Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Made Me Want More Like Them

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic today is “Books I Loved that Made Me Want More Books Like Them.” My time of serious reading is short enough that if I did this topic straight, it’d resemble many past TTT posts, simply restating my favorite books over the last 2 years. So I’m changing it up just a bit. Most of the books on this list are books that I didn’t like, but make me want to try to find other books like them. Maybe the premise was super interesting, but the execution was poor. Or it didn’t turn out to be the type of book I was expecting at all, so now I want to go find something that actually is what I was looking for. I’ve ordered them lower ratings to higher ratings (as rated by me), and the last few actually are books I did like that made me want to read more like them.

10. The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson
While I’m not much of a horror fan, the idea of a group of kids investigating local ghost stories and urban legends sounds like it could be fun. Sadly, the urban legends and such are a much smaller part of the book than I expected, and the book seemed more drama than anything to me. See my review here.

9. Rabbits by Terry Miles
Based on the premise, I was expecting something like the movie The Game crossed with Ready Player One, maybe even with escape room elements thrown in. Boy, would I love to read that! This wasn’t it.  See my review here.

8. Seconds to Live by Susan Sleeman
This is really just a representative of an entire genre that has let me down. I keep trying Christian mystery/suspense books like this one and keep being disappointed (though I have liked a couple). Usually there’s a romance sub-plot that gets in the way, but the mystery is often convoluted and un-suspenseful too. I’d love to find some good ones, but am about ready to give up on the genre instead. See my review here.

7. Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
This is one of a few entries that are here specifically because of the audiobook. I listened to 2 books in this series and just couldn’t stand the main character, but I think that has a lot to do with the narrator. The MC is independent, bucks society, and is often haughty…and the narrator takes that to an extreme. I almost hated her by the time the book was over. My sister, who recommended the book in the first place, said there’s another version with a different narrator that is a lot better. I think the story might otherwise be one I’d like, so I plan to give it another try with the different narrator. See my review here.

6. Wingfeather Tales by Andrew Peterson and various authors
This entry may be sort of cheating. I’d love to try to find other books that are more what I would have liked to see from this, but they’ll never exist. This is a collection of short stories set in the world of The Wingfeather Saga, which is a wonderful series of 4 middle-grade fantasy books. Like so very many others, I’d love to see a continuation of that series, even if not directly picking up where the series left off, written by the author himself, but he’s said he’s not going to do that (well, for sure not the direct continuation, at least). While this book had its good moments, most of the stories were written by other people, so it just wasn’t the same. See my review here.

5. Time and Again by Deborah Heal
This was a pretty interesting idea—a dual timeline story where the people in modern day use a mysterious computer program to watch events unfold in the past. The execution was lacking, sadly; though I’m not exactly a history buff, I really like the idea of the pre-teen who hates to learn seeing history literally come to life before her eyes, and that history influencing the viewers. The first book in the series (shown here) was okay, but the 2nd killed my interest. See my review here.

4. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
I liked this book, though I didn’t care for the atmosphere and author’s writing style. The mystery itself and the culmination of the story I really liked, though, and I’d love to find more books with this kind of out-of-the-box approach to presenting and solving the mystery. See my review here.

3. The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham
I don’t know if I’d call myself a Marshmallow, exactly, but that might just be because I’m not much of a follower. Be that as it may, I do love the show Veronica Mars, so as soon as I heard that Kristen Bell narrated the audiobook of the 1st of 2 books written as a follow-up to the movie (which was a follow-up to the show), I knew I had to listen to it. Now that I’ve started to move on to books written as additional stories for other TV shows I love (with varying degrees of success), I would just love for more of those to have audiobooks narrated by their main stars. So far, though, I’ve not found much of that. See my review here.

2. There I Go Again by William Daniels
I’m not much of a non-fiction reader and have never really cared much for biographies. But as soon as I saw that the actor who played Mr. Feeny wrote a book about his time in the spotlight, I didn’t even hesitate to get it into my hands. Since then, I’ve discovered that I actually don’t mind autobiographies or memoirs, but apparently I’m kind of particular about the subject matter (I suppose that’s probably normal, actually), as I’ve since read books by John Cooper (only partially autobiographical) and Cary Elwes and have also acquired autobiographies by Tim Conway and Steven Curtis Chapman. See my review here.

1. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
This entry is also specific to the audiobook. I absolutely loved the narrator for the version I listened to, Nadia May. From my review: “The way she differentiated all of the larger characters was astounding, and I especially loved her voice for Mr. Gibson (Molly’s dad). There were times that I’d get so caught up in it that I’d completely forget this was one person doing all of the voices.” I badly want to listen to other books narrated by her (though sadly I don’t seem to have access to many that interest me, even though I can see she’s narrated several I’d like to read), and hope to come across other narrators as amazing as she (I’ve already discovered a couple I like almost as much).  See my review here.

Have you read any of these books? What’s on your list?

Top Ten Tuesday: 5 Stars or Not?

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic today is a completely open freebie. Back in February of 2020, there was a TTT topic that I participated in titled “Books On My TBR I Predict Will Be 5-Star Reads.” Every single one of the books on my list that Tuesday I have since read, save one. For today’s post, I thought it would be fun to see how my predictions and hopes turned out. With each entry, I’ve included my original thoughts on the book back in February 2020, before I’d read it, and then the update.

1. Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

I read Anne of Green Gables for the first time a few months ago and loved it. It was one of the 5-star reads I mentioned above. I plan to read the 2nd book in the series this month, and while some of what made me love the first book will likely be downplayed in the 2nd one (because Anne isn’t a kid anymore), I still anticipate loving it!

Sadly, this did not turn out as great as I’d hoped. I gave it 3.5 stars, and that’s largely due to the loss of Anne as a child. See my review here.

2. North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson

This is also book #2 in a series, and I loved book #1 (On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness). The first book was mostly the story of how this family went from a normal family in an oppressed land to finding out that they were so much more than normal. The 2nd book will build on that and start the real saga, and I’m looking forward to it!

This was an accurate prediction! I loved the 2nd book in the series, and went on to love the rest just as much. This book series has become a huge deal in my family! See my review here.

3. The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin

I read the 3rd book in this series recently and loved it so much that I knew I needed to read the rest of the series. Normally I don’t like to read out of order, but when I requested the 3rd book on NetGalley, I thought the series was basically stand-alones. However, I realized while reading it that the three books in the series are all about 3 brothers. Though I’ve read a few spoilers of the first 2 books now, it’s not much more than what I would know just from the fact that they’re in the romance genre.

I wasn’t too far off on this one. I gave this book 4 stars, and the 2nd book in the series, the final one for me to read, 5 stars like the 1st one I read (which was 3rd in the series). Overall, it was a great series that I look forward to re-reading someday (in order). See my review here.

4. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

I have watched the BBC mini-series several times. I love it so much. I’ve heard from others who felt that Mr. Thornton (the male lead) has a lot more depth in the book, and I already really like his character. So I’m looking forward to reading it!

Another accurate prediction! Technically, I gave it 4.5 stars, but that’s close enough for me. See my review here.

5. Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman

I was invited to be part of a blog tour for this book, which comes out in June. This is a first for me, and I’m really hoping to be able to give it a good review as part of the blog tour.

Here’s where my predictions turned into hopes–less certainty that I’d like it, and more the hope I would for one reason or another, like being part of a blog tour for this book. Unfortunately, this one didn’t turn out so well. I gave it 3.5 stars. See my review here.

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

My sister extolled the virtues of this book all through the holidays. She actually recommended several books to me during that time, but she seemed the most sure that I’d like this one. I really hope I love it!

I am happy to report that I did love this book! It earned all of its 5 stars, and I was quite relieved that I so enjoyed a book my sister highly recommended. See my review here.

7.  Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This is another book that my sister recommended, but it’s actually on this list because of the fact that, based on her recommendation, I picked up a copy for cheap at Half-Price Books. And even more than that, I later bought book #2 in the series also at a bargain price. It would be particularly disappointing to not like the first book.

I only read this book earlier this month, and was really caught up in it! I gave it 4.5 stars and am so happy that I already bought the follow-up book at a bargain price. See my review here.

8. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

I’ve never read any Tolkien, and it never used to bother me. But after the LotR movies came out, I found myself wishing I was a fan. I have good reason to believe that I would have a difficult time getting through those books, though, and I don’t really want to deal with that. But with this book being for a younger audience, I thought it might be a good way to start. If I still struggle with it, my sister mentioned that listening to the audiobook helped her to push through the LotR books, and while I’m not normally one for audiobooks, I can see the merit in this case.

I did read this book, rather than listening to the audiobook, and gave it 5 stars in the end. I did, however, listen to the LoTR books and have gotten into audiobooks more in general since February of last year. See my review here.

9. Redeeming Grace: Ruth’s Story by Jill Eileen Smith

I don’t know if other people have a favorite book in the Bible, but mine is Ruth. I have always found the romance in the story of Ruth and Boaz. I watched a movie based on the book once, but it was pretty bad (even though I like the guy that played Boaz as a musician, his performance was terribly stilted). So when I came across this book, I knew I had to read it. And if it doesn’t live up to my idea of the story…maybe I should just write my own version!

I literally just finished this book last night, which was perfect, since it was the only book on the list I hadn’t either read or passed on (see #10). And though I haven’t written the review yet or settled 100% on a rating, it will likely be either 3 or 3.5, sadly. Part of that is because of my own ridiculously high standards regarding this story, but I think there were some other issues too.

10. This Present Darkness by Frank E. Peretti

This entry is quite different from the others. I’ve read this book before, but it’s been at least 15 years. I remember loving it, and gave it 5 stars on Goodreads when I first signed up in 2015. I want to re-read this soon and see if it lives up to my memory of it.

I started reading this several months ago, then stopped. I only got a few pages into the story before remembering how long and drama-filled it is, and realizing that I just don’t want to put the time into it. Then I considered listening to the audiobook, but was disappointed when I didn’t have easy access to the version read by the author (I love hearing him read his own work). I may still come back to it for a re-read of a book I read many times in my younger days, but I have a feeling now that it won’t turn out to be 5 stars.

Have you read any of these books? Were any 5-star reads for you?

Book Review: Wives and Daughters

Wives and Daughters
by Elizabeth Gaskell
read by Nadia May

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Classic Victorian literature

When 17-year-old Molly Gibson’s long-widowed father remarries, she gains a step-mother and step-sister, the latter of which is near her age. However, she now has to share her father and defer to her new mother, both things that are completely foreign to her. There are some clashes beyond that, though, as step-sister Cynthia, who becomes Molly’s dear friend, is keeping secrets that will shock the entire town of Hollingford. As Molly matures into a woman, she befriends the Hamley family with their two young, eligible sons, and Lady Harriet, much to the chagrin of Molly’s new mother.

This book is long, originally written as a serial of shorter parts for publication in a magazine, and it does tend to meander a bit, without seeming like there’s much of a central plot at first. However, once things pick up a few chapters in, I found almost every bit of it interesting, even if it didn’t seem to add to a main plot. There are so many things happening, probably because the story was meant to be more of a snapshot of everyday life at the time, rather than a single, solid novel. Yet with all of that, I was never bored (well, maybe when someone’s style of dress was described or when Molly’s step-mother Hyacinth’s thoughts about someone or something was explained). I think that is mostly because the characters were so well written, I enjoyed following them through this life they were living. I really liked Molly, but also loved her father, the town doctor who was an incredibly wise and caring man. And Squire Hamley, for all his blustering and cultural prejudices, found his way into my heart.

Cynthia is probably the most complex character–I’m not sure she knew her own mind for more than a moment at a time. The exploration of what a child who was raised by a single mother who showed no love or affection would grow into was fascinating, even as she drove me crazy. But I felt for her. While she did make her own choices, and as she grows older will be held more and more accountable for them, she didn’t enter into womanhood with a very good example. Hyacinth was a selfish, uncaring individual, bordering on sociopathy, really. Her utter lack of empathy and penchant for manipulation were very well written, though, and are a large part of the reason it seems, in a way, that Cynthia never had a chance to be normal.

I know that if I had been reading the text, rather than listening the audiobook, it would have taken me a lot longer to finish this book. However, of all of the audiobooks I’ve listened to in the last several months that I’ve started opening myself up to them more, this was the first one that I felt a strong desire to come back to whenever I could, rather than simply putting it on when doing the activities that allow me the chance to listen. This is mostly because of the story itself, of course, but I also want to be clear that Nadia May did a superb job with the narration. The way she differentiated all of the larger characters was astounding, and I especially loved her voice for Mr. Gibson (Molly’s dad). There were times that I’d get so caught up in it that I’d completely forget this was one person doing all of the voices. This is my second read by Elizabeth Gaskell, and I think I liked it a little more than North and South, which really surprised me. Though I do still prefer the North and South mini-series to the one based on this novel, but I’m probably biased there for reasons I won’t get in to right now.

Find out more about Wives and Daughters

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: North and South

North and South
by Elizabeth Gaskell

My rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Classic, romance

I’ve seen the BBC mini-series of this book several times in the past. I even watched it once with my husband, who appreciated the way that both sides of the labor dispute are presented–both the good and the bad of unions. While I’ve had moderate success in enjoyment of classics in my recent reading, I decided it was time to read the book that inspired a mini-series I love. I’m so glad I did.

One of the things that was great about reading the book is that, as is usually the case with books that are made into movies, mini-series, TV shows, etc., the characters were able to have more depth. We get to read about their thought processes, the reasons behind their actions, which are more difficult to put across on screen. In the case of Thornton, it gave me a lot more insight into his feelings for Margaret. I really appreciated the way he treated her on her dad’s behalf, considering that he saw her as far too good for him and his dirty northern town. And sadly, she didn’t do anything to dispel that feeling.

That is the crux of this story, though, as both sides–the northerners and the southerners–tend to make assumptions about the other, sometimes only due to a cultural difference. Other times due to a shortcoming on someone’s behalf, or simply a bad day.

Unfortunately, I disliked Margaret more by the end of the book than I expected to. While some of the misconceptions are unfounded, she really was quite haughty and seemed even heartless at times, at least in regard to Thornton. As has been the case in the past when I read a book that I have already watched a screen version of, I can’t really say for sure if Higgins would have become such a favorite character of mine as he did, if I hadn’t first seen the mini-series, but I still really liked him in the book. One of my biggest frustrations was that Mr. Hale’s reason for leaving the church is never really expounded upon. I found myself wanting to be able to have my own opinion about how good or bad of a decision it was to uproot his family, but I suppose Gaskell didn’t think it was an important aspect to the story.

I do get why some don’t care for the story. Some compare it to Pride and Prejudice in both positive and negative ways, though I haven’t read it, so I can’t comment. While I do sometimes want to sit both Thornton and Margaret down and tell them to stop being stupid and proud, I still quite enjoyed the book and recommend it for any who enjoys romance from this period, and for fans of the mini-series.

Find out more about North and South

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

TBR Book Tag

I saw this tag over on A Rambling Reviewer and quickly decided I wanted to play along. Since starting to post reviews on my blog back in July and soon after starting to build an official TBR list, I actually take a lot of joy in organizing it. So answering questions about it and the books on it, was right up my alley. Diving right in:

How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
For starters, I keep a list on Goodreads. I feel a little weird sharing this, but I actually go a step further and have a spreadsheet with my TBR as well. This is so that I can manipulate it a lot more than I can on Goodreads–make notes about how I can get ahold of the book (library, borrow from someone, I own it, etc.), who recommended the book to me, keep track of series I’m in the middle of, things like that.

Is your TBR mostly print or e-books?
I generally read print books when I can, and the majority of the books on my TBR will be borrowed from the library as print books.

A book that’s been on your TBR list the longest?
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – I put this on 4 years ago when I first joined Goodreads, but back then, I wasn’t reading regularly. My husband has been recommending it for a long time, and I’m finally planning to read it within the next month.

A book you recently added to your TBR?
What You Wish For by Katherine Center – Releasing in July, I was recently invited to read the ARC for this book because I had read and enjoyed her previous book, Things You Save in a Fire.

A book in your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – The synopsis is interesting enough, but it was an impulse-add because of the cover.

A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?
There are no books on my TBR that I don’t plan to ever read. Some I know will be there a while, but to avoid anxiety over feeling like I’ll never read all the books I want to, I don’t add a book if I’m not sure, at least at the time, that I want to read it. If I realize later that I don’t really care about it anymore, I’ll remove it.

An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for?
Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman – This book releases in June, and I’m part of the blog tour for it at that time. It’ll be the first time I’ve done something like that, which is fun!

A book on your TBR that basically everyone’s read but you?
Harry Potter books – I’ve actually finished the first 4 books now, so I have 3 more to go now. Before last July, I hadn’t read or watched any Harry Potter, even though it’s…everywhere even now. (And by the way, now that I have some context, it is impossible to avoid spoilers. They’re everywhere!)

A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?
I don’t get a lot of direct recommendations, though my mom and sister have been very excited about some they’ve recommended. However, I think one that fits this bill better would be The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. After I put it on my TBR, it won the Goodreads Choice Award in the mystery & thriller category, which presumably means that a lot of readers recommend it.

A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read?
It’s strange to look for a book for this question in my TBR, because logically I think that if I was dying to read it, I’ve already have read it. But realistically, I have all sorts of reasons to hold off on even books I’m really excited about. So I’ll go with North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I’ve seen the mini-series several times and love it, so I have a feeling I will get swept up in the book.

How many books are on your Goodreads shelf?
It depends on which one you mean, so I’ll just say I have 66 books on my TBR, with 22 in my “maybe add later” list on my spreadsheet, which includes books that my library doesn’t have and I’m not ready to buy, or just books that I’m not 100% sold on (so I guess I sort of have books I don’t intend to read, but not on the official TBR, and I’m not certain I won’t read them).

How does your TBR look? Answer these questions on your own blog and feel free to link your post in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: 5-Star Predictions

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic today is “Books On My TBR I Predict Will Be 5-Star Reads”. Now here’s the truth about me: I’m really stingy with 5-star ratings. Last year, with 47 books read, I gave only 3 of them 5 stars, though I did give 7 books 4.5 stars, which is pretty close. I just don’t like to give a book 5 stars unless it truly captivated me, and I can’t think of more than a minor thing that I could see being better. (I’ve already given 2 books from this year 5 stars, by the way.)

So in my list below, I’m listing books that I predict will be 4.5 or 5 star ratings, because both generally leave me with the same great feeling after reading. I’m also listing some books that I’m just really hoping will be a 4.5-5 star read for one reason or another.

1. Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
I read Anne of Green Gables for the first time a few months ago and loved it. It was one of the 5-star reads I mentioned above. I plan to read the 2nd book in the series this month, and while some of what made me love the first book will likely be downplayed in the 2nd one (because Anne isn’t a kid anymore), I still anticipate loving it! (See my review for Anne of Green Gables here.)

2. North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson
This is also book #2 in a series, and I loved book #1 (On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness). The first book was mostly the story of how this family went from a normal family in an oppressed land to finding out that they were so much more than normal. The 2nd book will build on that and start the real saga, and I’m looking forward to it! (See my review for On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness here.)

3. The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin
I read the 3rd book in this series recently and loved it so much that I knew I needed to read the rest of the series. Normally I don’t like to read out of order, but when I requested the 3rd book on NetGalley, I thought the series was basically stand-alones. However, I realized while reading it that the three books in the series are all about 3 brothers. Though I’ve read a few spoilers of the first 2 books now, it’s not much more than what I would know just from the fact that they’re in the romance genre. (See my review for The Land Beneath Us here.)

4. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
I have watched the BBC mini-series several times. I love it so much. I’ve heard from others who felt that Mr. Thornton (the male lead) has a lot more depth in the book, and I already really like his character. So I’m looking forward to reading it!

5. Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman
I was invited to be part of a blog tour for this book, which comes out in June. This is a first for me, and I’m really hoping to be able to give it a good review as part of the blog tour.

6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
My sister extolled the virtues of this book all through the holidays. She actually recommended several books to me during that time, but she seemed the most sure that I’d like this one. I really hope I love it!

7.  Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
This is another book that my sister recommended, but it’s actually on this list because of the fact that, based on her recommendation, I picked up a copy for cheap at Half-Price Books. And even more than that, I later bought book #2 in the series also at a bargain price. It would be particularly disappointing to not like the first book.

8. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
I’ve never read any Tolkien, and it never used to bother me. But after the LotR movies came out, I found myself wishing I was a fan. I have good reason to believe that I would have a difficult time getting through those books, though, and I don’t really want to deal with that. But with this book being for a younger audience, I thought it might be a good way to start. If I still struggle with it, my sister mentioned that listening to the audio book helped her to push through the LotR books, and while I’m not normally one for audio books, I can see the merit in this case.

9. Redeeming Grace: Ruth’s Story by Jill Eileen Smith
I don’t know if other people have a favorite book in the Bible, but mine is Ruth. I have always found the romance in the story of Ruth and Boaz. I watched a movie based on the book once, but it was pretty bad (even though I like the guy that played Boaz as a musician, his performance was terribly stilted). So when I came across this book, I knew I had to read it. And if it doesn’t live up to my idea of the story…maybe I should just write my own version!

10. This Present Darkness by Frank E. Peretti
This entry is quite different from the others. I’ve read this book before, but it’s been at least 15 years. I remember loving it, and gave it 5 stars on Goodreads when I first signed up in 2015. I want to re-read this soon and see if it lives up to my memory of it.

What planned reads do you expect to love? Link your own list in the comments so I can check yours out too!