This week on Top Ten Tuesday: Books I loved with fewer than 2000 ratings on Goodreads. I rated all of these 4 or 5 stars at the time of reading. Originally posted on the now defunct blog Fox & Honey (February 19th 2019).
Featured in the header (with artwork by Timothy Lantz, from the third book in the series because I couldn’t find a large enough image from the first):
Dru Pagliassotti; 1773 ratings; Fiction, Fantasy, Steampunk
A steampunkish romantic fantasy set in Ondinium, a city that beats to the ticking of a clockwork heart. Taya, a metal-winged courier, can travel freely across the city’s sectors and mingle indiscriminately among its castes. A daring mid-air rescue leads to involvement with two scions of an upperclass family and entanglement in a web of terrorism, loyalty, murder, and secrets.
CHRONICLE OF A BLOOD MERCHANT
Yu Hua and Andrew Jones (Translator); 1828 ratings; Fiction, Historical
A cart-pusher in a silk mill, Xu Sanguan augments his meager salary with regular visits to the local blood chief. His visits become lethally frequent as he struggles to provide for his wife and three sons at the height of the Cultural Revolution. Shattered to discover that his favorite son was actually born of a liaison between his wife and a neighbor, he suffers his greatest indignity, while his wife is publicly scorned as a prostitute. Although the poverty and betrayals of Mao’s regime have drained him, Xu Sanguan ultimately finds strength in the blood ties of his family. With rare emotional intensity, grippingly raw descriptions of place and time, and clear-eyed compassion, Yu Hua gives us a stunning tapestry of human life in the grave particulars of one man’s days.
Barbara Wood; 648 ratings; Fiction, Historical, Romance
When a massive earthquake strikes California no one could have predicted the astonishing discoveries that were to follow: as a swimming pool sinks into the earth, it reveals the entrance to a previously unknown cave. Archaelogist Erica Tyler knows this could be one of the finds of the century, and when she arrives at the scene her instincts are proved right: she finds an age-old cave painting, whose vibrant colours and symbols mark the world of the shaman; a pair of spectacles that predate known European colonisation; and further strange and astonishing artefacts. But most astonishing of all are the human remains of someone known only as the ‘First Mother’, dating back almost 2000 years… However, angry local homeowners want the cave filled in and their lives back to normal as soon as possible and Jared Black, formidable campaigner for the Native American Heritage Commission, wants the site claimed for the relevant tribe. Erica refuses to back down as a childhood of foster homes meant she grew up never knowing her real identity and she won’t let the First Mother be consigned to history in the same manner…
THE AMAZONS: LIVES AND LEGENDS OF WARRIOR WOMEN ACROSS THE ANCIENT WORLD
Adrienne Mayor; 553 ratings; Nonfiction, History, Archaeology, Mythology
Amazons–fierce warrior women dwelling on the fringes of the known world–were the mythic archenemies of the ancient Greeks. Heracles and Achilles displayed their valor in duels with Amazon queens, and the Athenians reveled in their victory over a powerful Amazon army. In historical times, Cyrus of Persia, Alexander the Great, and the Roman general Pompey tangled with Amazons.
But just who were these bold barbarian archers on horseback who gloried in fighting, hunting, and sexual freedom? Were Amazons real? In this deeply researched, wide-ranging, and lavishly illustrated book, National Book Award finalist Adrienne Mayor presents the Amazons as they have never been seen before. This is the first comprehensive account of warrior women in myth and history across the ancient world, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Great Wall of China.
THE BONE KEY: THE NECROMANTIC MYSTERIES OF KYLE MURCHISON BOOTH
Sarah Monette; 1108 ratings; Fiction, Short Stories, Horror, Fantasy
The dead and the monstrous will not leave Kyle Murchison Booth alone, for an unwilling foray into necromancy has made him sensitive to–and attractive to–the creatures who roam the darkness of his once-safe world. Ghosts, ghouls, incubi: all have one thing in common. They know Booth for one of their own …
SOMEWHERE BENEATH THOSE WAVES
Sarah Monette; 532 ratings; Fiction, Short Stories, Horror, Fantasy
Monette’s diverse collection delves deeply into the mythic and reaches far beyond everyday reality. Readers cannot resist journeying with her into realms-dangerously dark or illuminatingly revelatory-they could never imagine without her as their guide. From ghost stories in the tradition of M. R. James to darkly poetic tales to moving fictional examinations of the most basic of human emotion-fear, love, hate, loneliness-Monette’s pen produces stories that are invariably unforgettable.
CHILD OF A HIDDEN SEA
A.M. Dellamonica; 1279 ratings; Fiction, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
One minute, twenty-four-year-old Sophie Hansa is in a San Francisco alley trying to save the life of the aunt she has never known. The next, she finds herself flung into the warm and salty waters of an unfamiliar world. Glowing moths fall to the waves around her, and the sleek bodies of unseen fish glide against her submerged ankles. The world is Stormwrack, a series of island nations with a variety of cultures and economies—and a language different from any Sophie has heard.
Sophie doesn’t know it yet, but she has just stepped into the middle of a political firestorm, and a conspiracy that could destroy a world she has just discovered… her world, where everyone seems to know who she is, and where she is forbidden to stay.
ESTER AND RUZYA: HOW MY GRANDMOTHERS SURVIVED HITLER’S WAR AND STALIN’S PEACE
Masha Gessen; 394 ratings; Nonfiction, Memoir, Historical
In the 1930s, as waves of war and persecution were crashing over Europe, two young Jewish women began separate journeys of survival. One, a Polish-born woman from Bialystok, where virtually the entire Jewish community would soon be sent to the ghetto and from there to Hitler’s concentration camps, was determined not only to live but to live with pride and defiance. The other, a Russian-born intellectual and introvert, would eventually become a high-level censor under Stalin’s regime. At war’s end, both women found themselves in Moscow, where informers lurked on every corner and anti-Semitism reigned. It was there that Ester and Ruzya would first cross paths, there that they became the closest of friends and learned to trust each other with their lives.
In this deeply moving family memoir, journalist Masha Gessen tells the story of her two beloved grandmothers: Ester, the quicksilver rebel who continually battled the forces of tyranny; Ruzya, a single mother who joined the Communist Party under duress and made the compromises the regime exacted of all its citizens. Both lost their first loves in the war. Both suffered unhappy unions. Both were gifted linguists who made their living as translators. And both had children—Ester a boy, and Ruzya a girl—who would grow up, fall in love, and have two children of their own: Masha and her younger brother.
SOUCOUYANT: A NOVEL OF FORGETTING
David Chariandry; 792 ratings; Fiction, Contemporary, Mental Illness
A “soucouyant” is an evil spirit in Caribbean lore, a reminder of past transgressions that refuse to diminish with age. In this beautifully told novel that crosses borders, cultures, and generations, a young man returns home to care for his aging mother, who suffers from dementia. In his efforts to help her and by turn make amends for their past estrangement from one another, he is compelled to re-imagine his mother’s stories for her before they slip completely into darkness. In delicate, heartbreaking tones, the names for everyday things fade while at the same time a beautiful, haunted life, stained by grief, is slowly revealed.
LAST NIGHT I DREAMED OF PEACE
Đặng Thùy Trâm; 1262 ratings; Nonfiction, Historical
At the age of twenty-four, Dang Thuy Tram volunteered to serve as a doctor in a National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) battlefield hospital in the Quang Ngai Province. Two years later she was killed by American forces not far from where she worked. Written between 1968 and 1970, her diary speaks poignantly of her devotion to family and friends, the horrors of war, her yearning for her high school sweetheart, and her struggle to prove her loyalty to her country. At times raw, at times lyrical and youthfully sentimental, her voice transcends cultures to speak of her dignity and compassion and of her challenges in the face of the war’s ceaseless fury.