Top Ten Tuesday: Secondary/Minor Characters Who Deserve More Love

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

August 10: Secondary/Minor Characters Who Deserve More Love -Warning, some of these have spoilers

1. Beth in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – Beth’s description is pretty much summed as “the sweet one who dies.” That’s what she’s remembered for. But I recently read March Sisters: On Love, Death and Little Women, in which four contemporary writers look back on the March sister that resonated with them most. Carmen Maria Machado writes about Beth, and how her illness and death take over anything else she may have been, both for her sisters and for readers. Beth was based on Alcott’s own sister, Lizzie, who also died young (though not quite as young as Beth). While Alcott seemed to remember Lizzie in much the way the March sisters do Beth, there’s historical evidence to suggested that Lizzie Alcott was more than simply someone who died tragically young. That makes me suspect that Beth may also have more going on than she’s given credit for.

2. Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare – Mercutio steals almost every scene that he’s in, in most productions and adaptations of this play. There’s plenty of LGBT speculation about his relationship with Romeo prior to the action of the play, but even leaving that aside, he’s so vivid and vibrant, witty and cynical, which makes his death even more tragic. He’s not a Montague or a Capulet. He’s simply caught up in their feud because he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. But his death is sort of a hinge for the play. Prior to that, there was hope for a less than tragic outcome. But when he’s killed, and Romeo kills Tybalt in revenge, the seeds for the dénouement are sown.

3. Becky Thatcher in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark TwainHuckleberry Finn got his own book. But Becky was in that cave with Tom and she’s just forgotten and dismissed as the “girlfriend character.” Surely she deserves better!

4. Jane Fairfax in Emma by Jane Austen – Emma is bright, accomplished, pretty, and rich, but she feels a sense of rivalry around Jane. She senses that Jane is an equal and in some ways a superior, and therefore she considers her a threat. That’s what makes the reader initially take notice. Of course when it comes out that Jane been secretly engaged to Frank Churchill (who’s been openly flirting with Emma…) we get the sense that there’s been more going on beneath the surface of Jane. We never really learn what it is though. Joan Aiken wrote some fan fiction speculation in Jane Fairfax but that’s as close as we’ll ever get.

5. Walter Blythe in the later books of the Anne of Green Gables books by LM Montgomery– Like Anne he’s got some literary asperations, and is admired for his ability to “talk book talk” (I love that phrase!) He’s bullied in childhood, but bright and imaginative. Oh, and doomed. He was definitely my favorite of Anne’s children.

6. Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling– Come on! These guys do just as much work as the main three, they get awfully close to the main action, but they’re constantly relegated to the sidelines.

7. Mary Bennet in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen– Kitty and Lydia are the silly ones. Jane and Lizzie are the smart ones. But what is Mary? There’s been plenty of fan fiction (just a few examples here) speculating that there’s something more to her than just the middle child. I really tried to limit myself to only one Austen character (I also think Charlotte Lucas and Mrs. Bennet deserve more love) but I found I had to do two.

8. Great Uncle Matthew from Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild– He’s Sylvia’s uncle and he takes care of her following the death of her parents, but we don’t know much more than that really… He’s geologist who seems to go around the world collecting parentless babies? Surely there’s got to be more to the story than that!

9. Molly Grue from The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle – Molly dreamed all her life of seeing a unicorn. When she finally does, she’s no longer young and beautiful. She tells the unicorn off for taking so long, saying “‘Where have you been…Damn you, where have you been?… Where where you twenty years ago, ten years ago? How dare you, how dare you come to me now, when I am this?‘ With a flap of her hand she summed herself up: barren face, desert eyes, and yellowing heart. ‘I wish you had never come. Why did you come now?’ The tears began to slide down the sides of her nose.” I think that sense of missed opportunity is heartbreaking. I think that the fact that Molly reacts to it with anger first is such a human thing to do, that it makes it even more heartbreaking. She deserves more love.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish Had Sequels (The Sequel)

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

This week’s topic was:

July 13: Book Titles That are Questions

But I feel like I just did a book title list recently and I wanted to mix it up a little. So I found an old topic that I thought sounded interesting.

Standalone Books That I Wish Had Sequels

I found this kind of tough, because most of these I like as standalones, even if I want to know what happened next. Some I left off, because even if they had open endings, I don’t think they’d work with a sequel. I did something like this a while back, but on that one I included books that ended a series that I wished weren’t the end. I also counted sequels by other authors. So I decided to make a new list with actual standalones. Sequels by other authors don’t count on this list. I tried to be fairly general in my comments and not include specific spoilers, but just be warned…:

1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell- OK this actually does have a sequel that was authorized by the author’s estate, but for the most part, it’s not great. Also based on the rules I made up for this list, sequels by other authors don’t count. I would have liked Scarlett’s next chapter as imagined by Mitchell herself. But it’s also not like I felt that the original book left me in the middle of nowhere. It just left me wanting to know more.

2. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern– I was once again torn between this and The Night Circus for this list. Both have such vivid settings that could be explored further, and neither ties things up in a bow, so there could conceivably be more to the story. I finally decided to go with this one for this list because the setting (literally) lends itself to millions of stories. Also, I put The Night Circus on my first list.

3. A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux- I was torn between this book and Deveraux’s other romance with elements of time travel, Remembrance. I just went with this one because it was the first that popped into my mind. In both cases, Deveraux twists the expected “happily ever after” a bit. Not that they don’t have happy endings (it is the romance genre after all!) but not in the ways the reader would expect, so more questions begin to emerge.

4. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel- This one ends on a hopeful note. It’s a post-apocalyptical novel, so there isn’t much hope through most of it. When it emerges at the end, my biggest question was, “how do people deal with this?” It’s a big change from the status quo for the characters, learning to exist in a world where things may improve. I wanted to know how they handled it!

5. The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente- This is a strange book. It’s supposedly intended for a middle grade audience, but plot deals with the Bronte siblings falling into the fantasy world that they wrote about in their juvenilia. I’m not sure how many middle graders are familiar with the Brontes, let alone their lesser know juvenile works! But I enjoyed it nonetheless. Knowing biographical information about the real life version of characters made me wonder how their book versions would handle some of what I knew was facing them. I was also interested in their evolution from the children depicted in the book to brilliant writers. But a sequel with that stuff would probably take it even farther out of middle grade territory.

6. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett- I’m fine with where it ended, but I’ve always been curious about what the future holds for Mary, Dickon and Colin. Another author did write a sequel but I’m not counting sequels by other authors for this list.

7. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman– I’m kind of curious what happens to Bod when ventures out into the (non-graveyard based) world. How do his daily interactions with the living go? What becomes of him as an adult? Does he find a job? Get married? Live “normal” life? Or does he do something different?

8. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke– I have a conflicted relationship with this book (mostly because I found it way too long!) but it does leave off with a lot of unanswered questions.

9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen– Let me just preface this by saying that I’m totally fine with this not having a (official) sequel (there are many, many sequels and spin offs and fanfic by other authors!) But I’ve always wondered what became of Kitty and Mary after their sisters got married. I mean, the fact that Lizzie and Jane married money means that they won’t be homeless when their father dies (presumably they could stay with one of them!) but what did they do with their lives? Did they ever marry? Did they do something else? If so, what?

I’ve Been… (Vaccinated Edition)

  • Yes, I’ve been fully vaccinated! Yay! But still a bit anxious about returning to “normal” life, minus the masks and social distancing. It’s really amazing what you can get used to!
  • A bit conflicted about Sanditon being brought back. While I enjoyed season one of the show, the fact that Theo James won’t be returning takes it even further from Jane Austen. I was ok with it being left open ended after the first season, because Sanditon is, in fact, a novel fragment. However, Jane Austen wrote happy endings as a matter of personal policy, so it’s fair to say that Sanditon was intended to have one. While Theo James says in his statement that he likes the “broken fairy-tale,” Austen didn’t, saying of her novels: “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody not greatly in fault themselves to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.”
  • Speaking of Jane Austen, I’ve recently stated reading Not Just Jane: Rediscovering Seven Amazing Women Writers Who Transformed British Literature by Shelly DeWees. It’s interesting so far, but I was turned off by DeWees’ claim in the introduction that the reason that the work of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and Emily Bronte are so popular, while other female writers have been forgotten, is that they paint a “pretty” picture of a sort of romantic idealized English lifestyle. That’s true of Austen to an extent, but she does much more than that. She’s also a satirist, and a social critic. This book gets into some of the social and political implications of her work. Charlotte Bronte also engaged in social criticism including commentary on the position of women in a patriarchal society. And Emily Bronte’s work isn’t pretty or romantic in the least! On the contrary it’s very dark and subversive. It can be downright “ugly” at times! I think the aim of the book, to look at the lives and work of several lesser know female writers is worthwhile, but that’s not because Austen or the Brontës lack depth.
  • Reading a lot of fantasy in May for #WyrdandWonder’s Challenge. Check out some of my posts here:
  • Really loving author Katherine Harbour’s blog. Harbour wrote the Night and Nothing trilogy, which I read and enjoyed a few years ago. I look forward to more of her work. Her blog is sort of a treasure trove of book recommendations (with some nice hidden gems!) and writing tips.
  • Enjoying the Britcom Miranda. I’ve blogged about my love of sitcoms before, but this one isn’t my usual style. But it’s really funny nonetheless, and is great comfort viewing. “Such fun!” Supposedly there’s an American version called Call Me Kat. I haven’t seen that one yet, but I’ll check it out at some point. I’m a bit skeptical though. For every one American version of a British TV show that translates well, there are about five that are just horrible!
  • Through an edit and several rounds of beta reading for Frost. I found this point in the process difficult with Beautiful too: how to tell when it’s “done?” And how to get from the “done writing” point to the “it’s a book!” point? Like is my next step a copy edit? Proofread? I thought that with my second book I’d know how to do this more, but it still seems like I’m sort of feeling my way through.
  • Reading more short fiction that usual, in both novella and short story format. I suppose that’s because I’m more interested in short fiction for my own writing, but I’m still in the process of working out how it’s done. It’s very different that a novel which develops over time. But most of my novels (as if I’ve written so many! We’re talking 2 out of 3 here!) have started as short stories and gradually expanded. I think what I’m trying to figure out is how to keep a short story a short story and make a novel a novel.

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: Favorite Book Quotes

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Literary Parties

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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July 21: Book Events/Festivals I’d Love to Go to Someday (Real or Fictional. Submitted by Nandini @ Unputdownable Books)

I decided to do fictional festivals/events  for this one. I’m not much of a party girl to be honest, but some there are some  literary soirees I might be tempted to attend. I decided that nothing thrown by Jay Gatsby was allowed on this list. Big parties really aren’t my scene.

81hkqvsgyl._ac_uy218_1.  The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern– The literary masquerade party in this one sounds like one of the few parties I’d really get into!

“He sits at the bar, feeling like a failure and yet overwhelmed by all that has happened as he attempts to catalog the entire evening. Drank rosemary for remembrance. Looked for a cat. Danced with the king of the wild things. Excellent-smelling man told me a story in the dark. Cat found me.”

61-q3ssh0l._ac_uy218_2. The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien– I might be persuaded to attend Bilbo Baggin’s eleventy first birthday party. If nothing else, I doubt I’ll have the opportunity to attend many eleventy first birthdays in my lifetime.

“I hope you are all enjoying yourselves as much as I am.” Deafening cheers…. Cries of “Yes” (and “No”). Noises of trumpets and horns…. Indeed, in one corner some of the young Tooks and Brandybucks, supposing Uncle Bilbo to have finished (since he had plainly said all that was necessary), now… began a merry dance-tune. Master Everard Took and Miss Melilot Brandybuck got on a table and with bells in their hands began to dance the Springle-ring: a pretty dance, but rather vigorous.

But Bilbo had not finished. Seizing a horn from a youngster near by, he blew three loud hoots…. “I shall not keep you long,” he cried. Cheers from all the assembly. “I have called you all together for a Purpose…..” There was almost silence….

91d11myiibl._ac_uy218_3. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – Mrs. Dalloway’s party. This one has a lot of build up and a gentle success marred only by news of a suicide. Because no party is perfect. But in this case, bad news might make the fun even sweeter.

She felt somehow very like him—the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun. But she must go back. She must assemble.

71v4ebr1nxl._ac_uy218_4.The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton– One of the most opulent literary parties in my mind is the Wellington-Bry ball when Lily Bart appears in a tableau vivant.

The noble buoyancy of her attitude, its suggestion of soaring grace, revealed the touch of poetry in her beauty that Selden always felt in her presence, yet lost the sense of when he was not with her. Its expression was now so vivid that for the first time he seemed to see before him the real Lily Bart, divested of all the trivialities of her little world, and catching for a moment a note of that eternal harmony of which her beauty was a part.

71cmat1al._ac_uy218_5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen- This book (and Austen in general) has a few good parties; but I went with the one where Jane and Mr. Binghly fall in love and Mr. Darcy declares that Lizzie is ” tolerable.”

When the dancing recommenced, however, and Darcy approached to claim her hand, Charlotte could not help cautioning her, in a whisper, not to be a simpleton, and allow her fancy for Wickham to make her appear unpleasant in the eyes of a man of ten times his consequence. Elizabeth made no answer, and took her place in the set, amazed at the dignity to which she was arrived in being allowed to stand opposite to Mr. Darcy, and reading in her neighbours’ looks their equal amazement in beholding it. They stood for some time without speaking a word; and she began to imagine that their silence was to last through the two dances, and at first was resolved not to break it; till suddenly fancying that it would be the greater punishment to her partner to oblige him to talk, she made some slight observation on the dance. He replied, and was again silent. After a pause of some minutes, she addressed him a second time with:

“It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy. — I talked about the dance, and you ought to make some kind of remark on the size of the room, or the number of couples.”

He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said.

513t3s6mwl._ac_uy218_6.Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier– Note to self: if you ever marry a widower do not attend a costume party dressed as his late wife, however unintentional it may be. And don’t listen to your evil maid’s costume suggestions either. Yes, it’s an awkward party, but it wouldn’t be a boring one.

That was why I had come down last night in my blue dress and had not stayed hidden in my room. There was nothing brave or fine about it, it was a wretched tribute to convention. I had not come down for Maxim’s sake, or Beatrice’s, for the sake of Manderley. I had come down because I did not want the people at the ball to think I had quarreled with Maxim. I didn’t want them to go home and say, “Of course you know they don’t get on. I hear he’s not at all happy.” I had come for my own sake, my own poor personal pride.

71m1o7fy1fl._ac_uy218_7.Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– I might go to Mr. Rochester’s house party. If nothing else, the host disguising himself as a fortune teller would be fun!

When I heard this I was beginning to feel a strange chill and failing at the heart. I was actually permitting myself to experience a sickening sense of disappointment; but rallying my wits, and recollecting my principles, I at once called my sensations to order; and it was wonderful how I got over the temporary blunder—how I cleared up the mistake of supposing Mr. Rochester’s movements a matter in which I had any cause to take a vital interest.

91dwzgedaml._ac_uy218_8. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll– I’ve actually never been to a tea party, but if this is anything to go by, they can get pretty wild. Though it might get tiring having to change seats every few minutes…

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone: “so I ca’n’t take more.”
“You mean you ca’n’t take less,” said the Hatter: “It’s very easy to take more than nothing.”

61uzqqwbnnl._ac_uy218_9.Invitation to Waltz by Rosamund Lehmann- Like Mrs. Dalloway’s soiree, Olivia Curtis’ first ball has a whole novel dedicated to it. While her more socially adept sister threatens to overshadow her, this party is both more and less than Oliva expects.

“And they waltzed together to the music made for joy. She danced with him in love and sorrow. He held her close to him, and he was far away from her, far from the music, buried and indifferent. She danced with his youth and his death.”

81e67pau6hl._ac_uy218_10. Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding– I’m not much of a drinker, so unlike Bridget, I wouldn’t be hungover at Geoffrey and Una’s New Year’s turkey curry buffet. I would also (always!) be able to tell Mark Darcy a few titles when he asks what I’ve read lately.

“It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It’s like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting “Cathy” and banging your head against a tree.”

 

 

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: Feel Good Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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March 24: Genre Freebie (pick a genre and build a list around it! i.e., best/worst romances, non-fiction for travelers, memoirs for foodies, classics that feel timeless, romance novel kisses, science fiction that feels too real for comfort, women’s fiction for newbies, etc.)

I think we’re all at least a little stressed, anxious and need of feel good reads right now.

419ewleob1l-_ac_us218_1. Anything Jane Austen: Austen is an author whose complexity is often overlooked for a number of reasons: she’s a woman, she employs the marriage plot in her works and she’s funny. But those are also the reasons that her work makes for feel good reading. It’s hard to go wrong here. Her inclusion on this list probably won’t help her get the recognition that she deserves as an author of complexity and depth. But it will help you feel a bit better.

 

51dxbewzuil-_ac_us218_2. The Anne series by LM Montgomery– Bad things happen in these books. People get sick and die. But the heroine sees the world with optimism even through the bad times, and when we read about it through her eyes, we can’t help but see it the same way.

 

 

91eu73x8il._ac_uy218_ml3_3. Gravity is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty -20 years ago tragedy struck Abi’s family and she got a  book called The Guidebook in the mail. She always linked the two events in her mind, so when she gets invited to a retreat by the writers of The Guidebook, she goes, half expecting answers. What she finds is not what she expects but it is something that will change her life nevertheless. This book is about love, loss, hope, believing in the impossible, the self help industry, and more. It’ll make you laugh and cry, possibly at the same time.

81gw6tyoeul._ac_uy218_ml3_4. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman–  Nina Hill is a compelling character because she feels like someone you might really know. She has a full life that she likes, but when it’s turned upside down, she realizes how much more the world has to offer.  She’s deeply flawed and those flaws aren’t magically gone by the end of the book, but we know that Nina can live with them and thrive.

 

71hpnqntwul._ac_uy218_ml3_5. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – This is a coming of age story about an introvert who ventures outside her comfort zone for the first time in many ways. It’s also a celebration of loving a fictional story to the point of geekery.

 

 

 

913a0g0ghvl._ac_uy218_ml3_-16. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim– This book is about four strangers who are in a rut in their own ways. They all buy into a month long getaway at an Italian castle, and that getaway changes them all in different ways. This book is gentle, but lovely. As the characters start to feel better you start to feel it as well.

 

 

91qjazuvljl._ac_uy218_ml3_7. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman– Eleanor Oliphant has issues. She tends to say exactly what’s on her mind no matter what that might be. She avoids social interactions whenever possible and her life is kept to a careful timetable. When she meets Raymond, an IT guy from her office, she’s initially disgusted: he’s unhygienic. He’s a smoker. But when they save the life of another lonely fellow on the street, Eleanor finds herself drawn into a friendship with two other people. I made some assumptions about Eleanor when I first started reading that turned out to be wrong, when I read her story and got to know her. Similarly, Eleanor’s assumptions turn out to be wrong much of the time.

51xnngtdkl._ac_uy218_ml3_8. Love, Rosie by Cecilia Ahern– Rosie and Alex are best friends who are meant to be together. But just as it seems that things are happening right, they go very wrong. The book is a series of letters, emails, and notes over the course of years and Rosie and Alex come together and apart and together time and time again. This books is frustrating at times, but it’s a reminder that things endure beyond the frustration.

 

91paeh4pugl._ac_uy218_ml3_9. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen – The Waverly’s have always had mysterious gifts that make them outsiders in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Claire has embraced those gifts as a caterer, preparing her dishes with what people need. But her sister Sydney left town as soon as she could. When she returns, with her daughter, she confronts everything that she left behind. This book is brimming with bits of magic. It never overtakes the narrative, but it grows around the edges and creeps inward.

 

 

What are your favorite feel good (or feel better) books?

Top Ten Tuesday: Character’s I’d Follow on Social Media

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

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I really liked this week’s topic:

February 25: Characters I’d Follow On Social Media (submitted by Tilly @thebiblioshelf)

51dxbewzuil-_ac_us218_1. Anne Shirley from LM Montgomery’s Anne series: Anne’s social media would be positive and upbeat enough for me to feel good when it pops up on my feed, but not so much so that it gets annoying/overbearing.

61vqqqhktdl._ac_uy218_ml3_2. Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: I have the sense that her social media would be witty.  It might also be  occasionally judgmental but once you brought that to her attention she’d try to do better in the future. Actually I think a lot of Austen’s characters would be great on social media…

31yhicomrpl-_ac_us218_3. Delysia La Fosse from Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day by Winifred Watson: If social media had existed in the late 1930’s I think that this character would be a social media “influencer.”

51xphws9jdl-_ac_us218_4. Claire Randall Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series: Claire’s funny, self aware observations of life amid 18th century natives and time travelers would make me laugh.

81tljs7lr7l._ac_uy218_ml3_5. Circe from Circe by Madeline Miller– I can see this character as being a very fierce and inspiring, empowering presence on social media.

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6. Eloise from Eloise by Kay Thompson– I think that Eloise’s 140 character observations about life in the Plaza would be so much fun!

51rqr9-0jel-_ac_us218_7. Harry Dresden from The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher– This guy has a job that’s made for social media and sense of humor that’s perfect for it. Who wouldn’t want to follow the only wizard in the Chicago area?

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Tropes

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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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