Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2013

toptentuesday-1This week’s topic is all about new authors. Not new as in debut authors but authors that are new to me (and the other readers participating in Top Te Tuesday this week). And this is a fascinating topic. I have never before noticed how many new authors I read during a year. I have a goal for myself to read a book by each of my (five) favorite authors every year so they are not new but I have never counted how many new authors I try out. I am actually very pleased with my result. I have given 23 authors a chance this year. So far! I like that! To me, it says that I’m willing to take a chance and I’m not stuck in reading the same few authors over and over again. And it’s also interesting because the 23 authors are very different. There’s both debuts, classics, non-fiction and more. So what you’ll find below is my list of the Top Ten Authors that I have read this year and that I expect to explore further in the coming years; the best of the 23.
As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
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  • Toni Morrison. I read Beloved this year and it was an incredible read. I was so blown away by this book. It was such an incredible powerful and heartbreaking book about a mother doing everything, everything, to protect her children. I will definitely read more by Morrison and I’m a bit sad that I have waited this long to read her for the first time.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald. I have postponed reading The Great Gatsby because I watched the movie edition of it starring Robert Redford many years ago and didn’t get it. Not at all. But now I’m apparently the right age for Gatsby because I loved this book too. It was just so good and, again, heartbreaking in all the right ways. Poor Gatsby!
  • Jennifer Egan. Egan’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Goon Squad was the first novel I read this year and it definitely started the year right. I really enjoyed this, all of this, including the powerpoint chapter!
  • Félix J. Palma. The Map of Time was a mad, mad ride. H.G. Wells, Jack the Ripper, time traveling, love, automatons and so much more. It was wonderful and I loved it. I really want to read the next book in this series! and I hope it is just as much fun.
  • Carol Birch. Let’s be honest, Jamrach’s Menagerie is definitely outside my normal comfort zone. But I loved it. The first part when they were chasing the ‘dragon’ and finally caught it, was amazing and the second part with the shipwreck was even better. Really a good book!

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  • Ben Marcus. The Flame Alphabet was a strange book indeed. I’m not sure I got all of it but it was so very different and so very fascinating. A very different book to most dystopian literature. I’m still wondering about those weird listening holes… and all the rest of it. As well as how it must be not to be able to be close to your children because their speech makes you sick…
  • Karen Thompson Walker. The Age of Miracles was the second book I read this year and it was really different and very good. I liked the different take on a dystopian novel and how it also had focus on the fact that life goes on, especially when you’re a teenager.
  • Colm Tóibín. I was so impressed with not only Tóibín’s courage to take on the story of the mother of Jesus and her lack of belief in her son being the Son of God but also with the way he did it. The Testament of Mary is a wonderful novella, highly recommended. And I plan on reading more by Tóibín!
  • Alan Bennett. I absolutely adored The Uncommon Reader and I was so well entertained by it. It had it’s flaws, sure, but it was so very good at the same time. And the ending absolutely blew me away! If this one is typical of the way Bennett writes, I definitely want to explore him further in the future.*
  • Jim Butcher. When I needed something light and entertaining to help me deal with too much work and too little sleep, Jim Butcher was the man to deliver it. I’ve read the two first of The Dresden Files (Storm Front and Fool Moon) and while they are not amazing fantasy, they were good enough to keep me entertained and awake, no easy feat!

* Okay, this is rather embarrassing. Apparently, I read The Clothes They Stood Up In back in 2008 and liked it somewhat … So he’s not a new author. Or is he, when I had completely forgotten having ever read anything by him?

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Novellas in November – Wrap Up Post

So when I signed up for Rick’s Novellas in November challenge, I did it without thinking much about it and without expecting much from it. I chose five novellas that I would like to read but didn’t really expect that I would make it.
But now, November is over, Christmas is fast approaching – and I can happily report that not only did I read all the novellas I had planned, I enjoyed myself quite a bit more than expected.
Now normally I prefer my fiction to be longer. I don’t shy away from reading 1000+ pages books and I like getting to spend a lot of time with the characters and really get to know them. But since my life now includes a full-time job as well as a boyfriend, two kids, a dog, a hamster and three bunnies, things tend to get rather busy around here. And as I’ve written about before, I sometimes have a hard time staying awake when I read at night in bed which is where I do most of my reading. I first tried to fix that by reading brain candy in the shape of urban fantasy but throughout the month of November I’ve learned that novellas are also a way of fixing it.
I’ve really enjoyed reading these novellas and I have been so impressed with how much the authors could do in so few pages. And when you only make it through five pages some nights, it is a comfort to know that the book you’re reading is only 125 pages and not 1400!
So thank you Rick for hosting this – I hope we can do it again next year!
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Here’s the five novellas I read during this event with links to my reviews:

I had expected that Magda would be my favorite but instead I really liked both The Uncommon Reader and The Testament of Mary and these are both books I would like to read again at a later time. I’m still intrigued by the story of Magda Goebbels but this novella was good but not quite as good as I had hoped.
I end this challenge with a very good feeling about shorter fiction. Who knows, I might even be persuaded to try a short story collection soon!

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Colm Tóibín: The Testament of Mary (review)

colm-toibin-the-testament-of-mary‘The boy became a man and left home and became a dying figure hanging on a cross.’ (location 952-58)
So a book about the mother of Jesus and how she doesn’t believe him to be the son of God? How could I possibly pass on that?
This book tells this well-known story of Jesus’ life from a new perspective, the point of view of his mother, which makes it so fresh and new – and I just loved it.
When we meet Mary, she’s living on her own, having lost both her husband and her son. She is regularly visited by a couple of Jesus’ disciple and otherwise just keeps to herself, staying out of trouble, and mostly lives in her memories.
Through her memories, we are shown Jesus’ life from his childhood to his death, the lovely times they had at the Sabbath when he was still and child – and the not so lovely time they had at the wedding at Kanaa for instance. We see Lazarus returning from his grave to lead a life that’s not so much a miracle as a zombie existence. We see Mary’s relatives shun her because they are afraid to be associated with her son through her. And we see Mary desperately trying to save her son, failing at it and then hoping desperately that he will be saved some other way. And of course, that hope is crushed and she even has to flee his crucifixion to save herself, leaving her son to die on his own.
I’ve read several reviews saying that Mary felt like a modern woman. I don’t know about that – it’s easy to say that since we haven’t always had the same view on children, parents and the relationships between them as we do now, that Mary’s love for her son isn’t right for her time. I don’t know if that’s true or not. For me, this is a story about mothers through the ages, about how a mother and child sometimes grow apart. The child makes some life choices you don’t agree with – but you always love them. The mother may also do things she’s not proud of but it’s not for lack of love and as mothers, we never feel we are as good as we can be – or as good as we should be. And so it is with Mary. She loves that boy.
So while I’m not sure whether Mary is too modern, there’s still a lot of modern themes. While we are used to hearing about this charismatic man who influenced his peers and a lot of other people around him to a better way of life, it’s definitely not that story we see here. This feels more like a story of peer pressure and what happens when you’re running with the wrong crowd. It also deals with retelling – and remaking – history. Even though Tóibín doesn’t deal with how the Bible was collected through a selection and voting process, he shows the disciples as misfits who exploits Jesus and uses him to create an idea, a faith – and how Mary tries to preserve her memories of what actually happened the day her son was killed and not give in to the disciples who keeps coming back and tries to persuade her that her memories are flawed.
And that of course is true. Memories are always flawed. But I think a mother remembers how her son died. And remembers too what she did that day.
I really really liked this short novella and I was so impressed with the amount of raw emotion and thought-provoking content, Tóibín was able to put into just 114 pages. I’m pretty sure that this novella has a lot of potential to rub some people the wrong way but I strongly recommend this one to just about anyone since it’s just a wonderful novella about so many aspects of the human existence, showcased through the story of one mother and her love of her only child.

First line: They appear more often now, both of them, and on every visit they seem more impatient with me and with the world.

  • Title: The Testament of Mary
  • Author: Colm Tóibín
  • Publisher: Penguin Books
  • Year: 2012
  • Pages: 114 pages
  • Source: Own collection – Kindle
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

I read this for Rick’s Novellas in November challenge.

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Novellas in November

So I’m so very much behind on reading the books I had planned to read this year but so what. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for another challenge, does it? (It doesn’t but it really should!)
So when Rick from Another Book Blog decided to make November the month for reading novellas, I thought ‘that isn’t for me’. And then ignored it. Right up to the moment I decided to sign up for the thing…
So here we are. I’m going to do the thing and read some novellas in November and it’s not  because novellas are short and are going to boost my number of books read this year – or because I have been offered a review copy of three novellas by the son of John Steinbeck, Thomas Steinbeck. Well, not only because of these two reasons. It’s mostly because some of the novellas Rick mentioned sounded amazing – and then I stumbled across another novella that sounded like an absolute must-read for me – and then I got offered the review copy … and they are short … So with all these perfectly valid reasons, how could I resist?!

So here are my list of novellas that I hope to read in November:

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  • Alan Bennet: The Uncommon Reader. The Queen has lost one of her puppies and while searching for it, she finds a mobile library. She feels obliged to borrow a book and discovers the pleasures of reading. This is one of Rick’s picks and it is also one I already have on my to-read list so of course I have to put this on my list.
  • Thomas Steinbeck: Cabbages and Kings and Dr. Greenlaw and the Zulu Princess. So I love John Steinbeck. And although it’s so unfair to him to compare him to his father, I am willing to give him a chance because of his father. Besides, the synopsis actually sounds interesting.
  • Colm Tóibín: The Testament of Mary. So this one is another one of the ones I got inspired to by Rick. It’s the story of Mary who has a completely different view of her son than the rest of the world – and blames herself for fleeing from her son’s crucifixion to save herself. It sounds fascinating!
  • Meike Ziervogel: Magda. This was on the shortlist for the Not the Booker prize (which I’m actually not sure what is). It’s about Joseph Goebbel’s wife Magda; the woman, who killed her six children. The scene where she kills her children in Der Untergang, just left me … I have no words for what I was feeling when watching that. But I so want to read this novella!

So five novellas – I don’t think I can handle any more than these five.
I really hope that I’ll make it through these because they sound great!