Tag Tuesday: Bookish Rave and Rant

Since today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic didn’t speak to me (but Happy Mardi Gras! Laissez les bons temps rouler!) I decided to do this tag that I saw on @bookwyrmknits blog recently.

Rules:

  • Use this tag to dump your thoughts on books which you’d like to talk more about but usually don’t. Time to really rave about loved books, and rant about frustrating books.
  • And be sure to tag or ping back to the original post by Sumedha!

RAVE: a book you loved but don’t talk enough about

Usually when I love a book I won’t shut up about it, so it’s rare that this happens! I’m trying to think of an unknown/underrated book to talk about, and of course I’m drawing a blank. One recent one that I don’t think I’ve blogged much about was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. It’s about a woman who struggles with social skills and tends to say exactly what pops into her mind. As a result, she doesn’t have many friends, which is OK, because she avoids social situations anyway. (We do eventually learn why she’s this way, and it’s not what you’d think!) When Eleanor and a coworker, Raymond, help an elderly gentleman, Sammy, who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three form an unlikely friendship. It’s going to be made into a movie soon, and I’m really hoping that they don’t change certain story elements to make it more mainstream. For example, in this case, I liked that the friendships stayed platonic!

RANT: a book you didn’t like and haven’t spoken about

Well most recently would probably be That Autumn in Edinburgh by Ciji Ware. It’s part of Ware’s Four Seasons Quartet, which are stand alone sequels to her historical novels This one is a stand alone sequel to Island of the Swans, which I enjoyed, so I was disappointed to find this one such a bore. Basically it’s about two (unrelated) descendants of the star crossed couple in Island of the Swans, who meet and fall in love. They learn about their ancestor’s love story, and make some business decisions. Since Island of the Swans had sort of an open ending, it was nice to have a bit of closure for those characters, but that could have been accomplished in a short story/novella format. I didn’t need a whole novel about these other characters who I really didn’t care much about.

RAVE: an author whose works you love

Hmm… Actually I do like Ciji Ware even though I just ranted about one of her books. I’ve enjoyed most of them, so I feel kind of bad ranting about that one!

But an author I wish I could read more from is Sarah Addison Allen who writes what I’d call “small town magical realism.” I really enjoyed her Waverley Sisters novels, as well as most of her stand alone novels like The Sugar Queen and The Girl Who Chased the Moon. Her most recent book, First Frost, came out in 2015, and there’s no word on a follow up, so she definitely leaves me wanting more!

RANT: an author whose works you just cannot like

Chuck Palahiuk. I had a friend in college who really liked him so I tried to read a few of his books. I think I tried Fight Club, Lullaby and one other (I think it might have been Choke or Invisible Monsters but I can’t remember). I found something about the narrative tone very off putting.

RAVE: a book you recently loved that you want everyone to read

How recent is “recent”? I’m currently finishing the third book in Alyssa Cole’s Loyal League series. I enjoyed all three books in the series and I would recommend them, even to people who don’t usually like historical romance. All three are set against the backdrop of the Civil War, involving a (real) covert organization of spies. The reading order is 1) An Extraordinary Union 2) A Hope Divided 3) An Unconditional Freedom. But each book is more or less stand alone, with links to the others in terms of common characters. I would recommend this to non-romance readers because I think that Cole does an excellent job with the suspense (even though I know who won the Civil War, I was anxious for the characters and wanted their missions to go well) as well as imagining voices of characters who aren’t usually represented that well in fiction: the Loyal League is made up of free blacks of all backgrounds and stations, but there’s are also white allies. One book features a character who seems to be on the Autism Spectrum, and another features a biracial character who comes to the US from Cuba. None of these feel like they’re thrown in for diversity’s sake. All are really well developed characters, with backgrounds that are important to the story being told.

RANT: a book you did not finish recently and haven’t spoken about

I actually rare DNF books. It’s something I want to be able to do more, because I feel like I waste a lot of time with stuff I don’t enjoy, but I always worry that I’ll stop reading a book and then 2-3 pages after I stop, it’ll get good! I don’t remember the last book I didn’t finish.

RAVE: a book you would recommend to everyone

I’m always hesitant to answer this question because in truth there is no book I’d recommend to everyone. Every book I love has someone who dislikes it as much as I love it. Every book I dislike, has it’s lovers. It is a truth universally acknowledged that no single book is for every reader. But for the purposes of this tag, I decided to choose something.

Angela Carter is a writer I’ve long since admired for her novels and her short fiction. I love her collection The Bloody Chamber which is short fiction based on fairy tales. However, for this tag, I’m recommending Burning Your Boats: The Collected Short Stories, because it’s more complete. It includes all of the stories in The Bloody Chamber, as well as some great stories that weren’t included in that collection.

In terms of “everyone” I find it safest to include some variety; so I thought a collection would be a good choice. Different people can gravitate toward different stories.

RANT: a book which others like and you don’t understand why

I think I was in high school (or thereabouts) when The DaVinci Code came out and was really popular. I didn’t get a chance to read it until college, and I remember thinking “what’s the big deal about this?” Yes, it’s a fast read. But I didn’t find it that enlightening or entertaining. I suppose for some people it challenged some religious ideas that they’d accepted as a given, but that wasn’t the case for me. So I was left with a fairly “meh” read that had been totally overhyped beforehand.

Let me know if you decide to do this tag, I’d love to see your answers!

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Settings I’d Love To Visit

For the Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday:

December 5: Ten Bookish Settings I’d Love to Visit

I decided to keep this list to bookish settings that actually exist. So much as I’d like to visit Narnia, or Hogwarts, these can all be found on a map or globe. Also I decided it to limit to places where I’ve never been (yet).

1. Prince Edward Island, Canada as seen in the work of LM Montgomery– I’ve loved the work on LM Mongomery since I was a child and Prince Edward Island is a character that is consistent in her work. It sounds beautiful. It looks beautiful based on the pictures that I’ve seen. It’s definitely on my literary travel list!

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“…the Lake of Shining Waters was blue — blue — blue; not the changeful blue of spring, nor the pale azure of summer, but a clear, steadfast, serene blue, as if the water were past all modes and tenses of emotion and had settled down to a tranquillity unbroken by fickle dreams.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island

2. Scotland as seen in the work of Diana Gabaldon, The Lymond Chronicles by  Dorothy Dunnett, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson,  the  Too Deep for Tears trilogy by Katheryn Lynne Davis, Island of the Swans by Ciji Ware- I’ve read a lot of books set in Scotland, that draw on the rich history and beautiful landscape. My third grade teacher was Scottish and had what sounded like the coolest accent to me at the time. In some ways it seems that Scotland is an enchanted fairy land more than a real place to me! But I do know people who have been there and assure me it’s real, and that while there are certainly the fantasy places that are described in books, there are many normal places too.

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“The sigh of all the seas breaking in measure round the isles soothed them; the night wrapped them; nothing broke their sleep, until, the birds beginning and the dawn weaving their thin voices in to its whiteness”
― Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

3. Cornwall, England as seen in the work of Daphne DuMaurier– The cliff-side mansion in Rebecca. The smugglers hideout in Jamaica Inn, the pirates of Frenchman’s Creek. Cornwall is a place of mystery, danger and romance in my eyes, thanks in large part to Daphne DuMaurier.

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“The peace of Manderley. The quietude and the grace. Whoever lived within its walls, whatever trouble there was and strife, however much uneasiness and pain, no matter what tears were shed, what sorrows borne, the peace of Manderley could not be broken or the loveliness destroyed. The flowers that died would bloom again another year, the same birds build their nests, the same trees blossom. That old quiet moss smell would linger in the air, and the bees would come, and crickets, the herons build their nests in the deep dark woods. The butterflies would dance their merry jug across the lawns, and spiders spin foggy webs, and small startled rabbits who had no business to come trespassing poke their faces through the crowded shrubs. There would be lilac, and honeysuckle still, and the white magnolia buds unfolding slow and tight beneath the dining-room window. No one would ever hurt Manderley. It would lie always in its hollow like an enchanted thing, guarded by the woods, safe, secure, while the sea broke and ran and came again in the little shingle bays below.”

4. The Yorkshire Moors, England as seen in the work of the Bronte sisters, and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgden Burnett

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‘And what are those golden rocks like when you stand under them?’ she once asked.

The abrupt descent of Penistone Crags particularly attracted her notice; especially when the setting sun shone on it and the topmost heights, and the whole extent of landscape besides lay in shadow. I explained that they were bare masses of stone, with hardly enough earth in their clefts to nourish a stunted tree.

‘And why are they bright so long after it is evening here?’ she pursued.

‘Because they are a great deal higher up than we are,’ replied I; ‘you could not climb them, they are too high and steep. In winter the frost is always there before it comes to us; and deep into summer I have found snow under that black hollow on the north-east side!’

-Wuthering Heights- Emily Bronte

“Listen to th’ wind wutherin’ round the house,” she said. “You could bare stand up on the moor if you was out on it tonight.”
Mary did not know what “wutherin'” meant until she listened, and then she understood. It must mean that hollow shuddering sort of roar which rushed round and round the house, as if the giant no one could see were buffeting it and beating at the walls and windows to try to break in. But one knew he could not get in, and somehow it made one feel very safe and warm inside a room with a red coal fire.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

5. Paris, France as seen in Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens- Yes, I am very aware that these are books that depict very different era’s in Paris’ history. Of the three the Paris in The Elegance of the Hedgehog is probably most like the Paris I’d visit today. But I also know that the Cathedral de Notre Dame , still stands, with it’s gargoyles even if Quasimodo isn’t hiding among them. And there are still shades of the reign of terror that Dickens depicted.  I’ve read about Paris in a lot of other books too. Books set in occupied Paris during WWII. Books depicting la belle epoque. In some ways that convergence of beauty and violence is what makes the city seem so appealing to me.

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“Admirable, however, as the Paris of the present day appears to you, build up and put together again in imagination the Paris of the fifteenth century; look at the light through that surprising host of steeples, towers, and belfries; pour forth amid the immense city, break against the points of its islands, compress within the arches of the bridges, the current of the Seine, with its large patches of green and yellow, more changeable than a serpent’s skin; define clearly the Gothic profile of this old Paris upon an horizon of azure, make its contour float in a wintry fog which clings to its innumerable chimneys; drown it in deep night, and observe the extraordinary play of darkness and light in this sombre labyrinth of buildings; throw into it a ray of moonlight, which shall show its faint outline and cause the huge heads of the towers to stand forth from amid the mist; or revert to that dark picture, touch up with shade the thousand acute angles of the spires and gables, and make them stand out, more jagged than a shark’s jaw, upon the copper-coloured sky of evening. Now compare the two.”

-Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo

“I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out…”
― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

6. Barcelona, Spain as seen in The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon- The Barcelona seen in this novel is a twisty, Gothic place full of hidden secrets. In other words, it’s the kind of place I could really go for! Sure Zafon claims that some locations from the novel such as the rambling Hospice of Santa Lucia or the mysterious Cemetery of Forgotten Books are fictional, but it seems like the kind of place where one might turn a corner and unexpectedly find something strange and beautiful.gothic-quarter-barcelona

“Before we knew it, we were walking along the breakwater until the whole city, shining with silence, speak out at our feet like the greatest mirage in the universe, emerging from the pool of the harbor waters. We sat on the edge of the jetty to gaze at the sight.

“This city is a sorceress, you know, Daniel? It gets under your skin and steals your soul without you knowing it.”

-The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

7. The Greek Islands as seen in The Magus by John Fowles- The book’s setting, the island of Phraxos, is technically fictional. But the author based it on his time on the real Greek island of Spetses, so I think it still counts for this list. The island that Fowles describes is beautiful and mysterious and isolated. It’s the kind of place where it’s easy to be overwhelmed and see menace hidden in the beauty. That’s certainly what happens to our narrator, Nicholas Urfe, in the novel. But since his sanity is open to debate, I think it’s also the kind of place where I might enjoy going and getting away from it all.

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“The lifeless sea was ruffled here and there by a lost zephyr, by a stippling shoal of sardines, dark ash-blue lines that snaked, broad then narrow, in slow motion across the shimmering mirageous surface, as if the water was breeding corruption.”

-The Magus by John Fowles

8. India as seen in The Far Pavillions by MM Kaye- Actually, I think that parts of this novel also take place in what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan. While it’s set in the 19th century the beautiful mountains stand out to me as a strong setting. It’s what I remember most about the book, and what I’d most love to see if I ever visit that part of the world. 10717253

“They rode out together from the shadows of the trees, leaving the Bala Hissar and the glowing torch of the burning Residency behind them, and spurred away across the flat lands towards the mountains…
And it may even be that they found their Kingdom.”
― M.M. Kaye, The Far Pavilions

9. Egypt as seen in The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif- When I was a kid I think I imagined Egypt as being desert, pyramids, sphinxes, and mummies walking around wrapped in toilet paper (in retrospect I think my childhood perception of Egypt might have been largely based on an episode of Scooby Doo). The Egypt that this book depicts has none of that. Well, we do see desert and pyramids, but  we also see cities and the Nile. It makes Egypt seem like a vivid place that’s almost breathes and has a pulse.

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“Fields and more fields on either side of the road.From where they are it looks as if the whole world were green.But from higher up,from a hill-if there were a hill in this flat country-or from a pyramid(one of the many that two thousand years ago lined this route from Thebes to Memphis,from the Delta to the Cataract)or from an aeroplane today,you would be able to see how narrow the strip green was,how closely it clung to the winding river.The river like a lifeline thrown across the desert, the villages and the town hanging on to it, clustering together, glancing over their shoulders at the desert always behind them.Appeasing it,finally,by making it the dwelling of their head.”
― Ahdaf Soueif, The Map of Love

10. Ireland as seen in the novels of Maeve Binchy, Cecelia Ahern, Marian Keyes, the Exit Unicorn series by Cindy Brandner, The Mermaid’s Singing by Lisa Carey- In some ways I think if Ireland in a way similar to Scotland; full of myths and lore. But I’ve also read enough Irish work set in contemporary times to have a better sense of what it is today. I’d still like to go, because I think that the richness of the lore pervades a place.

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But the sea, despite its allure, is not our destination. For we seek land- a land of myth and madness, of poets and politicians, rebels and raconteurs, of blood and brotherhood. A land unlike any other, half legend, half truth, wholly and terribly beautiful.

We fly through the night, until we see a line on the horizon, and we feel the relief of homecoming after such a very long voyage, after the faceless ocean undulating eternally beneath us. And so here we arrive, to the edge of a country of limestone cliffs, soft-faced with moss and nesting gulls . In we fly across a patchwork quilt of a thousand shades of green and low stone walls, with sheep dotting the dawn’s landscape. But do not let this enchantment fool you, for this is a land that has known much pain, whose fields are watered well and deep with blood. This is an old land, and our people have lived here long, some saying we were the small dark ones that dwelled in the trees, before the coming of the Celts, but we are older even than them. We knew this land before man, before God, before light.

-Flights of Angels by Cindy Brandner

11. Florence, Italy as seen in The Light in the Piazza by Elizabeth Spencer, A Room with a View by EM Forster- Florence in these books seems more alive than other places. It’s a place where people are able to get away from social notions of respectability, and really get in touch with their feelings.

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“It was pleasant to wake up in Florence, to open the eyes upon a bright bare room, with a floor of red tiles which look clean though they are not; with a painted ceiling whereon pink griffins and blue amorini sport in a forest of yellow violins and bassoons. It was pleasant, too, to fling wide the windows, pinching the fingers in unfamiliar fastenings, to lean out into sunshine with beautiful hills and trees and marble churches opposite, and, close below, Arno, gurgling against the embankment of the road.”