Top Ten Tuesday: Top ten books on my TBR list for spring 2021

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is about our spring 2021 reading plans. So many great books to look forward to! Here are ten I’m especially excited for:

1) Wild Sign by Patricia Briggs: The 6th book in the Alpha & Omega series. Releases today — can’t wait to get started!

2) There There by Tommy Orange: A book group selection for this spring.

3) The Fall of Koli by M. R. Carey: The final book in the trilogy. I loved the first two — so excited for the conclusion!

4) Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock: A new collection of connected stories set in Alaska, by the author of The Smell of Other People’s Houses (one of my favorite books!).

5) The Lighth of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rossner: I loved her debut novel, The Sisters of the Winter Wood.

6) Maggie Finds Her Muse by Dee Ernst: Looks like a sweet contemporary romance!

7) The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: I’m so looking forward to reading more by this author.

8) The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser: A bookshop? In Scotland? Yes, please!

9) The Album of Dr. Moreau by Daryl Gregory: Sounds too weird and amazing to miss.

10) One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston: The upcoming new release from the author of Red, White & Royal Blue. This one sounds just as sweet and adorable.

What books will you be reading this spring? Share your links, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

Series wrap-up: The Emily Starr trilogy by L. M. Montgomery

One of my reading goals for 2021 was to read the Emily trilogy by L. M. Montgomery. Check! I just finished up the 3rd book, and I’m still under Emily’s spell. Here’s my reading wrap-up for this lovely trilogy:

Title: Emily of New Moon
Published: 1923
Length: 339 pages
Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Emily Starr never knew what it was to be lonely–until her beloved father died. Now Emily’s an orphan, and her mother’s snobbish relatives are taking her to live with them at New Moon Farm. She’s sure she won’t be happy. Emily deals with stiff, stern Aunt Elizabeth and her malicious classmates by holding her head high and using her quick wit. Things begin to change when she makes friends, with Teddy, who does marvelous drawings; with Perry, who’s sailed all over the world with his father yet has never been to school; and above all, with Ilse, a tomboy with a blazing temper. Amazingly, Emily finds New Moon beautiful and fascinating. With new friends and adventures, Emily might someday think of herself as Emily of New Moon.

Emily of New Moon introduces us to the unforgettable Emily Byrd Starr. Orphaned at age 10, Emily is taken in by her late mother’s side of the family, who disowned her mother years earlier when she eloped with Emily’s father. Suddenly uprooted, Emily settles into life at the beautiful New Moon with her spinster aunts, Elizabeth and Laura, and her impish cousin Jimmy. Despite her heartbreak over losing her father, Emily is soon enchanted by the loveliness of the farm and its surroundings, and settles in — with challenges — to her new home.

Emily is feisty and sensitive, speaks her mind, and doesn’t back down. She’s also highly imaginative and inquisitive, and — like Anne in Anne of Green Gables — delights in imbuing the natural world around her with fanciful names and personalities. For the first time in her life, Emily also has friends and classmates, and gets into wonderful adventures with Ilse, Teddy, and Perry. Most of all, Emily lets her secret ambition to become a “poetess” flourish, and uses every scrap of paper she can find to record her poems and stories.

This is a truly lovely book, very similar to Anne of Green Gables in spirit and tone. The author once again gives us a young girl with a sharp, expressive mind and a will of her own as a main character. The book is full of sweetness and whimsy, but we also feel Emily’s sorrow and pain as she navigates a world that isn’t always kind to her. There are memorable characters and escapades, and as in the author’s other works. Prince Edward Island is brought to life through Emily’s eyes.

Title: Emily Climbs
Published: 1925
Length: 325 pages
Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Emily Starr was born with the desire to write. As an orphan living on New Moon Farm, writing helped her face the difficult, lonely times. But now all her friends are going away to high school in nearby Shrewsbury, and her old-fashioned, tyrannical aunt Elizabeth will only let her go if she promises to stop writing! All the same, this is the first step in Emily’s climb to success. Once in town, Emily’s activities set the Shrewsbury gossips buzzing. But Emily and her friends are confident — Ilse’s a born actress, Teddy’s set to be a great artist, and roguish Perry has the makings of a brilliant lawyer. When Emily has her poems published and writes for the town newspaper, success seems to be on its way — and with it the first whispers of romance. Then Emily is offered a fabulous opportunity, and she must decide if she wants to change her life forever.

The second book in the Emily trilogy covers Emily’s teen years as she attends high school in the nearby town of Shrewsbury. While Emily is desperate to further her education and hone her writing craft, she dreads being forced to board with her judgmental, restrictive Aunt Ruth. Plus, as part of being allowed to attend high school, Emily has had to promise not to write fiction during the three years of her schooling, which is a really tough pill for her to swallow. Still, she has her diaries and her poetry, and starts writing newspaper articles as well.

As the years go by, Emily and her friends grow and have more adventures, and Emily has some initial success as a writer when magazines begin publishing her submissions, sometimes even for money. Meanwhile, she has her first suitors, but her heart really belongs to the boy she’s grown up with.

I really enjoyed book #2, although one of the romantic situations involves a much older cousin-by-marriage and is kind of icky (although Emily, bless her heart, doesn’t understand at all that there’s a romantic interest there.) While he is never inappropriate, his interest is obvious, and seen through today’s lens, it feels way too much like grooming. So icky. (Granted, the book was written 100 years ago, so perspectives on this sort of thing would certainly have been different).

Even as she gets older, Emily is still a dreamer, and it’s lovely to see her view of the world around her. Like Anne (of Green Gables), she sees magic and beauty in the world, and is driven by the need to describe what she experiences through her writing.

By the end of Emily Climbs, Emily has finished school and set her course for the future. It’s charming to see the choices she makes and the life she envisions for herself.

Title: Emily’s Quest
Published: 1927
Length: 258 pages
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Emily Starr and Teddy Kent have been friends since childhood, and as Teddy is about to leave to further his education as an artist, Emily believes that their friendship is blossoming into something more. On his last night at home, they vow to think of each other when they see the star Vega of the Lyre.

As Emily grows as a writer and learns to deal with the loneliness of having her closest friends gone, life at New Moon changes. Mr. Carpenter, Emily’s most truthful critic and favorite teacher dies (warning Emily, even as he dies to “Beware — of — italics.”). She becomes closer to Dean Priest, even as she fears he wants love when she only has friendship to give. Worst of all, Emily and Teddy become distant as he focuses on building his career and she hides her feelings behind pride.

Oh, this book grabbed me and put my heart through the wringer! So many emotions! Emily grows into her young womanhood in Emily’s Quest, and it’s both sad and inspiring in so many ways.

Although she’s been offered an opportunity to pursue a career in New York, Emily knows in her heart that she belongs at New Moon, and that this is where her joy and creative inspiration live. She continues to live with her aunts and cousin in the family home and enjoys the natural beauty of her world. Her writing gets accepted by more and more magazines, and she actually earns enough to pay back the stuffy aunts and uncles who paid for her earlier education.

But Emily is lonely without her closest friends. She has many suitors, none of whom really stir her feelings enough to accept their proposals. Her older cousin Dean provides companionship, and it’s clear that he loves her. Emily is very fond of him and loves his friendship, but I started to hate him. He’s so disparaging of Emily’s work, to the point that he pretty much eviscerates her:

“Her pretty cobwebs—” ah, there it was. That was all Emily heard. She did not even realize that he was telling her he thought her a beautiful woman.

“Do you think what I write is nothing but cobwebs, Dean?” she asked chokingly.

Dean looked surprised, doing it very well. “Star, what else is it? What do you think it is yourself? I’m glad you can amuse yourself by writing. It’s a splendid thing to have a little hobby of the kind. And if you can pick up a few shekels by it—well, that’s all very well too in this kind of a world. But I’d hate to have you dream of being a Brontë or an Austen—and wake to find you’d wasted your youth on a dream.”

“I don’t fancy myself a Brontë or an Austen,” said Emily. “But you didn’t talk like that long ago, Dean. You used to think then I could do something some day.”

“We don’t bruise the pretty visions of a child,” said Dean. “But it’s foolish to carry childish dreams over into maturity. Better face facts. You write charming things of their kind, Emily. Be content with that and don’t waste your best years yearning for the unattainable or striving to reach some height far beyond your grasp.”

Ugh. If Dean Priest was standing in front of me, I think I’d have to punch him in the face. Because of a series of events that start with Dean telling Emily that her work is basically trash, Emily goes through one of the worst periods of her life, and eventually accepts Dean’s proposal of marriage, thinking she can have a happy life with him. Fortunately, she realizes what we readers have known all along — her heart has always belonged to Teddy Kent, the boy she’s loved since childhood.

Sadly, the course of true love never did run smooth, and there’s more heartbreak ahead. I can’t tell you how completely wrung out my feelings were, reading Emily’s ups and downs, and at times, hurting so much for her that I wanted to go hide with my head under a pillow.

But fear not, there’s a happy ending! I wish the ending had been given a little more time to breathe, but it was joyful nonetheless, and that’s really all I wanted — for Emily to find the happiness she deserves.

Wrapping it all up…

The fact that I was so caught up in Emily’s life shows what a magnificently written set of books this is! There’s something incredibly beautiful about following Emily’s story from girlhood through her teens and into womanhood, seeing all the different stages of her life, and experiencing how her childhood hopes and dreams evolve over time, making her the woman she finally becomes.

It’s a lovely journey, and Emily is a fabulous character. She has the starry-eyed joy that we see in Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables), but her story takes its own path. While initially feeling like a similar book about an orphaned girl finding a new family, Emily becomes someone unique and worth knowing in her own right. I love her imagination and joy as a child, and how her love of the world around her infuses her writing and her ability to love others.

The books are filled with memorable quirky characters, and the setting on Prince Edward Island is so lovingly drawn that I could visualize everything Emily sees. (PEI is going to be a travel goal for me!)

I’m so thrilled that I read the Emily trilogy, and I know in my heart that these are books I’ll come back to again and again.

Reading goals: Series to read in 2021

Welcome, 2021! I’m so glad you’re here at last!

I’m not a big fan of new year’s resolutions, and I generally don’t set a lot of reading goals. My reading north star is to read whatever, whenever, according to my whims and moods (although I do try to keep up with my ARCs, more or less according to publication dates).

I do like to plan ahead at the start of a year when it comes to my series reading. A new year is a fresh start when is comes to starting a series that I’ve been wanting to get to. For me, series are most enjoyable when I can read all (or at least, a bunch) of the books in a row, or at least within a few months of each other.

Of course, all of this is subject to change as the year progresses. Still…

In 2021, my priority series to read will be:

The Modern Faerie Tales trilogy by Holly Black – I read (and adored) Holly Black’s Folk of the Air series in 2020, and now I want to read everything else she’s written! I’ll start with these:

The Plantagenet and Tudor novels by Philippa Gregory – of the 15 books in this historical fiction series, I’ve read 5 at random times over the last several years. Nine more to go! (I’m inspired, having watched the Starz TV series inspired by several of these books.)

The Expanse by James S. A. Corey: This was on my list last year too! I seem to manage to read only one book per year. I’ve read books 1 – 4 already, and want to keep going! Hopefully, I’ll read more than one in 2021. Next up for me is:

Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery – I’ve been wanting to read this trilogy since reading the Anne of the Green Gables books a couple of years ago.

Inspector Gamache books by Louise Penny – I want to at least start this series this year. There are 16 books published so far! Seems daunting, but I want to give them a try.

Also for 2021, I want to either start, get back to, or revisit some of these others:

  • The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowksi – I’ve read 3 books, 5 more to go
  • The Diviners by Libba Bray – I’ve read the first book, but at this point I’d need to re-read it before continuing (four books in all)
  • Wolfsong series by TJ Klune – I really want to read more by TJ Klune in 2021, and I’ve heard this series is great
  • Shardlake series by C. J. Sansom – I’ve been meaning to start this series for a long time, so maybe this will be the year
  • The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny – this is a BIG maybe for me. I read books 1 – 5 of this series ages and ages ago, but I’ve always meant to go back and read books 6 – 10… which means I’d need to start over from the beginning. I remember loving it at the time — so yeah, maybe.

Are you planning to start any new series this year? If you’ve read any of the series on my “priority” list, let me know what you thought!