top 10 tuesday: The Last Books I Added to my TBR

It’s Wednesday.  Whatever.

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish which is now hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week’s topic:

January 29: The Last 10 Books I Added to my TBR

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1. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

I feel like I frequently mention how much I love Jennifer @ Insert Literary Pun Here’s booktube channel, but for those of you who missed it the first thirty times, I absolutely love Jennifer’s channel.  (Should I make a post about my favorite booktubers?)  Anyway, in the video I just linked to she talked about Cleopatra: A Life and it sounded absolutely delightful.  I need to read more biographies and I’ve always been decently interested in Ancient Egypt (though it wasn’t quite as developed of an obsession as my Ancient Greece thing), so this definitely interests me.

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2. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
pub. date: February 26, 2019

I was on the fence about this one for a good while, because 900 page fantasy is… obviously not my favorite thing in the world, but then Elle’s review convinced me.  And the other thing that excites me about this is that it’s a standalone!  I am not a big series fan and would read so much more fantasy if standalones were more common for the genre.  I didn’t read Shannon’s first series… Bone something?  I have a couple of friends who hate those books so that makes me a little nervous, but it’s been a while since they were published so here’s hoping this book is more polished than those seemed to have been.

3. Faber short stories

Specifically: Dante and the Lobster by Samuel Beckett, Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom by Sylvia Plath, Terrific Mother by Lorrie Moore, The Country Funeral by John McGahern, The Shielding of Mrs Forbes by Alan Bennett, The Victim by PD James, The Forester’s Daughter by Claire Keegan.

I think this is self-explanatory.  I ordered 4 of these, read and reviewed 2, and the other day I went through the list and added most of the ones that piqued my interest.

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4. Amongst Women by John McGahern

Again, probably self-explanatory: while I was looking up those short stories I was looking up the authors as well, and though I hadn’t heard of John McGahern before this one jumped out at me.  Apparently this was nominated for the Booker in 1990.  The summary, according to Goodreads: Moran is an old Republican whose life was forever transformed by his days of glory as a guerilla leader in the War of Independence. Now, in old age, living out in the country, Moran is still fighting – with his family, his friends, even himself – in a poignant struggle to come to terms with the past.

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5. No Country for Young Men by Julia O’Faolain

I cannot find a good quality image of this cover, so hopefully that doesn’t speak to how difficult it will be to find this book, but anyway, I just read a short story by Julia O’Faolain that I liked but didn’t love, and it made me want to read more from her.  This sounds very Irish which obviously works for me.  Sister Judith Clancy is told that she must leave the protection of her convent and return to her family. So begins the unravelling of community ties which form this brilliant and devastating story of human and political relations in twentieth-century Ireland.

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6. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
pub. date: September 10, 2019

I know, I know, this does not seem like my kind of book in the slightest.  But, I was talking to a friend/former roommate recently who reads almost exclusively SFF and has an idea of the kind of SFF I like, and she thinks I would like this book.  So I’m going to just put my reservations aside and trust her judgement on this one.

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7. Cala by Laura Legge
pub. date: March 7, 2019

I saw this on Netgalley and the cover caught my eye for whatever reason (alas, it’s wish only in the U.S. right now), but I looked up the summary and it sounds like it could be incredible.

Cala, a stone farmhouse on the edge of Pullhair in the Outer Hebrides, is home to four women – witches the locals say – who scratch out a living on its land. But after ten years of relative harmony, fractures are beginning to appear among them.

Eighteen-year-old Euna is tired of Cala’s rigid hierarchy and arbitrary rules – the women may only speak in Gaelic, must wear plain dress, attend strict rituals and consume only what they grow or gather with their hands. Sick of scavenged seaweed and thin soup, Euna decides to go in search of a different way of living.

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8. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
pub. date: May 2, 2019

I mean.  In A Thousand Ships, broadcaster and classicist Natalie Haynes retells the story of the Trojan War from an all-female perspective.  I MEAN…?!  This is kind of the book I secretly wanted to write but I suppose I’ll just content myself with reading it.  I haven’t read anything else by Haynes but this quickly became my most anticipated book of the year and if it is anything short of brilliant I will cry.

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9. Edinburgh by Alexander Chee

Someone I follow on bookstagram was talking about this book (I can’t remember who), and it sounds incredibly painful and hard-hitting and I am all about that.  I haven’t actually read anything else by Chee, though a couple of his other books are on my TBR already, but for whatever reason I hadn’t heard of this one until the other day.

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10. Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
pub. date: February 26, 2019

This is a true crime book about a mother murdered in Belfast by the IRA in the 70s, so that sounds very relevant to my interests.  I’ve been trying to read more Northern Irish fiction recently (largely thanks to Milkman – before that I hadn’t realized how much of the Irish lit I’ve read is from the ROI), so I figured I should also throw some nonfiction into the mix.

Have you guys read any of these books, or are you looking forward to any of them?  I thought it would be fun to post this list since it’s a rather eclectic mix, we’ve got everything from fantasy to biographies to short stories to literary fiction to true crime.  Please let me know which of these I should reach for first!

top 10 tuesday: Books I Meant to Read in 2018

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish which is now hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week’s topic:

January 22: Books I Meant to Read In 2018 but Didn’t Get To

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Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb.  I had a planned buddy read with Chelsea for this book back in JULY but then we mutually dropped that ball and it’s been sitting on my shelf ever since.  Obviously I’m not a big fantasy reader, but I’ve been curious about Robin Hobb for a while as she’s such a big name in the genre, and I know she has a million books set in this world so I’m just really really hoping I fall in love with it.  Anyway, our buddy read is now tentatively scheduled for some point in the next couple of weeks… pray for us.

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Villette by Charlotte Bronte.  I’m a big Jane Eyre fan but that’s only one of two Bronte novels I’ve read (the other being Wuthering Heights – how predictable).  I do eventually want to read all of the Bronte novels and I think the next one I want to pick up is Villette, it just sounds very much like something I will enjoy, and I already know I love Charlotte’s writing.

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The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan.  I read the first 20 pages of this when I was in the Bahamas and then decided to opt for The Magpie Murders instead for the third book that I read on that trip, but this promises to be very dark and twisted and obviously that’s what I’m all about.

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The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan.  What is with me and this book?!  It’s been on my TBR I think since 2015, I’ve owned a copy for years, I’ve packed it with me on several trips, I’ve loved 2/2 of Ryan’s novels that I’ve read…. and I still haven’t gotten around to this and I have absolutely no idea why.  If I need you guys to hold me accountable for reading one book in 2019, it’s this one.

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The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson.  I have had a lot of great conversations with Ren at What’s Nonfiction about Maggie Nelson which all basically end with her saying ‘you need to read The Red Parts‘ and me agreeing ‘I definitely need to read The Red Parts‘ and yet, I still have not read The Red Parts.  This is one that’s consistently available with zero holds on Overdrive so I’m planning on picking it up there when I’m in the mood, but the problem is that I tend to forget about books I want to read if I don’t physically own them or have a digital ARC.  So, maybe I should just buy a copy?!  Either way, I’m going to try to get to this soon.

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The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.  I don’t even know what this book is about, but a couple of years ago a friend who knows my taste well told me she thinks I’ll love it, and then she lent me her copy when I was visiting her last year… and I still have not picked it up.  Soon, hopefully!

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Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith.  I don’t read a whole lot of poetry but that’s something I’m going to try to change this year.  I bought this book as soon as it came out because it sounded brilliant, but it’s still sitting on my shelf.  Plus, I love Danez Smith on social media so I’m very eager to try their work.

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The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.  I have been in possession of Hadeer’s copy of this book for literally years at this point.  I think it intimidates me because I don’t read a whole lot of nonfiction outside of memoirs, but I do really want to pick it up this year.

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The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan.  Like a lot of people I think I was first drawn to this because of its striking naked hardback cover, but the summary sounds fantastic as well.  I haven’t read anything by Kirsty Logan and I’ve been meaning to change that for years now.

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Still Lives by Maria Hummel.  I skipped BOTM almost every month in 2018 but this was one of my only selections all year… and I still have not read it.  I’ve not been hearing terribly promising things (it has a 3.35 on Goodreads) BUT it’s about the contemporary art scene in LA which is ridiculously up my alley, and the author is from Vermont and I like to read locally.

Have you guys read any of these books?  Which should I prioritize?

top 10 tuesday: The Longest Books I’ve Ever Read

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish which is now hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week’s topic:

October 9: Longest Books I’ve Ever Read

Quick note about this list: I didn’t want it to be dominated by several books from the same series (namely Harry Potter and A Song of Ice and Fire), so I’ve only included the longest book from each of those series to make room for some other titles.

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Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
712 pages

Somerset Maugham is one of my favorite authors and this is my favorite book of his that I’ve read so far. Also, this is my mom’s favorite book.  I’m a little surprised to see it on this list though as it really did feel shorter than 700 pages while reading.

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Moby Dick by Herman Melville
720 pages

I hate literally everything about this book.  Whale anatomy is even more boring than it sounds, which I didn’t think was possible.

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A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
720 pages

You guys are probably tired of hearing me talk about this book.  But, I will say: if you want to read it, don’t let the length be the thing that dissuades you (instead of, you know, the relentlessly triggering content).  I read it in 4 days flat and it was one of the most engrossing reading experiences of my life.  I felt like I lived inside this book that week.

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Metamorphoses by Ovid
723 pages

I read all of these stories throughout the four years that I took Latin in high school (which was incidentally my favorite class ever), but I’ve been wanting to reread it cover to cover at some point.

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The Divine Comedy by Dante
798 pages

As you can imagine, majoring in Italian studies I had to read this book both in English and Italian more times than I can count.  I took a class at the Università di Bologna on La Divina Commedia with one of the contemporary leading Dante scholars, who was nice and gave me a good grade even though I did pretty terribly on my exam.  Have I ever talked about how much I despise Italian oral exams?  They are the worst.

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
870 pages

This will always be my favorite Harry Potter book.

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The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
973 pages

I love this book but I actually haven’t read the following two books in Follett’s Kingsbridge series, or anything else by Follett for that matter.  I do intend to finish up this series at some point, and I’ll probably also reread this one eventually.

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A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
1178 pages

Intriguing!  I actually thought A Dance With Dragons was the longest in this series until I sorted my Goodreads shelves by page count, and then I didn’t trust that to be accurate so I googled it to double check, and lo and behold, A Storm of Swords is indeed the longest.  It’s funny because A Storm of Swords is my favorite in the series and A Dance With Dragons is my least favorite, so I guess the former just felt short and the latter felt longer.

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War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
1440 pages

This was such a slog.  Not Moby Dick levels of painful, but I was so relieved to be done with it.  I was not prepared for how much war was going to be in this book.  I should have been prepared.  War is half the title.  I was not prepared.

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Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
1468 pages

And on the other hand, my favorite book that I’ve ever read is incidentally the longest book that I’ve ever read.  This is such a moving and immersive story, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

What’s the longest book you’ve ever read?  Comment and let me know!

top 10 tuesday: Books By My Favorite Authors That I Still Haven’t Read

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish which is now hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week’s topic:

September 25: Books By My Favorite Authors That I Still Haven’t Read

17412573The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara.  I think I’ve waxed eloquent about A Little Life on here enough (side note: check out my friend Patrick’s brilliant review), but I am very much a #fakefan of Yanagihara’s, having never read her debut novel, The People In The Trees.  I’m a little apprehensive; my mom who’s just as huge a fan of A Little Life as I am had a kind of lukewarm reaction to The People in the Trees, so it’s put me off even though I’ve heard from other people that it’s brilliant.  It’s definitely one I want to get to in 2019.

17333223The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  The Secret History has been one of my all-time favorite books for years, but it’s still the only novel I’ve read by Donna Tartt.  I own her other two, The Goldfinch and The Little Friend, but I think I’ve been putting them off because I’m not convinced they could begin to compare to The Secret History.  But, The Goldfinch in particular I really do want to read soon, especially after Steph recently read and loved it.

 

15995144The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan.  This is probably the book I’ve carried with me to the most places without ever having read it.  I think it came to Houston with me both times.  This seems to have been at the top of my TBR for about two years now, but it never seems like the most pressing thing I need to read.  But, I absolutely adored Ryan’s All We Shall Know and From a Low and Quiet Sea, so I really do need to get to The Spinning Heart soon.

 

7616033Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro.  I’ve read every single one of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels, meaning his short story collection Nocturnes is the only thing I have left to read by him.  And I’ve actually read half of it.  I started it I think back in 2015, and never ended up finishing it for some reason, and now I’m torn between starting over and picking up where I left off… I actually have a bizarrely good memory so I feel like I’d be fine to just start in the middle, but I’m worried I’ll have forgotten some finer details.  And I did really like the first few stories I’d read.

39999The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne.  I feel like the last person on earth who hasn’t read this.  I remember one of my roommates telling me about this book senior year of college because I’d actually never heard of it or the author; fast forward four years and John Boyne is now one of my favorite authors and I’ve read four of his novels, but not this one.  I’m a little apprehensive because I don’t read middle grade, at all, but I feel like I need to just devote an hour of my life to reading this at some point and see how it goes.

35842338The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill.  I feel like the only person in the world who failed to get excited at the prospect of a YA Little Mermaid retelling, but, nothing about YA Little Mermaid retelling exactly screams my name.  But even so, I really adore Louise O’Neill, and having read and loved Asking For It and Almost Love earlier this year, I really want to read everything she’s written at some point.

 

40605629Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel.  I’ve read Station Eleven twice which is huge for me as I’m not a big re-reader, but it got selected as a book club pick after I’d already read it, and I loved it so much that I felt no hesitation in picking it up again.  But I actually haven’t read anything else by Emily St. John Mandel.  I own a couple of them, including Last Night in Montreal, which sounds simply brilliant.

 

33784272The Good People by Hannah Kent.  Kent’s debut Burial Rites is one of the most devastating and beautiful and atmospheric things I’ve ever read, so it only stands to reason that her sophomore novel set in Ireland would be even more up my alley.  I have heard from some people whose opinions I trust that The Good People isn’t quite as excellent as Burial Rites, but I’m still really hoping it will work for me.

 

7928877Ariel by Sylvia Plath.  Despite the fact that The Bell Jar is one of my absolute favorite novels, I don’t think I’ve read any of Sylvia Plath’s poetry.  I mean, aside from Lady Lazarus and Daddy and all the individual poems that everyone knows.  But I really do want to read her collection Ariel at some point in the hopefully not too distant future.  It’s actually one I keep an eye out for when I’m in bookstores, but I can never seem to find a copy out in the wild.

31326Theatre by W. Somerset Maugham.  I don’t think I’ve read a single Somerset Maugham novel since I started book blogging, which is a shame as he’s one of my all-time favorites.  I’ve read Of Human Bondage, The Razor’s Edge, The Moon and Sixpence, and The Painted Veil, but I’d like to read all of his novels at some point.  I own this one as well as Cakes and Ale, but Theatre calls to me a bit more so I’ll probably be starting here.

 

Have you guys read any of these?  And what are some books by your favorite authors you still haven’t read?  Comment and let me know!

top 10 tuesday: Favorite Nonfiction

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish which is now hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week’s topic:

August 28: Back to School/Learning Freebie (in honor of school starting back up soon, come up with your own topic that fits the theme of school or learning! Books that take place at school/boarding school/during study abroad, books you read in school, textbooks you liked/didn’t like, non-fiction books you loved or want to read, etc.)

I’ve seen a lot of people interpret this as ‘favorite nonfiction’ which seemed fun, so I’m going to do that!  I’ve also been talking to What’s Nonfiction? recently who is a lovely person and has been getting me excited to add more nonfiction to my life, so let’s start with ones I’ve enjoyed in the past.


Women & Power by Mary Beard: The two feminist essays combined into this collection aren’t exactly groundbreaking for anyone remotely familiar with feminist theory, but I loved this anyway.  The first essay concerns itself with the role of women in the public sphere and the precedent of silencing women’s voices, using both historical and literary examples, and the second essay shifts to our societal conception of power as a male-dominated domain.  Being a classics lover myself, I loved Beard’s unique perspective on these subjects and all the parallels she draws to antiquity.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson: This was my first Nelson; I’ve since read Bluets but I much preferred The Argonauts, though I’m looking forward to reading The Red Parts soon.  The Argonauts is her memoir about her relationship with the genderfluid artist Harry Dodge, and her writing is piercing and insanely intelligent.  This was just a pleasure to read and I’m looking forward to reading Nelson’s complete works at some point.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson: Well, it’s popular for a reason.  This book was great.  The Devil in the White City is Larson’s parallel account of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and the life of the serial killer H.H. Holmes.  Though these two threads never quite dovetail in the way I was hoping for (to me it kind of felt like 2 books packaged into 1), I still loved reading this highly informative and well-researched account of 1890s Chicago.

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala: Wave is just about the most heartbreaking memoir imaginable: when Sonali Deraniyagala is on vacation with her parents, her husband, and her two sons in Sri Lanka, all of them are killed in the 2004 tsunami.  This is her account of surviving that devastating tragedy, and though it’s incredibly bleak and unsparing, it’s also filled with such love and gratitude toward her family.

Poetics by Aristotle: Probably my favorite of the Ancient Greek rhetorical texts, Poetics is an essential companion text for anyone interested in reading Greek tragedies.  Aristotle’s insights into humanity’s relationship to theatre are some of the most important foundations of contemporary literary criticism – and it’s under 150 pages.  Read this!

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote: Probably the most famous true crime classic, In Cold Blood tells the story of the murders of 4 members of the Clutter family in 1959 Kansas, then details the capture and killing of the murderers.  This book is fascinating, compelling, and oddly haunting.

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt: This is McCourt’s devastating memoir about growing up in the slums of Limerick, and it’s quite unlike any other memoir I’ve read.  It’s an immersive survival story that can be quite difficult to read at times, but it’s also told with such forthrightness and an undeniable love for his flawed country, it’s hard not to get swept away by it.  I think this was my first introduction to Irish lit when I was 16 and I haven’t looked back since.

Black Boy by Richard Wright: I still haven’t read Wright’s more famous novel Native Son, but his autobiography Black Boy was brilliant.  It’s primarily a coming of age story about being black in the U.S. south under Jim Crow.  It’s a harrowing read at times, but it’s also quite a page turner.

Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King: I had to read this in my Latin class in high school, so I could probably go for a re-read, but it’s a really fascinating text.  It’s about the construction of il Duomo di Firenze, completed in the 1400s, which was actually a ridiculously complicated process.  So if you’re at all interested in architecture, I’d highly recommend this.  Or if you like The Pillars of the Earth.

Jo Cox: More in Common by Brendan Cox: And finally: Jo Cox was a British Labour MP who was murdered in June 2016.  This biography of her life written by her husband is just as powerful and beautiful as you’d expect, and it probably hit me harder than any other memoir or bio I’ve read.  (Obviously my feelings toward the book have become a bit more complicated with Brendan Cox’s recent sexual harassment scandal, but as he’s resigned from the Jo Cox Foundation where all the proceeds from the book go, I still feel like I can recommend it in good faith, since it’s ultimately about what a brilliant woman Jo was.  Though I obviously don’t blame anyone for choosing not to read it because of this.)

Also, I just started listening to The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien on audio, inspired by this post, and I can already tell it’s going to be an incredibly hard-hitting read.

What’s your favorite nonfiction book?  Comment and let me know!

 

some of my favorite book blogs

This is actually a post I’ve been meaning to do for a while, and it fits today’s Top Ten Tuesday theme, so I feel like now is the perfect opportunity.  Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish which is now hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl.

So, I wanted to share some of my favorite book blogs!  And there’s a reason I’m calling this post ‘some of’ my favorites – I follow over 500 sites on here, and even if a good chunk of those are inactive it’s still quite a lot to keep up with, and if I listed every single blog I enjoy I’d be here all night.  Seriously, if I ‘like’ your posts and/or interact with you regularly on here, I promise I adore your blog.  But in the interest of brevity, just a couple I wanted to highlight… these are NOT ranked and instead diplomatically arranged in alphabetical order:

Callum McLaughlin: If you aren’t already following Callum, what are you doing?!  He’s one of my favorite people that I’ve met through book blogging; his kindness and intelligence both shine through all of his posts, which are consistently some of my favorites to read on here.  He has a really great taste in books that often overlaps with my own, but even when it doesn’t, I always love hearing his thoughts.  He doesn’t post his reviews to his blog, but you can follow him on Goodreads and also catch his succinct thoughts on all of his reads in his monthly wrap ups.  And he also does fantastic posts like the one I’m linking to now which highlight groups of books with common themes.

Chelsea @ Spotlight on Stories: Chelsea is one of the two people on here that I was actually friends with prior to book blogging, but even if I didn’t know her personally, she’d undoubtedly make this list, because she does something that I don’t see anywhere else in this community: she reviews local (Toronto) theatre as well as books!  I don’t know if I’ve managed to communicate this on my blog, but I am a HUGE theatre fan and I love to keep up with the theatre scene in large cities, so her reviews have been so great for keeping some really cool stuff on my radar.  And her book reviews are fantastic as well.  We read and review quite similarly, so if you like my blog but wished I read a bit more SFF, Chelsea is your girl.

Elle Thinks: Elle writes some of the most intelligent reviews on this site, and I was thrilled to find another blogger who focuses on adult/literary fiction.  We’re definitely in the minority on here.  I first found Elle through her really fantastic Women’s Prize coverage and she’s on the shadow panel for that award, which means you can count on her for honest and very well thought out predictions and reviews.  But all of her reviews are equally brilliant.

Hadeer @ Cairene Librarian: And here’s the other friend I knew pre-book blogging!  But, again, Hadeer would make this list either way.  There is surprisingly little overlap in our reading on the whole, and it is not unusual for us to disagree strongly about the common books that we do read, but we do randomly have quite a few favorites in common, and either way I love to hear Hadeer’s thoughts whenever she finishes a book.  Her reviews are comprehensive and written in a really distinct and clear voice, and it’s a pleasure to read them.  The one way our reading IS quite similar though is that we both read broadly across many different genres, so if you like that kind of thing, definitely check out her blog!

Hannah @ I Have Thoughts On Books: I love Hannah and I love her honest and uncompromising reviews.  Which isn’t to say that she mostly reviews negatively, just that she will never sugarcoat her opinions and I love that we have that in common.  Hannah also reads much more SFF and more nonfiction than I do, but there’s quite a bit of overlap and we follow the same literary prizes, so she’s another one I’d recommend checking out if you like my blog.  Even when we disagree it’s a pleasure to chat with her.  Her reviews are just excellent and she constantly has incredible insights that I’d never have thought of on my own.

Hannah and Her Books: I feel like Hannah II’s blog is one of the newer ones I’ve discovered, but I can’t recommend her highly enough!  She wrote a fantastic post recently on her conflicting feelings about literary prizes and I agreed wholeheartedly with everything she wrote, and then we ended up having a really interesting conversation about it in the comments.  She is an incredibly kind and intelligent person who somehow miraculously is able to balance blogging with college and she has all my respect for that!

Literary Elephant: The Literary Elephant (who I’m sure has a real name but is hereby going to be referred to by her moniker) writes some of the best reviews on this site.  Not only are they thorough and comprehensive and diplomatic, but she always recommends similar books in case you need inspiration for further reading.  I’ve also had some really incredible conversations with her because she is always up for a good discussion (whether you agree or disagree with her assessment on a book) and getting to chat with people about books in the comments section is one of my favorite things about this community.  The Literary Elephant shares my love of comment conversations and I love it!

Marija @ Inside My Library Mind: Aside from being very aesthetically pleasing, Marija’s blog has fantastic content as well.  Her reviews are well-organized, her discussion posts are always thought-provoking, and she has one of my favorite features on here where she posts a list of books that she thinks her favorite fictional characters would enjoy (you can check out one such post here).  The way she strikes a balance between adult and YA is fantastic as well!  I actually think Marija has one of the more unpredictable tastes in books on here and I find that very exciting.

Sarah Ames-Foley: Sarah is hands down one of the nicest people I’ve met on this site (and I’m not just saying that because she visited me this weekend and complimented my cats quite a bit).  We were talking the other day about how our reading taste doesn’t actually overlap all that much (I go for more character-driven stuff and she goes for more plot-driven), but she’s another one I always love to talk with about books, whether we agree or not.  Her reviews tend to be brief but thorough and as someone who tends to ramble on quite a bit, I love that contrast!

Steph @ Lost Purple Quill: And last but certainly not least, Steph is one of my absolute favorite people I’ve met on here (and I’m not just saying that because she also visited me this weekend and also loves my cats) (or because she wrote me hundreds of words of fanfiction about a nonentity relationship in a book we both read last year).  She is just an unfailingly kind human with an absolutely fantastic taste in books – we read very similarly and have a LOT of similar favorites, but she reads more YA on the whole than I do, so if you think that’s what’s missing from my blog, please go check out Steph’s excellent reviews.

Again, this is not a comprehensive list!!!  I love so many more blogs and bloggers than I could possibly mention in a single post.  Maybe I’ll do a second post at some point highlighting some of my other favorites.  But let me know, who are your favorite book bloggers?  I’ll go check them out in case I’m not already following them.  x

top 10 tuesday: Characters I Liked in Books I Didn’t

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish which is now hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl.

April 3: Characters I liked That Were In Non-Favorite/Disliked Books

34275212SavithaGirls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao.  Suffice to say, I did not like this book.  What could have been a really hard-hitting reading experience suffered for the sake of a lot of gratuitous violence that did nothing for the narrative or for character development.  (e.g., When a character has already been raped repeatedly, what’s the point of adding in another graphic rape scene at the end of the book?)  That said, I did care for the two girls who were at the heart of this story, Savitha in particular – I admired her resilience and idealism.

9781471141638_hrCatherineWuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.  I thought this book was rather tedious and I did not get on with the writing style and I found most of the characters rather one-dimensional, but I have to admit, I do quite like Catherine.  I’m such an advocate of female characters who are allowed to be flawed and not necessarily very nice people, and Catherine is pretty much the embodiment of that.  She’s kind of awful, in a way that you don’t see with a lot of female characters in Victorian and Gothic lit, so ironically I like her all the more for that.

35274560FarrahUnbury Carol by Josh Malerman.  Maybe my expectations were too high after the perfection that was Bird Box, I don’t know, but Unbury Carol did nothing for me.  Probably also because I don’t like westerns, and this did nothing to change my mind about that.  I was thoroughly bored by the characters, too, I didn’t care about Carol or her evil husband or her outlaw love interest or the main villain.  Who I did like though, was Carol’s housemaid, Farrah, who was entirely too nice for this book.

417rmz3iq5l-_sx324_bo1204203200_HeleneWar and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.  There are actually a lot of characters I could have chosen for this book.  I love Anatole for how awful he is, and I love Natasha (until her entire character was destroyed by the epilogue but whatever), but I think I’ll go with Helene… she’s one of those characters who I believe has gotten a bad rap, due mostly to misogyny.  I mean, was anything she did that awful?  I think she deserved better and I can’t wait until one day Hadeer, resident Helene Kuragina stan, inevitably writes a book from her perspective.

32920226JojoSing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward.  This is a book that I really wanted to love, but it would be a little disingenuous to pretend that I did… I ultimately found the whole thing a bit too heavy-handed, and didn’t leave much for the reader to chew on – we were just sort of… told exactly what to think, and that sort of thing bores me.  But it would be hard to read this book and not fall in love with Jojo, the boy who’s basically been forced to care for his younger sister due to his mom’s unreliability and drug addiction.

9781594634475_custom-a1c60d0db7c4d3d9fce99ec338b463c8ea95ca03-s400-c85That one musician guy who was writing the Antigone musical with LottoFates and Furies by Lauren Groff.  Sorry, I cannot for the life of me remember this guy’s name.  And I hated this book.  Passionately.  As in, it’s a very strong contender for my least favorite book of all time.  The only thing that made it bearable was that brief section where Lotto went to this retreat or something and wrote an opera based on Antigone with this character whose name I cannot remember.  I liked that guy.  He deserved a better book.

29283884MontyThe Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee.  I wouldn’t say I disliked this book… but it was a sort of unenthusiastic 3 stars.  And without Monty, it definitely would not have gotten that high of a rating.  Monty is my favorite kind of antihero for YA lit – I’m a sucker for the ‘guy who acts like an asshole because he’s masking some seriously deep-seeded insecurities’ trope.  Unfortunately nothing else about this book really enchanted me.

30753987Peilan/PollyThe Leavers by Lisa Ko.  If this whole book had been from Peilan’s perspective, it would have been an easy 5 stars.  I thought she was such a brilliant character, and her chapters broke my heart.  But the point of view of her son, Deming, bored me so much and I ultimately wasn’t able to get invested in his character in any way.

27821486QuinnDon’t You Cry by Mary Kubica.  This is the only Kubica book I’ve read, and I can’t say it left a terribly strong impression… there were a lot of very strange twists and the resolution was rather odd.  And it was sort of boring up until that point.  But I did quite like Quinn, the narrator who’s searching for her missing roommate.  She felt very real and vulnerable and flawed, which I like in protagonists.

51nag-fefpl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Clara The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  This book is misogyny central… the treatment of female characters as a whole is pretty deplorable, but Clara in particular had one of the most frustrating narrative arcs of all time.  I’m still mad about how the author basically told us that this young woman was to blame for rejecting the affections of our teenage protagonist, as if she owed him something…???  Anyway, Clara deserved better.

Which characters do you like in books you didn’t?  Comment and let me know!

top 10 tuesday: Books On My Spring TBR

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish which is now hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl.

March 20: Books On My Spring TBR

 

EDIT with links to reviews:

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill: ★★★★★
The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie: ★★★★☆
Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan: ★★★★☆
Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan: ★★☆☆☆
Grief is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter: ★★★★☆

In general I’m not a big fan of weekly meme prompts that are about your TBR, because there’s only so much you can say about a book you haven’t read yet, but I felt like doing this one to get organized.  I’m currently reading Tin Man by Sarah Winman and Too Close to Breathe by Olivia Kiernan, and when I finish those I’ll be caught up with ARCs at long last, and I’m looking forward to tackling the many unread books I already own.  Here are 10 that I’m looking forward to reading in the near future – I may not stick to this list completely*, but you get the idea.  It’s a combination of Christmas presents, books that were lent to me, and books that have been sitting on my shelf.

*Though I will absolutely be reading Asking for It and Murder at the Vicarage, as both of those were included on my 5-star predictions list and I want to wrap that up soon.  (That also means pushing myself to finally finish Days Without End, which… ugh.  Let’s just say this is not going as expected.)

Have you guys read any of these?  Which should I read first?  Comment and let me know!

top 10 tuesday: Worth the Effort?

Hey guys!  I just got back from a fantastic Labor Day weekend in NYC, where I didn’t spend much time online (though if you’d like to see some of my US Open pictures, you can check out my Instagram).  I did a quick scan of my dashboard on here this morning, but if I missed any posts you’d like me to see, let me know!

Now let’s get to it.

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish – to join in the fun, check out their blog here!

September 5Ten Books I Struggled to Get Into But Ended Up Loving or Ten Books That Were A Chore To Get Through or Ten Books I’ve Most Recently Put Down (the theme is…books you had a hard time with…tweak it how ever you need)

I’m going to interpret this prompt as asking the question ‘Is this book worth the effort?’  We’ve got a few different answers.

NO:

2294321

Moby Dick by Herman Melville.  I had to read this book for my eleventh grade American literature class.  Maybe I’d get more out of it if I read it now… but I don’t know.  The symbolism didn’t go over my head – I ‘got it,’ but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s like seven hundred pages of a dude following a whale around in a boat.

 

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Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.  Maybe I just don’t like books set on boats.  Hmm.  There’s probably something to that.  Anyway, I found this book insufferable.  I read this for my twelfth grade AP Lit class, which is a shame because I loved every other book I had to read for that course.  Another one that I ‘got’ but hated every minute of reading.  I found it pretty pretentious and impenetrable… and I am a self-proclaimed lover of all things pretentious, so if that’s a criticism coming from me, you know it’s probably pretty extreme.

32283423American War by Omar El Akkad.  This is one of those books that I had to really push myself through, and when I finished it, I felt nothing but relief that it was finally over.  I wanted to love it because the premise is fascinating and seems relevant, but I struggled with El Akkad’s world building and narrative structure.  It wasn’t compelling, it didn’t feel half as tragic as he meant for it to be, it was just an overwhelmingly bland reading experience.  Some people love this book, so if it hooks you from the onset, you are probably good to go.  But if you struggle with the beginning, you should probably just put it down, because it doesn’t get any better.

59716To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.  Okay, I’ll admit it.  I didn’t get it.  And it’s not a case of me reading the book when I was too young, I don’t think, seeing as I read it last year when I was 24.  It still completely went over my head.  This is I think the first and only book I’ve read in my adult life where I’ve needed to consult Sparknotes to make sense of what the heck I was reading.  The Sparknotes analyses made it sound interesting… but I would be lying if I said I got any of that from the text itself.  Another one that I’d suggest putting down if you’re struggling early on.  I may give Woolf another try at some point, but I have to admit, this one was pretty rough going for me.

MAYBE:

168668Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.  I never know how to explain my experience with this book.  It was… difficult.  It’s a very, very, very, very long-winded satire about the American military during WWII, and while I found some of the humor absolutely hilarious, a lot of it totally missed the mark.  Basically, here’s the bottom line with Catch-22: if you’ve started it and you’re finding it challenging but rewarding, keep going.  If you’re hating every second of it, put it down immediately, because it’s just going to be more of the same.  But I can never decide which of those sides I’m on.  Maybe a bit of both.

10664113A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin.  I love the A Song of Ice and Fire series.  I’m very invested in these characters and this narrative.  But this book… while I devoured the first four books in this series in a matter of days or weeks, I was slogging through ADWD for months.  The fourth and fifth books were initially meant to be one massive novel which GRRM’s editors suggested splitting into two books along geographical regions, and it just so happened that all of my favorite POV characters ended up in A Feast For Crows and all of my least favorites ended up in A Dance With Dragons.  Is it worth it to push through this book?  I don’t know.  The next book in the series famously has not been published yet, so it’s hard to say if the struggle with ADWD was worth it.  It entirely depends on the direction that the series takes from here.  But I’m crossing my fingers.  I want to continue loving these books.  I’m hoping this was a random blip.

YES:

227463A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.  I know I keep talking about this one lately, but that’s only because it’s so good.  There’s no denying that this is a difficult book to read, but it is 100% worth the effort to persevere.  This book is a fascinating look at youth violence, toxic masculinity, the relationship between the state and the individual, and ultimately, the question of whether it’s better to choose to be evil or to be forced to be good.  My advice is to just stick it out, and don’t look up literally every single Nadsat word in the glossary, because that will start to drive you insane – just hone in on the ones you see the most often, and it will all start to make sense sooner than you think.

12938King Lear by William Shakespeare.  I’m not a Shakespeare expert by any means, but I think this is one of his more difficult plays, both in terms of accessibility of language and depth of themes.  But it is one of the most fascinating and tragic things I’ve ever read.  Advice: just take it slow, get an edition like Folger (pictured here) that translates some of the trickier phrases on the opposite side of the page, read it aloud when you need to, and just enjoy it.

1371The Iliad by Homer.  While it’s often overlooked for its more accessible peer, The Odyssey, I prefer The Iliad a thousand times over.  I don’t even know how to explain what it is about this book… the epic scope of it and the larger than life characters and the tragic and fascinating conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans – everything about this story is gorgeous and cinematic and compelling.  My advice: SKIM (OR JUST SKIP) THE ‘CATALOG OF SHIPS’ CHAPTER.  As we all know, The Iliad started out as an oral poem, and the infamous ‘Catalog of ships’ was basically the Homeric equivalent of being at a rock concert and the band going ‘any fans from Toronto?  from Los Angeles?  from Boston?’ and the crowd cheers in response.  Don’t read through it and try to memorize names or places, because you will lose your mind and they ultimately don’t matter very much to the narrative.  But once you’re through this chapter, it’s smooth sailing.

24280Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.  This book isn’t difficult to read, at all, it’s just long.  My advice is to choose an accessible translation (my favorite is the Signet classics Fahenstock & McAfee translation, pictured here, which is also the most famous and easiest to find) and just go for it.  This is my favorite book of all time – the story is gorgeous and heartbreaking and immersive and wonderful and I guarantee that you will not regret the time you put into this incredible book.

What are some books that were worth the effort for you guys?  And what about the ones that weren’t?  What do you think of my choices?  Tell me in the comments!

top 10 tuesday: Ten Hidden Classics Gems

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish – to join in the fun, check out their blog here!

This is probably going to be my most hastily written weekly meme post ever, I say as I begin to write this on 3:57 pm on Tuesday afternoon.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this topic, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of it, so here we go:

August 29Ten Hidden Gem Books in X Genre: Pick a genre and share with us some books that have gone under the radar in that genre!

I’m going to go with classics!  It’s such a broad genre, and obviously a book doesn’t get to be considered a classic without quite a bit of acclaim, so these may not be as ‘hidden’ as if I had chosen another genre… but here are some classics that I consider to be frequently overlooked for their much more oft read peers (To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, etc).

227463A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.  I only read this recently (review here), but I absolutely loved it.  This is one of those books that seems to be on everyone’s TBR list, but very few people have actually read it.  So if you’re waiting for some kind of sign to motivate you, here it is.  Read this book!  It’s unsettling and fascinating, and it becomes easier to read than you’d think possible as you struggle wrapping your head around the first chapter.

 

6251566The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie.  It’s one of her more famous novels, admittedly, but often gets eclipsed by And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express.  As good as both of those novels are, Roger Ackroyd is one of the most unique mystery novels I’ve ever read.  If you’re able to guess who murdered Roger Ackroyd, I’d like to buy you a drink.

 

923693White Noise by Don Delillo.  It was published in 1985, so it’s a more recent classic, but a classic nonetheless.  White Noise is a bizarre post-modernist literary exercise in coming to terms with one’s own mortality.  It’s funny and unsettling and weird.  It took me longer to read than it should have, because there was something I found rather draining about thinking about mortality at the end of a long day, but I ultimately found this very fascinating and satisfying.

3103Maurice by E.M. Forster.  This novel is flawed, especially stylistically as it was published posthumously and didn’t undergo the kind of rigorous editing that it needed, but that doesn’t stop me from singing its praises.  Maurice is Forster’s gay romance that he wrote in 1913, so it’s really remarkable that this is a novel we have access to.  I haven’t read any other Forster, so I can’t comment on how it compares to some of his better known novels, but it’s a delightful book that everyone should read.

76778The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.  I love Fahrenheit 451 as much as the next person, but it’s a shame to not read any Bradbury beyond that.  The Martian Chronicles is a series of vignettes that are loosely linked together, about the future colonization of Mars.  It’s a very odd and disturbing book, and while some of the stories make a stronger impression than others, this whole collection is a relevant allegory on imperialism that’s not to be missed.

31196The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham.  I adore everything I’ve read by Somerset Maugham, none more than Of Human Bondage, but an oft-overlooked brilliant novel by him is The Razor’s Edge, about a group of friends in postwar London and Paris.  Not a whole lot happens in this book, but at the same time, it covers so much.  Somerset Maugham’s writing is absolutely stunning, and if you haven’t read anything by him you should amend that immediately.

13270Poetics by Aristotle.  I think Plato’s Republic is really fascinating, but Aristotle’s Poetics is perhaps more accessible and interesting reading, for those looking for a good introduction to Greek philosophy.  It’s basically a short analysis of Greek tragedy and how plot and language come together to elicit certain reactions from the viewers – how we basically use theatre as a form of catharsis in seeing such dramatic emotions portrayed on stage.  As a fan of theatre and philosophy, I found this fascinating.

51yqc21t3nl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault.  Renault’s epic Alexander the Great trilogy isn’t to be missed by historical fiction fans who like a heavy emphasis on the historical.  There isn’t much of a fast-moving plot, here, but Renault’s writing is gorgeous and the sheer amount of research she put into these novels is admirable.  This isn’t the kind of book you can read in a quick weekend, but if you’re interested at all in Alexander the Great, it is an amazing novel to devote several weeks or months to.

847168A View From The Bridge by Arthur Miller.  People usually think they can call it a day with Miller after reading The Crucible and Death of a Salesman, but A View From The Bridge I think is one of his masterpieces.  It’s a play about a Brooklyn family who take in two Italian cousins who are looking to find work in America so they can send money home to their starving families.  Like The Crucible, A View From The Bridge deals with themes of perception and honor, just on a more intimate scale.

566328The Betrothed/I promessi sposi by Alessandro Manzoni.  Since it’s usually assigned high school reading, most Italians I know hate this book.  I didn’t.  Okay, granted, it’s a bit long, but it’s also an epic whirlwind romantic adventure of a novel, and I can’t help but to love this story a lot.  Sorry, my Italian lit degree is completely useless if I can’t recommend an obscure 700 page long Italian classic on my blog every now and then.

How many of these classics have you read?  Comment and let me know!