Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.
PREVIOUS TOP TEN TUESDAY TOPICS:
- June 30: Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2020
- July 7: Authors I Have Read Most Books By
- July 14: Books That Make Me Smile
- July 21: Book Events/Festivals I’d Love to Go
- July 28: Books With Settings I’d Love to Visit
Doing two of these Top … Lists, on both Saturday and Tuesdays, it is only a matter of time that there is an overlap or repeated theme for the lists. In fact, I am surprised that this duplication hasn’t occurred before. So I refer you, dear readers, to the Top Five Saturday post here and I need to consider how to manage the duplication – and I have decided to not repeat any of the books on the previous list (which is a crying shame because I really love Gawin and the Grene Knight!) unless it is a book which has moved from my TBR list to my read list.
So, here goes.
Red, White and Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston
This is a wonderful light-hearted but high-spirited romance between Alex, the dual heritage son of a female President of the United States, and Henry, Prince of Wales.
It is just cracking good fun – nowhere near as sexual as some of the more lurid reviews might suggest, indeed positively coy in its description of the boys’ sexual activities.
The best I can do perhaps is cite McQuiston’s own comment in her acknowledgements
I came up with the idea for this book on an I-10 off-ramp in early 2016, and I never imagined what it would turn out to be. I mean, at that point I couldn’t imagine what 2016 itself would turn out to be. Yikes. For months after November, I gave up on writing this book. Suddenly what was supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek parallel universe needed to be escapist, trauma-soothing, alternate-but-realistic reality. Not a perfect world—one still believably fucked up, just a little better, a little more optimistic. I wasn’t sure I was up to the task. I hoped I was.
What I hoped to do, and what I hope I have done with this book by the time you’ve finished it, my dear reader, is to be a spark of joy and hope you needed.
Redhead by the Side of the Road, Anne Tyler
I’ve not read Anne Tyler before but she has been included on this year’s Man Booker Longlist and it is probably about time to give her a go as she has been on my radar for a while.
The premise looks good!
Micah Mortimer is a creature of habit. A self-employed tech expert, superintendent of his Baltimore apartment building, cautious to a fault behind the steering wheel, he seems content leading a steady, circumscribed life. But one day his routines are blown apart when his woman friend (he refuses to call anyone in her late thirties a “girlfriend”) tells him she’s facing eviction, and a teenager shows up at Micah’s door claiming to be his son. These surprises, and the ways they throw Micah’s meticulously organized life off-kilter, risk changing him forever. An intimate look into the heart and mind of a man who finds those around him just out of reach, and a funny, joyful, deeply compassionate story about seeing the world through new eyes, Redhead by the Side of the Road is a triumph, filled with Anne Tyler’s signature wit and gimlet-eyed observation.
The Priory of the Orange Tree, Samantha Shannon
A cracking fantasy tome, this was – I did not realise quite how large it was until I saw it in the shop being already half way through it electronically!
It is great fun and subverts a lot of the less positive tropes: we have matriarchies and some kick ass female warriors riding dragons and wielding ancient magics, as well as a world which is beautifully non-judgmental about same sex relationships.
The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door.
Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tané has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.
Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson
Okay, so technically both this book and the previous one use orange as a fruit rather than a colour but who cares.
This is the iconic same sex lesbian coming-of-age novel! And it has been far too long since I read it. What I recall are overbearing and domineering adoptive parents, oppressive religious extremism and some tender relationships.
This is the story of Jeanette, adopted and brought up by her mother as one of God’s elect. Zealous and passionate, she seems seems destined for life as a missionary, but then she falls for one of her converts.
At sixteen, Jeanette decides to leave the church, her home and her family, for the young woman she loves. Innovative, punchy and tender,
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a few days ride into the bizarre outposts of religious excess and human obsession.
Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This was a wonderful novel, exquisite in its creation of a sense of place and of character, allowing the turbulent history of Nigeria and the Biafran Civil War to be unveiled through those characters. It is one of those historical novels where the history is simultaneously present and vivid but never preachy and never in conflict with the characters own stories.
With astonishing empathy and the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of the decade. Thirteen-year-old Ugwu is employed as a houseboy for a university professor full of revolutionary zeal. Olanna is the professor’s beautiful mistress, who has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the charisma of her new lover. And Richard is a shy young Englishman in thrall to Olanna’s twin sister, an enigmatic figure who refuses to belong to anyone. As Nigerian troops advance and the three must run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another.
Black and Blue, Ian Rankin
I remember loving the handful of Rankin’s Rebus novels when I read them, which must have been back in the 1990s in University! Dark, gritty, bleak with a vivid sense of place in Edinburgh. On reflection, the character of Rebus seems a little bit of a stereotype (loner, maverick, alcoholic, married to the job etc) but done rather well and with wit and affection.
From my recollection, I enjoyed the relationships Rebus had with colleague Siobhan Clarke and local gangster Big Ger Cafferty. They may be worth a revisit.
Bible John killed three women, and took three souvenirs. Johnny Bible killed to steal his namesake’s glory. Oilman Allan Mitchelson died for his principles. And convict Lenny Spaven died just to prove a point. “Bible John” terrorized Glasgow in the sixties and seventies, murdering three women he met in a local ballroom–and he was never caught. Now a copycat is at work. Nicknamed “Bible Johnny” by the media, he is a new menace with violent ambitions.
The Bible Johnny case would be perfect for Inspector John Rebus, but after a run-in with a crooked senior officer, he’s been shunted aside to one of Edinburgh’s toughest suburbs, where he investigates the murder of an off-duty oilman. His investigation takes him north to the oil rigs of Aberdeen, where he meets the Bible Johnny media circus head-on. Suddenly caught in the glare of the television cameras and in the middle of more than one investigation, Rebus must proceed wiht caution: One mistake could mean an unpleasant and not particularly speedy death, or, worse still, losing his job.
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, Deepa Anappara
Fortuitously, I finished this one this week and managed to put a review up yesterday.
This is the story of the slums, or the basti, in an Indian city as seen through the eyes of nine-year old Jai. When a child goes missing – as they do in the real world in India at an appalling rate! – Jai is inspired by his diet of television police stories, and the dismissive and corrupt approach of the police, to investigate himself.
I enjoyed this one, which was nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, but not brought on to the shortlist. For me, perhaps there were insufficient djinns to justify the title!
Jai drools outside sweet shops, watches too many reality police shows, and considers himself to be smarter than his friends Pari (though she gets the best grades) and Faiz (though Faiz has an actual job). When a classmate goes missing, Jai decides to use the crime-solving skills he has picked up from TV to find him. He asks Pari and Faiz to be his assistants, and together they draw up lists of people to interview and places to visit.
But what begins as a game turns sinister as other children start disappearing from their neighborhood. Jai, Pari, and Faiz have to confront terrified parents, an indifferent police force, and rumors of soul-snatching djinns. As the disappearances edge ever closer to home, the lives of Jai and his friends will never be the same again.
Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Another purple and another Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie novel – which I read a long while ago again.
What I recall is an horrifying depiction of parental brutality and violence – a tyranny that was not sugar-coated or for the faint of heart – and a tender quiet strength in Kambili.
Like Half of a Yellow Sun, the sense of place was palpable and wonderful and I am now thinking that it may be worth a re-read.
Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in a beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They’re completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear. Although her Papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home—a home that is silent and suffocating.
Washington Black, Esi Edugyan
This was a mad book, an adventure tale out of the nineteenth century with elements of fantasy (I mean look at the image of the cloud cutter, that flying ship!) and history and coming-of-age and a Bildungsroman which reaches from the slave plantations of the Caribbean to Virginia and the Arctic and Nova Scotia to Marrakesh.
There are flights from and fights with terrifying bounty hunters, and quests for fathers throughout the novel – and a very friendly octopus!
I wonder whether Washington Black ever met Keita Mori and his mechanical octopus Katsu? That would be a fine tale!
When his master’s eccentric brother chooses him to be his manservant, Wash is terrified of the cruelties he is certain await him. But Christopher Wilde, or “Titch,” is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor, and abolitionist.
He initiates Wash into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky; where two people, separated by an impossible divide, might begin to see each other as human; and where a boy born in chains can embrace a life of dignity and meaning. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash’s head, Titch abandons everything to save him.
Black Swan Green, David Mitchell
This is one of my favourite David Mitchell books – the story of Jason Taylor’s coming of age in a sleepy rural town in Worcestershire. As with a number of these novels, Black Swan Green is vivid in its description of place and evocative in its depiction of the time – both politically and socially in the 1980s, and as a depiction of the feelings of a young teenager coming to terms with his own identity.
A beautiful quietly moving novel.
Black Swan Green tracks a single year in what is, for thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor, the sleepiest village in muddiest Worcestershire in a dying Cold War England, 1982. But the thirteen chapters, each a short story in its own right, create an exquisitely observed world that is anything but sleepy. A world of Kissingeresque realpolitik enacted in boys’ games on a frozen lake; of “nightcreeping” through the summer backyards of strangers; of the tabloid-fueled thrills of the Falklands War and its human toll; of the cruel, luscious Dawn Madden and her power-hungry boyfriend, Ross Wilcox; of a certain Madame Eva van Outryve de Crommelynck, an elderly bohemian emigré who is both more and less than she appears; of Jason’s search to replace his dead grandfather’s irreplaceable smashed watch before the crime is discovered; of first cigarettes, first kisses, first Duran Duran LPs, and first deaths; of Margaret Thatcher’s recession; of Gypsies camping in the woods and the hysteria they inspire; and, even closer to home, of a slow-motion divorce in four seasons.
So there we have it: ten powerful and thought provoking novels with a colour in the title. It is strange how many of them have appeared in the nominations for book prizes, to be honest. Maybe that is the trick: add a colour to the title?
I do love the comments and suggestions that these Top Ten Tuesdays generate – even if they do swell my TBR list to mountainous proportions! – so I really do look forward to hearing your favourite books with colours in the title!
Forthcoming Top Ten Tuesday Topics
- August 11: Books I Loved but Never Reviewed
- August 18: Books that Should be Adapted into Netflix Shows/Movies (submitted by Nushu @ Not A Prima Donna Girl)
- August 25: Questions I Would Ask My Favorite Authors (Living or dead. You can post 10 questions for one author, one question each for 10 different authors, or anything else!)
- September 1: Books that Make Me Hungry (They could have food items on the cover, foods in the title, be about foodies or have food as a main plot point… they could be cookbooks or memoirs, etc.)
- September 8: Books for My Younger Self (These could be books you wish you had read as a child, books younger you could have really learned something from, books that meshed with your hobbies/interests, books that could have helped you go through events/changes in your life, etc.)
- September 15: Cover Freebie (choose your own topic, centered on book covers or cover art)
- September 22: Books On My Fall 2020 TBR (or spring if you live in the southern hemisphere)
- September 29: Favorite Book Quotes (these could be quotes from books you love, or bookish quotes in general)