Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Fall TBR

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.

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I have found myself in a bit of a reading slump recently… I’m not sure why. Going back to work after the summer, perhaps. My daughter’s formal diagnosis of autism and the paperwork, processes and forms required to secure her the support she needs. What seems to be a rather lacklustre Booker Longlist this year…

What are the symptoms of a reading slump for me? Being about 15% of the way through about eight books and not being totally gripped by any of them! Oh, and also being behind and not inspired enough to keep on top of my reviews…

So this topic comes at an apt time for me: it is a chance to review, refocus and return to those books that can shake me out of the doldrums, to mix at least two metaphors!

The Trees, Percival Everett

The Trees is a page-turner that opens with a series of brutal murders in the rural town of Money, Mississippi. When a pair of detectives from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation arrive, they meet expected resistance from the local sheriff, his deputy, the coroner, and a string of racist White townsfolk.

​ The murders present a puzzle, for at each crime scene there is a second dead body: that of a man who resembles Emmett Till, a young black boy lynched in the same town 65 years before.

​ The detectives suspect that these are killings of retribution, but soon discover that eerily similar murders are taking place all over the country. Something truly strange is afoot. As the bodies pile up, the MBI detectives seek answers from a local root doctor who has been documenting every lynching in the country for years, uncovering a history that refuses to be buried.

I am hoping that this is the novel to hook me back into reading from the Booker Longlist – searing and provocative and hilarious seem to be the (rather unexpected) adjectives that come along with it.

The Ink Black Heart, Robert Galbraith

When frantic, dishevelled Edie Ledwell appears in the office begging to speak to her, private detective Robin Ellacott doesn’t know quite what to make of the situation. The co-creator of a popular cartoon, The Ink Black Heart, Edie is being persecuted by a mysterious online figure who goes by the pseudonym of Anomie. Edie is desperate to uncover Anomie’s true identity.

Robin decides that the agency can’t help with this – and thinks nothing more of it until a few days later, when she reads the shocking news that Edie has been tasered and then murdered in Highgate Cemetery, the location of The Ink Black Heart.

Robin and her business partner Cormoran Strike become drawn into the quest to uncover Anomie’s true identity. But with a complex web of online aliases, business interests and family conflicts to navigate, Strike and Robin find themselves embroiled in a case that stretches their powers of deduction to the limits – and which threatens them in new and horrifying ways . . .

I suppose with Galbraith’s Strike novels, you know what you’re going to get: good solid plotting, matched with mediocre writing. I fear that the premise of this one after the criticisms J. K. Rowling received over Twitter for her transphobic comments might make me either give up on the series, throw my kindle at something, or generally not finish the book.

Babel, R. F. Kuang

Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.

Oxford, 1836.

The city of dreaming spires.

It is the centre of all knowledge and progress in the world.

And at its centre is Babel, the Royal Institute of Translation. The tower from which all the power of the Empire flows.

Orphaned in Canton and brought to England by a mysterious guardian, Babel seemed like paradise to Robin Swift.

Until it became a prison…

But can a student stand against an empire?

This sounds fantastic: magic, language, colonialism… yep, really looking forward to this one, actually! And to give it its full title of Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution  with not one but two colons!

Nona the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

Her city is under siege. The zombies are coming back. And all Nona wants is a birthday party. In many ways, Nona is like other people. She lives with her family, has a job at her local school, and loves walks on the beach and meeting new dogs. But Nona’s not like other people. Six months ago she woke up in a stranger’s body, and she’s afraid she might have to give it back. The whole city is falling to pieces. A monstrous blue sphere hangs on the horizon, ready to tear the planet apart. Blood of Eden forces have surrounded the last Cohort facility and wait for the Emperor Undying to come calling. Their leaders want Nona to be the weapon that will save them from the Nine Houses. Nona would prefer to live an ordinary life with the people she loves, with Pyrrha and Camilla and Palamedes, but she also knows that nothing lasts forever. And each night, Nona dreams of a woman with a skull-painted face…

Our favourite space lesbian necromancers are back… or are they?

There is less joy and fun in the cover of this novel, and lets be frank, I loved the aesthetic of Gideon’s muscles and sunglasses and Harrow’s facepaint. This looks tame in comparison and some reviews suggest that the novel might feature from the same issues… but Tamsyn Muir pulled of a corker by selling me Harrow the Ninth‘s second person split narrative unreliable re-telling of the story of Gideon the Ninth

The House of Fortune, Jessie Burton

In the golden city of Amsterdam, in 1705, Thea Brandt is turning eighteen, and she is ready to welcome adulthood with open arms. At the city’s theatre, Walter, the love of her life, awaits her, but at home in the house on the Herengracht, all is not well – her father Otto and Aunt Nella argue endlessly, and the Brandt family are selling their furniture in order to eat. On Thea’s birthday, also the day that her mother Marin died, the secrets from the past begin to overwhelm the present.

Nella is desperate to save the family and maintain appearances, to find Thea a husband who will guarantee her future, and when they receive an invitation to Amsterdam’s most exclusive ball, she is overjoyed – perhaps this will set their fortunes straight.

And indeed, the ball does set things spinning: new figures enter their life, promising new futures. But their fates are still unclear, and when Nella feels a strange prickling sensation on the back of her neck, she remembers the miniaturist who entered her life and toyed with her fortunes eighteen years ago. Perhaps, now, she has returned for her . . .

A sequel to The Miniaturist?

Yes please!

Small Things Like These, Claire Keegan

It is 1985, in an Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant, faces into his busiest season. As he does the rounds, he feels the past rising up to meet him – and encounters the complicit silences of a people controlled by the Church.

Another Booker Prize Longlist… and very short at only 128 pages. Unlike the 1024 pages of the Robert Galbraith! Small town Ireland. Magdalene Laundries. Hardship and cold weather. Maybe a good one for this winter.

The Bullet That Missed, Richard Osman

It is an ordinary Thursday and things should finally be returning to normal.

Except trouble is never far away where the Thursday Murder Club are concerned. A decade-old cold case leads them to a local news legend and a murder with no body and no answers.

Then a new foe pays Elizabeth a visit. Her mission? Kill. . . or be killed.

As the cold case turns white hot, Elizabeth wrestles with her conscience (and a gun), while Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim chase down clues with help from old friends and new. But can the gang solve the mystery and save Elizabeth before the murderer strikes again?

Yes, it is everywhere at the moment – well, it would be if there were any shops open! But also the Thursday Murder Club books are reliable, warm and generous – witty without being clever, thoughtful without being preachy, effectively plotted thrillers that never lose their heart. What’s not to love?

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, Shehan Karunatilaka 

Colombo, 1990. Maali Almeida, war photographer, gambler and closet gay, has woken up dead in what seems like a celestial visa office. His dismembered body is sinking in the serene Beira lake and he has no idea who killed him. At a time where scores are settled by death squads, suicide bombers and hired goons, the list of suspects is depressingly long, as the ghouls and ghosts with grudges who cluster round can attest.

But even in the afterlife, time is running out for Maali. He has seven moons to try and contact the man and woman he loves most and lead them to a hidden cache of photos that will rock Sri Lanka.

Now, that’s a colourful cover! So, Chapter One opens with the afterlife, which is a series of queues and people in kiosks and behind counters. The afterlife as bureaucracy. Okay, this looks more fun on the Booker List.

The Marriage Portrait, Maggie O’Farrell

Winter, 1561. Lucrezia, Duchess of Ferrara, is taken on an unexpected visit to a country villa by her husband, Alfonso. As they sit down to dinner it occurs to Lucrezia that Alfonso has a sinister purpose in bringing her here. He intends to kill her.

Lucrezia is sixteen years old, and has led a sheltered life locked away inside Florence’s grandest palazzo. Here, in this remote villa, she is entirely at the mercy of her increasingly erratic husband.

What is Lucrezia to do with this sudden knowledge? What chance does she have against Alfonso, ruler of a province, and a trained soldier? How can she ensure her survival.

One of my favourite poems is My Last Duchess by Robert Browning in which the chilling Duke of Ferrara arranges that his wife be silenced with the chilling line

This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together

It’s a great story: a young passionate but vulnerable woman married to a powerful man who dies suddenly. Was it murder? Or was it something mundane like pulmonary tuberculosis? Whose story is it? The Duke’s or Lucrezia’s?

To put this story in the oh-so-capable hands of the author of Hamnet…. such high hopes!

Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century, Kim Fu

In the twelve unforgettable tales of Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century, the strange is made familiar and the familiar strange, such that a girl growing wings on her legs feels like an ordinary rite of passage, while a bug-infested house becomes an impossible, Kafkaesque nightmare. Each story builds a new world all its own: a group of children steal a haunted doll; a runaway bride encounters a sea monster; a vendor sells toy boxes that seemingly control the passage of time; an insomniac is seduced by the Sandman. These visions of modern life wrestle with themes of death and technological consequence, guilt and sexuality, and unmask the contradictions that exist within all of us.

Mesmerizing, electric, and wholly original, Kim Fu’s Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century blurs the boundaries of the real and fantastic, offering intricate and surprising insights into human nature.

Great title!

Great cover!

And the blurb actually sounds right up my street, too! Even if I often find short story collections a little hit and miss. I am hoping for something akin to Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado.

So, as always, I look forward to seeing your tbr lists and hearing which of these books – or any others you may recommend – might work to get me out of this reading slump!

Happy TTT, everyone!

Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes

September 20th Bonus: Favourite Literary Queens
September 27: Typographic Book Covers (Book covers with a design that is all or mostly all words. You can also choose to do books with nice typography if that’s easier!) (Submitted by Mareli @ Elza Reads)
October 4: Favorite Bookstores OR Bookstores I’d Love to Visit (The UK celebrated National Bookshop Day on October 1, so I thought it would be a fun topic!)
October 11: Books I Read On Vacation (bonus points if you tell us where you were!) (Submitted by Dedra @ A Book Wanderer)
October 18: Favorite Words (This isn’t so much bookish, but I thought it would be fun to share words we love! These could be words that are fun to say, sound funny, mean something great, or make you smile when you read/hear them.)
October 25: Halloween Freebie

14 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Fall TBR”

  1. With the Strike novels, I found myself less hooked by the central mystery of the last one and more interested in the eternal “will they or won’t they” nature of the Robin and Strike partnership. I eventually lost the threads and put it aside and haven’t returned. As intriguing as this new one sounds, I am not quite ready to commit to 1000 plus pages of more of the same.


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