TBR Challenge Update #11

Only a little over a month to go in 2017, and there are 715 books still on my To Be Read List.  I managed to eliminate quite a few just by ruthlessly trimming the titles which no longer held interest.  There were a surprising number that, on closer investigation, I realized I’d already started and then discarded.  Off the list they went!

Here are three I actually managed to read:

Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville.  A strange yet moving novel, about two very different young women in two time periods.  In 1899 Vienna, a psychiatrist is drawn to a girl with a mysterious past.  In 1940’s Germany, a troubled little girl lives with her doctor father at the “hospital” where he works.  At the end, the two narratives converge in a surprising way.  Deeply influenced by fairy tales, and very much about the power of storytelling and the way the stories we tell shape us and allow us to cope with life.

The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier.  I picked this up on a whim and then realized it was on my TBR list!  Probably from back when I read Rebecca.  Anyway, these were fun.  Dark and creepy to varying degrees.  du Maurier is great with atmosphere.

The Lives they Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic by Darby Penny and Peter Stastny.  I’m not sure where I heard about this, but I’m glad I picked it up.  Hundreds of suitcases filled with patients’ belongings were found when Willard Psychiatric Center closed in 1995 after 125 years of operation.   They’d been abandoned in the attic, never reclaimed.  This is a really sad, moving look at the very real lives which usually ended at Willard.

When I began this challenge back in March, I had 831 books on the old to-read list. 116 eliminated, yay!

Only 32 of those actually read.  Heh.  I suppose I’m doing pretty well when judged according to the letter of the TBR Challenge, if not the spirit.

Let’s see how many I can read for real by the end of the year!

–Marie

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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

 

TBR Challenge Update #9

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein.  A sad sort of ghost story, more about loss and keeping families together than anything else.  Now an adult, Trevor tells the story of the summer he was fourteen and visiting his family’s ancestral estate on Puget Sound.  Nicely atmospheric and some lyrical writing, there’s a melancholy sense of loss but also growth about this story.

The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller.  I’m a sucker for stories about outsider kids and outsider teachers coming together, so I liked this a lot.  I was reminded very much of Special Topics in Calamity Physics.  Iris is a budding journalist at an elite prep school in Massachusetts, and she’s recruited by a secret society to get some dirt on her science teacher (who has secrets of his own).  There’s a great mystery element, as Iris begins working to uncover Mr. Kaplan’s secrets, and as the past collides with the present.  It’s funny and smart and on the quirky side–a nice coming of age tale, too.  It’s also very self-aware, complete with references to Dead Poets Society.  A really fun read!

Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.  Her scholarship really can’t be topped–Ulrich makes the past feel real and tangible, and she presents her arguments and research incredibly well.  This book examines women’s lives and work in colonial New England, considering in particular what it meant to be a “goodwife.”

House of the Lost by Sarah Rayne.  I’ll be saving this haunted house tale for Halloween.  Check back then!

Slowly (oh so slowly) but surely, I am whittling down my TBR list!  It feels great to clean house.

–Marie

 

TBR Challenge Update #8

Here’s the latest batch of books I’ve read from my To-Be-Read list, for the TBR Challenge 2017!

Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker.  I think I put all of her books on my TBR list as they came out, and am only now getting to them!  This story is about three women connected by long-buried secrets in a New Hampshire mill town.  Atmospheric and compelling!

Aaaaand that’s it.  Lots of duds this time around.  So I thought I’d pad out my content here with a list of the books I’ve read for the challenge since I began in March!  As in, completely read, not just begun and abandoned.

TBR Challenge 2017, Completed:

The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill
The Father of the Rain by Lily King
Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
This House is Haunted by John Boyne
She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Helen Castor
The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland
The Small Hand: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill
Medieval Women by Eileen Power
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor
20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz
Somebody With a Little Hammer by Mary Gaitskill
The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen
Pobby and Dingan by Ben Rice
The Gilly Salt Sisters by Tiffany Baker
Deception by Denise Mina
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Delicate Edible Birds and Other Stories by Lauren Groff
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill

You can click on the TBR Challenge tag to see all of the updates for the challenge.  I’m at 753 to-read, somehow only two less than last time…

–Marie

 

 

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

TBR Challenge 2017 Update #6

Just a short one today, for the official “It’s Fourth of July Week in Camden and I’m Exhausted” edition.  I’ve managed to read three novels from my TBR list since last I updated.  And here they are:

Pobby and Dingan by Ben Rice.  What an odd yet touching little book.  It’s about a family of opal miners in Australia.  The daughter of the family has two imaginary friends, and everyone is very indulgent about them.  One day the imaginary friends go missing, and the little girl becomes very ill.  Her brother decides that he’s going to find them for her, and is convinced that his sister will recover as soon as he does.  It’s the kind of story where you get the feeling that a lot is happening in the background.

The Gilly Salt Sisters by Tiffany Baker.  A solid story of a very small Massachusetts town and the different people who live there, with a focus on the Gilly sisters, whose family has always owned a salt marsh on the edge of town.  There’s just the merest hint of something magical, but mostly it’s a story about secrets and forgiveness.

Deception by Denise Mina. A compelling thriller!  The husband of a psychologist arrested for murder sets out to figure out what exactly happened.  It’s fast and has a great narrator, and I like the open-ended wrong-footed feeling the story inspires.

I’m not sure what I’m in the mood for next off the list.  Some classic spine-tinglers?  More tales of sad people in small towns?  Some weird-sounding stuff that I don’t know where I heard about it?

Or, is it possible I have not actually read Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley?  Goodreads says I haven’t.  Seems strange, but if it’s on the internet it must be true.  I’ll pick that one up next.

Happy Fourth, American readers!

–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