Happy Wednesday, Readers! Join me as I attempt to sift through my ever-growing list of books I want to read, find the perfect book for the perfect moment, and bring my list down to a more manageable size.
Explanation: It has become apparent that my TBR (to be read) list has gotten nearly out of hand. Therefore, I have decided to do a post featuring ten books from it approximately every other week. As I go through the list, I will evaluate each book and decide whether or not it still belongs. Who knows, perhaps as my list (hopefully) shrinks, you will find a few books to add to your own!
The last time I did this kind of post was February 10. At the end of that round, my TBR sat at 659 book. Today there are 695. Seeing as this number keeps going up instead of down, I’m going to increase my efforts with going through it by doing these posts once a week.
Today’s starting point is number 41, organized by the date the books were added to the list.
41. The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag
Synopsis: Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires.
Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter. Cora’s studious, unromantic eye has overlooked Walt, the shy bookseller who has been in love with her forever. Determined not to allow Cora to miss her chance at happiness, Etta sews a tiny stitch into Walt’s collar, hoping to give him the courage to confess his feelings to Cora. But magic spells—like true love—can go awry. After Walt is spurred into action, Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways.
Comments: I remember this book as one of the first that I found on Goodreads and decided I wanted to read – and it’s been sitting on my TBR list ever since! The story still sounds fun, so I’m going to keep it around.
42. Diverse Energies by Tobias S. Buckell, et al
Synopsis: In a world gone wrong, heroes and villains are not always easy to distinguish and every individual has the ability to contribute something powerful.
In this stunning collection of original and rediscovered stories of tragedy and hope, the stars are a diverse group of students, street kids, good girls, kidnappers, and child laborers pitted against their environments, their governments, differing cultures, and sometimes one another as they seek answers in their dystopian worlds. Take a journey through time from a nuclear nightmare of the past to society’s far future beyond Earth with these eleven stories by masters of speculative fiction. Includes stories by Paolo Bacigalupi, Ursula K. Le Guin, Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon, Daniel H. Wilson, and more.
Comments: While I don’t remember Diverse Energies the way I did The Dress Shop of Dreams, I can easily imagine what stage of life I was in when I added it! As a teenager I wanted to read everything even vaguely dystopian. Now, not so much. The cover is pretty, but the stories no longer interest me.
43. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Synopsis: Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.
A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.
Comments: I think I only added this because it was popular for a while and is about Hemmingway. The story really doesn’t sound that compelling.
44. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Synopsis: Leo Borlock follows the unspoken rule at Mica Area High School: don’t stand out–under any circumstances! Then Stargirl arrives at Mica High and everything changes–for Leo and for the entire school. After 15 years of home schooling, Stargirl bursts into tenth grade in an explosion of color and a clatter of ukulele music, enchanting the Mica student body.
But the delicate scales of popularity suddenly shift, and Stargirl is shunned for everything that makes her different. Somewhere in the midst of Stargirl’s arrival and rise and fall, normal Leo Borlock has tumbled into love with her.
In a celebration of nonconformity, Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the fleeting, cruel nature of popularity–and the thrill and inspiration of first love.
Comments: This is another that was popular while I was in high school. I always assumed I would get around to reading it eventually, but I haven’t. The story sounds moderately interesting, and it doesn’t cost me anything to leave it on my list, so for now I will.
45. Also Known as Harper by Ann Haywood Leal
Synopsis: Harper Lee Morgan is an aspiring poet, which isn’t surprising, seeing as how she’s named after her mama’s favorite writer, Harper Lee. And life is giving her a lot to write about just now. Daddy up and walked out, leaving them broke. Then Harper’s family gets evicted.
With Mama scrambling to find work, Harper has to skip school to care for her little brother, Hemingway. Their lives have been turned upside down, which Harper could just about handle if it wasn’t for the writing contest at school. If only she could get up on that stage and read her poems out loud . . .
Comments: Keeping this on my list for when I decide I want to read more middle grade fiction.
46. Identical by Ellen Hopkins
Synopsis: Kaeleigh and Raeanne are identical down to the dimple. As daughters of a district-court judge father and a politician mother, they are an all-American family—on the surface. Behind the facade each sister has her own dark secret, and that’s where their differences begin.
For Kaeleigh, she’s the misplaced focus of Daddy’s love, intended for a mother whose presence on the campaign trail means absence at home. All that Raeanne sees is Daddy playing a game of favorites—and she is losing. If she has to lose, she will do it on her own terms, so she chooses drugs, alcohol, and sex.
Secrets like the ones the twins are harboring are not meant to be kept—from each other or anyone else. Pretty soon it’s obvious that neither sister can handle it alone, and one sister must step up to save the other, but the question is—who?
Comments: A friend recommended this book to me, it feels like a thousand years ago now. Sorry, friend, but I don’t think I would enjoy this one after all.
47. Happy Again by Jennifer E. Smith
Synopsis: Ellie O’Neill and Graham Larkin fell hard for each other when a misspelled email address unexpectedly brought them together. Now, over a year has passed since they said goodbye with the promise to stay in touch, and their daily emails have dwindled to nothing. Ellie is a freshman in college and has told herself to move on, and Graham has kept himself busy starring in more movies, as well as a few tabloid columns. But fate brought these two together once before—and it isn’t done with them yet.
In this sequel novella to This Is What Happy Looks Like, Jennifer E. Smith revisits two beloved characters to tell the story of one magical night in Manhattan. When Ellie and Graham come face to face once more, can they get past the months of silence and the hurt feelings to find their happily-ever-after again?
Comments: I read and reviewed This is What Happy Looks Like ages ago (on my original book blog, not this one, five whole years ago!) – and I loved every bit of its fluffy YA rom-com story. Since that time I have read several of Smith’s other books, but somehow never this sequel! I need to change that fact soon.
48. Romanticism and the Gothic: Genre, Reception, and Canon Formation by Michael Gamer
Synopsis: This is the first full-length study to examine the links between high Romantic literature and what has often been thought of as a merely popular genre–the Gothic. Michael Gamer analyzes how and why Romantic writers drew on Gothic conventions while, at the same time, denying their influence in order to claim critical respectability. He shows how the reception of Gothic literature played a fundamental role in the development of Romanticism as an ideology, tracing the politics of reading, writing and reception at the end of the eighteenth century.
Comments: I read parts of this for a university class, and I must have wanted to go back and read the rest after the class?
49. The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd
Synopsis: It’s January 1st, 2015, and the UK is the first nation to introduce carbon dioxide rationing in a drastic bid to combat climate change. As her family spirals out of control, Laura Brown chronicles the first year of rationing with scathing abandon.
Comments: This is another that I added during the height of my dystopian obsession. It still sounds interesting, although I’m not very motivated to read it right away.
50. Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke
Synopsis: Increasingly wary of her father’s genetic research, Rachel Kramer has determined that this trip with him to Germany–in the summer of 1939–will be her last. But a cryptic letter from her estranged friend, begging Rachel for help, changes everything.
Married to SS officer Gerhardt Schlick, Kristine sees the dark tides turning and fears her husband views their daughter, Amelie, deaf since birth, as a blight on his Aryan bloodline. Once courted by Schlick, Rachel knows he’s as dangerous as the swastikas that hang like ebony spiders from every government building in Berlin. She fears her father’s files may hold answers about Hitler’s plans for others, like Amelie, whom the regime deems “unworthy of life.” She risks searching his classified documents only to uncover shocking secrets about her own history and a family she’s never known. Now hunted by the SS, Rachel turns to Jason Young–a driven, disarming American journalist and unlikely ally–who connects her to the resistance and to controversial theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Forced into hiding, Rachel’s every ideal is challenged as she and Jason walk a knife’s edge, risking their lives–and asking others to do the same–for those they barely know but come to love.
Comments: I think I’ve read enough depressing/heart wrenching WW2 fiction for a while, and can safely pass on this one.
Ending number of books on my TBR list: 691
That wraps up this edition of Tackling the TBR!
Have you read any of these books? Want to change my mind about a decision I made? Let me know in the comments!
Until the next chapter,