Top Ten Tuesday: Unconventional Ghosts

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

October 27: Halloween Freebie

These aren’t the kind of ghost stories that you’re used to. These ghosts all have something a bit different, a bit unconventional about them. But if you’re up for something different this spooky season, check them out!

1. Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella– When Lara’s great aunt Sadie turns up and asks a favor, Lara’s in for a rough ride. Great aunt Sadie has been dead for a while, but she has some definite ideas about how Lara should live her life!

2. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger– When their aunt Elspeth dies, she leaves twins Julia and Valentina her apartment in London: there’s just one stipulation. They have to live in it together for a year before selling it, and their parents can’t come inside. Elspeth’s ghost is there too of course!

3. Rebecca by  Daphne DuMaurier– Rebecca is dead from the very first page of this one, and she stays dead throughout. But her specter haunts everyone from her housekeeper to her husband, to his new wife.

4. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield– I can’t say much about the nature of the ghost in this book without dropping some big spoilers, so I’ll just say it’s not what you’d expect.

5. Portrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan– Artist Eben Adams is fascinated when he meets Jennie, a young girl who chats about things that happened long before her time. But the next time he meets Jennie, she’s aged several years. He comes to realize that Jennie is a spirit outside of her own time, and she’s come looking for him. This also has a film version.

6. The Girl in a Swing by Richard Adams– Again, talking much about the nature of the ghost in this book would involve spoilers, but I do appreciate the ambiguity of the haunting here.

7. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz- The title character in this book is a short order cook who communicates with the dead. This is actually the beginning of a series but I only read the first book, since I felt it worked well as a stand alone and didn’t want to ruin that. There’s also a film adaptation.

8. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman- In Gaiman’s take on The Jungle Book, a living boy is raised by ghosts in a cemetery.

9. A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle– In this novel, two ghosts in a cemetery find the love of their lives, after their lives are over.

10. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders- In 1862, a year in the civil war, Abraham Lincoln lost his eleven year old son, Willie. Newspapers reported that the distraught president returned to the crypt to see his son’s body. From this seed of historical fact, Saunders creates a novel of voices from the Georgetown graveyard, where a struggle breaks out over young Willie’s soul.

Top Ten Tuesday: The Last Books I Read Based on Recommendations

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

October 20: Books I Read Because Someone Recommended Them to Me (tell us who recommended them, if you want!)

For this one, I decided to make it the last ten I read based on a recommendation.

1. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey– People have recommended this book to me for years. I put it off for a long time due to the size, but I finally read it this fall. I gave it 3/5 stars on goodreads. There was a lot to like about it, but I had a lot of issues with it too. Will I finish the series? At some point, perhaps.

2. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire– This series has been recommended by many people over the years, and I’m glad I finally got to start it! I look forward to spending more time with October Daye in the future.

3. You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann– This was recommended by someone in my book club. Actually, if you’re looking for a good haunted house story for Halloween, you might check out this novella. It’s very quick and easy to get through. It was recently given a film adaptation, but I haven’t seen that yet. It doesn’t seem like something that would lend itself well to film though.

4. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware- Another book club recommendation. But I would have read this one anyway, because I like the author.

5. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett– I saw this recommended all over the place last winter. I probably would have gotten to it eventually anyway, because I like Ann Patchett, but it got bumped up my TBR because I heard there were some fairy tale themes here (there are, and it was a good read).

6. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo– I consider this a cautionary tale. Around February, everyone was talking about this. I saw it on numerous blogs, and people whose taste I tend to trust gave it five stars on good reads. I didn’t like it. I don’t think it did what it set out to do, and I have some issues with what it did instead.

7. Final Girls by Riley Sager- This was another book club recommendation. I’m noticing that a lot of them tend to be murder mysteries, thriller and horror. Hmmm…

8. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman– The person who recommended this said that it was about someone like me. I think they just meant someone who reads a lot, though, since in non bookish ways my life is quite different from Nina Hill’s.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Long Titles

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

October 13: Super Long Book Titles

1. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg – A childhood fave. Mrs. Basil E. has a long name in and of herself, but when you add those mixed up files, you get a really long title.

2. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in A Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente– Most of the time I just refer to this one as “Fairyland” or “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland” if I’m feeling particularly long winded. I never go for the full title!

3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon- This one is meant to sound like the title of a Sherlock Holmes mystery, and I suppose it does.

4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows– For some reason always use the full title when talking about this book.

5. If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler by Italo Calvino- This one I shorten to “If On A Winter’s Night.” We don’t need the traveler.

6. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – I usually just call this one “Eleanor Oliphant” and leave her status out of it.

7. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardscastle by Stuart Turton– This is another one where I just call it by the name of the character (in this case “Evelyn Hardcastle”) and leave out all the rest.

8. The Pirate Captain: Chronicles of A Legend: Nor Silver Kerry Lynne– The author of the book cleared up via twitter that this is the full tile of her first book. It’s a fun read, but I don’t think we need the double subtitle. Just one is fine!

9. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg– This one I usually just call by the film adaptations’ title, Fried Green Tomatoes.

10. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon– The author called this one MOBY on social media. The logic was it’s big, it’s white. And when you say the initials “MOHB” it sounds like “MOBY.” As a result the fandom tends to call this one MOBY,

I’ve Been (2020 Hellscape Edition)

  • Loving Book Riot’s gothic horror cheat sheet. It’s wonderfully seasonal. Though I would argue that the difference between the Gothic horror and Gothic romance categories is largely artificial. Yes, there are romantic relationships in the books they classify as romance, but the relationship is not all that is in peril. Often it’s the sanity and/or life of a character. Jane Eyre focuses on personal demons just as much Frankenstein. In Rebecca, our unnamed narrator is taunted by both internal demons that threaten her sanity, and external threats to her home, her marriage and her life. The presence of a romantic relationship in the plot doesn’t keep it from being horror. This video about Netflix’s Haunting anthology series discusses the Gothic romance genre and makes an interesting point about the connections between love stories and ghost stories.
The Haunting of Bly Manor from tvweb.com
  • Writing letters to voters in swing states to get them to vote in the upcoming election. It’s an easy way to help, from home on your own time. I’m sooo nervous about this election, but I want to do what I can to help! I encourage anyone who can to join in. If writing letters isn’t your jam, and you’re more of a phone person, go here. If you prefer to do something to make sure that voters are able to vote, check this out. This year’s election is too important for anyone to sit out!
  • My book club has been meeting weekly via zoom, and it’s wonderful. We each read a book based on a theme and go around and share what we read, and what we thought about it. It’s a way to be social but still COVID safe.
  • Loving this guest post from Gypsy Thornton at Carterhaugh School on how fairy tales can help us through this crazy time. Fairy tales offer us strategies for harnessing our strength and fighting the odds. Often characters in fairy tales are abused, voiceless, powerless, or disenfranchised in some way. But they don’t stay that way. From Cinderella, to Red Riding Hood, to Snow White and Rose Red, to the Goose Girl, fairy tales teach us to be brave. They teach us that no act of kindness, however small, is wasted. They teach us to fight back.
  • Watching waaay too much TV since March. I think it’s partially just that there’s less to do that’s COVID safe outside the house, but it’s also due to the fact that it’s an escape from some of the terrible stuff that’s been going on in the real word. I feel guilty taking that escape sometimes, but my sanity might not survive if I didn’t. Here’s a rundown of what I’ve watched.
    • Cursed- I would say that this is a very imperfect show that’s worth watching in spite of its faults. It’s based on the graphic novel of the name (which I haven’t read) by Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler. It actually recalls those roots with animation in the opening and some transitions between scenes. I thought that was a nice touch, but I wished they’d done more with it from a storytelling perspective. The storytelling is messy. The show can’t quite decide whether it wants to be a Game of Thrones style political fantasy, or a feminist coming of age tale, or a teen romantic fantasy, so it bounces back and forth among the options without fully committing to any one. But it’s worth watching in spite of it’s faults.
    • Ratched– I first took note of this show because I always had a bit of sympathy for Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Yes, I was aware that she was supposed to represent all that is impersonal and dehumanizing in the medical and psychiatric establishments. But she was also a woman who was responsible for a ward full of psychologically vulnerable men who need order and constancy. Having someone in that ward, constantly upsetting that, creates instability for the very people she’s responsible for protecting. So I wasn’t happy that the first trailer portrayed her a villain. But the show doesn’t make a villain exactly- not that she’s a hero either. Actually it has little to do with Cuckoo’s Nest at all. It tells a story that’s independent of that, and really just uses the character name and a timeframe that would make it a prequel (so far at least). There’s some interesting, dramatically compelling stuff in there. Unfortunately there are also entire characters and subplots that just felt thrown in for the sake of being shocking and unpleasant. So while there was a lot to like about this (great performances, stunning visuals, compelling character) there’s also a lot that would keep me from recommending it wholeheartedly.
    • Lucifer– I’m currently watching this in between other things. I’ve about 1/4 of the way through the third season, so no spoilers please! I’m enjoying the characters and the dynamics. In small doses it’s smart, fun and engaging. In larger doses it starts to feel a bit repetitive, but that’s why I’m spreading it out as I watch other things.
    • Emily in Paris– I wanted to like this. I wanted this to be a fun, escapist, fantasy. But it didn’t land. I found it vapid and insipid. The main character wandered around Paris (speaking no French), and imposing her point of view on everyone she met. I finished it for the sake of completion, but I didn’t really like it.
    • Enola Holmes– This is actually a film, not a series, but I’m including it because I really enjoyed it. Plus, I could see it becoming a series of films based on the novels of Nancy Springer. It’s really no surprise that I enjoyed this, because it’s right up my ally. A feminist, YA adaptation based on Sherlock Holmes stories, set in Victoria, England. It pretty much ticks all my boxes! It’s not perfect by any means, but it doesn’t really try to be. It’s fun. It’s a historical mystery adventure with a bit of humor thrown in. My one question when watching it, was “why is absolutely everyone in this film ridiculously good looking?” Yes, I know it’s a film and they tend to cast attractive people. But even side characters who could have been average/normal looking were absurdly attractive here. It was almost like it was an AU Victorian England in which only beautiful people were allowed.
    • The Babysitter’s Club– I posted an rather in depth review here. Basically it was way better than I expected. I want more!

Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 6)

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.

Posts for parts  onetwo three , four, and five can be found at the links. I’m glad that I had the read along spurring me to finish, because I might not have made it through otherwise, and I’m glad I did. I had some criticisms of the book. It was definitely overlong, and I had some issues connecting to Phedre as a heroine. But I did enjoy the story and the experience of discussing it with other readers. So without further ado, here is my final set of questions:

Phèdre risks everything yet again on a chance to finish what she started, and keep her word to Ysandre. Joscelin does the same trying to thwart Selig, if not stop him. What were your thoughts about their last confrontation with the Skaldi warlord, and what it means for their relationship?

I was actually a bit underwhelmed by that whole scene. When Phedre and Joscelin confronted Selig again, I expected something dramatic. Instead we get a bit of Selig torturing Phedre, Joscelin doing Casseline stuff, and then a quick rescue. The scene didn’t seem to bring the resolution I wanted with Selig as a villain, and it also didn’t seem that important to Phedre’s relationship with Joscelin. Maybe I missed something, but after Phedre’s decision to go, and all the fuss of sneaking into the Skadi camp, I expected more from the confrontation itself.

Isidore d’Aiglemort turns out to be the hero that Terre D’Ange needs, if not the one they want. Do you think Phèdre made the right call, making him that offer? What do you think of his final act, and the reasons that drive him to it? Is he a hero, or was he ultimately still only a tool in the hands of others?

I do think that she made the right call. She needed his help and was able to offer him something he valued. I think in choosing to help Terre d’Ange, he stops being a tool for others (Selig, Melissande, etc), but I suppose you might argue that he starts being a D’Angeline tool. I wouldn’t call him a hero by any means, but he’s not quite a villain at the end either. I suppose he’s a good example of why we can’t easily classify all these characters easily in to “heroes and villains.”

Melisande faces the consequences of her actions, though it seems her ‘deep game’ is not over. Do you think she was prepared for her plan to fail, or was she seizing any opportunity to save herself with that escape? What are your thoughts on her after her last conversation with Phèdre?

I don’t know if she had a specific plan in place for just this event, but I also think that she probably did have someone loyal to her in place to help her escape, should she need ever need to. She strikes me as someone who has numerous contingencies. I think in her final conversation with Phedre was about laying the groundwork for her. She was attempting to get under Phedre’s skin, so that she could draw her back into the game (whatever if may be) at a later point. I was a little disappointed in Phedre for falling for it (but I also suspect that we wouldn’t have a sequel if Phedre didn’t!)

Finally, everyone gets a chance to rest and recover, and Phèdre is richly rewarded for her deeds – in a few senses. How do you feel about her (double-edged) Happily Ever After with Joscelin? And do you think she’s doing the right thing, choosing to find the traitor who freed Melisande in her own way?

As I said, I think that by trying to find the traitor, Phadre is playing right into Melissande’s hands, so I was a little disappointed in her for that. I think the “right” thing to do, would be to let it go and move on. By engaging in this way, she’s giving Melissande an opening for the future. Which I suspect is exactly what Melissande wants. It may also be exactly what Phedre wants on some level.

I was confused by the logic that Phedre and Joscelin had for not getting married. I mean, I’m OK with it. If they don’t want to get married then don’t! But Phedre says that Joscelin is betraying his vow every day that he’s with her, and they’re OK with that. So why would marriage be different?

I do kind of want to know the parameters of their future relationship. Will Joscelin be OK with Phedre indulging her anguisette needs elsewhere? How will he respond to her upcoming plans to uncover the traitor?

Thanks to Imyril @ There’s Always Room For One More  for hosting this read along and finally getting me to read this book. In spite of some of my complaints about the book, I did enjoy discussing it and reading everyone’s responses each week. Having this weekly post also kept me accountable for getting through the book, and reading attentively. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Covers With Fall Colors

For That Artsy Read Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

October 6: Book Covers with Fall Colors/Vibes (or spring if you live in the southern hemisphere)

I decided to only go with covers of books I’ve read this year.

  1. The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

2. Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon

3. The Whole Art Of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Homes by Lyndsay Faye

4. The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

5. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

6. A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

7. Meet Me in Monaco: A Novel of Grace Kelly’s Royal Wedding by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

8. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

9. The Hob’s Bargain by Patricia Briggs

10. Final Girls by Riley Sager

A lot of these are also good Halloween reads. I don’t know if that was a conscious choice on the part of the cover designers, but it’s possible. Happy fall!

Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 5)

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.

Posts for parts  onetwo , three and four, can be found at the links. At this point, it feels like we’re drawing to a close. I’m enjoying the read along, and the book, but I don’t think I love it the way that some do. Something about Phedre as a character keeps me at a distance. Without investing in her, it’s hard for me to be too invested in any of the other characters. Here are my responses to the questions for part five.

We’re back on the road again with Phèdre and Joscelin, and this time they’re with Hyacinthe as he finally comes face to face with his heritage. What were your first impressions of the Tsingani? What did you make of Hyacinthe’s reaction to his reception, and Phèdre’s reaction to to that reaction? How did you feel finding out about Anasztaizia’s past? Finally – Hyacinthe’s choice. Could you have done what he did there? Give up finding you family just after finding them for your friend?

I don’t think that what Hyacinthe did was entirely for Phedre. Keep in mind, what the Tsingani did to his mother was fairly heartless. She was raped and then her family and her people turned their backs on her. I think Hyacinthe made the choice that he did as a way of turning his back on them. I don’t think it was easy. I think the sense of acceptance that he found among the Tsingani made the prospect of staying with them very accepting. But ultimately, I think he chose his mother.

Phèdre being Phèdre, she jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire – a handsome, sadistic fire. Does Phèdre’s pleasure at being able to resume her craft, even in these circumstances, and the description of that sense of release make sense to you? Did the Duc de Morbhan’s gift surprise you?

I suppose I was a bit surprised, since it seemed like Phedre had moved on from being a courtesan and was now pretty into being a spy/messenger/whatever. But it does make sense that she’d take a sense of joy in a return to something familiar. It was something that she always enjoyed and felt successful at. So it makes sense that she’d take a sense of pleasure in resuming it, especially under unfamiliar, frightening circumstances.

We’ve seen blood and death before in this book, but this is the first mass bloodletting. What was your reaction? Will any moments stick with you? Were you surprised by Phèdre and Hyacinthe’s moment together?

I was a bit disappointed that they slept together to be honest. I liked that Hyachinthe was the only person in Phedre’s life who she had a nonsexual relationship with. It made what they had a bit different and special, and I felt like they ruined that here.

Were you expecting Elder Brother to take a hand again after everything – and if so, were you expecting to be this? What did you make of his history and Hyacinthe’s choice?

I think from a literary perspective Hyacinthe’s choice makes sense. On of them was going to have to stay, and if it were Phedre the book would end right there, with no resolution of the other plot lines! So in that sense I wasn’t surprised. While Hyacinthe is an important character, he’s one who can be lifted out of things without changing the dynamics.

It’s been a hell of a ride and as we near the end, what with Hyacinthe and Phèdre saying goodbye and Hyacinthe telling her that Joscelin has feelings for her, it seems a good time to ask how you feel about Phèdre, Joscelin and Hyacinthe – have they grown in your eyes? Has your opinion changed of any of them?

I’m surprised that Phedre was surprised that Joscelin has feeling for her. I thought it was pretty obvious based on his continued refusal to leave her side and his dislike of her sleeping with other people. But then people do have a tendency to be blind to things in their lives that are obvious to others. Especially when those things threaten something that’s comfortable. Phedre and Joscelin have, rather unexpectedly, formed a comfortable relationship. Joscelin’s feelings for Phedre put that in jeopardy: should she pursue something with him? How would that even work? Would she retire as a courtesan and be faithful to him?

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: Favorite Book Quotes

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

September 29: Favorite Book Quotes (these could be quotes from books you love, or bookish quotes in general)

  1. “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.” —  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

For a character who is “no bird” Jane is often associated with them in this novel. Even her name sounds like “air”. But perhaps it is a free bird, as opposed the the caged bird she calls to mind here, that one associates with Jane the most. No matter what happens she is able able to take off when she chooses. She may seek out greener pastures, or go back to battle old ghosts. I think it takes a lot of nerve for her to assert this actually. At this point in the book, nothing in her life has told her she has value. She’s “poor, obscure, plain, and little,” but she feels that she has intrinsic worth in spite of that. That’s what gives her the guts to assert herself, to take off when she feels it’s necessary, and to refuse to be ensnared.

2. “From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood.” —  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when I was about 12 and I definitely identified very strongly with Francie. I still do, even though I’m older now. This quote is a perfect example of why. I honestly do feel like books are my friends. Some people might see that as sad, but I see it as having reliable friends who never talk back and never leave me or let me down. (I do also have some actual, human friends too!)

3. “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” — Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

I’ve always had a tendency to be hard on myself. Even when I was a child, I would take myself to task for my mistakes. I first read this book when I was about nine, and right away something clicked when I read that! It was so freeing to see things that way! Even now, if I have a bad day, I try to remember that there’s always tomorrow, and there are no mistakes in it yet! It doesn’t always help, but I do try to remember it.

4. “How easy it was to lie to strangers, to create with strangers the versions of our lives we imagined.” — Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This was a more recent read, and a big theme in this book is the perceptions of others vs. self perception. That really resonated with me, even independent of the rest of the book. I think that we constantly create different versions of ourselves with different people. To some extent that’s natural: we behave differently with out friends from adulthood for example, than we do with people who have know us since we were children. But it can be cultivated too. Sometimes we have a sense of how someone else sees us, and we can try to live up to it. How a stranger sees you for the first time is powerful, because it can give us the feeling of a blank slate. We can sort of create ourselves anew.

5. “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien

This is from a conversation between Gandolf and Frodo, after Gandolf tells Frodo about the Ring. Frodo wishes that this hadn’t happened during his lifetime, and this is Gandolf’s response. They’re words that I’ve thought of a lot through the craziness of 2020. Things happen that we don’t control. But we control our response.

6. “There are few people whom I really love and still fewer of whom I think well.”Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

This quote stands out to me because of the distinction made between loving someone and thinking well of them. We often think of loving people as thinking of them in the highest regard. But really, we can love people and not think well of them at all. We can love people and not like them. So the distinction makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

7. “Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)” – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Just very true words. People can turn anything into a weapon. They can make things that are supposed to help up, things that are supposed to make us better, destructive. Is that true of everyone? No, of course not. A whisky bottle in the hands on one man may be meaningless. It might simply mean that he likes the taste of whisky and enjoys a glass of it and the end of a long day. But in the hands of another man, it could mean that he’s about to become a violent drunk. Similarly, the Bible is a book that is supposed to teach people to be kind to one another, to help each other. And one person may use it that way. But another may use it as a way to oppress others and even as a justification for it.

8. “We tell ourselves stories in order to live…We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.” – The White Album by Joan Didion

I just think that this is so true. When something terrible happens, we immediately try to understand it. We try to put it into some kind of workable context. I once lost someone close to me, and I almost immediately tried to put that loss in narrative terms. I thought about how this person’s narrative arc was complete, even though he was young. I was aware that I was imposing a narrative on something that didn’t necessarily have one, but it did help a bit to think of it that way. Stories help us get through life, by escaping it, and sometimes by giving us tolerable ways to understand it.

9. “A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”The Twits by Roald Dahl

Once again a children’s book proves that it can articulate something more simply and memorably than something intended for adults. I think that this was something that I tried to convey when I wrote Beautiful. Needless to say, I definitely think it’s true. And the reverse is too. Someone might be totally gorgeous, but if they act like a jerk, sooner or later, they won’t look so appealing.

Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 4)

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.

You can check out my thoughts on parts one, two and three at the links. I’m still interested and engaged in the book. I’m enjoying it, but I don’t find it to be something I can’t put down for a while. Here are my answers to the discussion questions to part 4:

Waldemar’s old teacher Lodur calls Phedre “a weapon thrown by a D’Angeline god” and this changes how Phedre sees herself to some extent. How does this change the way you’ve thought about Phedre so far?

I never thought that Phedre was cursed. I always thought that her being an anguisette, believed to have been marked by a god, made her more powerful than she realized. I was glad to see her come to recognize some of that. If nothing else, what she is gave her a career she enjoyed, doing something her society values highly. That’s something pretty significant.

Joscelin has broken all but one of his vows during the time he and Phedre have been in Skaldia. How do you feel about everything he has gone through? Everything Phedre has gone through? And the Prefect of the Cassiline Brotherhood’s opinion on these matters?

For the most part, I have a lot of sympathy for both of them. Joscelin is a trained fighter, but I don’t get the sense that he’s a violent, bloodthirsty character by nature. Yet he’s had to kill a lot more people than I think he ever expected or intended. Phedre, is by career and nature, a lover, not a fighter. But she’s also had to use violence. But I think in almost all cases it was out of necessity. Even the guard that they kill to escape the Skaldi, can sort of be considered self defense.

I don’t quite understand the reasoning behind the Cassiline Brotherhood’s celibacy, so I think I might have missed some of the significance of Joscelin breaking that particular vow.

Regardless, I don’t think much of the Prefect’s ruling of this. Obviously Joscelin was in extreme circumstances, and to judge him by ordinary standards seems rather shortsighted.

A whimsical question: Phedre doesn’t seem to be able to lose or give away Melisande’s diamond. What do you think this stone’s eventual fate might be?

I have no idea. Maybe it’ll make it’s way back to Melisande? Sort of bringing it full circle? I really don’t know!

And a follow-on to that: all gifts in this story, god-given or otherwise, are double-edged swords. Discuss. 😊

Well Melisande’s gift, obviously was a precursor to Phedre’s loss of Delaunay, Alcuin, and her whole world with them.

Melisande also bought a night with Phadre, as a sort of goodbye gift to Baudoin.

I think Phedre’s marking has shaped her life in many ways, good and bad. And by it’s nature it ties thought two opposites (good/bad, pleasure/pain) together.

What do you make of Ysandre de la Courcel now that we’ve finally met her? And what of her intention to honour her betrothal to Drustan mab Necthana?

I think that she’s a better leader than I initially gave her credit for. I didn’t really give her much thought before though. I was surprised that she was relatively quick to believe Phedre and Joscelin, but also glad that they didn’t have to go through a long, drawn out process of convincing her. She seems to act decisively, and I take her intention to honor her betrothal as an example of that.

Now that we know the whole of Delaunay’s story, has your opinion of him changed at all?

Not really. I was sort of surprised that that was all there was to his story. I mean, why the need for such secrecy?

Finally, Phedre’s marque is finally complete. Do you think she is free?

Free of what? I’m honestly asking. She seems to have different levels of freedom at different points. But she’s able to make choices for herself prior to the finishing of the marque. Will it free her of her nature? Probably not. So I guess, my answer Is, I don’t know!

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: 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.