Top Ten Tuesday: My Winter TBR

Winter TBR

 

My TBR stack is never-ending. Just when I think that I might be done buying books, some new sale happens and I end up buying way too many books! #booknerdproblems am I right? As part of That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday meme, I’ve written my own TBR list for the winter. Well, anyway, here is my current TBR list for the winter. At least until I hit the library and decide to add about a million more books to the list.

 

  1. Sometimes We Tell The Truth, by Kim Zarins – I just heard about this book the other day and I’m RIDICULOUSLY excited that it exists!!! It’s a contemporary retelling of The Canterbury Tales featuring teens each telling a different, sometimes fantastical story on a bus ride to Washington, DC. It looks fantastic. (Check out Kim Zarins’ site here if you want to know more).
  2. The Kiss Quotient – I’m hoping that this book fulfils my quirky romance quotient. See what I did there? Did you?
  3. The Boat People, by Sharon Bala – Not gonna lie. I picked this one because I loved the cover. Also, it seems like a timely topic.
  4. Damn Fine Story, by Chuck Wendig – Because when is it *not* a good idea to read something that Chuck Wendig wrote? That guy is a hilarious, awesome genius who I sort of, kind of worship. (He also has an equally hilarious blog).
  5. You Think It, I’ll Say It, by Curtis Sittenfeld – Because short stories are important, too. Don’t let the lame grade nine collection of short tales turn you off this genre!
  6. Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata – A book about a strange, alienating person. I like strange books.
  7. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue, by Mackenzie Lee – YES I know. I KNOW! I should have read this one ages ago. Boarding schools and not-so-gentlemanly gentlemen? YES PLEASE.
  8. Precious Cargo, by Craig Davidson – A little non-fiction is good for the soul, and since Craig Davidson has written some pretty excellent fiction titles, I think I’ll give this one a whirl. Bonus points for Davidson, because it’s about his time as a school bus driver. This sounds hella cool.
  9. The Rules of Magic, by Alice Hoffman – I feel like this book will have a lot of the same whimsy and magic that Practical Magic had.
  10. Spoonbenders, by Daryl Gregory – Because who DOESN’T want to read about a family of psychics?

*Insert about five million, billion other titles here.

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Kid Gloves, by Lucy Knisley

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Lucy Knisley is one of my favourite graphic novelists out there. I have read and re-read all of her other books, so when I was given an ARC from Netgalley of her soon-to-be released book, Kid Gloves, I was extremely excited.  This instalment of Knisley’s autobiographical series follows Lucy as she embarks on a challenging journey into parenthood, rife with miscarriages, health problems and a near-death experience. It is a fascinating and heart-rending read.

A Perfect Blend of Narrative & Science

What I love about Knisley’s books is that woven throughout her personal stories are facts and histories relating to the topic that she is covering. In Kid Gloves, she examines not only her own struggles as a young woman trying to conceive and carry a child to term, but she also delves into the complex history and science of reproduction. I think that this connection between autobiographical stories and the wider history acts to draw the reader in. Even though Knisley’s narrative is personal, it begins to feel personal to the reader in this way too.

A Light Touch

There are moments in this narrative that will smash your heart, but there are also some hilarious episodes too. I liked reading the lighter anecdotes such as the one about crazy morning sickness (i.e. learning that Charlotte Bronte died from morning sickness! What?!?) This kept the tone of the narrative light, which balanced out the heartbreaking stories about her early miscarriages and the many other hardships that she faced. Reading Lucy Knisley’s books feels like talking to a good friend that you haven’t seen in a while and I think it is because  her writing is accessible. This is especially important if you consider that the message of her book–that health care for women isn’t necessarily in line with their needs–is an important one.

Read this Book! Read it! Why? Because it will change the way you view pregnancy and childbirth along with a million other fascinating ideas. Read it because her story will make you cry. Read it to fall in love with her art (it is beautiful). Read it to feel like you’ve just discovered your book best friend, because seriously, if you haven’t yet discovered Knisley, it’s time. Okay, good talk. Now go pickup a copy of Kid Gloves on February 26, 2019.

 

Have you read Lucy Knisley’s books? Which one is your favourite?

 

Note: I was given a copy of Kid Gloves in exchange for an honest review.

My Plain Jane, by The Lady Janies

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If you’ve already read My Lady Jane, then you know the kind of tongue-in-cheek humour that you’re in for when you pick up My Plain Jane, the newest instalment in the “Jane” series written by The Lady Janies, or Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows and Brodi Ashton. To be sure, this is another win for this trio of YA writers, who re-write historical or literary narratives in creative ways. Full of literary jokes, ghosts and plenty of excitement, My Plain Jane is another fun ride through a literary classic.

Let’s Hear it for the Girls

What I liked most about My Plain Jane was the characterization of Charlotte Bronte and Jane Eyre as strong, smart heroines. Charlotte is clever and always finds inventive ways out of the well-executed situations that the characters find themselves in. I appreciated the meta-fictional nature of having a writer in the narrative and one who was so endearing. She was probably my favourite character. Jane Eyre was another good character, although I felt that for the majority of the book her character was tied up in a feminist critique of the original Jane Eyre that has been written about quite a lot in academic publications (i.e. here, here and here.) My favourite is Kate Beaton’s take on the brooding Bronte suitors, though. Some arguments have even been made that the original Jane Eyre is actually a feminist narrative… so these critiques fell a bit flat.

Lit Crit 101

I love a good meta narrative, especially when it interrogates the original story in a new and exciting way. There were some neat, original additions to this iteration of Jane Eyre, such as the ghost hunting aspect. However, I felt that My Lady Jane was a bit more inventive, while My Plain Jane focused on the common criticism that yes, Jane Eyre is way too young for Rochester and that is bizarre that she falls in love pretty immediately with some dark, brooding guy who isn’t all that nice to her. That, in a nutshell, is a lot of the Bronte literature. (I mean, hello, Heathcliff anyone? That guy is a piece of work).

Love Boat

Speaking of all the “dreamy” love connections that are commented on, there was some light romance between Charlotte Bronte and one other character that I won’t name to avoid spoilers. I liked this aspect of the narrative and thought that it added some good intrigue when the story departed from the Jane Eyre plot. While Jane Eyre’s love connection was mostly the but of some literary jokes, it was enjoyable to also get absorbed in a romance that I felt like I could root for.

If you fell in love with the original Rochester and feel like Heathcliff is super dreamy, stick to the classic. But if you love reading about quirky heroines and ghostly adventures, check out My Plain Jane. 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that Awake the Travel Bug

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It’s no secret that I love to travel. If you’ve read other posts on this blog, you’ll know that I take every chance I get to explore the world. Alas, travel can be a bit expensive, so while I’m saving up for my next great adventure, reading books that take me to exotic locales is the next best thing. Here are a few of my favourites for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl:

  1. Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan – “Alamak!” All of the fantastic locales that Kwan describes… and the food alone makes me want to hop on a plane and set out for Singapore. The entire series is an awesome and hilarious adventure.
  2. Love and Gelato, by Jenna Evans Welch – Again, with the food. I love Italy, and this book took me right back to visiting the Duomo and eating too much gelato.
  3. An Age of License, by Lucy Knisley – I’m a huge fan of Lucy Knisley’s graphic memoirs, but this one is especially fun, because readers get to follow her as she travels through Europe.
  4. The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan – Set in London, The Royal We features tons of cool locations in one of my favourite cities. Also, did I mention that there is a handsome, single prince in this book? Seriously, even if you hate London, the Prince is enough to keep things interesting.
  5. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon – Does time travel count? I mean, it’s still travel… Also, did I mention the super-hot scotsman in this one? No? Well… Why else does one travel?
  6. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert – Yes, I was inspired by the travel. Also, this book just made me hungry.
  7. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain – Perhaps not an exotic locale for me, but I liked Twain’s descriptions of the languid Mississippi river set as the backdrop for boyhood adventures. If you are a fan of Nick Offerman (because why wouldn’t you be?) there is an audiobook out where he narrates.
  8. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed – I think I liked reading this one so much because for a few hundred pages I could experience hiking the Pacific Crest trail without actually having to hike. I hate hiking, ya’ll. But, I loved this book.
  9. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien – Confession: I kind of gave up in book two, because what is with all of that “they walked through the forest” for like a million pages BS? Sorry, bookish internet. I promise to go back and read it again. The Lord of the Rings did inspire some of my travels in New Zealand, though.
  10. Paper Towns, by John Green – One night, Quentin’s crush Margo climbs in through his window and everything changes. An awesome mystery/road trip novel that always makes me want to return to Florida.

 

What books make you want to travel more?

Educated, by Tara Westover

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“This is not a story about being Mormon,” writes New York Times Bestselling author Tara Westover, at the start of Educated, a book that has been compared to narratives about cults. I’ll admit that I was intrigued initially, based on this description, but I was quickly won over by Westover’s candid and heartfelt account of her experience growing up in the mountains as part of a fundamentalist Mormon family. Readers who love a good, gritty memoir packed with excitement and a narrator that you can’t help but root for will love Educated.

Family Values

There were many elements of Tara Westover’s life that shocked and surprised me, to the point that I couldn’t set down the book, because I just had to know what would happen. The many visceral descriptions of abuse and other frightening moments in Westover’s life were fascinating to read about, but what stuck out as the most dynamic parts of the story were not her “escape” into more “mainstream” culture, but the relationships that she had with her family.

Even though Westover lives through some truly terrible moments at the hands of her older brother Shawn and her bipolar father, the view that she creates of her family feels balanced. No one is ever quite a villain in this piece, which makes them all the more endearing to read about. I think it is because she includes such tender, honest moments between these characters that they are made human in the readers’ eyes. Because I felt that Westover loved her family despite their flaws, I found myself loving them too.

A College Narrative with a Twist

Maybe it is because I went on to post-secondary education that I was attracted to the descriptions of Tara at College, but I liked reading about her experiences there. This section of the book had some particularly excellent tension, as I was constantly wondering how she would pass courses that required knowledge Tara did not have based on her lack of a high school education, or how she would pay for another semester when she was too broke to eat.

Even more fascinating was Tara’s point of view as a strict Mormon living for the first time with “gentiles.” It was a unique perspective to view and I found that while the earlier scenes featuring her family (and the many times that Tara was put in dangerous situations), this section had its own revelations that kept me turning the pages. I loved reading about her gentile roommates, who had to remind her to wash her hands, or the moment in a lecture where she didn’t know who Hitler was. Reading this section gave me a clearer sense of Westover’s struggle.

Read This Book

Deeply moving, raw and wild like the mountain that she hails from, Tara Westover’s Educated is a narrative that you won’t want to miss. I may have come for the sensational story about escape from a survivalist family, but I found that I never wanted to leave.

Have you read Educated yet? Feel free to share in the comments what you liked about it!

 

 

*Thanks to Netgalley for providing this Advanced Readers Copy!

The Witches of New York, by Ami Mckay

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Normally, I don’t like to choose big historical tomes for a plane ride regardless of how long the flight might be, but on a recent trip to Norway, this book caught my attention. And since today is my birthday, I thought I’d take a minute to talk about one of my favourite books I’ve read this year. …Maybe it was because it had a supernatural element woven into the plot that made me take the risk, but I’m certainly glad that I did. The Witches of New York is not only beautifully written, but it is also a wild historical adventure.  One that, admittedly, made me wish for an extra hour on that plane!

The Supernatural Sisterhood

IMG_6400Forget about The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants,* The Witches of New York features (mainly) three witches living in New York City and it is at least in part a story of their lives as they try to make an honest living in their tea shop, Tea and Sympathy. There are plenty of seances, ghostly encounters and other strange sprightly occurrences to keep the reader turning pages. What I loved though, is the narrative about women’s rights that also gets woven into the storyline, whether it is through the mention of the Suffragette movement or the more immediate struggles that Eleanor, Adelaide and Beatrice face as they strive to provide certain banned services to the women who frequent their shop looking for more than tea and gossip.

A Hair-Raising Mystery

As if fantastic girl-power narratives aren’t enough, on another level, The Witches of New York features an intricately designed mystery that unfolds as the characters are brought together. At first, I was daunted by the number of characters that are introduced at the beginning of the book. If they hadn’t each been distinct and interesting, it might have counted against my enjoyment, but as I watched the characters gravitating towards one another and learned of their interconnectedness, I couldn’t help but feel a surge of excitement.

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Verisimilitude in the City

Amidst the exciting setting and plot, the elements of verisimilitude were an added level of intrigue. Embedding bits of “newspaper” and pages from spell books or want ads created a thoroughly fascinating, multilayered world. This, paired with a whole cast of loveable characters makes The Witches of New York a totally engrossing read. Even if you don’t like historical fiction, this book is too magical not to read.

 

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*Actually, don’t forget about The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. I love that series too, for its’ fun, girl-power awesomeness.

 

 

Gorgeous Graphic Novels You Should Pick Up Today

  1. Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson – Even though it’s not a new graphic novel, I have to mention it, because it is just that awesome. Shapeshifters, weird -technology AND an evil genius who might not be that evil? Yeah. If you haven’t already, just go and buy it. Read it and then read it again.
  2. Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride, by Lucy Knisley – I’ve read ALL of Lucy Knisley’s graphic novels so far and this one is equally fantastic. With her sharp wit and funny, relatable stories about getting married, I loved dipping back into Lucy’s continued saga once again.
  3. Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria and Iraq, by Sarah Glidden – I picked this book up because of the art on the cover, but I fell in love with the beautiful artwork. This book showed me so many different perspectives; through the narrative it feels like Sarah Glidden takes you along on her adventure.
  4. In Real Life, by Cory Doctorow – As a sci-fi fan, I was drawn into the engrossing online world of Coarsegold Online, but I was fascinated by the way that Cory Doctorow examines not only adolescence, but also poverty and culture-clash.
  5. Lumberjanes, by Grace Ellis & Noelle Stevenson – Hardcore lady-types rejoice! This series is a fun, fantastical and perfect reading material for anyone who likes strong-female-oriented narratives that involve all manners of supernatural coolness.
  6. ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times, by Andrew MacLean– As we follow Aria and her cat Jelly Bean through the apocalyptic landscape, we discover that Aria is on a mission. This fast-paced adventure has it all: sci-fi awesomeness, creepy aliens and some seriously action-packed scenes.
  7. Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!, by Kate Leth – a fun, fast-paced story that is equal parts witty and thought-provoking, I couldn’t put it down. Sure, Patsy may have (literally) escaped Hell, but now she’s just trying to be normal in New York City. Naturally, hilarity ensues.
  8. SuperMutant Magic Academy, by Jillian Tamaki – set in an academy for SuperMutants, there are science experiments gone awry, a new kid who is also a fortune telling cat and a plethora of zany antics that still feel so true to the high school experience. Funny, poignant and beautifully illustrated, this is a great book to pick up if you love all things weird and wonderful.

What graphic novels do you love?