TBR Challenge Update #10

I took October off for reading scary stuff for Horror Month and re-reading The Shining and IT and The War of the Worlds.  But I did manage to pick a few off the TBR list here and there!

Company of Liars by Karen Maitland.  I really liked The Owl Killers, so I wanted to come back to this one–I remember beginning it almost ten years ago and then never getting beyond the first chapter.  This is a loose retelling of The Canterbury Tales, set against the backdrop of the Black Plague in 1348.  I really enjoyed it!  The characters, each with a secret, are very distinct and well-drawn, and the atmosphere is great.

The Thing About December by Donal Ryan.  I went through a contemporary Irish fiction phase a few years ago, and added this one to my list.  I enjoyed it very much!  Johnsey, lives in rural Ireland, and he inherits the family farm after his parents’ deaths.  He’s a man who doesn’t quite fit in, and this makes for a melancholy read–it’s lyrical, though, with passages of beautiful writing and imagery.

Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions by Amy Stewart.  Why the shift to third-person narration in this third book?  One of the things I enjoyed best about the first two was being inside Constance’s head.  I really missed that in this novel.  I also missed the mystery element. But the story itself was fun, and ripped from the mid-1910’s headlines, with young women getting hauled into court on charges of “waywardness.”  As ever, funny and fun, with a nice pace and great characters.

I’ve managed to cross a few more off my list by beginning them and realizing that I’m no longer interested.  I’m in a bit of a fiction slump, but I’ve got some good nonfiction going: In the Great Green Room, a biography of Margaret Wise Brown, and Friends Divided, a new book about the relationship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

–Marie

 

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TBR Challenge 2017 Update #7

I’m back from vacation!  It was incredibly restful and already feels as if it happened months ago.  I even managed to get most of the books I had on my list read!

From the TBR List:

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith.  I really hadn’t read this!  Tom is a totally amoral semi-con-man who is sent to Italy to bring back Dickie Greenleaf, at his father’s request.  Eventually, Tom decides he wants to be Dickie, and will do anything he needs to do to meet this goal.  The slow build is great, and there’s an undercurrent of unease to up the suspense.  A nice reminder to not get into boats with weirdos!  Trust your instincts!

Delicate Edible Birds and Other Stories by Lauren Groff.  I really enjoyed her novel The Monsters of Templeton, so I wanted to try her short stories.  Groff’s writing is lyrical and detailed.  Just about every story is about troubled love, in one way or another–between married couples, between lovers, between friends.  And each one has its own tone and style and feel.  I especially liked Lucky Chow Fun (set in Templeton, the setting for her first novel) and The Dictator’s Wife.

Meddling Kids by Edgar CanteroI skipped to the front end of the TBR list for this one.  Clever, scary, and hilarious–check back at Halloween for more!

The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill.  This mystery is going to get a post all to itself.  Stay tuned!

I think I’ve been thoughtlessly adding titles to my GoodReads to-read list for book club and such, because now I’ve got 755 books on the list.  I’ve completely lost track of how I’m doing, but that doesn’t matter!  I’m reading titles I’ve been meaning to get to, and that’s what counts.

–Marie

Marie’s Vacation Reading List

My yearly vacation is coming up next week.  You know what that means!

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Just sub “books” for “tv.”  (eh, who am I kidding, however great the books, the fifth season of Deep Space Nine isn’t going to watch itself)

This year is a stay-cation, where I intend to read books, lounge around, and take full advantage of any beautiful weather that might come my way for trips to lakes and beaches.

Here are the books I’ll be toting along:

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandria by Helen Rappaport.  This is for my book club, and it’s an affecting read.  There’s such a melancholy cast to this examination of the Romanov sisters, because it’s impossible to forget how their lives ended.  But still, it’s a fascinating glimpse into the family.  I’m about half-way through it right now.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood.  This is a novel about a girl whose parents are drug dealers, and her deepest connection is to her older brother.  I’ve been meaning to read this for ages!

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero.  A novel all about a crack team of kid detectives who grow up and have lots of issues.  They have to go back and uncover exactly what happened the night they solved their last case.  It looks fun and spooky and meta, and I’m looking forward to it.

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach.  This is a novel about a boy named Ivan, who’s spent his whole life in long-term care in Belarus.  He falls in love with a new patient at the hospital.  It sounds like it should be strange and melancholy, and maybe hopeful, which is always a good mix.

See you when I get back!

–Marie

 

 

TBR Challenge 2017 Update #5

After the last update, I’ve decided I’ll spare you all the duds from my list and just share the books I like!  This will help with tallying how many books I actually manage to *read* off of my TBR list, and not just sample.  Also, it will keep the atmosphere here at the Readers’ Corner a bit more chipper, I think!

For this, the fifth update, I realized I’ve been doing that thing.  That thing where I have already started books and then forgot about them.  I picked up a couple during this round and quickly realized I’d begun them before.  Some I kept, some I did not.

Here are the books I read!  For-real read, all the way through!  Or nearly there, in the case of the last one.

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor.  A tightly focused novel in seven stories, this book tells the story of both a neighborhood and different black women who live there.  I enjoyed reading about these people, and Naylor’s style is simple but beautiful–there are some amazing descriptive passages here.

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill.  I’m combining this challenge with Horror Month prep!  I loved this collection of short stories, and it is most definitely part of this year’s scary book installment!

Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz.  Oh yeah, my mid-century cooking and food phase!  Child was cool and is fun to read about.  I enjoyed this biography very much!

Somebody With a Little Hammer by Mary Gaitskill.  A collection of essays, including a lot of book reviews.  Gaitskill’s writing is elegant, and she’s deeply intelligent.  I especially enjoyed the title piece, which is about Chekhov’s short story Gooseberries.  The one about Bleak House is also great, as is the piece about the movie Secretary (you can tell I gravitated toward the book and movie reviews!).

The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen.  I’ve had this on my list ever since I read his collection The Boilerplate Rhino.  I finally suggested it for my nonfiction book club.  The book is all about island biogeography (namely, the study of distribution of species).  There’s historical background, contemporary science, and a broader message about how ecosystems are decaying and species are disappearing all over the world due to human activity.

There!  I have 795 titles on my TBR list now.  I’m not terribly optimistic about the next set–looking forward, I see lots of nonfiction.  However, there’s also Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone (about Louise Brooks, and soon to be a major motion picture!).  A couple of new titles that I’ve had on the list since I first heard about them are also coming out soon, so those will count!

–Marie

“Twin Peaks” Readalikes!

Did I tell you that I recently discovered David Lynch’s Twin Peaks?

Well, I did, and I love it.

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So when I saw this article today, I immediately thought, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”  Lincoln Michel over at Vice has put together a great list of books you might want to try if you enjoy Twin Peaks.

Twin Peaks is weird and quirky, but sweet.  It’s scary, but funny.  It’s surreal and out there, but also grounded in small-town dynamics.  The tone is a tough one to capture.  Each of the books Michel picked fits some aspect of the show.  And goodness knows it’s got a plethora of plots, ideas, and characters in the mix, so lots of very different readalikes present themselves.

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One of my very favorites, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, is top of the list.  I’d suggest any Shirley Jackson if you enjoy Twin Peaks–her stuff is loaded with the macabre, the supernatural, and the weird, but always grounded in the everyday.  She also had a knack for quirky characters and humor, as well as a slightly foreboding tone underneath it all.

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Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy made the list, as did Duplex by Kathryn Davis and The Shining by Stephen King (all great choices).  I learned about quite a few books I’d never heard of before thanks to Michel’s article, and ones I definitely want to try (surrealist Leonora Carrington’s work, for a start).

Here’s the link to Weird Books You Should Read If You Like Twin PeaksGive it a look, if you’re a David Lynch and/or Twin Peaks fan!

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–Marie

(and thanks to PopSugar for the gifs!)

 

TBR Challenge 2017 Update #1

For those just arriving: I’ve decided to participate in the TBR Challenge this year.  The object is to read as many books as you can that you’ve had on your “to-be-read” pile by the end of the year.

Also, I’ve made a decision about this challenge.  If I’m not into something on my TBR list, I’m not going to finish it.  Too many books, too little time.  I will, however, give each book 100 pages before I give up.

Here’s how it’s going so far…

The Man in the Picture:  A Ghost Story by Susan Hill: Stay tuned for more, Horror Month 2017!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  I’m sorry, I just couldn’t get into this.  I’d certainly suggest it to readers who enjoyed The Golem and the Jinni or Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, though!  It’s got incredible atmosphere, nice historical sense of place, and the style is really evocative.  Not my (book)bag, but it might be yours!

The Father of the Rain by Lily King.  I was absorbed in this one from the first chapter.  It’s an engaging, nuanced story of a complicated father/daughter relationship, spanning many years.

The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt.  I was a couple pages into this novel when I realized that I’d begun it before.  Would you believe I’ve never read anything by Byatt before?  Language to savor and beautiful period detail.  Sweeping and engrossing.  But, alas, not one that grabbed me personally.  And I felt really guilty about that, because it’s a gorgeous book.

The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman.  I’ve read a couple of Goodman’s books, and I enjoy her brand of psychological suspense.  This one, set at a writer’s retreat in upstate New York, is a great Gothic tale and period piece as well as a suspense story.  It reminded me a lot of Kate Morton’s work (The Forgotten Garden in particular).  I got halfway through and then flipped to the end.  For some reason (perhaps the alternating chapters?), the tension just never took for me.

Well.  A bit disappointing.  But I guess this is why some of these books have sat on my To-Read shelf for five years.

Also, I keep adding new stuff to my TBR list, so now I’ve got 842 items on it.  I began with 831.  And have read or tried to read five.

I’m thinking I won’t see much of a net gain from this project.

–Marie

Marie’s Currently Reading: Blizzard Edition II

Ugh.  Last time I could make jokes but this time digging out our driveway took three hours and I don’t want to talk about it except to say:

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On the plus side, I did spend the not-shoveling part of the snowstorm with some great books!

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan.  This book about the women who worked at Oak Ridge during World War II reads like a novel.  Since this is still within living memory, the author was able to interview lots of people, and to focus on a few individual stories.  The first-person accounts really add an immersive layer to the history.  In alternate chapters, the history and science behind the atomic bomb is explored.  A nice introduction to the making of the atomic bomb, and also a great exploration of the women who had a hand in making it happen.

The Widow’s House by Carol Goodman.  Very much my usual, and Goodman is very much in her wheelhouse with a novel about two writers who go back to their college town in upstate New York to work as caretakers for a former teacher.  The teacher’s house has a tragic past, and lots of family secrets and maybe a ghost.  Entertaining and enjoyable, and I’m just getting into the meat of it now.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  This book was all the rage when it was first published.  Everyone was reading it and talking about it.  It’s been on my TBR pile for years, and I just started it the other night.  The first chapter was a promising, atmospheric, and mysterious beginning to a story about rival magicians in the late 19th century.

Ghost Road Blues by Jonathan Maberry.  Yet another novel I’m reading in preparation for Horror month!  I’ve loved all the short stories I’ve read by Maberry, so I decided to give this title a try.  It’s about an ancient evil in a small town.  If it spooks me, you’ll see it in October!

That was all I had time for before the shoveling began.  And the watching of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, which is awesome and you should stop reading this right now and go watch it.  Maybe this weekend I’ll have time for more books and Gently.  After shoveling.

–Marie