Top Ten Tuesday: Spring-y Books

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

March 9: Spring Cleaning Freebie (for example, books you’re planning to get rid of for whatever reason, book’s you’d like to clean off your TBR by either reading them or deciding you’re not interested, books that feel fresh and clean to you after winter is over, etc.)

For this one I decided to stay simple and go with books that feel like/ remind me of springtime. Themes of nature, rebirth, renewal, hope, and second chances abound!

  1. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim– It’s a miserable February when two English ladies see an advertisement “To Those Who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine.” They end up spending their April with two other ladies. The only thing these four have in common really is dissatisfaction with their everyday lives. The month they spend in a medieval castle in Portafino, Italy, is transformative for all.

2. The Lake House by Kate Morton– This is actually not my favorite Kate Morton book, but it does strike me as the most spring-y. Alice lives on her family’s estate in Cornwall. Her baby brother, Theo vanishes without a trace one night after a party, and the family, torn apart, abandons the lake house. Decades later, the house is discovered by Sadie, a young detective with the London police force, who is staying in Cornwall with her grandfather. Her investigation into what happened long ago connects her with Alice, and some shocking revelations. I think the themes of healing and second chances make this one feel like springtime.

3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett- This childhood favorite is all about rebirth, renewal, second chances, and of course, gardens! Mary is raised in India and sent to her uncle’s gloomy English manor after she’s orphaned by a cholera outbreak. As she tries to crave a new life for herself on the moors, she discovers and abandoned garden. In making the garden grow, she helps herself and others grow as well. She brings healing, and new life, to a grieving household.

4. Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth by Phillipa Gregory- Technically these two books make up the Tradescant duology, but they’re both pretty stand alone, so they can be read in either order. The first book is about John Tradescant, royal gardener in 17th century England. The second book follows his son, who immigrates to America (which was then colonies). The only thing that the father and son, and the two books, have in common is their name, and their strong connection to nature.

5. Arcadia by Lauren Groff- In upstate New York, in the 1970s, a few idealists found a commune on the grounds of a decaying mansion (Arcadia House). They vow to work together and live off the land. The books follows the utopian dream through it’s demise. This may seem almost: anti-spring! After all the living off nature idea falls apart. But the people change. They grow. They realize they have to face the wider world outside, and they emerge when they’re ready to take it on. To me that seems like a springtime theme.

6. Persuasion by Jane Austen- This is actually one of my least favorite Austen books (which still makes it better that about 90% of other books!), but it’s themes of first loves and second chances make it great for spring. It’s about a couple that falls in love and is separated by fate. Years later, they meet again. Older, wiser, and still in love. Is it too late for them? After all, they’ve both grown and changed… Of course not! Spring is the season of second chances.

7. Spring by Ali Smith-Spring is the third novel in Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet. All of the novels have connections but they’re all stand alone and can be read in any order. All are about contemporary Britain, but also in a larger sense about the attitudes of the western world. This book has a focus on immigration and refugee crises. While the depiction of detention centers is sometimes hard to take, there is also a sense of optimism and hope that we can learn and change, that feels spring-y.


8. Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf– This imagined biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s loyal canine friend is a story of love, companionship and renewal. It’s also a story of transformation, change and growth. We see Flush go from stifled lap dog to cosmopolitan dog about town.

9. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter- This book opens on the Italian coast in 1962. A chance at romance between an innkeeper and an aspiring actress is cut off. But 50 years later it might get a second chance thanks to some Hollywood hustlers. This could have been a cynical Hollywood satire, but Walter gives the story a sweetness that is accompanied by wit.

10. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed- Cheryl Strayed is in sort of a personal, metaphorical winter at the beginning of this memoir. And much of the content takes her though actual snowpack! But she emerged from the winter, stronger, wiser, and most of all, hopeful: a metaphorical spring ends the winter.

Top Ten Tuesday: Musicals Based on Books

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

November 3: Non-Bookish Hobbies (Let’s get to know each other! What do you do that does not involve books or reading?)

I’m so nervous about the election today, but doing this post was a welcome distraction this week!

Most people who know me, know these things about me: 1. I am a bookworm. A book devourer. I consume books. 2. I love musicals. I love music as a storytelling device. So naturally, I love it when some of my favorite books become musicals. Here are some books that have become musicals over the years. Some you probably know, but others you may not. You could say that geeking out over musicals it one of my non-bookish (but sometimes still bookish) hobbies.

Ragtime

Based on the novel Ragtime by EL Doctorow

I actually haven’t seen this one live, but I’ve come to love it via the Original Broadway Cast Recording which features some of my all time favorite performers including Audra MacDonald, Marin Mazzie (who we recently lost too soon) and Brian Stokes Mitchell.

The Woman in White

Based on the novel The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins

This musical chopped down the Wilkie Collins’ novel pretty significantly, but that’s necessary. There’s no way to get everything in the book into a two and a half hour production! The show was pretty short live on Broadway and in London, but the cast recording is available to anyone curious.

The Phantom of the Opera

Based on the novel The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

I’d say that most people know this or at least know of this. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical takes some liberties with the original novel by Gaston Leroux but for the most part, they work. The show is one of the biggest hits in the world, with productions running worldwide. It’s had a Hollywood version, and the 25th Anniversary staging is also available to watch.   However, not everyone knows that the novel also has other musical adaptations by Maurice Yeston and Arthur Kopit, Ken Rice, and David Staller.

Jane Eyre

Based on the novel by Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte

This had a brief Broadway run in 2000, but I never had the opportunity to see it. I discovered it thanks to the cast recording and some youtube videos. If you’re a fan of the novel and you like musicals check it out.

The Secret Garden

Based on the novel by The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Lucy Simon’s musical adaptation of The Secret Garden expands the story a bit, depicting flashbacks of Archibold’s romance with Lily, but not in any way that feels untrue or disrespectful to the source material. I really liked how the ghosts at Miselthwaite are an active part of the show.

Les Miserables

Based on the novel Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Once again, this is one that really needs no introduction. It’s played all over the world. It was a major Hollywood film. There are even three separate concert stagings available to home viewers (I’m partial to the 10th Anniversary, but there’s also the 25th and the more recent Staged Concert. Yes, Hugo’s novel was adapted significantly to be able to take place onstage in a three-hour span. But as far as adaptations go, I felt that it was pretty well done, especially considering the size of the source material.

The Bridges of Madison County

Based on the novel The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller

This one is weird because I hated the literary source material. I found it badly written and treacly. I saw the show because I was a fan of the composer/lyricist, Jason Robert Brown, as well as the two leads, Kelli O’Hara and Stephan Pasquale. I was surprised to see that Marsha Norman wrote a script that took the basic premise of the novel; a four-day affair between a fifties housewife and a traveling photographer, and did something very different with it. It didn’t last long on Broadway, but the cast recording is available.

The Light in the Piazza

Based on the novella The Light in the Piazza by Elizabeth Spencer

This is based on Elizabeth Spencer’s novella of the same name (which I also love), but in this case, the music, the performances, the sets and costumes, and production all came together to enhance the beauty of the material. The show was filmed live and broadcast on PBS’ Live From Lincoln Center. Though there’s no official DVD release of which I’m aware, the video may be on the internet somewhere. There’s also a cast recording available.

Passion

Based on the novel Fosca by IU Tarchetti

This isn’t for everyone. I’ll say that straight out. It’s a dark story of love and obsession.  It’s not a romance we’re comfortable with, and one of the primary players is Fosca, a character who doesn’t quite qualify as a heroine, but she isn’t an anti-heroine or a villain either. Though I could see different people responding to her character in different ways. But it’s also really beautiful in an unexpected way. I would suggest that people looking at this leave their cynicism at the door. Luckily the original Broadway production is available on DVD.

Wicked

Based on the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

I’m actually not the biggest fan of this one. It’s a fun show, with some catchy tunes that provides an enjoyable few hours of theater. I just don’t think it’s more than that. But then I wasn’t the biggest fan of the novel either. It’s actually very different from the show. Some significant chances were made to the story in adapting it for the stage.

South Pacific

Based on the book Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener

This Rodgers and Hammerstein Classic is based on the book of interrelated short stories but James Michener, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1948, The musical combined several of these stories, and won the Pulitzer for Drama in 1950. There’s a Hollywood film, a made for TV version with Glenn Close and Harry Connick Jr, and a 2005 staged concert starring Reba McEntire and Alec Baldwin. A Broadway revival was broadcast on PBS but not released on DVD. It may still be available on the internet somewhere.

Top Ten Tuesday: Springtime Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I’d Want As A Friend

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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I wasn’t feeling this week’s topic:

October 22: Books I’d Give Different Titles To (and tell us what title you’d pick!)

So I decided to go with a throwback to a different TTT that I missed:

August 13: Book Characters I’d Love to Be Besties With (submitted by Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Blog)

31yhicomrpl-_ac_us218_1. Delysia Lafosse in Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day by Winifred Watson- I have a tendency to be a bit of a homebody, much like Miss Pettigrew in this novel. But I try to have at least one Delysia in my life, so that I don’t live for only one day.

 

 

51hmsqsiztl-_ac_us218_2. Pippi Longstocking from Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren- I always envied Tommy and Annika who live next door to Pippi. They’re normal kids until this crazy, unconventional, strong girl moves in along with her monkey and her horse. After that every day is an adventure. But unlike Pippi, Tommy and Annika can go on adventures during the day and then go home to their parents and be normal kids. So being friends with her is sort of the best of both worlds. I’d definitely need that sense of normality to balance things out.

51iosghk0l-_ac_us218_3. Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling- She’s smart, loyal, and she’d be great to talk books with. Plus, if I ever need anyone to stick by my side when I fight evil, she’s good for that too.

 

 

 

515yocsadl-_ac_us218_4. Lord John Grey from the Outlander series and the Lord John series by Diana Gabaldon- If you’re his friend he’ll be loyal to the death, even if your circumstances frequently put you on different sides of conflict. If there’s a string that he can pull to help you, you can be sure he’ll do it, no questions asked.

 

 

51vxh2jgv8l-_ac_us218_5. Melanie Wilkes from Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell- I wouldn’t want to be friends with Scarlett. She’s selfish about 99% of the time! But Melanie is loyal through and through. If you’re a friend, she’ll be a friend even if the rest of the crowd snubs you. She’ll even help you bury the body of the Yankee that you killed in self defense.

 

 

61t6c3q2sul-_ac_us218_6. Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web by EB White- She’s a creative problem solver, which is always useful. Plus, she’ll be honest with you. If you’re wrong, she’ll tell you. She’ll be gentle, never cruel, but she’ll tell you what you need to hear even if you don’t like to hear it.

 

 

 

51dxbewzuil-_ac_us218_7. Anne Shirley from the Anne series by LM Montgomery- I didn’t want to use this one because I have a feeling she’ll turn up on a lot of lists, but there’s a reason for that. She’s kind, adventurous and would be so fun to play Lady of Shallot with.

 

 

61yilvqhjhl-_ac_us218_8. Sara Crewe from A Little Princess by Frances Hodsgson Burnett- When times are good for her she’s happy to share her good fortune with others. When times get tough she remains just as generous.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Tropes

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

August 20: Favorite Tropes (a trope is a commonly used theme or plot device) (submitted by Andrea @ Books for Muse)

1. Mysterious school

2. Slow burn romance

3. Small towns

4. Missing/Absent parents

5. Family secrets

6. Gothic

7. Neo-Victorian

8. Time Travel / Time Slips

9. Dual Timelines

10. Fairy Tale retellings

Top Ten Tuesday: Terrifying Things in Children’s Books

For That Artsy  Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

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This week’s topic was:

May 21: Books That I Refuse to Let Anyone Touch (too special/valuable, perhaps?) (submitted by Savannah Grace @ Scattered Scribblings)

But I don’t have any books that I won’t let anyone touch, so I decided to make up my own topic again.

  1. 51mysyx8uvl-_ac_us218_The Witches by Roald Dahl– When the witches remove their human faces to reveal their witch faces underneath. The idea of peeling off your own skin really creeped me out (still does actually!)
  2. 81c3estz50l._ac_ul436_Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe– I remember my teacher reading this to the class in first or second grade. It’s a pretty dumb story about a vampire bunny that sucks the juice out of vegetables. I think it scared me because the teacher explained that it as based on Dracula and told us about Dracula (including the fact that the character was loosely based on Vlad the Impaler) so I had nightmares about a combination vampire bunny/Dracula sucking my blood at night…
  3. 51lvdevlnwl-_ac_us218_A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle– An evil, disembodied brain tortures a child who can’t bounce a ball properly. That is my most vivid memory of this book. Yes apparently there’s a lot of other stuff that happens, but something about that scene stays with me. Maybe because I’m not good at bouncing balls either…
  4. 61zj9bc2qwl-_ac_us218_Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak– In some ways I actually think this books is beautiful, but as a kid the idea of a baby being abducted by goblins and replaced with an ice sculpture scared me! Actually I think the fact that it happens while his sister wasn’t looking scared me the most. I really identified with how guilty she must feel. Fortunately she gets him back.
  5. 91cnkvomqwl._ac_ul436_Mary Poppins by PL Travers– I had to google to find out which book this was, because I couldn’t remember. Actually I couldn’t remember anything about it other than the scene where Mary Poppins takes the children to a candy store and the owner, breaks off her fingers (made of candy canes) and gives them to the children to eat. Major nightmares! Thank goodness that scene didn’t make it into the movie!
  6. 81o87er7ygl._ac_ul436_Peter Pan by JM Barrie– I loved this book some of it is scary! The idea of a crocodile biting off someone’s hand always sounded painful. Also, Tinkerbell was pretty scary when you think about it. She tries to get the lost boys to kill Wendy. That’s pretty treacherous!
  7. 51y7aqds2yl-_ac_us218_Cinderella- In one version of the fairy tale (I don’t remember if it was this one) the step sisters cut off their heels and toes to try to get their feet into the slipper. That gave me some very disturbing mental images of maimed feet and slippers filled with blood.
  8. 21j21wp9j4l._ac_ul320_Sweet Valley Twins and Friends: The Christmas Ghost by Francine Pascal– I think I read this in second or third grade. I knew the story of A Christmas Carol due to Mickey’s Christmas Carol and a few other kid friendly adaptations, but something about the contemporary suburban setting felt really familiar. The ghosts in that setting really freaked me out and caused several sleepless nights!
  9. 61g8cli07xl-_ac_us218_The Monster At The End of This Book by Jon Stone and Mike Smollen- I admired Grover as a kid. When I learned that my dad didn’t have a middle name, I even granted him the moniker “Grover” to use. So if Grover was telling me there was a monster at the end of this book and I should stop reading before I got there, I was going to listen! The books stayed safely in my bookshelf until one day when my mom, intent on ignoring the wise muppet’s advice, took it out and read it to the end. I was terrified until she got there.
  10. 61yilvqhjhl-_ac_us218_A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett– Even though this is and was one of my favorites, as a kid the idea of losing a parent terrified me (well it still does…) and I think I really identified with Sara when I read this.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Literary Friendships

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

November 27: Platonic Relationships In Books (friendships, parent/child, siblings, family, etc.)

For this one I decided to go with friendships. Sometimes the friendships in question are between siblings, but there’s always a strong basis in affection as opposed to just familial bonds. It’s also OK if two characters within a group are in a romantic relationships as long as the group itself is held together by platonic bonds.

511jzqi9ekl-_ac_us218_1. The March Sisters in Little Women– Yes they’re sisters. And that holds them together even when they grow apart in other ways. But the March’s bond is built on a foundation of confiding in one another, having shared memories and experiences and being there to support one another when things go wrong. All those are things that exist among groups of friends, whether or not they share the same blood.

 

51dxbewzuil-_ac_us218_2. Anne Shirley and Diana Barry in the Anne series by LM Mongomery- Anne and Diana are kindred spirits, bosom friends pretty much from day one. You can only get drunk on cherry cordial with a bestie. When you share something sweet with a bosom friend it tastes even sweeter because you shared it.  A best friend like this stands by you even when you’re not using your best judgement, and helps to pick up the pieces when you fall. Yes, I’ve read some contemporary criticism that claims this was more than platonic friendship. But on a purely textual level they’re simply BFFs through thick and thin.

51iosghk0l-_ac_us218_3. Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling- I was probably one of the few readers who was relieved to see Hermione end up with Ron, without even a hint of a romance with Harry. As Harry tells Ron in The Deathly Hallows “She’s like my sister.” These three befriended each other early in the series and proved that together they were a formidable trio. Yes, Ron and Hermione hooked up eventually but they were friends first and since there was nothing going on at any point between Harry and Hermione or Harry and Ron, they qualify for the list.

51h6recpxtl-_ac_us218_4. The narrator and Owen Meany in A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving- The unnamed narrator has nothing but love for his best friend Owen Meany and their friendship survives a turbulent childhood in which Owen accidentally kills the narrator’s mother (oops!). Owen weights less than 100 lbs and is less than five feet tall when he’s fully grown. He has a screechy, strangled voice. He’s also kind, honest, selfless, and rebellious.  He comes into the narrator’s life early on and his influence is felt to the point where the rest of the narrator’s life is lived as a prayer for this childhood friend.

51vp6vchi4l-_ac_us218_5. Jude, Willem, JB, and Malcolm in A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara- These four friends met in college. Over the next few decades there are fallings out and other friendships that come into and out of their lives, but these four are there for one another through it all. In this case the biggest threats to the group don’t really come from the action of the novel, but from the character’s  haunted pasts. Once again there’s some romance in the group, as Jude and Willem eventually become a couple, but their relationship started as friendship only and existed as friendship for two decades before becoming romantic. Since there are no other couples within the group at any point, it qualifies for my list.

41haymrzhdl-_ac_us218_6. Caroline Helstone and Shirley Keeldar in Shirley by Charlotte Bronte- Caroline’s father died and her mother abandoned her, and she was raised by an uncle. Shirley is also an orphan, but she’s wealthy, and cheerful and full of ideas. The become good friends and get involved in  a labor dispute at the local mill. They also learn some family secrets and become romantically involved with two brothers. There’s confusion and revelations in the plot, but even at a point when it seems like Caroline and Shirley are being set up to be romantic rivals, they maintain a friendship. In fact while the book deals with a number of topics I consider the primary plot to be a story of friendship.

51viyzpfqtl-_ac_us218_7. Mary, Dickon, and Colin from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett- As a child the fact that the garden was a metaphor for the friendship that blooms between these three characters, went totally over my head.  Fortunately I reread it later on. Well, actually now that I think of it, the garden is a metaphor for several things in that book, but one of them is the friendship forms among these three very different children from vastly different backgrounds.

41uqpdzu9hl-_ac_us218_8. George and Lenny in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck- George and Lenny are two migrant workers during the Great Depression who dream of a little bit of land and a home to call their own. Lenny is a large man with a child’s mind and George is his protector. But when Lenny’s love of soft things leads to tragedy, George shows the kind of loyalty that the best of friends share,  in the most terrible way possible.

 

51e3moi918l-_ac_us218_9. Jane and Prudence in Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym- Jane is a forty one year old Vicar’s wife, with a daughter, who lives a very proper parish life. Prudence is a twenty nine year old spinster who lives in London and is fiercely independent. Jane was Prudence’s tutor at Oxford and despite their different lives, they’ve maintained a friendship. Jane decides that local widower, Fabian, would be a perfect match for Prudence, but Prudence is interested in her (married) boss. Neither character is particularly likable but as I finished reading the book I felt like I would miss them and their friendship.

51kwpr263l-_ac_us218_10. Julie, Ethan, Jonah, Cathy, Ash and Goodman in The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer-  Julie, Ethan, Jonah, Cathy, Ash, and her brother Goodman meet at a summer camp for the arts in the 1970’s and dub themselves “The Interestings.” Over the next few decades the group comes together and breaks apart in various ways. Their dynamics change and change again. Ethan and Ash marry but that’s really the only romantic relationship within the group.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Children’s Books I Appreciate More As An Adult

April 10: Books I Loved but Will Never Re-Read (submitted by Brandyn @ Goingforgoldilocks)

I couldn’t think of much that fit this weeks topic so I changed it a bit. Rather than look at books I liked but wouldn’t want to reread,  I’m going to talk about books that I liked but only (fully) appreciated upon rereading them years later. As a teacher I reread  a lot of children’s books and often get a very different impression of them, as an adult.

41awaj1qnkl-_ac_us218_1. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein– As a kid, this story made me so sad. The boy takes everything from the tree, and the tree just gives it happily. But I had to teach it to my class as an adult, and so I reread and realized that it’s a metaphor for the relationship between a parent and a child. The tree loves the boy unconditionally. The boy loves the tree but feels the need to leave the tree and make a life for himself elsewhere. However, he returns at various points for support/guidance/branches. The tree always gives it, in the same way a parent loves and supports a grown child.

61dfrcilrcl-_ac_us218_2. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams– This is another book that totally went over my head as a little kid. I mean I appreciated the story about how the boy’s love for the rabbit makes it real. But a lot of it is really about what it means to grow up and grow old, and how that affects our relationships. I think that if I were to pick it up again thirty years from now, I’d probably spot other things that I didn’t get rereading it recently.

 

5157xlbzfil-_ac_us160_3. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney– I happened across this essay about this book a few weeks ago and vaguely remembered the book from my childhood. I reread it and discovered a beautiful story about what “a life well lived” really means. Of course, the answer is different for different people, but for the titular character, it means having a sense of wonder and leaving something beautiful behind.

61t6c3q2sul-_ac_us218_4. Charlotte’s Web by EB White- I liked this book a lot as a kid. In the end, I think I saw Charlotte’s children (whom Wilber befriends) as his way of replacing her. I don’t think there was much judgment on my part for that. But as an adult, having experienced both friendship and grief, I give a lot more weight to this sentence: “Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” I understand now, in a way that I didn’t as a child, that we can find new love in our hearts but we can’t replace the people we’ve lost.

51viyzpfqtl-_ac_us218_5. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett- This was a favorite of mine as a kid, but as an adult, I definitely see Uncle Archibold and his actions differently. I think for a while I saw him as almost villainous as a kid. I saw the ending as his reformation. Now, reading it, I see that he was a character torn up by grief over the loss of his wife, and trying desperately to protect his child in the only way that he knew how.

 

51z5jz2frjl-_ac_us218_6. Peter Pan by JM Barrie– I loved Peter Pan as a kid. He had it all, his own magical land where he could be a kid forever and play with mermaids and fairies and other children. What else could a child want? But even as I kid I sensed some sadness in him and now I understand it’s because he wouldn’t grow up. Children, even if they don’t like the idea of growing up, are essentially future-oriented. Without a future, Peter lives in an eternal present. And while he has a lot of playmates, he lacks a family. “There could not have been a lovelier sight; but there was none to see it except a little boy who was staring in at the window. He had ecstasies innumerable that other children can never know; but he was looking through the window at the one joy from which he must be for ever barred.”

61wpg9cp-4l-_ac_us218_7. Amelia Bedelia by Peggie Parish- I remember that this used to crack me up as a kid. I would laugh so hard that my stomach would hurt. Recently, I used this book to teach my class about puns and idioms. I realized that even though the humor still holds up, it’s also an illustration of the fact that people communicate in different ways (even when they’re technically speaking the same language) and understand things differently. It’s a good lesson to remember.

51mv1xuuql-_ac_us218_8. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown– Yes, hear me out on this one! When was the last time you took a moment to appreciate the moon? Or the clocks in your room? Or the socks? As a kid, I remember reading this with my dad before bedtime and then saying goodnight to the things in my room. I still think there’s something to be said for looking at the ordinary things in your life, the things you don’t really notice, and just acknowledging them.

51lvdevlnwl-_ac_us218_9. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle- As a kid, I definitely enjoyed the story about a girl traveling through space and time to rescue her dad, alongside her brother and her secret crush.  But rereading recently allowed me to see that there was so much more to it. At one point a character says “Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.” I don’t think I had any idea what that statement meant when I first read it. But now it seems like the perfect thing to tell a heroine who doesn’t fit into what the world expects of her, or what she expects of herself. And that’s not even getting into some of the scientific, religious, and philosophical themes in the book!

51y7aqds2yl-_ac_us218_10. Cinderella– As a kid, I was familiar with many different versions of Cinderella from around the world because I would compare and contrast them. I loved that all of them had some form of magic and that Cinderella got her victory over her tormenters and lived happily ever after. As a teen (and developing feminist) I scorned Cinderella as the heroine who needs her fairy godmother to wave her magic wand to produce a prince who could provide a happy ending. But as an adult, I see it differently. Cinderella is a heroine who survives years of abuse at the hands of her family without losing her characteristic kindness and good heart. I think she deserves some credit there. What she really wanted wasn’t a prince at all: it was a night off and a chance to go to a party. It was only after she met the prince and fell in love, that she became interested in anything more than that.

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters With Whom I’ve Identified

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

April 3: Characters I liked That Were In Non-Favorite/Disliked Books

I wasn’t really feeling this topic, because usually if I don’t like a book I don’t like/relate to/identify with the characters.  So I just decided to look at characters with whom I’ve identified over the course of my life. I think that my ability to identify with the characters that I read about is one reason I fell in love with reading in the first place. These are some characters that I’ve seen a bit of myself in:

51dxbewzuil-_ac_us218_1. Anne Shirley from LM Montgomery’s Anne series- I’ve posted about my love for Anne before. She was imaginative, creative, she spoke her mind and tried to make the best of bad situations. Yes, she sometimes made mistakes and accidentally dyed her hair green, or got her friends drunk, but who hasn’t?

 

 

51swo9un1-l-_ac_us218_

2. Emily Starr from LM Montgomery’s Emily series- I relate to Emily in a different way from Anne. In some ways, I think I have more in common with her as I grow up. She’s a writer. Like Anne, she tries to look on the bright side, but she needs the support of fiction to help her. In that way, I’m similar.

 

 

51srrilel-_ac_us218_3. Jo March from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women– I think most readers of Little Women identify strongly with Jo. I do identify with the other March girls in different ways at different points, but Jo was the one with whom I identified on the most consistent basis. Even when she made decisions that weren’t popular with other readers (like turning down Laurie) I always understood where she was coming from and why.

 

51fm3ylbgvl-_ac_us218_4. Francie Nolan from Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn– I think I was about thirteen when I first “met” Francie Nolan. She and I had a lot in common. Our names were practically the same. For Francie “the world was hers for the reading” and I could relate to that sentiment. Francie was sensitive and creative in a world that often seemed harsh and brutal. In retrospect, my life was far less harsh than hers was, but I related regardless.

 

51k3i-j1fl-_ac_us218_5. Jane Eyre from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre– Unlike Jane, I’m not “poor, obscure, plain and little.” Yes, a few of those words could apply to me at different points in my life, but it’s not generally how I see myself. In spite of her words, I don’t think that’s how Jane sees herself either. Regardless of the value (or lack thereof) on which society places her, Jane is always secure in her own self-worth. That’s always been a quality to which I aspire.

 

51igzsbi-ul-_ac_us218_6. Matilda Wormwood from Roald Dahl’s Matilda– Matilda was always a sort of superhero to me. She was lonely, unappreciated, and frightened, and I’ve certainly felt that way at times. But she was also a fighter with a keen sense of justice, a genius IQ and the ability to defy the laws of physics using only her mind. How can you not love a girl like that!?

 

51egwhdscl-_ac_us218_7. Cassandra Mortmain from Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle– Cassandra is one of those characters that I carry with me as I read other things. I’ll see another character’s actions and think “Cassandra wouldn’t have made that mistake,” or “Cassandra would do that better.” That’s not to say Cassandra had everything in her life together. Far from it, she was just as confused as anyone else much of the time, but her ability to record everything in her journal gave her a chance to give thought to those moments that most people let pass and forget about.

61wniu1hbzl-_ac_us218_8. Ramona Quimby from Beverley Cleary’s Ramona series- Ramona spoke to the part of me that I often wished I could let free. She wasn’t afraid to be annoying occasionally because she understood that sometimes it’s the only way that you can be heard. She wasn’t afraid to get messy if it looked like fun. I’ve always been a “good girl,” that’s just who I am naturally, but Ramona let my inner rebel run free.

 

61yilvqhjhl-_ac_us218_9.  Sara Crewe from A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett- Like me, Sara was addicted to stories. Thankfully I never suffered anything as traumatic as Sara did when I was a child, but I think that much like her, I’ve used imagination and stories as a way of coping with bad times. I also hope that I have some qualities that she shows in this book: resilience, generosity, kindness…

 

51jb19dy-ul-_ac_us218_10. Bridget Jones from Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding- This is one character who I hope that I’m not too much like. She’s too ridiculous for me to want that! But she also represents the parts of me that are just trying to keep all the different areas of life together. She’s the part that knows that some days just call for chocolate and that sometimes you need to sing into your hairbrush, loudly and off-key.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set in Another Country

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

March 27: Books That Take Place In Another Country

Since I’ve read a lot of books set in other countries I had to narrow this one down a bit. So I’m looking at books that I read in the past year:

41044w47wfl-_ac_us218_1. The Lives of Shadows by Barbara Hodgson – Syria

This “Illustrated Novel” sounded really interesting. In 1914 a young British man goes traveling and falls in love with Damascus. He buys a house there but WWI leaves him wounded, and a war in Syria causes further damage. He finally returns to the house years later and discovers that someone else might be living there too. We also follow the journey of Asilah, the house’s previous (and maybe still current?) inhabitant. However, I felt like the author didn’t explore these stories as much as I would have liked because she was more interested in the illustrations and photographs that she included.

51vs6bzd8kl-_ac_us218_2. Hummingbirds Fly Backwards by Amy Cheung– China

To be honest, I decided to read this book because it was free on kindle. It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t great either. It follows Chow Jeoi, a twenty-nine-year-old lingerie saleswoman in Hong Kong. She’s in love with Sam, a married man, and is willing to wait for him. Her friend, Chui Yuk, is willing to do anything to support her boyfriend’s writing career. Meanwhile, Yau Ying has been with her boyfriend for seven years and feels that their relationship is missing something. The biggest problem with this book for me was the fact that I didn’t like any of these women. Chow Jeoi is asked, late in the book, if she ever worries about hurting Sam’s wife. She’s honestly surprised. Like it might never have occurred to her that his wife had feelings otherwise! That made it hard for me to really feel anything for her. So while it was well written, I’m hesitant to recommend it.

51nmi7tdxfl-_ac_us218_3. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent- Iceland

I just finished reading this actually, and my overall impression was positive. It tells the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, a real woman who was executed for murder in Iceland in 1829. While awaiting her execution she was sent to a farm to stay. The family who owns the farm is (understandably) horrified and worried for their safety. But as Agnes spends her time on the farm, the family learns that she’s not the psycho that they’d been expecting. She tells them the story of her life, including what really happened the night that her boss/lover and his friend were killed. The Icelandic setting is really vivid here. I read it’s going to be made into a film soon, and I’m sure that it will look beautiful onscreen. Jennifer Lawrence is going to star in it, which doesn’t thrill me because I think she’s not quite right for the role.

51j2bc8fhbjl-_sl160_4. The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth- Germany

I read this for a few reasons. One is that I love Kate Forsyth. The other is that it’s a WWII story inspired by Beauty and the Beast. That sort of made me curious. Actually, it’s inspired by the Grimm’s brothers version of the tale, The Singing Springing Lark. But despite the source material, it’s not fantasy. It’s historical fiction, using a lot of real-life people, and the “beasts” are metaphorical. To save her family, Ava must marry Leo, a young Nazi officer. Ava hates the Nazi regime and is a member of an underground resistance movement. So she hides her activities from Leo even though she’s falling in love with him. But she gradually realizes that there’s more to Leo than meets the eye. He may wear a Nazi uniform, but he’s as opposed to what they’re doing as Ava is, and he’s using his position in the military to try to save who he can, and help the allies. Eventually, things reach a point where Ava and Leo are separated, and Ava must save Leo from deadly consequences.

51qcjqbtgll-_ac_us218_5. Troll: A Love Story by Johanna Sinisalo– Finland

This is a weird book.  It follows Angel, a young photographer, who encounters a group of teens harassing a wounded young troll. In the world of the book, trolls are real, but they’re an extremely rare species. He takes the troll in and does his best to care for it, despite the fact that there’s not much information about troll care that he can find. The troll releases Angel’s own animal instincts. It’s a wild animal and as it grows, it becomes more and more unmanageable, leading Angel to make a difficult, and disturbing choice. I felt like this book was strange. I appreciated the way the writer tied Finnish folklore in with the question of animalistic tendencies manifest themselves in “civilized” people. There were parts that definitely made me go “ick” but I think that is intentional.

51vtshbedl-_ac_us218_6. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery– France

Even though this book is set in a Paris apartment building I think it could take place almost anywhere. Renee is the concierge of an upscale apartment building. She’s short, cranky, and overweight. Unknown to the building’s tenants, she’s also extremely intelligent, well-read, curious, and passionate about art. Paloma is a twelve-year-old girl who lives in the building.  She’s also super smart, but she’s disgusted by what seems like the futility of life. She plans to kill herself on her thirteenth birthday unless she comes across a good reason not to. To put people off she pretends to be an average pre-teen. When Paloma and Renee get to know each other they form an unexpected friendship. The book is really about the unexpected connections that unite people. It’s about how hope can change someone’s life. It’s not an easy read. Both narrators spend a lot of time thinking and philosophizing. But I found it worth the effort.

41eeavstjfl-_ac_us218_7. The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan– Italy

I normally like Ian McEwan but this book disappointed me. It follows a couple, Colin and Mary, on vacation in Italy. Their relationship has problems. When they meet another couple, Robert and Caroline, they’re happy. It takes their focus off their relationship and each other. But things between the couples start to become uncomfortable, and when Colin and Mary want to leave, they encounter resistance. There’s a pervasive sense of dread in this book, and it plays out in the horrifying conclusion. The problem is that there’s very little context for anything. We don’t know enough about Colin and Mary to care about them, and we don’t know enough about Robert and Caroline to understand why they behave the way that they do.

41aqeleynnl-_ac_us218_8. Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala– India

Olivia is the wife of a British civil servant in India in the 1920s. She’s bored. She finds herself intrigued by Nawab, a minor Indian prince who is involved in some shady goings-on. Olivia’s attraction to Nawab results in an affair and a scandal that humiliates her husband and shocks everyone. Years later, Olivia’s granddaughter goes to India looking for information about her grandmother. How did Olivia’s affair happen in a society that was so segregated? What happened after the scandal? As her granddaughter explores letters, journals, and notable places, history begins to repeat itself in strange ways. I liked this book, but something about the writing put me off. There was a distance between the writer, the reader, and both protagonists. That kept me from investing as much as I might have.

51iehedn8ml-_ac_us218_9. Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch- The Netherlands– This is another book that takes place in the Netherlands but could really be set anywhere. The main character, M, was once a successful novelist, whose most popular book was based on a real-life disappearance. Now M’s career is declining. But his neighbor seems oddly obsessed with him. We follow these characters and alternate between them and the story that is told in M’s famous novel. Something links the events of the book, the real-life crime, M, and his neighbor. But what? This book is slow going at times, and none of the characters are particularly pleasant. However, if you like the reveal at the end, it’s worth reading. If not, you might resent investing so much time getting there.

10. Too many books to count set in England. I’m just including the ones I liked!

Silence For the Dead by Simone St. James

Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

The Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

Precious Bane by Mary Webb

The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett