Top Ten Tuesday: Fall 2020 TBR

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

September 22: Books On My Fall 2020 TBR (or spring if you live in the southern hemisphere)

  1. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke– Despite my mixed feelings about Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I’m really looking forward to Clarke’s sophomore novel. It’s significantly shorter than her first, and it sounds like a perfect quarantine read. It was actually written in response to Clark’s own bout with illness.

2. Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman– I mean, it’s a prequel to Practical Magic and Rules of Magic. Yes, please!

3. The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett– This is a prequel to Pillars of the Earth, and I suppose all of Follett’s Kingsbridge novels. But I’m still behind on reading the third in the trilogy A Column of Fire. I suppose I should get to that, before I read the prequel. Or, are there “rules” about the order, since it’s a prequel?

4. Majesty by Katharine McGee- American Royals was a total guilty pleasure, and it turned out to be just what I needed when I read it. Hopefully the sequel will be the same.

5. Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow– I love the connection between magic/witchcraft and women’s suffrage. Perfect for an election year, when it’s more important than ever that we all vote!

6. One by One by Ruth Ware– I feel like Ruth Ware’s novels have gotten better as time goes on. I loved her most recent ones: The Death of Mrs. Westaway and Turn of the Key. I’m really eager to see if her newest lives up to that quality.

7. Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade– I love the idea of this. An actor, unhappy with how his character has been written, takes refuge in the word of fan fiction. When he agrees to a publicity date with a fan, he realizes that she’s also his fandom friend in fanfic world. I think that this draws parallels between the love an artist has for his/her work and the love a fan has for something. I’m interested to see how it plays out.

8. Mad & Bad: Real Heroines of the Regency by Bea Koch– I love the idea of delving into the women of this period who are often left out of regency novels, and even much of written history. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jane Austen, but the regency wasn’t all about white women! This books looks at women of color and LGBTQ women, who have been too often overlooked by history.

9. Before She Was Helen by Caroline B. Cooney– I loved Cooney’s YA novels when I was younger, so I was excited to see that she had a new book for adult readers out soon. I also like that this book focuses on a protagonist in her 70’s. So many books focus on 25-35 year olds exclusively!

10. A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire– I’ve had mixed success with Maguire as an author, but I’m eager to see what he does with one of my favorite fairy tales, The Wild Swans set in 1960s NYC.

Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 3)

Imyril @ There’s Always Room For One More is hosting a read along of Jacqueline Carey’s epic fantasy Kushiel’s Dart. This has been on my TBR for ages. I’ve had a copy sitting on my shelf staring at me for about 5 years. But I haven’t wanted to dive into a new fantasy series without finishing some of the ones I have in progress. Also, the size of the book is a bit intimidating. It’s a doorstop. So I’ve put it off. But when I heard about the read along, I decided to go for it.

Those interested in my thoughts on part one and part two can read those posts at the links. A lot happened in this week’s reading (spoiler warning!) and I feel like I finally got interested! Here are my answers to the questions for part three. Just FYI, there are a lot of questions, so this may be a long post!

Phédre slipped during her assignment with Melisande and mentioned that Delaunay is “waiting for word from Quintilius Rousse.” She believed this slip contributed to Delaunay’s murder, but Melisande assured Phédre that she’d already known that information.
• Do you think Delaunay was right to keep Phédre unaware of his identity, motivations, and true intentions to prevent such slips on her assignments?

No, I think that Delaunay was wrong to to keep Phedre unaware of his intentions for many reasons. One is to prevent such slips, yes. But another is that Phedre is thrust into a dangerous world, working for Delaunay. She can’t make an informed decision about whether or not she wants to take that risk, without knowing why. I think that’s my biggest issue with his secrecy. Ultimately it doesn’t protect anyone, it puts Phedre at risk of these kinds of slips, and it robs her of agency.

Delaunay, Alcuin, and the entire household are murdered.
• What are your thoughts on the manner in which this happens (Melisande using Phédre; it occurring shortly after Phédre’s assignment with Melisande; unidentified soldiers committing this crime; entire household killed)? Do you think Phédre and Joscelin were lucky to escape, or is Phédre as unlucky as she believes her name to be?

I don’t think Phedre is nearly as unlucky as she believes herself to be. She was born into a world and a society where a high value is set by her gifts. That gives her a kind of power. She’s also able to take personal enjoyment in the work and the role that society put her in. That is lucky. And yes, Phedre and Joscelin were lucky that they weren’t at the house when the murder took place. Would Joscelin have been about to prevent it if he’d been there? It’s hard to say. It depends on how it was carried out, and how many people were involved in the attack.

I don’t know what I think about Melisande’s role in the murder yet. But I think that Phedre was very naive to go with her and trust her after it happened. Ditto for Joscelin. As a bodyguard, who also distrusts Melisande, it seems like he should have known better than to go along with her and eat/drink anything she gave him!

• Do you think it’s significant that this murder takes place when Phédre has gained enough to complete her marque — that her guardian dies at the moment when she’s able to gain freedom from Naamah’s service, if she wants it?

From a literary point of view, I suppose this means that she’s come into her own. It’s a sort of personal milestone. Now she has a fresh start in a sense: a new location, with new characters (and one familiar face with Joscelin)

But I don’t know if it was intentional on the part of the murderer!

• Do you think Phédre will be able to have her marque completed? Do you have any predictions of how her unfinished marque might affect her in the future?

No, to be honest, I didn’t really think of the marque being unfinished very much. At one point Phedre mentions that if she’s ever able to return home, the marquest will complete it for her. As far as I understand, the completion of the actual marque is symbolic more than anything else.

• Is it just me, or are you also curious about this strong, compulsive attraction Phédre has to Melisande to the point where she can’t even think straight sometimes? What are your thoughts on this? Do you think Melisande is as drawn to Phédre, or is she simply fascinated by Phédre being an anguissette and what Phédre’s limits are?

That’s a good question. It’s interesting that I never really though about whether or not it was mutual. I think that Melisande strikes me as so icy and manipulative, that I simply assumed that she was fascinated by Phedre’s limits!

We get to meet the Skaldi!

What were your initial thoughts when Phédre and Joscelin were handed over to them? Were you disappointed that Phédre did not try to fight like Joscelin did or aid him? Were you frustrated by her seeming to surrender or impressed by her quick assessment of the situation or didn’t care and wanted to the story to take a different route?

I was actually a bit disappointed in Joscelin’s attempts to fight. It obviously wasn’t a fight that he was going to win. Phedre’s move seemed much smarter. I think we see Delaunay’s influence in her quick assessment of the situation and her seeming surrender. Phedre seems impulsive by nature, but I think this is an example of her keeping a clear head despite what might be a natural impulse (to fight) in a situation this. She remains cool and calm. She speaks to the the Skaldi in their own language, and puts them at ease.

What do you think of the Skaldi (lifestyle, culture, government, thinking the d’Angelines are barbarians, etc.) and how Gunter’s people treat Phédre and Joscelin?

I think it’s interesting that the Skaldi think that the d’Angelines are barbarians, and that the d’Angeline’s tend to regard the Skaldi in much the same way. In reality, I think that both have barbaric traits, but also very benevolent, civilized traits. Overall, I think that the Skaldi treat Phedre fairly well (with the exception of Gunter, who we can argue, rapes Phedre) and Joscelin poorly at least initially. But then Joscelin’s behavior toward them was violent, so I can see why they responded the way that they did.

Phédre and Joscelin’s relationship is slowly changing. This began before Delaunay’s death when Joscelin shared a bit about his background with Phédre and Alcuin, but the change grew by leaps when Phédre and Joscelin become slaves to the Skaldi.
• Do you have any predictions about where/what these changes will lead to?

At a few points I got a sense of sexual/romantic tension between them. I don’t know what (if anything) will become of it, but it would definitely be a challenge to manage. Joscelin is supposed to be celibate, and Phedre is extremely sexual, so I don’t know how that could ever happen in a way that would be satisfying to both. I’m interested to see where it leads though.

I would like some scenes where Joscelin and Phedre just talk and get to know each other better though. I think those scenes are skipped over in a lot of Phedre’s relationships, and as a result the relationships don’t always feel as deep to me as they’re meant to.


• As their enslavement under the Skaldi persists, both Phédre and Joscelin seem to gain a greater understanding of the sacrifices their representative angels made. What do you think about the roles Phédre and Joscelin have to play in comparison to the acts of the angels they worship? (Phédre serves Naamah, who laid with strangers to protect and aid someone she loves; Joscelin serves Cassiel, who remained Elua’s companion despite having to turn on the One God to do so.)

I suppose that Phedre sleeping with Gunter can be seen as similar to Naamah, but she does that because she doesn’t really have a choice. It’s not really to help someone she loves. I suppose things go more easily for her because she did it willingly though. And come to think of it, she’s able to help Joscelin because she’s on good terms with Gunter…

As for Joscelin, he remains with Phedre (rather than try to escape back to Terre d’Ange) because of his vows to her.


• We’ve now gotten a couple scenes that show Joscelin’s badassery as a sword-dagger-wielding Casseline brother dude. Are you convinced of his abilities as a fighter? He’s also had to loosen his hold on some of his oaths to remain by Phédre’s side. How do you think that will affect him?

I’m pretty convinced at his abilities as a fighter. The only thing that struck me as a bit unrealistic was his ability to fight so well, after not being able to practice for so long. It’s hard to stay in shape like that! But it’s fiction after all. These people are also all bizarrely attractive. Maybe it’s the same kind of thing!

I think that the fact that he’s able to loosen some of those oaths may indicate that in the future, under the right circumstances, he might feel OK about loosening some of his other vows.

We meet Waldemar Selig, the Skaldi who aims to unite all Skaldis and conquer Terre d’Ange.
What do you think of Selig? Were you impressed?

I think he’s certainly an intelligent, charismatic leader.


How did the way he was introduced in the story affect your impression of him when he does show up (first rumors mentioned every now and then of Skaldi joining forces under one dude; rumors of Skaldi movements indicating they have a leader; Phédre hearing stories of mythical proportions about the Skaldi leader; Phédre hearing his voice and peeking at him between tall Skaldi men; and finally seeing the dude and realizing he’s a tricksy one)? Did it increase your anticipation and curiosity about him?

Not really, because I wasn’t that interested in the early rumors of the Skaldi movements (it didn’t mean much to me at that point.) The stories Phedre initially heard, seemed more like they were about a myth than a real person. I think he only seemed real to me once Phedre heard his voice!

Information for anyone who wants to join in:

THE SCHEDULE

Discussions will begin from Thursday 3rd September

  • Week One | Beginning through end Chapter Sixteen hosted at There’s Always Room For One More
  • Week Two | Chapter Seventeen – Thirty-one hosted by Susan at Dab of Darkness
  • Week Three | Chapter Thirty-two – Forty-seven hosted by Zezee with Books
  • Week Four | Chapter Forty-eight – Sixty-one hosted by Mayri at Book Forager
  • Week Five | Chapter Sixty-two – Seventy-nine hosted by Peat Long
  • Week Six |Chapter Eighty through the end hosted by Lisa at Dear Geek Place

If you feel like joining in, you can comment/discuss along with us via each host’s blog post; in the Goodreads group with a link to your own post; or on Twitter, tagging @wyrdandwonder and using the hashtag #ReadAsThouWilt.

You can read at your own pace, but please bear in mind that some participants are first-time readers, and be mindful of any spoilers beyond each week’s chapters. Likewise, if you don’t keep up with the schedule but still want to read and discuss, we’ll be ready when you are! More guidelines than rules, as the piratical saying goes…

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read Based on Their Covers

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

September 15: Cover Freebie (choose your own topic, centered on book covers or cover art)

We all know we’re not supposed to judge them that way, but every once in a while you see a book cover that’s so pretty that it’s just love at first sight. Sometimes it’s not pretty but something about it grabs your attention and you need to know more. You know you need to read this book. So here are some book covers that put their books straight on my TBR. Some of the books lived up to the cover hype, some didn’t. But something about these covers drew me in.

  1. Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss – This one has the advantage of looking like a wild celebration of nature, while at the same time looking like a skull. It’s beautiful and sinister at the same time. As it turns out, that serves the content of the book well.

2. Educated by Tara Westover– This is another book cover that’s sort of two things at once. First I saw a pencil, and I just thought it was a book about education, with a pencil on the cover. Kind of boring. But when I looked closer, I saw it was also a silhouette of a person against the backdrop of a mountain, and I became more intrigued. Is it a pencil or a mountain? And which is more of an important instrument in the author’s education? It’s up to the reader to decide. The fact that the ground (or paint on the pencil, depending how you see it) is also red. I think that you can read into that too. Red of course suggests blood. Which could mean family, or spilled blood. Again both might be appropriate.

3. Thorn Jack by Katherine Harbour- The current cover of this book looks a bit different, but I love the colors of this one. The green and black evoke the natural world at night and the gold lettering and edges suggest something artificial as well. The nettles look like they’re warning you off and yet the leaves feel like it’s drawing you in. And what about the girl? Is she sleeping? dead? comatose? I also like that the shape of this book is different from most (it’s a perfect square) which makes it stand out a bit.

4. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs– When I first saw this cover I couldn’t figure out why the little girl was so eerie. Was it because she was brighter than the black and white background? Then I realized that she was floating! But even that doesn’t really explain why I find this cover unsettling. But it did intrigue me!

5. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray– I could see how someone might look at this book cover and think they were getting a bodice ripper. But for some reason that wasn’t what I thought of when I saw it. Instead I thought “that girl looks like she’s realizing her corset is too tight” which as it turns out, is a metaphor for a theme in the book. I wasn’t into reading fantasy when I read this book, so I’m glad they didn’t go that direction with the cover. It might have put me off, but this book pulled me back into the genre after some time away.

6. Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews– The audiobook edition is the only one I could find that still has this cover. The current cover is a bit different. I think I was about 11 or 12 when I saw this cover, and knew that I had to read the book to find out who the girl was and why she was trapped in what looked like a dollhouse. To make matters even more intriguing, it was a peephole cover. When you opened it, you saw this image. So I had to read the book to find out what that was about! It probably wasn’t a remotely appropriate book for a kid that age, but the cover sure made it look intriguing!

7. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer- Whatever your opinion of sparkly vampires, I think credit goes to the designer who created a really alluring cover. The pale hands against the black background make a great contrast. The apple offered has suggestions of forbidden fruit and loss of innocence. The red against the white and the black also draws you in suggesting blood. It’s natural to see it and think “I want to know what that’s about!”

8. The Luxe series by Anna Godbersen– Sometimes I’m just a sucker for a pretty dress. This quartet features some very pretty dresses on the covers. Check them out (is it cheating to include all 4 in one space on my list?) Actually they’ve changed the covers since these came out, which is kind of a shame IMO. These books were total guilty pleasures, and the dresses on the covers sort of played into that. I’d like to think I’m above such shallow lures, but really, I’m not.

9. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson– I love that this cover sort of fools you. You don’t quite trust your eyes. You think you’re seeing a man and a women locked in a passionate embrace. But then you realize that you’re seeing hats and coats on a coat rack! Oddly I didn’t find that disappointing though, I appreciated the trick. It showed a sort of humor on the designer’s part, and I wanted to see if that humor was continued through the book.

10. The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth– This may be a cheat because I may have read the book even if it had a different cover, because I like the author. But this cover also really drew me in. I think one reason is that blue is my favorite color, and the cover has a lot of it! But also because blue roses are something you don’t see every day. The title refers to a Chinese fairy tale about a man searching for a blue rose for his beloved.

Honorable mention- Persephone ClassicsPersephone Books is a London based bookshop and publisher that reprints neglected works by mid twentieth century writers (mostly female). Most of their books have a plain grey cover. However, they have reissued twelve best sellers with colorful art. The drawback to these is that they don’t have the full color end papers that other Persephone titles have, but the cover art is pretty enough to draw my in on it’s own!

Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 2)

Imyril @ There’s Always Room For One More is hosting a read along of Jacqueline Carey’s epic fantasy Kushiel’s Dart. This has been on my TBR for ages. I’ve had a copy sitting on my shelf staring at me for about 5 years. But I haven’t wanted to dive into a new fantasy series without finishing some of the ones I have in progress. Also, the size of the book is a bit intimidating. It’s a doorstop. So I’ve put it off. But when I heard about the read along, I decided to go for it.

If you’re interested in my thoughts on the first part of the book, check out my post here. I’ve now read through Chapter 32 of the book, and I’m starting to get more interested in Phedre’s life with Delaunay and Alcuin. I was invested in Alcuin’s completion of his marque and the complication with poor Guy. But so much of the politics is still over my head. With so much time and space being give to that, I feel that I’m missing out on a lot. I try to follow it, but the weird names all blend together, and I’ll be like “who is that?” and of course they all have complicated backstories… So I haven’t formed an opinion of the book overall just yet. I’m definitely intrigued, but I’m not hooked. Here are my answers for the questions about part 2.

We get a few more hints of magic or the supernatural in this section. Phedre sees Kushiel’s visage after Alcuin is injured; Hyacinthe’s mom & he himself both have things revealed via the dromonde; that moment of deep peace at Elua’s statue. What do you think of magic in this world?

I actually didn’t regard this as magic/supernatural per se. Rather, I see it as the characters and their religion. Often people will speak of a feeling of deep peace at prayer. People can sometimes think they see religious figures in times of high stress and trauma. We don’t usually think of that as magic really. As for the dromonde, I see it as the a psychic kind of thing. When people go to see psychics we don’t think of it as doing magic. Again its about the power of belief.

I suppose you can argue that faith and magic are the same thing ultimately. But I don’t think that the characters would regard these things as a belief in magic/supernatural.

Q2) More politics! For those new to the series, what do you make of Baudoin and his mother, the Lioness of Azzalle? For those rereading, are you noticing details you missed before?

I think that I followed the broad outlines of this case, but I probably missed a lot of subtleties. I don’t know what I think of the Lioness of Azzalle. But I definitely wasn’t sorry to see Baudoin go. He always struck me as a spoiled brat!

Q3) What do you think of Alciun’s final assignation? Guy’s death? Would Alcuin have been happier, but perhaps less useful, as something other than Naamah’s servant?

I think this was the storyline I was the most invested in, because it was exactly the kind of situation I thought had the potential to emerge from the system of indentured servitude that exists in this world. Yes, Alcuin was asked if he wanted to become a servant of Naamah, but it’s not like he was ever given an alternative. He was in a position where he owed a debt to Delaunay, and this was the only way people seem to have of repaying that debt. I don’t blame him for taking the only way out that he saw. It was unfortunate that it ended in tragedy for Guy.

Q4) Phedre has a new bodyguard – a Casseline Brother, Joscelin Verreuil. What do you think his life was like before this posting? Are you surprised that Anafiel didn’t dismiss him after the confrontation with Childric d’Essoms?

I really wanted to know more about Casseline Brothers and what all that’s about. All Phedre really gives us is a brief aside, that tells us that they have contempt for her profession. Most of the other things we learn about them have been little bits and pieces from Joscelin. I do hope we learn more because I think this has potential for interesting conflict.

Q5) We finally meet Barquiel L’Envers. How dangerous do you think this man is? What do you make of his history with Anafiel?

Again this was a situation that confused me, because I don’t understand the background. I’m hoping that a lot of this will be clarified as I continue reading. Actually I feel like a great deal of my confusion is due to the fact that I don’t understand what Delaunay’s goal ultimately is. I don’t understand where he’s coming from or what he wants.

Q6) How did you feel about Phedre granting Childric another assignation? Was she right that she owed him a debt?

I think a lot of the time, I don’t follow Phedre’s logic. This is one example. I understand that from a religious perspective, Phedre is betraying her service to Namaah by going into the assignation with an ulterior motive. But isn’t that true of all of her assignations? I don’t understand why she felt the need to repay Childric rather than any of her other patrons.

Q7) Alcuin has completed his marque and displays it to Anafiel. How do you feel about the shift in their relationship? Phedre’s response to it?

I was little surprised by the shift in their relationship because I saw Delaunay as a father figure. It was surprising to see it shift to romantic/sexual with Alcuin. I’m also uncomfortable with the fact that Delaunay also in a position power over Alcuin. You can argue that’s no longer the case, now that Alcuin has made he marque, but he grew up with Delaunay having significant power over his life. That doesn’t just go away overnight.

I was also a bit puzzled by Phedre’s reaction. She doesn’t seem to have any kind of romantic/sexual attraction to either Alcuin (who seems more like a brother) or Delaunay (who seems more like a father). So why would it bother her if they’re together? Is it just the fact that there’s something between them that doesn’t include her? She’s often jealous of the attention that Alcuin gets….

Information for anyone who wants to join in:

THE SCHEDULE

Discussions will begin from Thursday 3rd September

  • Week One | Beginning through end Chapter Sixteen hosted at There’s Always Room For One More
  • Week Two | Chapter Seventeen – Thirty-one hosted by Susan at Dab of Darkness
  • Week Three | Chapter Thirty-two – Forty-seven hosted by Zezee with Books
  • Week Four | Chapter Forty-eight – Sixty-one hosted by Mayri at Book Forager
  • Week Five | Chapter Sixty-two – Seventy-nine hosted by Peat Long
  • Week Six |Chapter Eighty through the end hosted by Lisa at Dear Geek Place

If you feel like joining in, you can comment/discuss along with us via each host’s blog post; in the Goodreads group with a link to your own post; or on Twitter, tagging @wyrdandwonder and using the hashtag #ReadAsThouWilt.

You can read at your own pace, but please bear in mind that some participants are first-time readers, and be mindful of any spoilers beyond each week’s chapters. Likewise, if you don’t keep up with the schedule but still want to read and discuss, we’ll be ready when you are! More guidelines than rules, as the piratical saying goes…

Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 1)

Imyril @ There’s Always Room For One More is hosting a read along of Jacqueline Carey’s epic fantasy Kushiel’s Dart. This has been on my TBR for ages. I’ve had a copy sitting on my shelf staring at me for about 5 years. But I haven’t wanted to dive into a new fantasy series without finishing some of the ones I have in progress. Also, the size of the book is a bit intimidating. It’s a doorstop. So I’ve put it off. But when I heard about the read along, I decided to go for it.

I’ve abut twenty chapters into the book right now (but this post will only discuss the first sixteen) and I’ll say that the jury’s out on my opinion. It wasn’t a book that grabbed me initially, and it might have been a DNF if I hadn’t had the read along giving me additional motivation (and the knowledge that it has a very devoted fan base that I’ve heard rave about it) However, I did find the opening to be rather off putting in several ways.

Here’s my response to some of the questions.

You know it’s an epic fantasy when it starts with not only a map but a list of Dramatis Personae. How do you feel about this approach to beginning a new story? Do you read the character list or use it for reference along the way?

I often find this a bit intimidating to be honest. It’s like the author is saying: “This is going to be tough going, so here are some study aids. You’ll have your first quiz on Thursday.” I often skip right past it. I mean, before I’ve started reading, the names of characters and places aren’t going to mean much to me. As I start they (hopefully!) gain more relevance to me. But hopefully, at that point, I’m too caught up in the world of the book to remember that stuff in the beginning. I’ve learned not to let the maps and character lists put me off too much, since it’s pretty common in fantasy. But it’s not my favorite approach for beginning a story.

What are your first impressions of Elua and his Companions, and of D’Angeline culture? Are you comfortable with the way in which Jacqueline Carey has reimagined the world?

I’m certainly alright with the way that Jacqueline Carey built her world, but I’m not a fan of how she related it to the readers, via info dump. I think an easy way to get the information across to readers might have been to have us learn about it alongside Pherdre in her childhood lessons. I wasn’t a fan of having Phedre lecture the readers on all of this in an early chapter. It’s a lot of information to take in early on, and it’s not given in a “friendly” way.

Phèdre’s story begins in the Court of Night-Blooming Flowers. What are your thoughts on the Court, its adepts, the service of Naamah and the earning of marques? What House would you patronise – or belong to?

For me, some of this is still a little fuzzy.

I think the acceptance of sex work (for lack of a better term) as a respectable career path, and an art in and of itself, is interesting. But the indentured servitude system doesn’t sit comfortably with me. How a marque is earned also isn’t clear to me just yet. It seems to be based on tips, which means that someone who isn’t lucky in terms of patrons could be indentured for a long period of time or potentially forever. Also, while the adepts do enter into the profession willingly, but it seems as if they are groomed of it from childhood, and not really presented with alternatives. Therefore, it’s a choice, but it’s one they’re groomed, pressured, and guided to make.

I understand that different courts cater to different tastes/predilections, but they don’t take on their own identities (at least thus far) for me either.

Guy, Alcuin and Phèdre are all devoted to the mysterious Anafiel Delaunay. Do you think he deserves their love? For first time readers, what are your theories about his past – and what do you think he is trying to achieve?

I’d say that the jury is still out on Anafiel Delaunay. I don’t have any theories about his past or his ultimate goal, and that’s my problem with him so far. He has three characters (that we know of) devoted to his service to the point where they’re going into potentially dangerous situations for him. Yet they don’t know why, because he doesn’t tell them what he’s trying to achieve! They all seem to think “Delaunay wants it, so it must be right.”

My other issues with that thread of the story, is that all of the politics are largely going over my head at this point. Delaunay has all these allies and enemies and they all have their own agendas, and weird, names and it’s hard for me to keep them straight! I’m hoping that some of that becomes more clear as time goes on.

What do you make of Phèdre’s choice of signale?

It makes sense that Phedre would use the name of the person that she considers her only friend as her “safe word.” But (much like with Delaunay) I don’t really have a sense of what Hyacinthe has done to earn her devotion. He’s been someone she visits over the years. He’s been someone she enjoys spending time with, but I don’t have a sense of a deeper emotional connection. That’s a problem, becaus I definitely feel like I should.

Last but not least, the big week one check-in: are you still in?

Absolutely!

Information for anyone who wants to join in:

The Schedule

Discussions will begin from today (Thursday 3rd September):

  • Week One | Beginning through end Chapter Sixteen hosted at There’s Always Room For One More
  • Week Two | Chapter Seventeen – Thirty-one hosted by Susan at Dab of Darkness
  • Week Three | Chapter Thirty-two – Forty-seven hosted by Zezee with Books
  • Week Four | Chapter Forty-eight – Sixty-one hosted by Mayri at Book Forager
  • Week Five | Chapter Sixty-two – Seventy-nine hosted by Peat Long
  • Week Six |Chapter Eighty through the end hosted by Lisa at Dear Geek Place

If you feel like joining in, you can comment/discuss along with us via each host’s blog post; in the Goodreads group with a link to your own post; or on Twitter, tagging @wyrdandwonder and using the hashtag #ReadAsThouWilt.

You can read at your own pace, but please bear in mind that some participants are first-time readers, and be mindful of any spoilers beyond each week’s chapters. Likewise, if you don’t keep up with the schedule but still want to read and discuss, we’ll be ready when you are! More guidelines than rules, as the piratical saying goes…

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Make Me Hungry

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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.)

I actually did a list like this a few years ago. But I took up the challenge again and came up with ten more. I must confess, I’m not much of a foodie. Oh, I like food, don’t get me wrong! Give me something I like, and I’ll eat plenty of it!. But I can by a picky, finicky eater. I don’t like to cook. And there are lots of foods I don’t like. So making me hungry is an uphill battle for a book. But here are some that have accomplished the task!

1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl- This is sort of a no-brainer! I mean there’s a whole room made of candy! I used to fantasize about eating my way out.

2. Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson– There is a character in this who is homesick for England and it’s food. Actually, a few of the descriptions of British food, did make me a bit peckish (though a few also make me wonder what that character was thinking!). The description of some of the Brazilian foods and fruits also sounded good.

3. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor– This book make me crave fried plantains! Actually it made me want to try several of the African dishes.

4. Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber– A lot of the food served at the Blackbird Cafe sounds wonderful, but if I had to pick just one thing I’d want to eat, it’s the pie.

5. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan– I pretty much craved really good Chinese food, the whole time I was reading this book.

6. The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert– Basically any food involving apples sounds appealing when reading this book. Apple pie, tart, sauce, and cider of course.

7. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee– This doesn’t stand out in my mind for food related reasons, but at the same times of the food descriptions definitely made my stomach growl.

8. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen- Confession: I have a terrible sweet tooth, that wasn’t helped by the sweets that the title character of this book also loves.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books About Book Lovers

For That Artsy Reader Girls’ Top Ten Tuesday:

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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!)

I honestly had trouble thinking of ten (interesting/intelligent) questions that I would ask out authors, so I decided to make up my own topic this week.

81hqtvxwu-l._ac_uy218_1. Matilda by Roald Dahl– For me, Matilda is sort of the OG fictional bookworm. I loved her as a child and I love her now.

81gw6tyoeul._ac_uy218_ml3_2. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman- In a lot of ways I’m very different from Nina, but we have one thing in common: we love reading so much that it threatens to eclipse reality at times. We have to be careful to remember that there are other things worth doing too!

81hkqvsgyl._ac_uy218_3. The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern- I feel like this book is a love letter to bookworms everywhere.  We meet many bookworms in this book; bookworms that burrow into a world far below the surface of their earth, filled with books.  But perhaps we identify the most with Zachary, a grad student who comes across a book in the university library and finds a series of clues that leave him to a secret, ancient library.

911-t2bi6l._ac_uy218_4. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon– Set in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Daniel finds a book in the “Cemetery of Forgotten Books” (I love the idea!) but when he tried to find other works by the author, he discovers that they’re being destroyed for reasons he can’t understand. He begins a race against time to rescue them.

9123eop9gil._ac_uy218_5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak– Nazi Germany is a bad place to be for a book lover like Liesel, who has to steal her beloved books to save them from being burned.

914bm5qdaul._ac_uy218_6. The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler– This book is about a librarian in Long Island who is sent an antique volume, that may have some connection to his family. As he reads the tale of circus and carnival performers, he comes to believe that the book might be the key to saving his sister’s life.

71hpnqntwul._ac_uy218_ml3_7. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell– This is a book about a girl who loves books so much that they inspire her own creativity. Cathy is a fan fiction writer who loves life on the page, whether it’s one she wrote or someone else did. But she has some difficulty figuring out life in the real world.

51gxczk1wal._ac_uy218_8. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett– In this novella, Bennett imagines what might happen if the Queen of England discovered a love of literature late in life. Would she neglect her royal duties in order to pursue her new passion? And how might the people in her life react?

812qcy9xysl._ac_uy218_9. 84 Charring Cross Road by Helen Hanff- This book is a collection of letters between Helen Hanff, a New York writer, and a Frank Doel, an London bookseller. Over the course of 20 years they carry on a correspondence, and a friendship, centered on their shared love of books. It’s a beautiful example of how literature can unite different people across oceans and cultural divides.

8142jxm8m6l._ac_uy218_10. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi– This memoir in books is about how the author, once a professor, gathered seven of her most committed female students in her Tehran apartment to read and discuss forbidden Western literature. As forces in the outside world seized hold of universities and censored artistic expression, these women read and discussed freely. Reading this book about book lovers committed to reading and discussing novels, made me realize just how subversive the act of reading a novel can actually be.

Novels That Would Be Great On Stage

Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels.com

One thing I miss most about life before the pandemic is theater. I miss going to the theater with the sense of anticipation just before the curtain rises. I miss knowing that I shared that anticipation with the rest of the audience as well. I miss reading reviews and planning what I want to see next. So I thought I’d make a wishlist of books that I think would be great onstage someday, if/when we can go back to the theater. Some of these I imagine as musicals, others as straight plays, but I’m flexible about that.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid– Since this is written in the form of interviews it would be very easy to translate to theatrical dialogue (or monologues). They could also have the songs presented as if it were a bio-jukebox musical (ala Jersey Boys or Beautiful) but with a fictional band. The lyrics to Daisy Jones and The Six’s songs are at the end of the novel, so it’ s just a matter of finding someone to write the music to accompany them.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders– I just finished reading this and the whole time I was thinking how theatrical it felt with the chorus of voices. It has the potential to feel very much like parts of Our Town or The Spoon River Anthology with a cast of dead people in a graveyard, but that’s alright.

Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews– I’m sort of surprised that this hasn’t been tried before. There were two attempts to film it, and neither was very successful at recreating the Gothic claustrophobia of the novel. I think film might be the wrong medium for a performance of this. The single setting seems to lend itself to the stage and the role of Grandmother is a great one for an over 60 actress. But I suppose that the fact that much of the cast would need to be composed of young kids dealing with disturbing content could make it rather challenging.

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter– I imagine this beginning in a very intimate setting with Fevvers sitting in her dressing room (onstage) talking about her past. But as things go on, what we see expands and becomes more fantastical, and Fevvers becomes integrated with the action rather than just a narrator.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo- The book is already a novel in verse those verses could be the lyrics for songs. The music could be influenced by the racial/ethnic backgrounds of the characters. The main character, Xiomara, could narrate much of it, and the music could grow more complex as Xiomara’s poetic voice gains confidence.

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim– This book already made a beautiful film, but I can also see it working really well onstage. It has a single primary location (the early scenes in England can take place as a prologue on a limited set, which would emphasize everything about England that the characters need to escape). One challenge might be how to bring that sense of outdoor freshness to an indoor theater, but I suppose an outdoor, socially distanced production is possible even now…

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett– This novel was made into a film, but I think the film suffered for the same reasons it could work well onstage: it has a single location and a theatrical subject matter. An opera singer, a Japanese businessman and guests at a party at a South American embassy are taken hostage by rebels. In this situation, which drags out over time, they realize that music may be their only common language. The subject matter lends itself to an intimate chamber musical, or even a play with music. Onscreen it seemed too stagey, but onstage it could be beautiful.

What do you think of my list? Are there any books that you’d love to see adapted for the stage?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Should Get TV/Film Adaptations

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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August 18: Books that Should be Adapted into Netflix Shows/Movies (submitted by Nushu @ Not A Prima Donna Girl)

Just a note that I don’t limit this to Netflix. Anyone who wants can make these movies/shows.

  1. 91ewbiftngl._ac_uy218_The Secret History by Donna Tartt– I think that if it’s done right, a film adaptation of this novel would be an exercise in creating dramatic tension. The viewer would stay with the limited point of view of Richard, the protagonist, so that we can only know what he knows and see what we sees. It would be frustrating, yes, but deliciously so, just like in the book.
  2. 41xfknijvel-_ac_us218_Villette by Charlotte Bronte– While I love Jane Eyre, it’s been adapted enough. Let’s give some of Charlotte Bronte’s other work a shot! This also has mystery and romance, and I think some of the Gothic/supernatural(?) scenes have the potential to look great on screen.
  3. 51lcp5zpnnl._ac_uy218_A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray– The Victorian Gothic setting combined with secret societies, magic, coming of age drama and romance makes me wonder why this hasn’t been adapted before! Ideally I think I’d want a series with one book per season.
  4. 91jgf9xfe0l._ac_uy218_The Luxe by Anna Godbersen– Set in New York City at the turn of the 20th century, this would look just lovely onscreen. The plot involves friendship, backstabbing, forbidden romance and betrayal. It would be a wonderful guilty pleasure to watch with a talented cast. Again I think this lends itself to series format with one book per season.
  5. a1d-o9itg-l._ac_uy218_Night Film by Marisha Pessl– Yes, this would turn into a bit of challenge because elements in the book are ambiguous. Film is a more concrete medium and there would certainly be the temptation to give the viewer answers. But other films have handled ambiguity well, so it can be done. I also think the films within the book could be turned into some great films within a film. How a director chooses to interpret those (via casting, visuals, etc) could really say a lot about the events in the story.
  6. 911-t2bi6l._ac_uy218_The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon– I think setting (post war Spain) can lend itself  to some great visuals. The plot, complete with mystery and forbidden love, would easily hold viewers attention. Other books in the Cemetery of the Forgotten series could be done as follow ups (I’m thinking 2-3 episodes per books, so the whole show could be 4 seasons of mini-series, if that makes sense)
  7. 91vfadbawnl._ac_uy218_The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye– I think that this would appeal the the same audiences that are fans of The Alienist and Gangs of New York. We get the corrupt, constantly changing melting pot of 19th century, a compelling hero in Timothy Wilde, and two sequels that serve to make later seasons on a TV series.  Given the (rightful) scrutiny that many police forces are coming under, a look at the roots of the NYPD (good, bad and ugly) could be timely. The story deals with a murder mystery, social issues, family drama, and historical elements.
  8. 81ku7zgvnzl._ac_uy218_Kindred by Octavia Butler– This has a lot to recommend it. It’s an exciting time travel story about a woman trying to ensure that her family is able to exist. That time travel story brings her (and her white husband) to a southern plantation, where they must pretend to be a master and his slave in order to survive. There are a lot of moral dilemmas here too, that can provoke thought and conversation in audiences.
  9. 81q2madzv9l._ac_uy218_ml3_Doomesday Book by Connie Willis– This is actually the only Oxford Time Travel book I’ve read (To Say Nothing of the Dog is sitting on my shelf waiting for me to start it!) but I think that the series could do well on TV. Since there is a common universe (as opposed to characters) they could have a different creative team each season and really mix it up a little bit.
  10. 71rl3ufz0wl._ac_uy218_Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee– This is probably going to be an unpopular opinion but I think that this could be a great and perhaps necessary look at how racism shows up in people who we don’t usually think of as “racist.” To most people (including his daughter) Atticus Fitch is the epitome of a good man. So when she finds out about her father’s racist sympathies Scout is crushed, and tries to reconcile this knowledge with the man she loves. She also looks at her own behavior and the assumptions that she’s always made. I think a lot of people are starting to realize how deeply entrenched racism is in society. This book looks at how it hides even in “good” people, and what happens when heroes are toppled. That’s something that people need to see, even if, (especially if) it’s uncomfortable.

Top Ten Tuesday: Small Town Novels

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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This week’s topic was:

August 11: Books I Loved but Never Reviewed

But the thing is that there are a lot of books I’ve loved but never reviewed. My reviewing a book has more to do with time/inclination than love.

Since I wasn’t feeling this week’s topic, so I decided to go with one of my own. I’m definitely more of a big city girl IRL. But I do appreciate some small town fiction.

  1. 71pevpzotdl._ac_uy218_Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn– Camille is a reporter who returns to the small town of Wind Gap, Missouri  to investigate the disappearance of two teenage girls. She finds a town that’s even more toxic than the one she left years earlier. At the same time she must grapple with some equally toxic family relationships.
  2. 81jwx0nliyl._ac_uy218_Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery– Avonlea is practically a character in these novels (most of them at least). Actually most of Montgomery’s work features small PEI based towns that play a large role in the story.
  3. a1eoxybsj5l._ac_uy218_We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson– The small town takes on a villainous role in this one. I think it rivals Wind Gap for toxicity! This town has it’s own set of witches (sort of), but the “normal” townspeople might be more dangerous than the witches!
  4. 91paeh4pugl._ac_uy218_Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen- A lot of Allen’s fiction is set in small towns, but this one (and the sequel First Frost) is set in Bascom, North Carolina. It’s a typical small Southern town in many ways, but some of the residents (namely the Waverly family) are anything but typical. That fact sends Sydney Waverly out of town right after high school graduation. But it might also be what brings her back.
  5. 91j44fyb1ml._ac_uy218_Salem’s Lot by Stephen King- I’m actually not a big fan of  this novel, but one thing that King does in it really successfully (IMO) is create a portrait of mundane, everyday evil. We see acts of abuse and bullying that make up the fabric of daily life in ‘Salem’s Lot. Ultimately I think that’s more chilling than the vampires that eventually make an appearance.
  6. 81ap62fhl._ac_uy218_Shakespeare’s Landlord by Charlaine Harris– I know that the Sookie Stackhouse novels, the Aurora Teagarden series and the Midnight, Texas series are also set in small towns (and have small screen adaptations) but those never really resonated with me. I prefer this series set in Shakespeare, Arkansas. I included this book because it’s the first, but any of the others also apply.
  7. 41fsa9p0jul._ac_uy218_Peyton Place by Grace Metalious– This novel is about how three women come to terms with their identity as women and sexual beings in a very conservative, small, gossipy New England town. This book was a major bestseller when it came out in the 50’s (it was quite scandalous because it dealt with subjects like incest, abortion, adultery, and murder; as well as larger issues like hypocrisy, social inequality, and economic privilege) . It spawned a sequel, and both books got film adaptations. It also inspired a successful TV series. I read it years ago, and don’t remember much in terms of plot, but I do remember that secret filled town.
  8. 713lu0aeegl._ac_uy218_Empire Falls by Richard Russo– The titular town in this novel is a working class town sees through the eyes of Miles Robey. Miles owns the Empire Grill (where everyone in town seems to eat) and is father to a teenager.
  9. 81d3bhbgngl._ac_uy218_Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng- Shaker Heights prides itself on being an open minded small town.  Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl arrive and make a home for themselves there. But when a controversial custody case divides opinions in town, Mia finds herself on the opposite side from her employers, the Richardson family. The split could have dangerous consequences.
  10. 81ay1lxk9l._ac_uy218_To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee– I think that Maycomb, Alabama is one of the of first places I think of when I think of fictional small towns. Like many, it’s a close knit community where there’s a lot of gossip and people know each other’s business. It’s harmless, until it’s not. We see another side of this town from a different perspective in Go Set a Watchman.