Monday, October 30, 2017

Best of the Bunch: October 2017

Today I'm sharing the best book I read in October.

After a long dry spell, I finally had a 5-star read this month! It was the only one of the nine books I read this month that merited above a 4-star rating, so it's definitely my Best of the Bunch.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was an excellent autobiography. It takes a bit to get accustomed to the 19th century language, but otherwise I found it very readable. It was interesting to read Jacobs' account after reading so many stories (fictional and true) of chattel slavery in the American South that try to shock the reader with stories so brutal that, I find, you almost end up becoming desensitized as a coping mechanism. As Jacobs says herself, she was never subjected to brutal beatings or field work or rape, and so you're left with a case where slavery is depicted as wrong not because it's brutal but because it's slavery. I don't think this book should be read as anyone's sole account of the history of American chattel slavery, but in concert with other books about the worst horrors of the institution, this is an important contribution.

What is the best book you read this month? Let me know in comments, or write your own post and link up below!

Ten Horror Novels on My TBR List

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

It's a Halloween freebie! In past years I've done books to read to get in the Halloween spirit, suspenseful novels, and characters I'd be for Halloween. I mined some of last year's links to get other ideas, and decided to look at what's on my to-read list and my might-want-to-read list. I looked through the Best Horror Novels list on Goodreads to see which ones I had on my lists. (So don't blame me if you don't think all of these count as horror — I haven't read them yet!)

1. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

2. Coraline by Neil Gaiman

3. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

4. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

5. Jaws by Peter Benchley

6. The Shining by Stephen King

7. The Stand by Stephen King

8. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

9. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

10. World War Z by Max Brooks

Which of these do you think I should read first?

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Top Ten Unique Book Titles

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This topic made me laugh a little because, like, most book titles are unique, right? Isn't that key to titling a book, that you want it to be something unique? Certainly there are books out there with the same title, but if you picked a random assortment of ten books they are likely to all have unique titles.

Anyway, I'm not really trying to poke fun at the topic because I do understand (I think) what they're going for. One of my book clubs had a nomination theme one month of "long or unusual titles," which was inspired by The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, which was also the organizers' only example of what kinds of titles they were looking for, and of course that was the book that ended up being chosen for the month. (They might as well have called it "The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared Month.") But I can come up with nine other titles that are quirky, unusual, or intriguing to round out the top ten list!

1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

2. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

3. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

5. How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon

6. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

7. If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino

8. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

9. The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob

10. "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" by Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum

What are some unusual or intriguing book titles you've encountered?

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Ten Books That Make Me Hungry

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic is about food in books. I know a lot of people are into "food memoirs" and novels with recipes in each chapter, and I've just never gotten into that, probably because I don't cook much. (I laughed at the suggestion, "You could also talk about 10 of your favorite cookbooks if you don't read foody books" because I look at cookbooks even less frequently.) However, I did manage to cobble together a list of ten books that talk about food enough to make me hungry while reading them.

1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
This book not only got me to stop eating factory farmed meat but also convinced me to give asparagus another try. Good decisions on both counts!

2. Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist
I may have skimmed the actual recipes in this book, but she talks a lot about the joy of eating and sharing food with others, so obviously that's going to make me want to throw a dinner party immediately.

3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
I mean, there's an entire room made out of candy, but if you're like me and more about the savory than the sweet, then the part that will get you is Violet talking about the taste of warm tomato soup pouring down her throat (right before she turns into a giant blueberry).

4. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
I know this is the book everyone loves to hate, but I really liked it, and I definitely want to experience going to a little restaurant in Italy that doesn't even have a name where the food is so good it makes you cry.

5. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Who doesn't want to sit down and have a huge banquet magically appear in front of you?

6. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
This is going to sound ridiculous, but while everyone else apparently wanted to try Turkish Delight after reading this book, it just made me crave turkey. Like the lunch meat. (Before I stopped eating meat, obviously.)

7. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
This entire book revolves around a cooking class where every month they make a new delicious-sounding recipe, so this is not one to start on an empty stomach.

8. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
The protagonist of this book is a baker, and there's a particular plot point around a special kind of chocolate-cinnamon roll, so yeah, good luck reading this one without craving some carbs.

9. Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
This is how much I love pasta so I would definitely take a magic pot that made an endless supply for me.

10. The Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline
The main character disconnects from her busy city life and finds herself again via her culinary roots in this cute novel about slowing down and taking chances.

OK, now I need to go get a snack...

What books make you hungry?

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately (Quick Lit)

Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit to bring you some short and sweet reviews of what I've read in the past month. For longer reviews, you can always find me on Goodreads.

I've spent the past month listening to Bleak House on audio, so that's taken up most of my reading time. Here are the books I managed to get through this past month.

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey: This was a mixed bag: Good world-building, good action/suspense, disappointing ending, annoying characters, female objectification, badly executed racial diversity.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson: Reading about two grown men taking lots of drugs and then causing immense property damage, running up bills they don't pay for, and terrorizing innocent people, told amid a massive amount of racism, sexism, ableism, and homophobia? Not my cup of tea.

After the Funeral by Agatha Christie: Christie did a nice job leading the reader down a path of red herrings in this one, but the ultimate solution was too far-fetched for me. It wasn't one of the worst ones and I enjoyed the read, it was just ultimately a bit disappointing.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens: I always seem to enjoy Dickens more than I expect to, and yet less than other people seem to. He writes memorable and colorful yet one-dimensional characters. This book is a conglomeration of family drama, mystery, and legal/political satire, and I liked each part of it, but overall found it too much of a mishmash at times.

All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot: This was a charming sequel to All Creatures Great and Small, even if didn't capture me in quite the same way. If you liked the first one, you'll probably like this as well.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green: I will never not be a John Green fangirl, but I didn't like this one quite as much as I'd hoped. For the excellent insights into the mind of someone with OCD and anxiety, though, it's a stellar addition to the YA world.

Quidditch Through the Ages by Kennilworthy Whisp (J.K. Rowling): This was a cute little book that was infinitely better than Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (the original, not the screenplay). It was a nice combination of bonus backstory for Harry Potter superfans and the silly cheekiness that makes the humor of that series so fun.

What have you been reading this month? Share over at Modern Mrs. Darcy!

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Ten Fall Covers

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic is book covers or themes having to do with fall/autumn. Since I can't ever remember what time of year books take place, I decided to stick with the visual. Some of these might not technically be fall scenes, but they at least had the right color scheme.

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

2. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

3. Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

4. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

5. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

6. A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

7. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

8. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

9. Two-Part Invention by Madeline L'Engle

10. A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks

What fall-themed covers can you think of?

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Monday, October 2, 2017

Top Ten Book Crushes

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic was a difficult one! I realized in scrolling through my highly rated books that we tolerate a wide variety of terrible men in our books, from tough-on-the-outside love interests to cantankerous old men, far more than we tolerate variety in women. It was hard to find male characters I liked at all, and many of the good ones were kids. I finally came up with ten guys that I didn't feel weird about claiming as book crushes. (You'll notice some overlap with my favorite fictional couples.)

1. Gen Watanabe (Bel Canto)
Ah, Gen, always putting others' needs before his own, while still having strong opinions and passions. If only the book had not given him such a weird ending.

2. Silk (Belgariad and Malloreon series)
Probably my first book crush, from all the way back in middle school. He's hilarious and wicked smart, the best combination.

3. Remus Lupin (Harry Potter series)
Before the movies came out and he was depicted as a middle-aged man with a creepy mustache, I imagined Lupin as a hip young teacher, kind of like the stereotypical camp counselor or youth minister you have a crush on because he seems mature but not old.

4. Grant (The Language of Flowers)
I'm not sure I ever found Grant's character personally attractive, but as this is one of my favorite books I thought he deserved a spot on the list. I always admired how he met Victoria where she was and gave her the space she needed to heal and process her past.

5. Willem (A Little Life)
Willem was put in a hard spot given the complicated person he fell in love with, and he didn't always make the best choices, but he was overall a very genuine person who did his very best.

6. The Chairman (Memoirs of a Geisha)
My memory of this book is admittedly pretty fuzzy (I read it about 15 years ago), but I remember swooning over Chiyo's love interest along with her, especially at the end of the book.

7. Dan (A Prayer for Owen Meany)
Dan is one of the best characters in this book — kind, wise, and infinitely patient with John and Owen. He's also warm and funny and has a realistic outlook on life.

8. Simon (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda)
This crush is probably least appropriate, since Simon is gay and under 18, but he reminded me so much of my gay best friend who I definitely had a little crush on in high school.

9. Henry (The Time Traveler's Wife)
Henry's time-traveling disorder puts him in a weird position, especially in relation to his wife, but he's a sympathetic character who's sweet and sensible and funny.

10. Nat (The Witch of Blackbird Pond)
Nat is kind; he befriends the town's outcast because it's the right thing to do, even if it brings him under suspicion too. And he's got a cheeky sense of humor, as evidenced by how he names his ship at the end.

Who are your book crushes?

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