some details are pretty foggy. It’s about poets Percy Bysshe Shelly, Lord Byron, and John Keats, as seen through the eyes of four women who loved them.

The Hours by Michael Cunningham – This novel looks at Virginia Woolf’s novel, Mrs. Dalloway through three sets of eyes. On is the writer herself, Virginia Woolf, on the day she starts to write it. Another is Laura Brown, a 1950’s wife and mother, on the day she starts to read it. The third is Clarissa Vaughn, a contemporary woman whose life parallels that of Woolf’s character.

The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth – Dortchen Wild loved Wilhelm Grimm and helped him and his brother compile their collection of fairytales. But Dortchen’s own life came to parallel “Many Furs,” one of the more disturbing tales in the Brothers Grimm’s collection. Her tale is heartbreaking and ultimately triumphant.

Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier – This is another one I read some time ago. A family moves to 18th century London, next door to the poet William Blake. If my memory serves me right, Blake was a relatively minor character in the novel. Most of it focused on the family’s two children.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – In 1596, Hamnet Shakespeare, the eleven year old son of William and Anne Hathaway Shakespeare, died. A few years later, William Shakespeare wrote a play about a character with a very similar name to his son. This book goes into the Shakesapeare marriage (though he’s never mentioned by name) and family life, and looks at how life and art overlap.

Drood by Dan Simmons – This is another one I read some time ago, so my memory isn’t 100%. It’s about Charles Dickens as seen through the eyes of Wilkie Collins, Dickens’ friend, colleague, and rival: so there’s two real life writers for the price of one! After a disaster, Dickens begins to frequent London slums asking about corpses, crypts, opium dens and more. Is it just research, or is something more sinister going on? And how does whatever this is tie-in to Dickens’ final, unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood?

Top Ten Tuesday: Cozy Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

November 29: Cozy Reads (Share books that give off a cozy vibe, whether through atmosphere, setting, or some other factor. Please tell us why they’re cozy for you, too!)

I often think of “cozy” as having a setting or atmosphere that’s cold, when I’m all tucked up nice with a warm blanket and a hot cup of tea. But not all wintery settings are cozy! These are a few that are:

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield – This author also has another good wintery book, Once Upon a River, but this one feels a bit cozier to me somehow. Vida Winter is an author known for a collection of short stories. She’s reclusive and has given the press several conflicting life stories over the years. But at the end of her life, she decides to tell a biographer the mysterious thirteenth tale to her collection: her true story involving a mansion, a fire, a governess and a ghost.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – Even though I felt like the trilogy got better with the second book, this is definitely the most wintry. Vasya and her siblings live in the Russian wilderness, where it’s winter most of the time. They spend many a cozy evening listening to their nurse’s fairy tales. When her father brings home a new wife, a devout woman who doesn’t allow for fairy tales and household spirts, Vasya must save her family and her home from the consequences.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware – Aside from a gloomy atmosphere this book also has some nice, gothic, Rebecca-ish vibes. Harriet ‘Hal’ Westaway has been living hand to mouth since her mother’s death three years ago. She’s barely getting by when she gets a letter from a lawyer saying that her grandmother has recently died and left her money. Hal knows it’s a mistake: her grandmother died years ago. But she’s also desperate. She heads to Mrs. Westway’s Cornwall mansion to try to claim the inheritance. But when she arrives she discovers a family that may be more closely connected to her than she realizes. The estate comes with a lot of secrets, that might give Hal the family she’s always wanted, or might get her killed.

A Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin – This one is polarizing, and also just plain weird. But I think reading it in a warm room with a cup of tea while a storm rages outside is a good way to experience this one. When a thief, Peter, tries to rob a wealthy home in late 19th century New York City, he’s surprised to find the terminally ill daughter of the house, Beverley, at home. Against all odds, the two fall in love. But Beverley is dying, and to save her, Peter is driven to stop time and defy death itself.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley – Every year, a group of college friends meet up to ring in the new year together. This year, they’re spending the week in a hunting estate in the Scottish highlands. But over a decades worth of secrets and resentments weigh on this group. As they’re isolated and trapped by a blizzard, someone is killed. Whodunnit?

A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire – Laura lives in New York City with her grandparents in the early 1960’s. One winter, under difficult emotional circumstances, a swan boy with one wing lands on Laura’s roof. To help him, Laura hides him from her grandparents and tries to build him a replacement wing. As he tells her his story, the reader sees that it parallels Laura’s experiences with her grandparents.

Still Life by Louise Penny – All the Inspector Gamache books apply but I’m going with this one because it’s first. They’re set in Canada, near the US border and even when it’s not a specific winter setting, reading them gives me a sort of cozy feeling. When a local woman dies in the town of Three Pines, the locals think it’s an accident. But Inspector Gamache suspects foul play…

Landline by Rainbow Rowell- This is also a nice holiday season read. Georgie and Neal’s marriage is on the rocks. A few days before Georgie, Neal, and the kids are headed to Omaha to spend the holiday with Neal’s family, Georgie finds out she needs to stay in LA for work. He’s upset and packs the kids and goes without her. But Georgie is able to connect to past-Neal via an old corded phone. Even though Georgie is in LA, a lot of this novel takes place in Omaha, where it’s cold and snowy. But it’s still a warm story.