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Top Ten Tuesday: bookish wish list

Today’s Top Ten, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl , is essentially a holiday wish list. I pretty much buy what I um, need so feel free to use this list for the reader in your life.

  1. Book cart – I have two of these and they are not only cute, they are useful. I use them to keep my to-be-read books organized, a place to hold and charge my iPad, and hold the occasional plant.
  2. Book totes – always handy. I love this banned books tote from Out of Print
  3. Enamel pins – I’m a big fan of enamel pins and these are so fun!
  4. Post-it notes – But not just any post-its. These Wizard of Oz notes came in my most recent Page 1. box and I have loved using them as I write.
  5. And speaking of Page 1… A monthly subscription book box is a great gift. Page 1. is my favorite out of the several I have tried.
  6. Bookplates – I’m big on putting these in my favorite books that I want to loan out. I also think they turn a book into a heirloom. Some of my books have old bookplates in them and they make the book unique knowing who loved it before.
  7. A favorite Little Golden Book – I found my favorite childhood one, The Poky Little Puppy, here. Fun fact: this puppy looks like a beagle and I now have two beagles.
  8. Clothing – if you know they love a certain book or series, there are tons of options. I have actually seen the full Handmaid outfit which is a bit much for me but this hooded sweatshirt is awesome.
  9. A donation of books in their name – if they have kids, their classrooms most likely have a classroom library. Teachers frequently come out of pocket for the books and this is a fantastic way to support local schools and teachers.
  10. When all else fails – a gift card to their favorite independent bookstore!

This post does contain Amazon affiliate links. You pay no more for the item(s); I just receive a little extra money from Amazon to buy more books!

What’s on your bookish wish list?

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Top Ten Tuesday: the creepy edition

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Photo by ramy Kabalan on Pexels.com

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Don’t hate me, I don’t love Halloween.  This week’s list prompt is a freebie list of Halloween/creepy books so I’m going with creepy. Here’s my top 10 in no particular order:

1.Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders – Abraham Lincoln’s young son dies and is laid to rest in a crypt that Lincoln returned to several times (true story). Young Willie Lincoln spends a night in a purgatory of sorts with a cast of characters in various states of flux. Highly creative with lots of historical insights; this book was creepy and extremely entertaining at the same time. I highly recommend the audiobook!

2. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert – Think dark fairytales, a reclusive grandmother, and a granddaughter hunting for her mother who went missing; presumably in The Hazel Wood. This book was full of imagination and just dark enough to be creepy at times. The cover art is also a work of art in it’s own right.

3. Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage – What’s not creepy about an adorable first grader plotting to kill her mom so she can have her dad’s attention all to herself. Her schemes are pure psychopathy and gave me the chills more than once.

4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Screams from the attic, a mysterious fire set in the house, and Jane left to figure out the mystery on her own while being pursued by Mr. Rochester a.k.a. Mr. Nothing to See Here.

5. The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine – Be careful what you wish for. A homely, plain girl inserts herself into the Parrish life she believed she wanted. Except that Mr. Parrish was a monster.

6. Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land – What’s not creepy about the daughter of a female serial killer who turned her own mother into the police? The descriptions alone of living in that house are what nightmares are made of. The audiobook was fantastic!

7. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – A young girl is murdered and the book is told from her perspective. Creepy. And terribly sad.

8. Pet Cemetery by Stephen King – This was my first Stephen King book and I used to read it under my covers with a flashlight. It would scare me so bad that I would go hide it under the couch in the other room so I could sleep.

9. I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll – Two girls harmlessly flirt with two guys on a train. A year later and one of them is still missing. The plot twists were intriguing and kept you guessing until the end.

10. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – This was by far Flynn’s creepiest novels. Libby is the sole survivor of a family massacre in her own home. Her brother is convicted but questions still surround the night of the killings. Well written but one I will never read again.

What are some of your favorite creepy books?

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Feel Good Books : Recommendations

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What do you read after a book that wrecks you? A Little Life – I’m looking at you. And this type of book doesn’t have to be rainbows and sunshine; just a different range of emotions or a unique quality to the book.

My criteria:

  • Rich characters that aren’t always up to something sinister or awful.
  • Originality. Have you ever read a book and wondered how an author even came up with the idea for the book?
  • Mystery without the gore and with great twists of the plot.
  • A story of an ordinary family that overcomes ordinary family issues.
  • A story of redemption. The ending may not be fairytale perfect but you feel good about where the characters ended up.

Here are five of my favorite feel good books… in no particular order:

  1. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles – Set in the late 1930’s, this is a coming of age story set in New York City. The characters are so diverse, interesting, and each have their struggles which make each interesting to follow. The writing in this book is excellent and the constant descriptions of martinis inspired me to try my first dirty martini. Now, that’s good descriptive writing!
  2. Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough – This book falls into the mystery category. The twists are unbelievable and I’m usually pretty good at figuring them out ahead of time. Adele, one of the main characters, made my Top 10 Villain list.
  3. Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood – Atwood creates a story of redemption through the arts with a production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in a prison. There’s also a touch of sweet revenge.
  4. The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg – I read this book once a year. It’s about a family that appears functional on the surface but is anything but. As the plot develops, it’s so enjoyable to watch distant siblings come together.
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon – This is one of the most original books I have read. A 15-year-old boy on the autism spectrum investigates the death of his neighbor’s dog Sherlock Holmes-style while navigating life, school, and the world that he sees very different at times.

What are some of your feel good book recommendations?


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5 Star Recommendations

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What makes a book a 5 star book for you?

My criteria includes:

  • Characters that are interesting, endearing, or so good at being so evil.
  • Writing that is sound and has a clear voice.
  • Imagery. This is a big one for me. If I can hear it, taste it, see it, smell it, or touch it, I’m probably going to be your biggest fan.
  • Relatable. Even if I’m not a Crazy Rich Asian; if there are elements I can relate to, I will find this kind of book enjoyable.
  • Powerful and compelling. Do the characters and story stick with me days/weeks after finishing the book?

Here are five of my favorite 5 star books from 2018… in no particular order:

      1. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – One character: Jude. Remember those books and characters that stick with you? I still think about Jude almost six months later.
      1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – Imagery set this book a part from other coming of age novels. I could hear, smell, see, and taste the marsh air when I listened to this audiobook.
      1. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman- I found myself so interested in each character; their likes, dislike, quirks, and faults. You know it’s a good character when even their faults are appealing.
      1. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – Alice, the main character, had such a strong voice and inner dialogue. And that is despite losing her memory in the book.
      1. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal – I am not a Punjabi widow but I found this book to be so relatable. Reading a book about a community of women gaining their collective voice despite old beliefs and opposition reminds me very much of where we are in 2018 with #metoo and #believesurvivors. There is power in community; especially a community of women supporting other women

I’m curious, because all readers are different, what are some of your favorite five-star books?

 

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True Crime Addict & Dead Girls : A double book review and commentary on sensationalized violence against women – Part Two

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This post is the second in a three part series about the true crime genre

  • Part One – background and review of True Crime Addict.
  • Part Two – review of Dead Girls.
  • Part Three – contrast the two books and discuss the positives and negatives of the genre.

✂️✂️✂️✂️.5/5

I picked up Dead Girls by Alice Bolin up a few months ago. I typically read a few books and listen to an audiobook at the same time. A few minutes into the audiobook, True Crime Addict, I knew it was time to read this collection of essays.

The subtitle of this book is: essays on surviving an American obsession

Very interesting (and promising) given how popular the true crime genre has become. Case in point: True Detective on HBO.

I think True Detective mania mostly owes itself to the complicated power of the Dead Girl Show. The Dead Girl Show’s notable theme are its two odd, contradictory messages for women. The first is that girls are wild, vulnerable creatures who need to be protected from the power of their own sexualities. True Detective demonstrates a self-conscious, conflicted fixation on strippers and sex workers. Hart [one detective] helps “free” a teenage prostitute from a brothel and, seven years later, cheats on his wife with her. – Alice Bolin, Dead Girls

The book started out strong. The premise of murdered and missing women and the portrayal of the cases in books, podcasts, TV, and movies was one that I had been struck by in the past but couldn’t quite put my finger on what bothered me.

As Bolin so succinctly put it, the murders and abductions were happening to the (mostly) male characters. These characters had their own issues that they attempted to work out in presenting or solving the case. The focus was on anything but the victim and the accounts were largely told from the male perspective of either the male investigator or perpetrator. Anyone but the victim.

Yes, in real life the investigation has to focus on finding the perpetrator but how we present the case for information/entertainment purposes frequently misses the mark in favor of attention grabbing.

Bolin also tackles how living women are also used and wrote brilliantly about Britney Spears. Remember her first big hit? You know, the one in the Catholic school girl uniform.

Baby One More Time: the one where we were all so distracted by the visual sexual overtones of a 16-year-old. Enough so to miss the hook:

My loneliness. Is killing me.

My loneliness. Is killing me.

You would have had to have been living under a rock to miss 2007 Britney Spears and it makes we wonder if she was the public personification of what happens to women that are used for entertainment and dare I say, art as some have claimed.

She also addresses white women throughout the book but especially poignantly in her essay Accomplices.

I was able to exist in his world as long as it felt like a game I was playing, one that reinforced the narrative of myself as able to fit in anywhere but belonging nowhere, privileged with a special separateness. It turns out that this is the mental game many white women play in social (and societal) situation that they benefit from but are ambivalent about perpetuating. My trouble came when I realized that I was playing for keeps- or not playing at all but living my real, only life. – Alice Bolin, Dead Girls

Ouch. How many times have I found myself, in a male dominated industry, willing to go along with the guys for the sake of my own benefit? Plenty.

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And we certainly saw this in the Kavanaugh hearings.

This book was also, in my opinion, part memoir. Bolin chronicles her childhood, college years, and eventual move to Los Angeles. There are also a lot of mentions of her favorite author, Joan Didion, and this is where the essays became slightly repetitive and Didion a distraction for me.

But that is also a general downside of reading a collection of essays; each one stands alone but when read together, can either drive home a point or become overbearing.

I don’t want to focus on this issue too much because it detracts from the overall message of the book and that is an important message. But sadly, some readers may be lost in the redundancy. I moved past it and still want to read some of Joan Didion’s work.

Lastly, as I was reading it dawned on me that even the title of this book had a sensational quality to it. That’s certainly what grabbed my attention, especially using “girls” versus “women”.

At least Bolin had the self-awareness to admit her choice in the wording of the title. That is a far cry from True Crime Addict. I can’t help but find this a brilliant way the author chose to prove her premise of the entire book.

From a pure book review perspective, I’ll rate the book 4/5. And more specifically I will rate these essays a 5/5:

  • Toward a Theory of a Dead Girl Show
  • The Husband Did It
  • Lonely Heart
  • Accomplices

Bolin is a talented writer, well versed in the subject, and the essays are smartly written.

Who would I recommend this book to? Anyone interested in a feminist commentary on the presentation of missing and murdered women for the sake of entertainment as well as so much more. And one last suggestion, approach this book with an open mind and more than likely you won’t be disappointed.

… but I thought I was writing “about the noir.” That day was when I slowly began to realize that my book was maybe not about the noir but about those forces of which the noir was a symptom, not about dead white girls but the more troubling mystery of living ones. – Alice Bolin, Dead Girls

I’ll discuss this and more in Part Three. Until then, go read Dead Girls, it will not disappoint!