Top Ten Tuesday: My top ten auto-buy authors

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 Auto-Buy Authors, a topic I did for TTT posts in 2013 and 2015. So what is an auto-buy author? For me, it’s a favorite author whose books I’ll buy pretty much on faith — no matter what the plot is about, if it’s by one of these favorites, I know I’ll want to read it!

Some of the authors on my 2013 list are included here as well (proving that fandom is eternal!), and there are several others whom I’ve only had the pleasure of discovering since then. Without further ado, my old and new auto-buy authors as of summer 2019:

1. Diana Gabaldon: Because of course Diana Gabaldon is — and always will be — at the top of my list! I’m an Outlander fan, through and through, and will never stop reading these wonderful books.

2. Patricia Briggs: I love the Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series so, so much. Give me more and more and more, and please don’t ever stop.

3. Seanan McGuire: Surely, if you’ve ever visited my blog before, you’ve seen me rave about the October Daye books, the InCryptid series, the Wayward Children series, and more… not to mention everything she writes as her alter ego Mira Grant. I will absolutely read whatever she writes!

4. Gail Carriger: I’m such a fan! True, I haven’t read her San Andreas Shifters books yet, but I’ve read everything else she’s written, and find her books just delightful.

5. Neil Gaiman: I mean, who isn’t a fan? Okay, I didn’t love American Gods, but I do love almost everything else, so chances are whenever a new book comes out, I’ll buy it.

6. Dana Stabenow: I fell crazy in love with her awesome Kate Shugak series (#22 comes out next year!), and I do plan to read her non-Kate novels too one of these days.

7. Sarah Gailey: Well, I’m three for three for Sarah Gailey — loved the two American Hippo stories, and loved Magic For Liars too. So yes, I’ve already preordered her next book!

8. Lisa See: Wow, what can’t she do to my heart? I love her characters and her exploration of cultures and societies that I’d otherwise know little to nothing about. Such beautiful writing.

9. Cat Winters: So creative! So expressive! I always enjoy her books, and even the ones that aren’t my favorites are still really great reads.

10: Taylor Jenkins Reid: I still need to read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo *hangs head in shame* — but I’ve read all her other books, and have loved every single one!

Do you have auto-buy authors? Do we have any in common? (And if so — which are your favorite of their books?)

If you wrote a TTT post this week, please share your link!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten favorite characters from recent reads

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 a Character Freebie, which means that we come up with our own topics on the subject of book characters.

I’ve done a whole bunch of character posts over the years, including…

  • Favorite fantasy characters
  • Best secondary characters
  • Frustrating characters
  • Characters I’d want with me on a deserted island
  • and more…

This time around, I thought I’d keep it simple, and just focus on characters from books I’ve read in the last year or so. Without further fuss, here are ten (um, actually, eleven) characters I’ve really loved from some of my more recent reads:

1. Billy Dunn, Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Reid Jones: Sexy lead guitarist, songwriter, and family man, whose electricity just crackles off the page

2. Tasheret, Competence (The Custard Protocol, #3) by Gail Carriger: A gorgeous were-lioness who’s afraid of nothing, especially not showing love

3. Young-sook, The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See: This story floored me, especially the bravery of the diving women and all they endured. Young-sook’s story is absolutely fascinating and so moving.

4. Lord John Grey, from various Lord John and Outlander works by Diana Gabaldon: Lord John isn’t actually new to me, but my book group has been re-reading all the Lord John-related novellas and novels in the Outlander world during the past year, so he counts as recent! Lord John is a sweet, smart, talented soldier and gentleman, who has a dry wit that’s a joy to behold. He also has great taste in men!

5. Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery: Where has Anne been all my life? I’m halfway through the series, and I adore Anne’s brightness and spirit as she grows from precocious tween to effervescent young woman.

6. Roger and Dodger, Middlegame by Seanan McGuire: Twins with unlimited power, with murky origins and incredible gifts, who are — despite all this — really interesting and complicated people.

7. Prince Peter, The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King: Ah, the good prince Peter! Everything royalty and nobility should be. He made me want to cheer as he struggled for redemption and to free his kingdom from evil.

8. Maggie Hoskie, Trail of Lightning and Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse: The lead character of these terrific books is a strong, kick-ass monster hunter, rooted in tradition and adapted to a changed world. Can’t wait for more!

9. Beka Cooper, the Beka Cooper trilogy by Tamora Pierce: Beka is such a great character! I loved all three books about her, and just wish there were more.

10. Veronica Speedwell, A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn: Gotta love a Victorian lepidopterist who enjoys science, adventure, and taking lovers.

What characters have you really loved recently? What theme did you pick this week? Please share your links!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 4/8/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

Newest reviews:

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See: My review is up! Check it out, here.

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher: This very well may be my favorite of 2019 so far. My review is here.

Roar by Cecelia Ahern: A collection of 30 terrific stories. My review is here.

Read but not reviewed:

The Editor by Steven Rowley: An okay read, but not one I’m inspired to review. I sped through this book, not because I loved it, but because I was afraid that if I slowed down, I’d end up just walking away.

The Walking Dead, volume 31: The Rotten Core – the newest release in the comics series, which is now hopelessly confusing to me as I try to separate the living from the dead while comparing the books and the TV show. I’m still enjoying the series… but this panel from volume 31 kind of sums up a lot about both versions of the story:

And in audiobooks…

I finished my re-read of Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs, book #10 in the ongoing Mercy Thompson series. Fabulous.

Fresh Catch:

When my favorite local bookstore got in a stash of Seanan McGuire’s Velveteen books (now out of print in hardcover)… well, how was I supposed to resist? I just picked up these lovelies over the weekend — signed and everything!

Plus, I treated myself to a few more books as well — a pair of graphic novels that seem perfect for me…

… and a paperback copy of my book group’s upcoming classic read:

 

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert Hillman: Honestly, they had me at “bookshop”. I’m just starting this novel, but the description makes it sounds like a book for me!

And just to lighten (?) things up a bit, I’m switching off my more serious reading with some graphic novels, starting with volume one of The Beauty, a horror series that I’d never heard of. But hey, this is what happens when you go to the library with time to spare — you never know what you’ll find on the shelf!

Now playing via audiobook:

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: This is my book group’s pick for April. I seem to end up doing audiobooks for my book group books a lot, maybe because I never figure out how to squeeze in all my “for me” reads alongside all my obligation reads. I’ve only listened to the first chapter so far, but I’m really liking this one!

Ongoing reads:

My Outlander book group is continuing our Lord John read-along with two Lord John (or Lord John-adjacent) stories from the Seven Stones to Stand or Fall collection. We’re reading the story Besieged right now.

So many books, so little time…

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Book Review: The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls living on the Korean island of Jeju, are best friends that come from very different backgrounds. When they are old enough, they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective, led by Young-sook’s mother. As the girls take up their positions as baby divers, they know they are beginning a life of excitement and responsibility but also danger.

Despite their love for each other, Mi-ja and Young-sook’s differences are impossible to ignore. The Island of Sea Women is an epoch set over many decades, beginning during a period of Japanese colonialism in the 1930s and 1940s, followed by World War II, the Korean War and its aftermath, through the era of cell phones and wet suits for the women divers. Throughout this time, the residents of Jeju find themselves caught between warring empires. Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, and she will forever be marked by this association. Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers in their village. Little do the two friends know that after surviving hundreds of dives and developing the closest of bonds, forces outside their control will push their friendship to the breaking point.

This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a world turned upside down, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children. A classic Lisa See story—one of women’s friendships and the larger forces that shape them—The Island of Sea Women introduces readers to the fierce and unforgettable female divers of Jeju Island and the dramatic history that shaped their lives.

The Island of Sea Women is a gorgeous, though-provoking, emotionally powerful read. We first meet Young-sook as an old woman on the beach in Jeju in 2008, thinking back on her life and feeling somewhat amused by the tourists who now flock to her island, viewing the elders of the haenyeo diving women as a living piece of history and a novelty. When she is approached by a visiting family who seem to know who she is, Young-sook is thrust back into her long-ago memories.

We’re reintroduced to Young-sook as a 15-year-old in 1938, about to embark on her first real dive with the haenyeo collective led by her mother. In Jeju, women support their families through their diving, while the men tend the children and the home. It’s an unusual matriarchy that suits the lives of the islanders. The women are strong physically and mentally, worrying about providing for their families, and gossiping about needing to care for their men and children. The diving offers sustenance and independence, but also presents very real dangers to the women, as Young-sook learns on her very first day.

Danger also comes from the Japanese colonial presence and the constant threat that hangs over the Korean population. The end of the war brings new sorts of danger, as the division of Korea results in danger from the military rulers and right-wing government.

Meanwhile, Young-sook and her best friend Mi-ja grow up together, close as sisters, until their adult lives as married women and mothers starts forcing them apart. Something terrible happens to cause a permanent rift, but we don’t discover the awful events until about midway through the book.

I really don’t want to disclose too many of the plot points, so I’ll leave my remarks pretty brief. This book was fascinating. I knew very little about Korean history before reading The Island of Sea Women, and I certainly had never heard about the haenyeo. The culture of the haenyeo is so amazing to learn about — even without the captivating characters and their stories, the story of the divers and their lives kept me completely engrossed.

Add to that a powerful story of friendship, family, love, obligation, and betrayal, as well as sharply drawn depictions of people who feel real, and you have a book that’s absolutely worth reading, and very, very memorable.

I highly recommend The Island of Sea Women, both for fans of historical fiction as well as anyone who enjoys poignant, emotionally rich stories about remarkable people. And if you’re not familiar with the haenyeo of Jeju, or want to learn more about them, check out this video for starters:


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The details:

Title: The Island of Sea Women
Author: Lisa See
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: March 5, 2019
Length: 374 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2019

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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 Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2019.

There are so many books on the way that have me jumping up and down in excitement! Here are the ten at the top of my list… three of which are by the same author. What can I say? I do love her books!

1) In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

2) That Ain’t Witchcraft (InCryptids, #8) by Seanan McGuire

3) Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

4) Inspection by Josh Malerman

5) Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

6) Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs

7) Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

8) Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks

9) The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

10) The Book of Flora by Meg Elison

What books are you dying to read in 2019? Please share your links!

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Shelf Control #137: Peony in Love by Lisa See

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Peony in Love
Author: Lisa See
Published: 2007
Length: 297 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

“I finally understand what the poets have written. In spring, moved to passion; in autumn only regret.”

For young Peony, betrothed to a suitor she has never met, these lyrics from The Peony Pavilion mirror her own longings. In the garden of the Chen Family Villa, amid the scent of ginger, green tea, and jasmine, a small theatrical troupe is performing scenes from this epic opera, a live spectacle few females have ever seen. Like the heroine in the drama, Peony is the cloistered daughter of a wealthy family, trapped like a good-luck cricket in a bamboo-and-lacquer cage. Though raised to be obedient, Peony has dreams of her own.

Peony’s mother is against her daughter’s attending the production: “Unmarried girls should not be seen in public.” But Peony’s father assures his wife that proprieties will be maintained, and that the women will watch the opera from behind a screen. Yet through its cracks, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man with hair as black as a cave–and is immediately overcome with emotion.

So begins Peony’s unforgettable journey of love and destiny, desire and sorrow–as Lisa See’s haunting new novel, based on actual historical events, takes readers back to seventeenth-century China, after the Manchus seize power and the Ming dynasty is crushed.

Steeped in traditions and ritual, this story brings to life another time and place–even the intricate realm of the afterworld, with its protocols, pathways, and stages of existence, a vividly imagined place where one’s soul is divided into three, ancestors offer guidance, misdeeds are punished, and hungry ghosts wander the earth. Immersed in the richness and magic of the Chinese vision of the afterlife, transcending even death, Peony in Love explores, beautifully, the many manifestations of love. Ultimately, Lisa See’s new novel addresses universal themes: the bonds of friendship, the power of words, and the age-old desire of women to be heard.

How and when I got it:

I bought a copy, at least five or six years ago.

Why I want to read it:

I’ve read at least three other books by Lisa See, and have loved them all. This is one that just got away from me — I always meant to get back to it, and never did. I love the sound of the ghostly elements, and can’t wait to check it out.

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten authors I’d love to meet

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 Authors I’d Love to Meet. I could probably go on and on with this topic, but here are the top 10 on my mind right now, starting with favorite authors whom I’ve never seen in person:

1. Seanan McGuire: I’ve loved her books for quite a while, but this year I totally binged on the October Daye and InCryptids series, as well as the Newsflesh books by her alter ego Mira Grant. Sadly, I ended up out of town for a weekend in September when she was doing a signing event at a local bookstore, but since she’s incredibly prolific (I suspect she doesn’t sleep), I’m hoping it won’t be a long wait until there’s another book launch event to attend.

2. John Scalzi: Love, love, love his writing, and definitely need to read more.

3. Katherine Arden: I adored The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, and can’t wait for the trilogy wrap-up in 2019.

4. Amy Stewart: The Kopp Sisters rule! Her historical fiction is so much fun, and so full of terrific female characters straight out of history.

5. Jim Butcher: I’m a big Dresden fan, and loved Codex Alera and The Aeronaut’s Windlass too.

6. Jojo Moyes: Her books always move and inspire me.

7. Lisa See: I was fascinated by The Teagirl of Hummingbird Lane, and have enjoyed many of her books over the years. I’d love to hear her speak and learn more about her writing and research process.

8. Lisa Genova: Her books tackles such fascinating medical conditions. She’s another author I’d like to hear talk about inspiration, medical research, and the conditions she clearly cares so much about.

9. Dana Stabenow: I love the Kate Shugak series, and really enjoy reading this author’s blog posts on writing, general topics, and life in Alaska!

I’ll wrap up with an author whom I had the pleasure to meet once already, back in 2014 when Written in My Own Heart’s Blood was released — but I’d love to see her again (and again and again):

10: Diana Gabaldon: Author extraordinaire of the Outlander series!

Yes, I met her! What an amazing day!

Have you met any of the authors on my list? Which authors would you most want to meet? Please share your TTT link!

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