Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wanted To Abandon

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

This weeks’ topic was:

May 26: Opening Lines (Best, favorite, funny, unique, shocking, gripping, lines that grabbed you immediately, etc.)

but I got confused about the date and didn’t realize until the last minute, so I had already made a list for:

May 12: The Last Ten Books I Abandoned (this could be books you DNFed, books you decided you were no longer interested in, etc.) (submitted by Claire @ Book Lovers Pizza)

which was a week I’d skipped. I don’t usually DNF books because not finishing something always makes me feel like things are left undone.  But these are the last books that I definitely considered putting down at one point or another. Maybe I’ll revisit this week’s topic on another week.

91gjjmku0ul._ac_uy218_1.Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon– My book club has been reading a books of a different genre each week. For this coming week it’s horror. I chose this book because I’d read The Other by the same author and really liked it. Unfortunately this one didn’t live up to that standard.

 

 

71n0ypoubcl._ac_uy218_2.Three Women by Lisa Taddeo– I read this one because it had been getting rave reviews and showing up on a million “must read” lists. The subject (female desire) didn’t particularly interest me, but I figured if it was handled with insight or skill that might change. Unfortunately I didn’t feel like this look at the sex lives of these three (suburban, white, American) women shed any light on the subject.

 

91sxuv4qn0l._ac_uy218_3. Clandara by Evelyn Anthony– I’d  had  this on my shelf forever and I can’t remember where I first got it. It’s a historical romance set against the fall of the Jacobite cause in Scotland. The research and history was actually handled well, but the “hero” and “heroine” were both such despicable human beings that I didn’t care what happened to either one of them. I just felt sorry for any characters who happened to cross their paths.

 

5174gdpp4ml._ac_uy218_4. Hearts and Bones by Margaret Lawrence– I had a copy of this one for a while too (If nothing else, this prolonged time at home is helping read a few of those books I’ve had sitting around!) and it looked good: a historical mystery set in the early days of America. But I couldn’t engage or invest in any of the characters. Usually I can invest in unlikable characters, but in this case I got the sense that the author didn’t know that they were unlikable.

 

91y5qqyms0l._ac_uy218_5. The People in the Trees by Hana Yanagihara-In this case  the author was well aware that the character was unlikable. I  read this one because I’d been really moved by A Little Life by the same author. Once again I admired the skill with which the difficult story was told, but in this case I felt like I was reading a textbook rather than a novel. Even when it was supposed to make me angry, I couldn’t feel anything.

 

81epe0lxakl._ac_uy218_6. The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher- I was surprised by the fact that I didn’t like this one because I’d expected to. It’s been recommended to me many times and it’s been compared to other books I’ve really liked. But the inter-generational story featured three generations of characters I didn’t like: even when I was clearly supposed to. The characters that I wasn’t supposed to like felt paper thin.

 

81mtqf4rhyl._ac_uy218_7.Beyond the Wild River by Sarah Maine– I’d been interested in reading books by this author for a while since she’s frequently compared to authors that I like.  Maybe I’ll give her another chance with a different book. This one sounded like it had potential: a mystery set in the 1890s with an heiress and several wealthy friends on a fishing trip with an accused murderer. But nothing landed. I felt like I was just waiting for it to be over.

 

81gig3gangl._ac_uy218_8.The Answers by Catherine Lacey- This one was recommended quite a bit and got pretty good reviews. It also had an interesting premise, a broke girl gets a second job as a “girlfriend” of a famous actor. But while interesting thoughts and ideas were presented, nothing was really explored and I never felt like I knew the characters.

 

 

a1yvcyz-l._ac_uy218_9.  An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear– I liked the first few Maisie Dobbs books, but with this one I really started to feel like the series was covering the same depressing ground over and over. In the first book we meet a heroine who has been traumatized be her service as a nurse in WWI as she starts a post war business. Several books later it’s the great depression, she’s still traumatized and all her cases still involve things that happened during WWI. I don’t know if I’m going to move on with this series or not.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons I Love Fairy Tale Retellings

For That Artsy Reader Girls Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new
May 19: Reasons Why I Love [insert your favorite book title, genre, author, etc. here]

I decided to go with what I know and what I write. Fairy tales!

a1bbvb76hsl._ac_uy218_1. They can be scary: Example: The Changeling by Victor La Valle made the familiar and beloved things seem alien and menacing.

a13yyhpaeml._ac_uy218_2.  They can be intricate: Example: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth is a Rapunzel retelling that weaves together three narrative strands, like a braid.

81-bxm7f5dl._ac_ul320_3. They can create new worlds: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier launches Marillier’s Sevenwaters series. It’s a six book series set partially in Ancient Ireland as well as an Otherworld based on Celtic mythology. These should be read in order. Following Daughter of the Forest, there’s Son of the Shadows and Child of the Prophecy. Then the second trilogy that makes up the series is Heir to Sevenwaters, Seer of Sevenwaters, and Flame of Sevenwaters.

51spwrt1xrl-_ac_us218_4. They can give us new looks at old worlds: Example Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series is set in an alternate version of the history we know, similar to what we know in many ways with a bit of extra magic thrown in. These don’t need to be read in any order, but I recommend the early books in the series, which are much better than the later ones. My favorites are The Fire Rose, The Serpent’s Shadow, The Gates of Sleep, and Phoenix and Ashes. 

41oyve54sgl-_ac_us218_5. They can be romantic: Example I found Juliet Marillier’s Beauty and the Beast retelling Heart’s Blood to be beautifully romantic in addition to having great historical and fantasy elements.

71oqghfkyhl._ac_uy218_6. They can be funny: Example Sarah Pineborough’s Tales From the Kingdoms (Poison, Charm, Beauty) trilogy made me chuckle at several points. They probably work better if they’re read in order, but you can probably still understand everything that’s happening even if you don’t.

51u1puwi8ol._ac_uy218_7.  They can be tearjerking and heartbreaking: Example: Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan is a beautifully written but harrowing tale (trigger warnings here)  with an ending that is ultimately bittersweet but in the moment may seem more bitter to some readers. Not all stories have happily ever afters, and even in the ones that do, those happy endings don’t apply to all.

a1klhsokiol._ac_uy218_8. They can be innovative: Example: I first discovered Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber in a college class I took called “Innovative Contemporary Fiction.” I’m glad I read this for the first time in an academic setting because it gave me a chance to really dig into the text and notice things I would have otherwise missed. There’s a lot happening between the lines of these stories!

81hs1pgkzml._ac_uy218_9. They can be beautiful: Example I found Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy to be beautiful in terms of story, setting, and prose.  It satisfied on almost every level. These should be read in order. It’s The Bear and the Nightingale, The Girl In the Tower, andThe Winter of the Witch.

91jxemsjivl._ac_uy218_10. They’re what I do: Example: Once again it seems I’m not above promoting my own book. My first novel, Beautiful: A Tale of Beauties and Beasts is a Beauty and the Beast retelling. It’s my first published novel. I’m working on a follow up right now, that’s based on The Snow Queen.

 

Non Disney Fairy Tale Movies: The Sequel

A while ago, when our lockdown/isolation/shelter in place/quarantine began I wrote a post of some of my favorite non-Disney fairy tale films for all ages. Since we’re still spring a lot of time alone/indoors I decided to make a sequel. Like the first post, I make no guarantees that these movies are safe for the kiddos. I put a * next to the ones that I think are kid friendly and ! next to the ones that are alright for kids above 12.

Beauty and the Beast

catherine-and-vincent-beauty-and-the-beast-tv-show-31800345-500-333! Beauty and the BeastTV series from the late 1980’s. I wrote a post about this a while ago so, click the link to see it. I know that this was rebooted in the 2010’s at some point, but I wasn’t a fan of the remake. There is a lot of 80’s cheesiness to this show, but that’s part of the charm. It’s about a wealthy NY lawyer whose path crosses with that of a mysterious man-beast who lives in a secret network of tunnels below the city streets. It’s sort of a fusion of romance, fantasy and crime drama. It’s also the work of a pre- Game of Thrones George RR Martin.

penelope9! Penelope– This fantasy features a gender reversed Beauty and the Beast with a great sense of fun and fantasy. Penelope Wilhern is born under a family curse; she’s got a pig nose until she earns the love of “one of her own kind” (the reasoning for the curse is explained in the movie). So he mother tries to find ways to fix her up with blue blooded men. Enter Max, who hits it off with Penelope until he sees her face, and promptly refuses to marry her. This sets Penelope off on a journey of self discovery. The move is one of my “happy” movies: things I watch when I need a mood boost. [trailer]

7765915901c6f3c49a39522017f32300! A Werewolf Boy– In many ways this is similar to Edward Scisscorhands (which I featured on my last list). It’s about a teenage girl who moves to the country and befriends a feral boy who she finds on the grounds of her new home. But his nature may be more animal than human and the beast in him threatens to emerge. [trailer]

Bluebeard

joan-fontaine-rebecca-laurence-olivier-alfred-hitchcock-1

Image Credit: Britannica.com

Rebecca– This classic novel by Daphne DuMaurier has been adapted for the screen several times. But I think the best bet is Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 film. Yes, plotwise there are some significant changes from the novel, but the film still follows the Bluebeard template (a woman married a widower and finds herself haunted by her predecessor) and most importantly, it gets the atmosphere of DuMaurier’s atmosphere heavy novel right. If you want some more Hitchcock films with Bluebeard echoes you can also take a look at Suspicion and Notorious,  but I find this one has the strongest ties to the original tale. [trailer]

25

Image Credit: Randompicturesblog.net

The Secret Beyond The Door– Celia marries Mark while on vacation in Mexico after a whirlwind romance. When she joins him in his New York home, she learns some things about her new husband that he left out during their courtship. For example he’s been married before. He also has a son. Celia’s predecessor died under mysterious circumstances, and she start to suspect that she might be next. [trailer]

 

gaslight-mirror

Image Credit: Thestar.com

Gaslight-Paula and Gregory get married abroad after a whirlwind romance (notice a pattern here?!) When they return to London and settle into their new home, strange things start to happen. Paula notices missing pictures, strange footsteps at night, and gaslights that dim without being touched. Gregory claims to notice nothing. Is Paula losing her mind, or is Gregory up to something? Or both? [trailer]

 

 

DRAGONWYCK

Image Credit: filmlinc.org

Dragonwyck– Bluebeard inspired movies were apparently very big in the 1940’s! This one is based on Anya Seton’s novel of the same name about a young girl whose new marriage is threatened by her husband’s streak of madness. [trailer]

 

 

Hansel and Gretel

whoever-slew-auntie-roo1-1-1280x600-1

ImageCredit: ZekeFilm

Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? This 1972 film is sort of a campy horror classic starring Shelly Winters. It’s about Mrs. Forrest (also known as “Auntie Roo”), a lovely old lady with a Christmas tradition of inviting orphans to her mansion for a party. But Auntie Roo has a dark side, and when Katie Coombs and her brother sneak into the party they must fight to get out alive. There’s a lot of camp in this one, especially by today’s standards, but that can be fun – and funny. And once you get past it there’s actually an interesting, dark take on the fairy tale. [trailer]

hansel_and_gretel

Image Credit: 366weirdmovies.com

Hansel and Gretel (2007 Korean) This is sort of a horror- fantasy that may appeal to fans of films like  Pan’s Labyrinth and The Orphanage. It’s about a traveler who gets lost in the woods. He’s rescued by a young girl and brought to her house. It’s a beautiful house, like something out of a storybook. But, as he discovers, it’s a house that hides horrible secrets, and possibly no way to escape. [trailer]

Swan Lake

1pnzvfutx3yquy6xwbg8tdw

Image Credit: Film School Rejects

Black Swan- I was hesitant to include this one  because it’s based on the ballet, Swan Lake, rather than a single tale. The ballet’s plot is based on a number of folk tales. Possible sources include “The White Duck” and “The Stolen Veil” by Johann Karl August Mursaus. But it could have been inspired by a number of animal bride/swan maiden tales. Regardless I decided it was fairy tale enough to count! The plot of the film follows a dancer whose upcoming starring role in Swan Lake pushes her to the brink of madness. In some ways the “fairy tale ballerina on the edge” story is very similar to The Red Shoes, which I featured on my last list. So if you like one, check out the other. [trailer]

Fairy Tale Mash-up (Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk and more)

bernadette-peters-and-the-original-broadway-cast-of-into-96015

Image Credit: Theatermania

!Into the Woods (original Broadway cast) Yes, Disney did eventually get to this one in the 2014 film. While that film has it’s good points, I (and many others) felt that it removed the musical’s teeth. And part of the point of the musical is that fairy tales have teeth. And claws. They’re dark, subversive, and not everyone makes it to happily ever after. But they (and Stephelan Sondheim’s beautiful music and brilliant lyrics) also teach us to see complexity. They show us that “witches can be right/ giants can be good/ you decide what’s right/ you decide what’s good.” Here we see a Red Riding Hood and Wolf dripping with innuendo, a Cinderella who finds married life somewhat lacking, and witch who does the wrong things for the right reasons, and the right things for the wrong reasons. It’s been said that The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim was a source of inspiration. If you dig into the lyrics you can analyze them like poetry. The level of sophistication doesn’t take away from the magic of these stories at all. Rather it adds to them, because there’s a sense of danger.   We’re left with a caution “Careful the wish you make/ Wishes are children/ Careful the path they take/ Wishes come true/Not free

Other Non Fairy Tale Fantasy Films

These aren’t based on a specific tale or tales but will probably appeal to fairy tale fans nonetheless.

ghkgmfudn389q3apyhakxm4dbih

Image Credit: EmpireOnline.com

! Ladyhawke– This is an 80’s film in many ways but it’s a good one. I’ve wanted to rewatch it again ever since I read this incredible analysis. It gets into the folkloric roots behind the film and I highly recommend it to anyone interested. As for the film itself, in a nutshell the film is set in the 13th century and is about two lovers who are cursed to be together and apart: she is a hawk by day and he is a human. By night, she is a human and he is a wolf. They can’t really be in one another’s presence except for a brief moment at twilight and dawn. Unless a young thief can help them break the curse. [trailer]

stardust-movie4

Image Credit: Tor.com

! Stardust– This is based on the novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman but tonally it’s more in line with The Princess Bride (see below) and old Hollywood screwball romantic comedies like It Happened One Night. But it still works. The story is about a star who falls from the sky and is observed by several parties. One is a trio of witches who believe that eating the heart of a star will restore their youth. One is a prince who needs her power to secure the throne. One is a love-struck young lad whose beloved asks for a fallen star as a token of his esteem. But when he finds her, he finds, not a piece of celestial rock, but Yvaine, a young woman fallen from the sky with an injured leg and a sarcastic tongue. He must get her to his beloved, while keeping her from the others who want her for less noble means. [trailer]

190917-the-princess-bride-1987-ac-952p_848e93d32b273c721735b63a96cfc2e5.fit-760w

Image Credit: NBC News

! The Princess Bride– I expect that most of us have seen this movie and so it needs no introduction, but if you haven’t seen this yet, do so immediately. Otherwise you’ll never know the meaning of phrases like “Hello, my name is Indigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die,” “Inconceivable!” and of course “As you wish.” Since you might have more free time on your hands than usual I would also recommend reading the book (even if you’ve seen the movie). If nothing else it will help you appreciate the artful use of the frame story in the film version as a way to incorporate the annotations in the book. [trailer]

eb20070825reviews0870825002ar

Image Credit: rogerebert.com

Pan’s Labyrinth– This film makes me think about the purpose of fairy tales. They’re an escape, an enchantment, an education, a warning. They serve all of those purposes in this tale of a young girl in Spain circa 1944.  Ofelia’s new stepfather is sent to a remote forest to flush out rebels. He brings Ofelia and her mother. As she witnesses her stepfather’s sadism, brutality and abuse, Ofelia is drawn into Pan’s labyrinth, a magical world of legendary beings. [trailer]

ti110854

Image Credit: Parkcircus.com

The City of Lost Children– A mad scientist named Krank has lost his ability to dream. He is attempting to fight off death by stealing children’s dreams. The storyline of the film itself follows Krank’s henchman, Scratch, who kidnaps a 5 year old boy. The boy’s father, (a strongman with a travelling circus) and his 9 year old friend Miette, team up to save him. At times this movie is dark and creepy enough to make you think it’s only intended for adults. But at times it allows its heart to show enough to make you think the intended audience might be slightly younger. The result is a visually arresting, sentimental, provocative, nightmare fantasy ride. [trailer]

adkraeu37ncbdprlk2pmrbiq7q

Image Credit: baltimoresun.com

Beasts of the Southern Wild– Early fairy tales served less as entertainment and enchantment than as warnings. I think that’s how to take this film.  In fact, I think watching it at this point in time might be frightening for that reason. 6 year old Hushpuppy lives with her father, Wink in a remote Delta community. When Wink gets sick, nature seems to respond in kind: temperatures rise, ice caps melt, and prehistoric beasts run loose. When the rising waters threaten her community, Hushpuppy goes on a search for her long lost mother. Though this film was made in 2012, the tale of humanity’s seeming inability to live in harmony with nature taking a toll of people’s physical health, seems very apt for today’s world. [trailer]

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Springtime Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

May 5: Things I’d Have at My Bookish Party (choose 10 things: items, accessories, foods, people (real or fictional), decorations, activities, etc.)

This week’s topic didn’t grab me, so I went in my own direction again. It’s finally starting to feel like spring in my neck of the woods, and even though I think of myself as a “winter person,” behind my mask and beneath my gloves I’m starting to celebrate.  So I’m sharing ten books that feel like spring to me:

51p9iawrnol._ac_uy218_1.The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett- I think that this book is perfect for spring, because we follow this orphan who comes to England from India. She’s bereaved and isolated, but she finds the secret garden. As she brings it back to life, her own health and spirits are also rejuvenated.  It’s about renewal and rebirth.

 

 

41etjy5BOOL._AC_US218_2. Spring by Ali Smith– This is part of Smith’s seasonal quartet. Each book is stand alone, but has subtle links to the others.  This one focuses on characters that seem very separate: Richard is an elderly director who is grieving after the loss of his friend and Brit works at a migrant detention center until she meets Florence, a young girl travelling to what she hopes will be a better life. It examines current events in Britain, which in this case probably aren’t too different from the US, but  it also weaves together the characters and ideas to create a larger picture. The characters’ relationships and their values are highlighted and questioned against these larger issues.

812ey934m8l._ac_uy218_3. A Room With A View by EM Forester– Miss Lucy Honeychurch, A Proper English Young Lady, is destined for a Respectable Marriage, until she takes a vacation in Tuscany. She meets George Emerson, who is travelling with his father, and “In the company of this common man the world was beautiful and direct. For the first time she felt the influence of Spring.” When she returns to Italy respectability tries to take over her life once again, but Lucy has already become open to a different kind of life.

913a0g0ghvl._ac_uy218_ml3_-14. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim– Yes, I know it’s May, but this book still applies. It’s about four Englishwomen with little in common other than the fact that they need a break from their daily lives. They decide to rent a castle in Italy for the month of April. The new location restores them and brings them new perspective in different ways.  When the men in their lives join them (sometimes by invitation, sometimes not) the transformation can’t help but overcome them as well.

 

71-ozsgkwsl._ac_uy218_5. Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf-This book is an imagined biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s dog, Flush. From a dog’s eye view, we get a chance to see Elizabeth as a young invalid who spends most of her time indoors. She manages to meet Robert Browning (initially a fan of her work) and they fall in love. He whisks her (and Flush, naturally) off to Italy (I’ve never been to Italy but I get the sense that it’s the place to be in springtime!). We see Elizabeth transform through Flush’s perspective, and we see Flush transform as well: he goes a lapdog to a dog about town.

51tsapquwul-_ac_us218_6. Madensky Square by Eva Ibbotson– On the first day of spring in  1911, Susanna Weber, who runs a dress salon in the titular square in Vienna, starts to keep a diary. In it she records the lives of and stories of herself and her neighbors. Other than being literally set in spring, this book feels springy to me because it’s about life: good, bad, and occasionally ugly.

 

51kc21bqngl-_ac_us218_7.Anne of Avonlea by LM Montogmery- Read just about any LM Montgomery book and you’re almost sure to find a beautifully written description of spring. I suppose that I chose this particular book because it’s about growth- Anne’s growth and that of her friends. They’re in the spring of their lives here. It reminds us That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.”

 

81wnvagspxl._ac_uy218_ml3_8.Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed–  When Cheryl Strayed started to hike the Pacific Crest Trail she had lost her mother and her family dissolved,  her own actions had brought about the end of her marriage to a man she still loved, and she was lost in a mire of substance abuse. She was in an emotional winter. While she treks through miles of snowpack and hot desert, she grows and changes. She emerges from her journey renewed and reborn, in a personal spring.

 

91mfkvjzw-l._ac_uy218_9. Emma by Jane Austen- For some reason I always associate this book with picnics. I can recall one important picnic scene, but in my head it seems like Emma and friends are always going on a picnic. But I also think of Emma as a springtime character. She embarks on several (disastrous but well-intentioned) attempts at matchmaking only to realize how in the dark she really is. Finally she comes through a bit wiser and the world opens up around her. Her mind opens up. She’s in a metaphorical spring.

 

91paeh4pugl._ac_uy218_ml3_10.Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen– The Waverly family is endowed with usual “gifts” that make them outsiders in their small time home of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has special powers. Claire is a caterer who brings a magical touch to her dishes with these plants, but her sister, Sydney fled town as soon as she was old enough to go. When Sydney returns, daughter in tow Claire’s quiet life it turned upside down. Sydney and her daughter tear down the boundaries that Claire had put up around her heart, leaving her wide open.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish I Read As A Child

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

April 28: Books I Wish I Had Read As a Child

While I’m of the firm belief that children’s literature can be enjoyed at any age, I do wish I’d encountered these books earlier in life:

51iosghk0l-_ac_us218_1. The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling– My deep dark secret: I didn’t read Harry Potter until I was in college. I can’t remember how old I was when the first book came out, but I was still in “child” territory definitely. I think it may have been the first book I avoided due to the hype. I avoided the series for a long time. Then I wished I’d read it earlier!

 

 

51u5q5-bzl._ac_uy218_2.The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente– This author is a fairly recent discovery for me, and this book didn’t exist when I was a kid, which is unfortunate, because I think the whole series would have been my jam!

 

 

511dus14-9l._ac_uy218_3. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine– Another book and author that little me would have gone nuts for. Fairy tales and story heroines are and were my thing! But I think I would also have enjoyed this one a bit more if I’d read it younger.

 

 

 

81rxbvyofvl._ac_uy218_4. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo– I read this book with my students for the first time a few years ago. I remember wishing that I’d read it with a class in my childhood. I think I got more out of it as an adult reading it in an academic setting (it’s a surprisingly rich text and I might not have picked up on everything on my own!), but reading it as a child in that setting might have helped me appreciate the magic a bit more.

 

 

81szgsmnzl._ac_uy218_5.Esperenza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan- I think that the Little Princess aspects of the plot of this book would have appealed to little me. But I also think that the historical and cultural setting would have taught me a lot. There weren’t a lot of books from/about the experiences of  POC when I was a kid (even fewer than there are now!).

 

 

61gh98fh3il._ac_uy218_6. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch- I think that this book was around when I was a child, but for some reason I never encountered it. It’s too bad too, because I think I would have loved it! A kick butt princess who saves the prince and then promptly dumps him for being a total loser? Yes please!

 

 

81oxn5iufnl._ac_uy218_7. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak-Maybe it’s good that I didn’t read this one until I was an adult because I think it would have destroyed me if I’d read it as a tween/teen. But I think it would have destroyed me in a good way.

 

 

 

51co4tjztjl._ac_uy218_8.The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson– I discovered Eva Ibbotson via her romances (which are now being marketed as YA) and they’re lovely. But she also wrote wonderful books for a middle grade audience. I enjoy them now, but I wish I’d read them when I  was the “proper” age.

 

 

811ppqnzgql._ac_uy218_9.Rules by Cynthia Lord- Through most of my childhood and adolescence I put up a “socially acceptable” front. My goal was basically not to do or say anything weird enough for my peers to tease. While I think that many people can relate, this book shows just how arbitrary and silly those “rules” really are, and how much is wasted trying to uphold them.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Literary Plagues

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

ttt-new

April 21: Titles That Would Make Good Band Names (submitted by Michelle)

I couldn’t think of anything for this right now, so I went my own way.

I know a lot of us are in some variation of this right now. And I know most of us want to ignore or escape the implications of it. But others prefer to  think through the various scenarios, and sort of dive into this. Or we just want to read about people who are going through something similar.  For those people I offer this list:

71ygmy6f1gl._ac_uy218_ml3_1.The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio-I read this in high school. The premise is that ten people flee a plague ridden Florence for a villa in the countryside. To pass the time there they agree to each tell a story each evening for ten nights. Thus, by the end of the period they will have 100 stories. Then we read the stories. It’s similar-ish to The Canterbury Tales.

 

 

91s5iltzxtl._ac_uy218_ml3_2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel– This novel,  set after a swine flu pandemic has decimated the world, is set largely among a troupe of actors who perform Shakespeare through the great lakes region in exchange of necessities, and because “survival is insufficient.” That resonated with me: the attempt to hold on to what’s great about humanity, even when it’s future isn’t assured.

 

 

71z9lkphcsl._ac_uy218_ml3_3.The Plague by Albert Camus– Published in 1947 this novel tells the story of a plague overtaking the French Algerian city of Oran. There is an interesting portrayal of both government and individuals joining together to fight the spread of the disease.

 

 

 

51lo8bgzurl._ac_uy218_ml3_4. The Plague Tales by Ann Benson– This book has two narratives. One is set in the 1300s and is about a Jewish doctor charged with keeping the English royal family safe from the Bubonic plague. The other is set in the future (2005, which was the future when the book was written in 1998!) where a forensic archaeologist accidentally releases the ancient bacteria.

 

 

91nxxjctwdl._ac_uy218_ml3_5.Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks- This novel is set in the small of Eyam, which was quarentined in 1666 when the Black Death of the 14th century recurred there. It is told from the point of view of a housemaid named Anna.

 

 

 

81q2madzv9l._ac_uy218_ml3_6. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis– Kirvin Engle is a young historian preparing an on-site study of the Black Death, but when something goes wrong, Kirvin is stranded in the 14th century. As she fights the plague there, the same illness threatens the team of academics in the 21st century that is trying to get her home.

 

 

91zwcmrvgrl._ac_uy218_ml3_7. World Without End by Ken Follett– This is the second book in Follett’s trilogy about the building of a Cathedral. Set in the 14th century (about 200 years after book one ends) a new set of characters, deals with challenges and heartbreak in the village of Kingsbridge.  One of those challenges is the plague.

 

 

81shjgdx7l._ac_uy218_ml3_8. The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer– Beatrice is a neurosurgeon undergoing professional difficulties. When her brother, passes away, she travels to the Tuscan city of Siena to wrap up his affairs. Amid his things, she discovers a 700 conspiracy to decimate the city. She also discovers the work 14th century artist Gabriele Accorsi, which transports her to the year 1347. As the plague threatens to destroy everything she’s come to love, Beatrice’s knowledge of the future may be the only thing that can save her.

 

61cfkj8e7zl._ac_uy218_ml3_ 9. The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni– My Freshman year of college I did a semester of freshman seminar dedicated to a close reading of this Italian epic. It features a star crossed betrothal against the backdrop of a plague that struck Milan around 1630. I remember that we read and discussed the plague scenes in great detail in class but I don’t recall much about the characters themselves.

 

81gsken1oxl._ac_uy218_ml3_10. Love in the Time of The Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez– I mean it has “Cholera” right here in the title for goodness sake! Actually I recently learned that in Spanish (the book’s original language) cholera is cólera, a word that’s often used to denote passion, rage or ire. This pun in the title makes sense for a book is which love and passion is almost like a disease and of itself.

 

 

81ktmkpnyl._ac_uy218_ml3_11.Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson– I read this book a long time ago but in some ways this historical novel about a yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia in the late 18th century feels very relevant now. Enough so that I’ve thought back to it and the characters several times over the last few weeks.

 

 

Honorable Mention:

41isgxpfzml._ac_uy218_ml3_The Stand by Stephen King– This has been on my TBR for a while. I’ve got a copy sitting on my shelf, but I think it’s going to have to stay put for now, because I find this whole experience terrifying enough without Stephen King’s take on it!

I’ve Been… (Lockdown Edition)

man in yellow protective suit

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

 

  • Editing what I once called Frozen Heart, or what I might now call Frost. Which title do you prefer? Or a different one? It’s going alright, but I think I’m at the point where I need to call in a professional editor.
  • Writing. I’ve started a new project. It’s inspired by Cinderella. I never saw that as a fairy tale I’d want to retell (my first thought is always that it’s over done) but much like the case with Beauty and the Beast, I realized that I had something to say about it. I will say it’s a Cinderella I don’t think we’ve seen quite like this before, and a Godmother who is also rather unexpected. But it’s still a very new project, so, for now, I won’t say much more.
  • woman in white sleeve shirt with blue face mask

    Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

    Locked down. My city has pretty strict rules about staying in, but even if we didn’t, I don’t think I’d be going out much! My weekly grocery runs are about as much stress as I can take. If you told me a few months ago, that it’s the only time I’d really go out, I’d have thought it would be something I’d look forward to. But between worrying about staying a safe distance from others and showering and wiping down my purchases as soon as I get home, it just doesn’t seem worth it!

  • Reading. I always read a lot  and this lockdown is certainly no exception. And if nothing else, this has convinced me that it makes perfect sense to have a huge pile of unread books in your space. This is a perfect example of just such an occasion. That’s a big “so there!” to anyone who ever told me that it was a waste of space! If you want to see what I’ve been reading lately, it’s all on here.
  • Working Out. Fortunately there’s enough of Youtube to keep me fit! I love some of these workout channels. Check them out. They’re a way to stay fit indoors (all have low impact workouts or at least low impact options so you don’t need to jump around and disturb the downstairs neighbors, if you have them)
  • Binging:
    • Ozark– It’s not my usually type of show (slow burn crime drama) but somehow I got drawn in and now I’m hooked! I’m just starting the third season, so no spoilers please!
      aaaabaxacbgdy7me1om-fxuyae4rt9s2fqeufdsdzcrhybkqy8mr5e2p777uskpkphtisjpi10inner0wpobncym5cbb-mcg8in6tsyy5jpk56j57nsf
      netflix.com
    • Schitt’s Creek– I caught up on the finale last night. I’m really going to miss this show! Feel good viewing that makes you laugh is rare, and with the loss of this and The Good Place in the same year, it’s now lacking in my TV line up!
      schitts_creek_s06e05_still
      Hollywoodreporter.com
    • Unorthadox– I saw this recommended a few places and I loved it. How often to we get a miniseries with no big “stars,” set in the Hasidic community, about a young woman’s self discovery? While it’s not exactly what I’d call action/adventure, this character driven drama is really compelling and absorbing. It’s only 4 episodes so you can binge it in a day if you want.
    • mejores-series-para-ver-en-netflix
      • flipboard.com
  • Oddly, socializing a lot. My extended family has gotten together for “virtual brunch.” My book club started doing virtual meetings. And I’ve touched base with a number of people to check in and see how they’re doing. It’s not ideal, but I appreciate the various ways that we’ve found to keep isolation for being too isolating.
  • A wreck. If any of this makes it sound like I’ve mastered quarantine, rest assured I’m just as nervous and stressed as anyone else. I’m just hoping and praying for the best for myself , my loved ones, the people around me, the people away from me and the world at large.

How have you been dealing with this weird, frightening experience?

Stay in and stay safe everyone!

Top Ten Tuesday:

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

ttt-new

April 7: Books I Bought/Borrowed Because… (Fill in the blank. You can do 10 books you bought for the same reason, i.e., pretty cover, recommended by a friend, blurbed by a favorite authors, etc. OR you could do a different reason for each pick.)

For this one, I decided to list the last ten books I read and why I read them.

5174gdpp4ml._ac_uy218_ml3_1. Hearts and Bones by Margaret Lawrence– I’ve had this book sitting in my bookcase for a while, and I decided to read it at last. Really I think that’s as far as the decision went! I bought it at a thrift store for $1 because it looked OK. It was OK, but not much more than that.

 

 

 

418ovkyoal._ac_uy218_ml3_2. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton– I was going to go to a book club that was reading this. I’d read it in college but it deserved a reread. The book club was cancelled due to the situation with coronavirus, but I’m glad I had a chance to revisit this book.

 

 

91ruwg9786l._ac_uy218_ml3_3. Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss- I’m a fan of Goss and I got this as an ebook when it was on sale with a  reduced price of $1.99. I think the sale was the reason I bought it, but I might like to buy a physical copy, which I often tend to do with ebooks I really live. They feel like they’re more mine when they’re physical books.

 

 

81kwruwfyll._ac_uy218_ml3_ 4. Normal People by Sally Rooney- I had heard a lot of good things about this one, and I saw it in the library and decided to give it a shot. It lived up to my expectations more or less.

 

 

 

51ggnslcxml._ac_uy218_ml3_5. The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman– I’ve been rereading Pullman’s His Dark Materials series and this is #2. In my memory it was a very “second in a trilogy” book, but on rereading it, I felt that in some ways it was stronger than The Golden Compass. I suppose that’s why it pays to reread sometimes!

 

 

91oqeffundl._ac_uy218_ml3_6.The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter- I got this from the library because I often enjoy Slaughter’s work as an author of mystery/thriller/crime novels. However in this case I think the fact that I happened to read this as the coronavirus was starting to turn up impacted my enjoyment. The crime in question seemed a bit too close to home.

 

 

61oldgmz8gl._ac_uy218_ml3_7.Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley– I read this one because Kearsley is one of the authors that I feel like I can turn to for a reliably good read. This is her latest, and it was no different in that respect.

 

 

 

813zrwfvrdl._ac_uy218_ml3_8. The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys– I got this one from the library because it looked interesting and it was set around and in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, which was a historical period that I know very little about. While I’m still interested in the period, I felt that the book was just OK.

 

 

914o0doecll._ac_uy218_ml3_9. Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber– This was a library book that I picked out simply because it looked good. It was. I think that the magical realist, feel good novel was more or less what I needed.

 

 

 

81lcl0qrdbl._ac_uy218_ml3_10. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett– I’m a big fan of Ann Patchett so this one had been on my TBR for a while. While it wasn’t my favorite of her books, I felt it lived up to expectations.

Top Ten Tuesday: Feel Good Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

March 24: Genre Freebie (pick a genre and build a list around it! i.e., best/worst romances, non-fiction for travelers, memoirs for foodies, classics that feel timeless, romance novel kisses, science fiction that feels too real for comfort, women’s fiction for newbies, etc.)

I think we’re all at least a little stressed, anxious and need of feel good reads right now.

419ewleob1l-_ac_us218_1. Anything Jane Austen: Austen is an author whose complexity is often overlooked for a number of reasons: she’s a woman, she employs the marriage plot in her works and she’s funny. But those are also the reasons that her work makes for feel good reading. It’s hard to go wrong here. Her inclusion on this list probably won’t help her get the recognition that she deserves as an author of complexity and depth. But it will help you feel a bit better.

 

51dxbewzuil-_ac_us218_2. The Anne series by LM Montgomery– Bad things happen in these books. People get sick and die. But the heroine sees the world with optimism even through the bad times, and when we read about it through her eyes, we can’t help but see it the same way.

 

 

91eu73x8il._ac_uy218_ml3_3. Gravity is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty -20 years ago tragedy struck Abi’s family and she got a  book called The Guidebook in the mail. She always linked the two events in her mind, so when she gets invited to a retreat by the writers of The Guidebook, she goes, half expecting answers. What she finds is not what she expects but it is something that will change her life nevertheless. This book is about love, loss, hope, believing in the impossible, the self help industry, and more. It’ll make you laugh and cry, possibly at the same time.

81gw6tyoeul._ac_uy218_ml3_4. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman–  Nina Hill is a compelling character because she feels like someone you might really know. She has a full life that she likes, but when it’s turned upside down, she realizes how much more the world has to offer.  She’s deeply flawed and those flaws aren’t magically gone by the end of the book, but we know that Nina can live with them and thrive.

 

71hpnqntwul._ac_uy218_ml3_5. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – This is a coming of age story about an introvert who ventures outside her comfort zone for the first time in many ways. It’s also a celebration of loving a fictional story to the point of geekery.

 

 

 

913a0g0ghvl._ac_uy218_ml3_-16. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim– This book is about four strangers who are in a rut in their own ways. They all buy into a month long getaway at an Italian castle, and that getaway changes them all in different ways. This book is gentle, but lovely. As the characters start to feel better you start to feel it as well.

 

 

91qjazuvljl._ac_uy218_ml3_7. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman– Eleanor Oliphant has issues. She tends to say exactly what’s on her mind no matter what that might be. She avoids social interactions whenever possible and her life is kept to a careful timetable. When she meets Raymond, an IT guy from her office, she’s initially disgusted: he’s unhygienic. He’s a smoker. But when they save the life of another lonely fellow on the street, Eleanor finds herself drawn into a friendship with two other people. I made some assumptions about Eleanor when I first started reading that turned out to be wrong, when I read her story and got to know her. Similarly, Eleanor’s assumptions turn out to be wrong much of the time.

51xnngtdkl._ac_uy218_ml3_8. PS I Love You by Cecilia Ahern– Rosie and Alex are best friends who are meant to be together. But just as it seems that things are happening right, they go very wrong. The book is a series of letters, emails, and notes over the course of years and Rosie and Alex come together and apart and together time and time again. This books is frustrating at times, but it’s a reminder that things endure beyond the frustration.

 

91paeh4pugl._ac_uy218_ml3_9. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen – The Waverly’s have always had mysterious gifts that make them outsiders in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Claire has embraced those gifts as a caterer, preparing her dishes with what people need. But her sister Sydney left town as soon as she could. When she returns, with her daughter, she confronts everything that she left behind. This book is brimming with bits of magic. It never overtakes the narrative, but it grows around the edges and creeps inward.

 

 

What are your favorite feel good (or feel better) books?