Top Ten Tuesday: The Ten Most Recent Additions to My Bookshelf


The topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesdays is the Ten Most Recent Additions to my Bookshelf.

This was a little harder than it could’ve been — I’ve had weeks where I could’ve made this list with a week’s worth, but I actually had to dig back all the way to December! (Actually, that’s kind of a relief, maybe I’ve found a bit of restraint when it comes to buying.) I’ve read a whole 4 of these (will probably start one more this week), which doesn’t say great things about reducing my TBR pile.

Saturday Miscellany—1/18/20

I’ve been knocked out by a nasty cold this week (which seems to be returning) and couldn’t focus enough to read anything for a horrible three days. I don’t think anything I posted suffered from lack of focus (but I had to do a lot of re-writing to make them coherent). Thankfully, I recuperated enough that I could focus on the best thing that Steph Broadribb has written (see this space on Monday…I think).

While I couldn’t read, I could surf a bit and this ended up as one of the longest entries in this series that I’ve compiled (I believe). But there was a moment today when I thought this would be my shortest post yet–my browser and Pocket decided to stop cooperating (as they’re under the same corporate roof, this is doubly problematic). I prevailed, sort of, but I’m beginning to wonder if I need to find an alternative. Suggestions to replace Pocket, anyone?

Odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week’s New Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

  • A Beginning At The End by Mike Chen—A SF Family Drama set 6 years after a global pandemic changes everything.
  • The Wild One by Nick Petrie—Peter Ash brings his brand of action to Iceland. I honestly can’t remember if I’ve ever read anything that takes place there, this should be a great way to fix that.
  • Burn the Dark by S. A. Hunt—I’ll be honest, I don’t know if I’ll have time to get to this, but it’s a fun concept: “a YouTube celebrity gone-viral with her intensely-realistic witch hunter series. But even her millions of followers don’t know the truth: her series isn’t fiction.”

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to aloysius5, writingeatingwalking, Dora , Hâf, Susan, and Shell-Shell’s for following the blog this week. Don’t be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding: BOOK I., Chapter v.-ix.

Fridays with the Foundling
(yeah, I know, I typically hate using actor’s images when it comes to discussing the source material…but, w/o Finney, I’m not doing this)

https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/6593Miss Bridget shocks the housekeeper by showing actual tenderness and affection toward the (as yet unnamed) foundling. She follows that up with what could (should?) be construed as a less than compassionate move–she hunts down his mother (a far easier task than you’d expect) and brings her before the magistrate, Mr. Allworthy. Allworthy doesn’t condemn her for what she does, he gives her a lecture on morality, assures her he’ll take care of the child better than she could’ve, and then tries to get the name of the father from her. She doesn’t give that up, but does so in a way that she earns the approbation of Mr. Allworthy, as well as Miss Bridget and the housekeeper (who were absolutely not eavesdropping, they just happened to hear what happened between the magistrate and mother.

Really not a lot happens here, and Tom is “off-screen” for almost all of it. Still, it’s good to get this kind of thing out of the way and the narrator continues to be entertaining.

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire: Jack and Jill’s Final (?) Showdown in the Moors

Come Tumbling Down

Come Tumbling Down

by Seanan McGuire
Series: Wayward Children, #5

Hardcover, 206 pg.
Tor Books, 2020

Read: January 8-10, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children was an island of misfit toys, a place to put the unfinished stories and the broken wanderers who could butcher a deer and string a bow but no longer remembered what to do with indoor plumbing. It was also, more importantly, a holding pen for heroes. Whatever they might have become when they’d been cast out of their chosen homes, they’d been heroes once, each in their own ways. And they did not forget.

I wanted to do an Opening Lines post for this book, but I couldn’t decide where to stop—maybe around page 6 (which is a little too long for that kind of post). Seriously, it took less than a page for me to fall in love with this book.

It’s a typical day at Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children (assuming such a thing exists) when a door appears, but instead of someone getting to go to their “home,” two figures emerge. One is a complete stranger, the other is Jack. Well, sort of. Close enough for our purposes here.

Things on the Moors have gotten to a crisis point where only one of the Wolcott twins can survive—Jack or Jill. Jill has struck first and things are dire. Jack recruits a couple of her friends and classmates to return with her (she was relatively certain she could return them to the school) to aid her in confronting her sister. They used to be heroes, they will be heroes again—as often as needed—much to Eleanor’s chagrin.

Once in the Moors, a dark and nasty place to be sure, dangers that no one (save maybe Jack) could’ve predicted present themselves and threaten the lives of the students in horrible and chilling ways. Culminating in what appears to be a final encounter for the sisters.

I love the way that McGuire writes these books, and Come Tumbling Down is no exception. It is full of the typical whimsical, fantastic and nigh-poetic language and ideas. If you’ve read a Wayward Children book before, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t . . . it’s hard to tell you. Here’s a sample or two:

“This is terrible . . . I mean we knew it was going to be trouble . . . but this is bonus terrible. This is the awful sprinkles on the sundae of doom.”

“A little knowledge never hurt anybody,” said Sumi.

“Perhaps not. But a great deal of knowledge can do a great deal of harm, and I’m long past the point of having only a little knowledge.”

Sumi was Sumi. Spending time with her was like trying to form a close personal relationship with a cloud of butterflies. Pretty—dazzling, even—but not exactly companionable. And some of the butterflies had knives, and that was where the metaphor collapsed.

Jill had always been the more dangerous, less predictable Wolcott, for all that she was the one who dressed in pastel colors and lace and sometimes remembered that people like it when you smiled. Something about the way she’d wrapped her horror move heart in ribbons and bows had reminded him of a corpse that hadn’t been properly embalmed like she was pretty on the outside and rotten on the inside. Terrifying and subtly wrong.

“wrapped her horror movie heart in ribbons and bows” is pretty much worth the purchase price of the book.

I’m glad that I enjoy—relish, really—the language like I do, because there’s not a lot of plot or action here. There’s enough, but there’s an awful lot of talk both around and before the action really gets underway. That’s not a wholly bad thing, and I enjoyed all of it, it just seemed self-indulgent.

It felt to me that McGuire’s reached the point of diminishing returns with this one, it’s been one too many trips to the Moors and it’s time for other Wayward Children to get the focus. Thankfully, that seems to be the plan.

I don’t think this would be a great introduction to this series (but it would function okay that way) if you’re not going to read them all in order, I feel safe in saying that it needs to be read after Down Among the Sticks and Bones. This is a good way to return to the world and revisit some of these characters. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next volume.


4 Stars

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

Junkyard Cats by Faith Hunter, Khristine Hvam: Hunter tries SF with Predictably Entertaining Results

Junkyard Cats

Junkyard Cats

by Faith Hunter, Khristine Hvam (Narrator)

Audiobook, 5 hrs., 2 min.
Audible Original, 2020

Read: January 3-6, 2020


Faith Hunter dips her toe into SF with this Audible Original, and leaves quite an impression. The distinctive Hutner-flair is there, with science-y stuff replacing the magic stuff. It works pretty well.

Shining Smith is a veteran, of a handful of things, really. This takes place in the near-future, following a World War and another one (called the Final War in an act of aspirational nomenclature, I assume). She lives in/runs a scrapyard left to her by her father with a few cats and another vet recovering from trauma.

Shining deals on both sides of the law through intermediaries—no one knows her or who she is beyond those. It’s a perfectly safe environment.

Not a nice one, not a fulfilling one, but a safe one. And in her world, that’s asking a lot.

Until one day, one of her intermediaries shows up at her scrapyard dead. And then a very strong suspect for killing him shows up. And things get worse from there.

The action scenes are cool—filled with all the kinds of things that the best SF action scenes are filled with. The future-tech is cool, completely foreign to reality, yet it seems like the kind of thing that would emerge from our current tech.

I liked Shining, we don’t get to know her much. She’s such the riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, that it’s hard to get a real handle on her—but we get enough to root for her and want to know her better. Her compatriots are intriguing—as well-rounded as characters can get in this limited space where everyone is lying to each other about who and what they are.

There were a couple of SF-brand/tech names (like The Tyrell Corporation or tricorder) that I really couldn’t understand what Hvam was saying. Against the spirit of an “Audible Original,” but I’d like to read this so I could get a handle on those things. Which isn’t saying that Hvam didn’t do a great job—as per usual, her narration is top-notch.

My only complaint (outside of the tech words I couldn’t decipher), is the brevity, we get the good story, but we don’t get any depth—it’s like it’s designed to make you want more. Hey, wait a second . . .

A fun action-packed story that’ll whet your appetite for more. This is a glimpse into a cool world and I love what Hunter has created here. Yeah, I’m only going with 3 Stars for this. There’s a lot of potential in this world and with these characters—if Hunter returns to this? I can easily see this becoming a favorite series. It’s fine as a stand-alone, and it doesn’t demand a series/sequel but I think to really appreciate everything she set-up here, we need a little more. I’m not sure that makes sense, but…it’s what I can do.


3 Stars

Reread Project: The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs: A very different model of what reading can be all about.

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction

by Alan Jacobs

Hardcover, 150 pg.
Oxford University Press, 2011

Read: January 2-3, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

Read would give you delight—at least most of the time—and do so without shame. And even if you are that rare sort of person who is delighted chiefly by what some people call Great Books, don’t make them your study intellectual diet, any more than eat at the most elegant of restaurants every day. It would be too much. Great books are great in part because of what they ask of their readers: they are not readily encountered, easily accessed. The poet W. H. Auden once wrote, “When one thinks of the attention that a great poem demands, there’s something frivolous about the notion of spending every day with one. Masterpieces should be kept for High Holidays of the Spirit”—for our own personal Christmases and Easters, not for any old Wednesday.

I picked this up as my first book of the year as a way to refresh the mind, come into the year with a reminder of what kind of reader I want to be. As I write this, I’m deliberately not looking at what I wrote last time I read this, but you may find it interesting. Maybe not. I don’t know if I’ll end up repeating myself.

I remember this book being as close to a mission statement for my approach to reading as you could hope for—particularly because I came to it late in life. It’s not like this is a book I read in college and it shaped me/my thinking, but it’s something that I came to a couple of years ago and it was as if a more erudite and thoughtful version of myself had written it.

The beginning of the book is the heart of it, he sets forth his central theses, core argument:

one dominant, overarching, nearly definitive principle for reading: Read at Whim.

Reading shouldn’t be about self-improvement (primarily), it isn’t the mental equivalent of eating Brussels Sprouts. It should be for pleasure. And to maximize that, Jacobs will argue—read at whim.

Following that, Jacobs talks about many aspects of reading for pleasure—note-taking, thinking about what we read, focus (and how to expand it), the role of ereaders (he’s surprisingly pro-ereader), fighting distractions, evaluating what we read and more.

I was particularly struck this time through by his section on re-reading. For growing in appreciation for, or understanding of a work. Or because you enjoy escaping into a well-known and beloved world for a period.

Jacobs frequently quotes Auden, at one point he cites Auden’s five ratings for a book—I think we should maybe replace the standard 5-Star system with this:

For an adult reader, the possible verdicts are five: I can see this is good and I like it; I can see this is good but I don’t like it; I can see this is good, and, though at present I don’t like it, I believe with perseverance I should come to like it; I can see that this is trash but I like it; I can see that this is trash and I don’t like it.

Most of all, this is a celebration of/appreciation of reading. Jacobs is a kindred spirit to us readers as well as a humanities professor. Reading is both a passion and a profession—and both (particularly the former) are clearly seen in these pages.

Our goal as adults is not to love all books alike, or as few as possible, but rather to love as widely and as well as our limited selves will allow.

Hear, hear. That’s a good reminder.


5 Stars

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

WWW Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Welcome to WWW Wednesday!

This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived on Taking on a World of Words—and shown to me by Aurore-Anne-Chehoke at Diary-of-a-black-city-girl.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Easy enough, right?

What are you currently reading?

Technically, I’m not reading anything, because I’ve had this cold-ish thing for three days and haven’t been able to read (driving me crazy). But if I was, I’d be reading Deep Dark Dead by Steph Broadribb and am listening to Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson, Tavia Gilbert (Narrator).

What did you recently finish reading?

I just finished Seanan McGuire’s Come Tumbling Down and A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearn and Luke Daniels, Xe Sands (Narrators) on audio.

What do you think you’ll read next?

My next book should be Wizard Ring by Clare Blanchard and some sort of audiobook. I’m not really sure what, but I’m just looking forward to reading anything.

Hit me with your Three W’s in the comments! (no, really, do it!)