Top Ten Tuesday: Geographical Titles

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

I just realized I did next week’s topic for this week! I’ll do something different next week (maybe this week’s topic!)

September 13: Books with Geographical Terms in the Title (for example: mountain, island, latitude/longitude, ash, bay, beach, border, canyon, cape, city, cliff, coast, country, desert, epicenter, hamlet, highway, jungle, ocean, park, sea, shore, tide, valley, etc. For a great list, click here!) (Submitted by Lisa of Hopewell)

I’m also counting fictional place names here. I just used my recent reads and I noticed a lot of bodies of water:

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill by Maud Hart Lovelace

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Beyond the Wild River by Sarah Maine

The Woman in the Lake by Nicola Cornick

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Top Ten Tuesday: One (and more!) Word Reviews

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

May 3: One-Word Reviews for the Last Ten Books I Read (submitted by Susan @ Bloggin’ ’bout Books)

I’m adding a bit more to some of these, because sometimes you need more than one word!

The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

One Word Review: Disappointing

More than one word: I didn’t dislike this. I just wanted to like it more than I did. I actually liked his lists of comfort songs and movies, and his little chapters about inspirational people a lot. But a lot of it felt repetitious.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

One Word Review: Underwhelimg

More than one word: I enjoyed the book, but everything built toward learning what happened about a barbeque (the first half of the book is alternating lead up and aftermath) and when we finally learned what happened, it wasn’t exactly earth shattering. I mean it was for the characters, I’m sure, but not for the reader.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Henrix

One Word Review: Ick

More than one word: I actually liked this book. It was definitely gorier than I like (hence the one word review) but in spite of that, I enjoyed most of it enough to want to read more from the author.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevado

One Word Review: Fine

More than one word: I think “fine” sums it up. I was a bit disappointed because I thought Acevedo’s debut, The Poet X, was more than fine, but this was pretty good.

Dancing on Knives by Kate Forsyth

One Word Review: Slow

More than one word: I don’t mean “slow” in a bad way. I thought the pace suited the story well. I took it’s time to get where it was going, but it worked.

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E Harrow

One Word Review: Substandard

More than one word: After loving Harrow’s two full length novels, I didn’t think that this novella quite lived up to them. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good as I felt like it could have been. I’ll still read the sequel though.

The Signalman by Charles Dickens

One Word Review: Creepy

More than one word: I’ve been trying to read some Victorian Christmas ghost stories this year, so this was one of those. I enjoyed it, in that it kind of made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up a bit (my measure of a good ghost story) It definitely felt like a short story, rather than something like A Christmas Carol which is more novella territory.

Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente

One Word Review: Weird

More than one word: I really liked this. I wasn’t sure what it was going into it. I couldn’t tell if it was intended to be a retelling, and one of the reviews I read said the less you know going in the better, so after reading that, I stopped looking. I’m glad I did because it let me fully appreciate what Valente was doing as this unfolded.

Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

One Word Review: Unheroic

More than one word: I wanted to like this one more than I was able to. The biggest problem for me was the character who was supposed to fill the romantic hero role, was totally unappealing, unlikeable and unheroic.

The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson

One Word Review: Letdown

More than one word: Anyone who reads my blog knows how much I love Eva Ibbotson. This wasn’t my favorite of her books. Not that it was bad at all! I think my expectations may have been too high based on my love for the author, but it felt like it tried to do a bit too much.

Top Ten Tuesday: The Next 10 Books I Plan to Read

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

March 15: Books On My Spring 2022 TBR

Rather than adding new books to my (already too long) TBR, I’m just sharing the next 10 books I plan to read. The order might change depending on my mood:

The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson– My book club does one week each month where we select genres and all read our choice of book from them. Next month we’re doing Middle Grade books, and I’ve had this book by one of my faves, sitting on my shelf for quite a while.

Piranesi- by Susanna Clarke – I’ve had this on my TBR for a while, and I’ve heard mixed things about it. I also had mixed feelings about Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, so I’m not sure what to expect, but I recently picked up a copy.

Dancing on Knives by Kate Forsyth– This was a gift from my Aussie book buddy. It’s by Kate Forsyth who is one of my favorite authors of fairy tale influenced fiction. This is an older work of hers. It’s a bit different from her retellings (I think the fairy tale is more of an influence here), but I’m looking forward to it.

Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty – I have a copy of this sitting on my shelf, and it feels like something I’m sort of in the mood for. It looks like a sort of “dark side of suburbia, everyone has secrets” kind of read.

The Flowering Thorn by Margery Sharp – Another one that’s been sitting on my shelf for a while. I keep saying to myself “I’ll read this next,” and then picking up something else. I really do what to read it though!

The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier– Another gift from my Aussie Book Buddy. Actually she got it for me last year, and got the sequel for me this year, but I still haven’t read this one (*hangs head in shame*)

The Herd by Andrea Bartz– My book club had a book swap over the summer and I picked this one up. I’ve heard good things about it recently, so I’ll give it a try.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides- This has lived on my shelf for a looong time. I never seem to get to it. But I will. I will! One of my resolutions this year was to finally read some of those books that have been sitting there gathering dust.

A Beggar’s Kingdom by Paullina Simons – I won this in a goodreads giveaway like, two years ago. I didn’t want to read it until I’d read the first in the trilogy though, which I finally did last year. So hopefully I’ll get to this one soon!

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Wishlist 2021

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

December 21: Books I Hope Santa Brings/Bookish Wishes (This was so popular when I did it in June that we’re doing it again for the holidays! List the top 10 books you’d love to own and include a link to your wishlist so that Santa can grant your wish. Make sure you link your wishlist to your mailing address [here’s how to do it on Amazon] or include the email address associated with your ereader in the list description so people know how to get the book to you. After you post, jump around the Linky and grant a wish or two if you’d like. You can make your identity known or be someone’s secret Santa! Please don’t feel obligated to send anything to anyone! If you would rather not include your wish list, just share the books you hope you find under your tree on Christmas morning.)

I’m just sharing books I want. In many cases I’d like a physical copy for the reasons specified.

  1. Fallen Angel by Kim Wilkins– This is also published under the title Angel of Ruin. I’ve seen this recommended very highly from Kate Forsyth, who is a pretty trusted source for me. But it doesn’t appear to be in print. I’ve got my Aussie book buddy on the lookout for a copy (the author is Australian) but if she can’t find it, I may have to just get a used copy from Amazon.

2. Hat Box: The Collected Lyrics of Stephen Sondheim by Stephen Sondheim – This set includes Finishing the Hat and Look I Made A Hat. Together they make up the lyrics of the recently departed Stephen Sondheim He also shares anecdotes, observations, and memories. I’ve been wanting to get it for some time, but it’s quite pricy.

3. Heavens to Betsy/Betsy In Spite of Herself by Maud Hart Lovelace– This is volume two of the Betsy Tacy Treasury. I picked up volume one in a used bookshop in 2021 and found it wonderfully comforting. I somehow missed these when I was a child. It’s set in a time and place I’m never been, but it’s amazing that some of the games, performances, and plans reminded me very much of my own childhood. I look forward to spending more time with these characters in 2022.

4. The Dorothy Dunnett Companion by Elspeth Morrison – I’ve been trying to read though Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles series for several years now. It’s slow going because while they’re entertaining and interesting, the main character speaks several languages and regularly makes references that many readers won’t understand. Plus we’re not in his had much, so his plans are often a mystery until late in the game. I think having a guide would help me as I go.

5. A Glove Shop in Vienna and Other Winter Stories by Eva Ibbotson – Eva Ibbotson is a favorite of mine. I’m especially interested in her work for older readers, yet I’ve somehow missed this book’s existence until recently. I’m looking forward to it though.

6. The Red Queen by Isobelle Carmody– This is the seventh and final book in the Obernewtyn Chronicles and I really want to read it. It’s hard to find in the US and I feel bad asking my Aussie book buddy for it since it’s 1068 pages so it’s a monster to ship across the entire planet. I may have to go for the ebook on this one.

7. The Thorn and the Blossom: A Two Sided Love Story by Theodora Goss– This is one where I want a physical copy. It’s a love story from both perspectives. The story is based on an Arthurian tale. It has illustrations and accordion binding (held in a cardboard sleeve) so that you can read one view from one side and then turn it around and read the other one that way. It’s something I’d love to have both for the story (I’m a fan of Goss as a writer, and it sounds interesting) and for the format.

8. Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd– I think I want my next Persephone read to be this one. It’s about a woman who’s shwrecked on a desert island for several years before returning to England, in the midst of WWII and rationing. I think it’s probably an appropriate pandemic read. Our daily lives suddenly have all kinds of rules and regulations that didn’t exist only a few years ago. It’s almost as if we left the world we knew and were dropped somewhere totally unfamiliar. Like most Persephone reads, I would like this as a physical book.

9. Rereadings: Seventeen Writers Revisit Books They Love Edited by Anne Fadiman – I’m a fan of Anne Fadiman, and I have a very complicated relationship with rereading books (What if I don’t like something as much the second time around? Plus there are all those books out there that I haven’t read at all yet…) so I’d love to see how some other readers and writers handle this dilemma (after all there are books I’d like to reread at some point!)

10. Take Courage: Anne Bronte and the Art of Life by Samantha Ellis – This is another that’s been on my TBR for quite a while. I really liked Samantha Ellis’ How To Be A Heroine: Or What I’ve Learned From Reading Too Much. This one looks like it blends biography with memoir. I’m always interested in the Bronte family. Especially the most overlooked member! And I enjoy reading Ellis’ thoughts and observations about literature and life.

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors That Make Me Smile

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

September 7: Books Guaranteed to Put a Smile On Your Face

I did a similar lists here and here but I figure that people can always use a reason to smile, right? This time I decided to stick to authors rather than specific titles.

Books by Georgette Heyer– I’m slowly rationing these so that I don’t run out. They’re mostly Jane Austen-eque regency romances, but also some whodunnits. So far my favorite is probably The Reluctant Widow or These Old Shades. A Christmas Party is a good whodunnit

Books by Barbara Pym– Pym’s social comedies are influenced by Austen, but her heroine is often a spinster (and stays one) throughout the matchmaking and meddling with other peoples lives. I haven’t read all of these either but Excellent Women, Jane and Prudence and Crompton Hodnet are all worth a read. Wow, can you tell Jane Austen makes me smile? I just put two authors on my list because they remind me of her work in some way! (Austen herself was on a previous list, linked above)

Books by Sophie Kinsella – Not great literature by any stretch of the imagination I really liked the first 3ish books in her Shopaholic series but then I feel like it just went on way too long. I like some of her others though. My (Not So) Perfect Life, Can You Keep A Secret, and I’ve Got Your Number are all silly and fun.

Books by Marian Keyes – Sometimes Keyes ventures into slightly darker territory, but most of her work is light and fun. Check out Watermelon, Sushi For Beginners and The Other Side of the Story. Her essay collections, Cracks in My Foundation and Under the Duvet are also fun.

Books by Sarah Addison Allen – Her books take place in a world very recognizable to our own, and feature people with (mostly) real world problems. But there are touches of magic everywhere that take you out of the mundane. I loved Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen and The Girl Who Chased the Moon.

Books by Rainbow Rowell– I haven’t read all of her work, but I’ve liked what I’ve read. Fangirl, Attachments and Landline are all good for a smile. I know her Simon Snow series (a Fangirl tie in) is really popular, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.

Books by Jill Mansell- My biggest problem with these is that they all tend to blend together in my mind, so it’s hard to tell what I’ve read and what I haven’t. That’s not a criticism though. It’s nice to know exactly what you’re getting sometimes. Especially when all you want is to smile a bit. I recommend Rumor Has It, Making Your Mind Up, and An Offer You Can’t Refuse, but I could be confusing them all with other books by the same author!

Books by Eva Ibbotson– What’s nice about Ibbotson is that her books are all comforting to some extent (based on what I’ve read anyway) and she’s got something in almost any genre you could want. Many are geared for a young, or at least YA, audience, but there’s plenty for readers of all ages to enjoy. Want romance? Check out The Secret Countess. Fantasy? The Secret of Platform 13 is a good one. Adventure? Try The Journey to the River Sea.

Books by LM Montgomery– Whether you’re partial to Emily, Anne or Pat; if you like short story collections or stand alones, there’s always something to enjoy or smile about here.

Books by Cecilia Ahearn– There have been one or two by this author that I didn’t enjoy but for the most part she’s reliable for a smile. I tend to enjoy her books best when there are touches of the fantastic. I wouldn’t call it fantasy precisely, but I especially enjoyed There’s No Place Like Here, The Book of Tomorrow, and If You Could See Me Now.

Tag Tuesday: Amy’s Tea Book Tag

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday was

August 17: Favorite Places to Read

But I really only have about 3 preferred reading spaces. So I went with a Tag Tuesday instead. Annie’s Tea Book Tag seems made for me because I love books and I love tea. It was created by booktuber Amy at From A Dusty Bookshelf, but I can’t find the channel now. I discovered this tag on Zezee With Books.

DOUBLE BERGAMOT EARL GREY: A ROBUST, DEEP, INTELLECTUAL, AND FLAVOURFUL BOOK

The Quincunx by Charles Palliser is an interesting puzzle of a novel that feels thoughtful, but in a fun way. The plot is a Dickensian mystery involving a will, a hidden document, several unreliable narrators and a journey through 19th century England from the gentry to the poor, the provincial to the metropolitan, and back again. I think the words “robust” and “flavorful” made me think of it.
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TIM HORTON’S STEEPED: A BOOK YOU READ ON THE GO THAT YOU COME BACK TO AGAIN AND AGAIN

This is hard because usually books that I read “on the go” aren’t books that I return to again and again. One of the few exceptions is Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris: Confessions of A Common Reader. I think I read the bulk of these essays literally on the go: on public transportation and in waiting rooms and such. But I’ve returned to several of them several times since then.

MEYER LEMON: A TANGY, FAST-PACED READ; GONE BEFORE YOU’VE FULLY SAVOURED THE FLAVOUR

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty was a book I read in about two days. It kept me involved and guessing, though I’m not sure how much there really was to “savor.” It did pose an interesting moral dilemma for one of the characters though. I’m really not sure what I’d do in the same position.

CHAMOMILE LAVENDER: A RELAXING, CALMING LATE NIGHT READ

The Countess Below Stairs/ The Secret Countess by Eva Ibbotson (you might find it under either title) is a charming reverse Cinderella story.  It’s best read as a fairy tale (which in this case I mean in a soothing way, not a disturbing and subversive way!) It’s got madcap adventures and misadventures and a lot of charm.

LADY GREY: A SMOOTH, SUBTLE, CLASSIC BOOK; PERFECT FOR A SERENE WINTER MORNING

For some reason a winter morning suggests a mystery to me. I was thinking about doing a cozy mystery for this one (maybe that’s why I associate mystery with winter, the “cozy” suggests being curled up with a good book and a cup of tea on a winter’s morning!) but since it also says “classic” I was going to go with And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, since that’s an old favorite of mine. But then I decided on Murder on the Orient Express since that’s more winter-y.

ORANGE PEKOE: A POPULAR NOVEL THAT EVERYONE’S READ

I had a surprisingly difficult time with this one. Pretty much any book I think of, I’m sure someone could comment and say they haven’t read it! Also I didn’t want to do Harry Potter for a number of reasons. I’ll say The Hunger Games. As I said, there are people out there who haven’t read it, but it’s undeniably popular.

ENGLISH BREAKFAST: A BRITISH CLASSIC

Just one? For some reason I’m tempted to go with Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. I guess I’d describe Gaskell as midway between Austen and Bronte with a bit of Dickens thrown in here and there. This is her final book and was never completely finished before Gaskell’s death in 1865. The ending was written by Frederick Greenwood. It was also made into a miniseries in 1999 that was pretty good.

CANADIAN BREAKFAST: A TITLE THAT TASTES A LITTLE LIKE ENGLISH BREAKFAST BUT READS LIKE THE NEW WORLD (AN EARLY CANADIAN OR AMERICAN WORK)

I almost did Anne for this (she’s like my Canadian BFF!) but I changed my mind and went for Emily of New Moon instead. She’s a bit darker in some ways, and less boundlessly optimistic, but I think I’m probably more like her than Anne (as much as I always love Anne!)

GREEN: A HEALTHY BOOK THAT FEEDS YOUR MIND

When I first read this, I stated trying to think of books about healthy food/exercise. Then I decided that was probably too literal (plus I couldn’t think of any!). I recently read a book in which Kate Bolick had an essay and that made me think back to her book Spinster: Making A Life of One’s Own. I think that book frames women’s choices (whatever they may be) in a really positive way. I wrote about it a bit here.

ICED TEA: A SWEET SUMMER TREAT, BREWED FOR THE LAZY BRIEF DAYS OF SUMMER

When I read the word “sweet” I immediately thought of Sarah Addison Allen. When I read “summer” I thought of Garden Spells, but The Sugar Queen is sweeter (and sugar themed) even though it’s set in winter.

Tag Tuesday: A Few Tags I’ve Been Meaning To Do

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic was:

March 16: Books On My Spring 2021 TBR

But I didn’t want to do yet another TBR, so I decided to clear up some tags that I’ve been meaning to do.

The first is the Get To Know The Fantasy Reader tag which was originally created by Bree Hill I found it on Hundreds and Thousands of Books

The Questions

What is your fantasy origin story? (The first fantasy you read)

I honesty don’t know which one I first read. I read fairy tales obsessively as a child. When I loved a story I’d seek out as many versions of it as I could find, and compare and contrast them. (Yes, I was like 5 at the time!)

If you could be the hero/heroine in a fantasy novel, who would be the author and what’s one trope you’d insist be in the story?

Hmm… That’s an interesting question. I’d want it to be someone who wouldn’t do anything too terrible to a hero or heroine, so that leaves out a lot of authors! Maybe I’d go with Eva Ibbotson. Her fantasy books are intended mostly for younger readers, and while enough happens to make them interesting to an older audience, it’s usually nothing terrible to characters we like! As for tropes, I’d like to be the “Lucky Novice” whose never done something before, or done something with minimal training, and can do it really well. I usually have to practice a lot to be even halfway decent at something!

What is a fantasy series you’ve read this year, that you want more people to read?

This year is still fairly young and I haven’t read that many fantasy series yet. I suppose I’ll highlight Fairy Godmothers Inc., which is the first in the Fairy Godmothers, Inc. series. But it’s got a major caveat: while I think the series has potential I didn’t like the first book. I found the two main characters to be awful, separately and together. I say the series has potential though because it seems like the kind of thing that follows different characters in each book. It’s about three fairy godmothers living in the magical town of Ever After, Missouri. Love is the source of the magic in their world, but it’s running low. They decided to help attract more love to the town of Ever After by making it a popular wedding destination. But they need some help promoting it. They ask their goddaughter Lucky (who tends to have terrible luck!) a popular artist, to fake-marry their godson (and her ex) Ransom Payne (a billionaire who runs a chocolate company) in a high profile ceremony. Lucky and Ransom both agree because they want to help their beloved godmothers, but they are both the most annoying characters I’ve read in a long time. But the book is clearly setting up for a series set in Ever After, revolving around Fairy Godmothers, Inc. The residents of Ever After include Red and her werewolf Grammy, a frog prince named “Charming”, a reformed evil queen, and more. I don’t recommend it yet, because as I said I didn’t like the first book. But I think it has the potential to be a feel good, fun series, so I’ll give it another chance.

What is your favourite fantasy subgenre? 

Ummm, I can’t choose! I’ll say that fantasy inspired by fairy tales; even though that can fall into several different subgenres. After all, Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series which is sci-fi oriented, but is fairy tale inspired. Meanwhile Juliet Marillier’s work is also fairy tale/legend inspired but it tends have a strong historical setting. The Fairy Godmothers, Inc series I mention above seems like it also draws heavily from fairy tales, but it has a light, magical realist tone. So I guess “fairy tale inspired fantasy” allows me to cheat and pick lots of different subgenres!

What subgenre have you not read much from?

I don’t read much in the way of Sword and Sorcery. I’m not really into reading about straight out battles and violent conflicts most of the time. I prefer more subtle rivalries. But there are exceptions to every rule.

Who is one of your auto-buy fantasy authors?

Just one?! I’ll say Juliet Marillier. I’ve read some books of hers that I’ve liked more than others, but I don’t think I’ve ever read one that I disliked.

How do you typically find fantasy recommendations? (Goodreads, Youtube, Podcasts, Instagram..)

All of the above. There are some bloggers whose opinions I trust, and I look at what my friends are reading on Goodreads mostly though.

What is an upcoming fantasy release you’re excited for?

Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley is described as “Jamaica Inn by way of Jeff Vandermeer, Ursula Le Guin, Angela Carter and Michel Faber” so that’s a big “yes, please!” from me.

What is one misconception about fantasy you would like to lay to rest?

I suppose I’d have to differentiate between reading fantasy and writing fantasy for this one. For reading, I’d say the notion that it’s only for kids has to go. Yes, you can absolutely have fantasy intended for children. But the genre can often get dark, violent, subversive, and disturbing. In other words, not for children at all! In terms of writing, I’ll say that the idea that fantasy writing requires no research needs to die. There’s a lot of research involved. I rant about it a bit in this post.

If someone had never read a fantasy before and asked you to recommend the first 3 books that come to mind as places to start, what would those recommendations be?

This is a tough one!

I wouldn’t do series because that’s a commitment and some don’t get really good until quite a ways in. I also think some classics of the genre tend to be too dense for beginners. Plus those always come with high expectations. So I’ll go with

The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson– This books is a relatively easy, quick read, that uses a lot of the tropes that Harry Potter does, in a stand alone story.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern– I recommend this one because it’s a stand alone of reasonable length that introduces readers to a more magic realist variation on fantasy. Plus I think Morgenstern beautifully engages the reader’s senses.

-The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker- This gets into the mythical creates of two different traditions and draws them together in a historical setting. It’s a great example of how fantasy can draw on different sources, and set itself in the “real” world. I actually see now that there’s a sequel that’s coming out in June, but I think it works as a stand alone, if someone chooses to read it that way.

I’ve also been meaning to tackle The Classic Book Tag, which I first encountered on BookwyrmKnits blog. It was originally created by It’s A Book World.

An overhyped classic that you didn’t really like

The one that jumps to my mind is War and Peace. I read it in college in a freshman seminar that explored the themes of war and peace in general. It wasn’t the worst book I read in that class (Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, I’m looking at you!) but after some really dense stuff, I was sort of looking forward to getting into a novel. Besides which, I actually enjoy big, sweeping, epic stories,. But nothing about the narrative or the characters grabbed me. My professor said that Tolstoy was “a great writer, who needed a great editor.” While I think that’s true, I think some of his writing is more compelling in other work. Here he gets to bogged down in extraneous stuff.

Favorite time period to read about

I’m a fan of the Victorian era, which is a pretty long era, spanning Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837-1901. A lot of my favorite writers of days past (the Bronte sisters, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Elliot, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins) were of this time period.

Favorite fairy tale

I was recently asked this question in an interview I did with F H Denny. I hope no one minds if I copy/paste this from my answer!

To be honest I think Beauty and the Beast has always been a favorite. I love almost every version I’ve read/seen (yes, including Disney!) It’s strange that one of the elements that always appealed to me was the forgotten, enchanted, castle where the Beast lives, but that’s an element that I didn’t include in my retelling at all!

I go on to talk about some pitfalls I wanted to avoid in my own work, so read the interview if that interests you. But I do think that the “gothicness” of the story always appealed to me. The brooding hero, who seems like a villain at first, the abandoned, enchanted castle…

What is the classic you are most embarrassed you haven’t read yet

I try not to be too embarrassed about not having read certain books yet. I mean, having new books to read (even when they’re not technically “new”) is one of life’s great joys, isn’t it? I consider myself pretty well read, but I’ve only been on earth so long, and there are other things I’ve had to do!

There are a few books I feel like I should have gotten to by now though. One of them is Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy. I think what’s stopped me so far from reading it, is the fact that it’s considered depressing, even by Hardy’s standards! I think he’s a beautiful writer, but he can be kind of a downer, and lately I haven’t felt up to tackling anything like that.

I was in a recent book club discussion where someone mentioned Moby Dick and I realized I’ve never read that before either. I’m not sure if I want to. Part of me wants to read it, if only to say I did, but another part figures “why bother? There so much out there I actually want to read!” Any advice from anyone who’s read it?

Top 5 classics you would like to read soon

Well there are many, many classics that I’d like to reread. But in addition to those I’d like to get to these for the first time:

Picnic At Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay- I really like the film adaptation and I’ve always found the story to be very intriguing.

The Lark by E. Nesbit- I’ve enjoyed E. Nesbit’s books for children and I’d like to read some of her work for adults as well.

Armadale by Wilkie Collins- I’ve really enjoyed Wilkie Collins’ other work that I’ve read. The is the only one of his “major” novels that I haven’t read yet.

Maggie-Now by Betty Smith- Again this is a case of me having liked the author’s other work, and wanting to read more of it.

The Common Reader by Virginia Woolf- I’ve always liked Virginia Woolf best as an essayist so I definitely want to get to this at some point.

Favorite modern book/series based on a classic

So many wonderful choices… Can’t decide on just one…

I’ll go with two books by one author: Circe and Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. It’s strange that I loved these books even though I’m not a big fan of the Greek classics on which they were based! I discuss them in this post for anyone interested.

Favorite movie version/tv-series based on a classic

Again, I feel almost like my head is about to explode from so many choices! I’m going to cheat and pick one movie and one tv series.

For film, I’m going with an adaptation of Little Women. I know the Greta Gerwig adaptation was really popular recently, but I actually prefer the 1994 adaptation. Not only is it a beautifully made film with an excellent cast, but it focuses on the story and characters, and not some of the more pedantic aspects that Louisa May Alcott got bogged down with at times. It emphasizes some of the politics and philosophy in which Louisa May Alcott (and her father, Amos Bronson Alcott) strongly believed, but it never espouses these ideas at the expense of the narrative. Rather, it highlights the moments that the narrative espouses these ideas.

For a TV series, I’m going to go with the 2005 BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. It’s an eight episode miniseries, that manages to convey the epic scope of the novel, without getting bogged down in the minutia. Some of Dickens’ work easily lends itself to adaptation. This book isn’t one of them. I’m very fond of it. In fact, I might call it a favorite, but the plot, surrounding a chancery court case doesn’t lend itself to big, dramatic scenes or spectacle. Some of the twists and turns may even seem contrived to 21st century readers/viewers. However this series manages to make it compelling drama with a strong cast. It also manages to recreate the dark, well, bleak, atmosphere of Dickens’ novel in a way that works cinematically.

Worst classic to movie adaptation

The one that comes to mind first is the 1995 adaptation of The Scarlet Letter. The book was about the cruelty of public shaming and punishment, guilt, and pain. The movie features a Hollywoodized romance that changes the ending and in the process ends up contradicting the message of the book. It also features a very miscast (IMO) Demi Moore.

Favorite edition(s) you’d like to collect more classics from

I think that Virago Modern Classics are very pretty, and they include a lot of lesser known, underrated classic works. Ditto for Persephone Books. I don’t want to replace all my classics with fancy elaborate editions tough. I like the mishmash of classics that line my walls, with my notes in them, and places I’ve dog-eared still creased a bit. It always annoys me a bit when people have classic editions that look like they haven’t been opened!

An under-hyped classic you would recommend to someone

I’m going to push for The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte. She’s often overlooked in favor of her sisters (which is easy to happen when your sisters are Emily and Charlotte Bronte!) and even Lucasta Miller’s book, The Bronte Myth, dismissed her in a few sentences. But her work was just as strong in it’s own way, as that of either of her sisters. I love how angry she looks in the family portrait that’s on the book cover next to this text. I always imagine her saying “How dare you overlook me! I’m brilliant!”

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: Springtime Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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