Top Ten Tuesday: Fictional Non-Crushes

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

August 31: Fictional Crushes

I did one of these a long time ago. I started trying to think of another ten literary guys I love, but then I started thinking about the guys who are usually cited as literary crushes, who just don’t appeal to me. In most cases I still root for them and their love interests in the context of the book (though there are one or two exceptions to that as well) but they’re just not for me. Just a warning there may be some spoilers here:

Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte– His actions are villainous. I think the reason that people are attracted to him has to do with the position the novel places him in, as well as the dark, twisted world it creates. But the fact is that he’s an abusive, sadistic, murderous, narcissist. That’s a big problem for me.

Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– The whole “sorry I forgot to tell you before our wedding that I was already married, and my insane wife is hidden in the attic” thing is just a deal breaker for me.

Laurie from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott- I don’t dislike him, but I definitely think Jo made the right call turning him down. Even at the end of the book, when he’s matured, I still feel like he’s kind of childish. That can be endearing, but it’s not what I’d choose for a partner.

Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens- Yes, his actions at the end are self sacrificing, noble and courageous. But before that he’s a drunken loser for most of the book. That’s not appealing!

Maxim DeWinter from Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier- Yes the handsome millionaire would catch my attention. But he’s emotionally closed off from the get go, and learning that he killed his first wife wouldn’t make me more attracted to him (in spite of the fact that it seems to do for his second wife…)

Rhett Butler from Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell– He’s got some major strikes against him: he manipulates Scarlett (though to be fair, she manipulates him right back), solicits prostitutes and supports the south in the Civil War.

Erik in The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux- Yes, he’s got some pluses: he’s a tortured genius with a cool underground lair. But he’s also a vandalistic, obsessive murderer.

Sherlock Holmes from the Sherlock Holmes series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle- I was surprised to see him on several lists (I googled literary crushes for some ideas for this list). Yes he’s very smart. But he’s also overly analytical, which could be a problem in a relationship. Plus he’s a drug addict.

Top Ten Tuesday: Dark Academia

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

June 1: Freebie (choose any past topic, or come up with you own)

Lately I’ve been really into what I’d call “dark academia” as a literary subgenre. I love academic settings. I love gloomy gothic trappings. I love weirdness. So it’s really no surprise that I’d love literary mashups of all of that!

1.The Secret History by Donna Tartt-This is sort of a definitive cornerstone of the genre. It follows Richard, a student at a New England college. He wants to study Greek, and Julian, the enigmatic professor eventually allows Richard into his selective tutorial of only six students. Richard is slowly drawn into the world of the other students. But it’s a world that goes beyond the boundaries of morality and even legality. As Richard finds himself privy to the group’s secrets, he also learns that some members of the group will stop at nothing, including murder. I read this in my senior year of high school, and it just so happened that we were reading Crime and Punishment at the same time in one of my classes. I’m glad that was the case, because I think that it allowed me to get more out of The Secret History, since Dostoyevsky’s work is clearly a strong influence. I’m actually sort of surprised that Hollywood hasn’t tackled this book yet. But I think it would be a hard book to translate to film in a way that worked.

2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro– This has all the elements of dark academic setting with a bit of a sci-fi twist. Kathy, Ruth and Tommy are all students at Hailsham, an isolated boarding school in the English countryside. The atmosphere of the school is very cliquey and the teachers always remind the students how “special” they are. Years later, with the knowledge and understanding of how and why they were “special,” Ruth reflects on her time and Hailsham, and the friendships she formed there. There’s a film version of the book, and while it’s a pretty good adaptation, it tells the viewer what makes the students at Haimsham special in the first ten minutes or so. In the book it’s sort of a gradual, growing realization for the reader. As I started to understand, I was sort of hoping I was wrong. I think that experience is a part of what makes this book special, and it’s definitely why I’d recommend reading the book before seeing the film.

3. The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman– Actually a lot of Goodman’s work, including the Fairwick trilogy (a romantic fantasy series that she initially wrote under the name “Juliet Black,”) and her YA fantasy Blythewood series, qualifies for this list. I chose this book to feature mostly because it doesn’t incorporate as many other genres. A week before her high school graduation, Jane Hudson fled the Heart Lake School For Girls after three of her classmates committed suicide. Jane was the only one who knew the truth about their fates, and she carried that knowledge with her for the next twenty years, When she returns to the school as a Latin teacher, troubled students once again begin to die, and the memories that Jane repressed for so long, begin to surface.

4. Villette by Charlotte BronteJane Eyre comes to mind first of course, and there is a notably dark school setting early in that book, but the setting also changes very early in the book. This book, on the other hand, has all of the gothic-ness that we expect from Bronte, and it’s set almost entirely in a boarding school in Belgium. The heroine, Lucy Snow, travels there to teach after a family disaster, and becomes involved in romance, intrigue and adventure. I do think Jane Eyre is a “easier read,” and it also features a dark aesthetic with academic plot points, so I’d recommend readers unfamiliar with Bronte start there. But Villette is an enjoyable next step in the Bronte journey through dark academia.

5. The Broken Girls by Simone St. James– Idlewild Hall is a Vermont boarding school for girls that’s reputed to be haunted. In the 1950’s four students at the school became good friends, until one of them disappears. More than 60 years later, journalist, Fiona Sheridan’s sister’s body is found near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. Her boyfriend was convicted of the murder, but Fiona has her doubts. When she learns that the school is being restored by a mysterious benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But what she learns involves a horrifying secret that connects her sisters murder to the disappearance so long ago.

6. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray – The whole Gemma Doyle trilogy is a lovely mix of Victorian Gothic and fantasy with a boarding school setting. Gemma Doyle is sent from the life she knew in India, in 1895, to Spence, an English boarding school, following the death of her mother. Gemma is initially lonely. She’s haunted by her mother’s death and visions that have a tendency to come true. But things get really crazy when Gemma is drawn into a clique of girls who are dipping their toes into the world of spirits. What they learn will change them forever.

7. Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss– I was a bit iffy about whether to include this one, because it’s not set in a “traditional” academic setting. Silvie and her family live in modern England, but they live as if they’re ancient Britons, with the tools and knowledge of the Iron Age. One summer, Silvie’s father takes the family to join an anthropology course that is reenacting life in the Iron Age. But mixing with these students gives Sylvie a chance to see the prospect of a life away from her father’s obsession with the ancient Britons. As the group gets closer to the lifestyle of their subjects, things take a darker turn. The push and pull between the modern life that intrigues Sylvie, and the ancient life that obsesses her father, becomes a tug of war. Even though it’s not set in a school, the fact that it’s set amongst students in a practical exercise gives it that “academic” feeling.

8. Red Leaves by Paullina Simons– Kristina, Jim, Conni and Albert are all students at Dartmouth College. They have a close friendship, and one Thanksgiving weekend they all decide to stay on campus. When Kristina’s body is found in a snowbank shortly after, detective, Spencer O’Malley is on the case. As he learns about the groups dynamics, questions arise. Why did Kristina’s friends fail to report her missing? Their answers to his questions reveal a web of jealousy, secrets, deceptions, and possibly murder.

9. Down A Dark Hall by Lois Duncan- A ghost story set in a mysterious gothic boarding school. Pretty much made for this list! Actually Duncan’s Daughters of Eve also fits it pretty well, but I’ll go with this, since it’s the first one I thought of. Kit Gordy is sent to Blackwood Academy when her mother remarries. She’s not happy about it. She’s even more disturbed when she learns that she’s one of only four students accepted this term. When Blackwood’s students begin to show amazing talents in the arts and sciences, Kit can’t help but notice that it’s taking a toll on their health. She often wakes up with sore arms and fingers. The headmistress is quick to explain everything away, until Kit learns something that puts her and her classmates in terrible danger. I devoured this book when I was eleven or twelve. I don’t know how well it holds up, but I did recently see the film adaptation which wasn’t bad.

10. The Magus by John Fowles– Nicholas Urfe is a young Englishman who takes a teaching job on a remote Greek island. There he meets Conchis, the reclusive millionaire who owns the island. Conchis offers Nicholas what seems to be friendship. But he is drawn into a twisted game of betrayal, violence, and psychological traps. Soon Nicholas is unable to tell past from present and fantasy from reality. He finds himself fighting to maintain his sanity and stay alive. Even though this is set at a school on an island, most of the action takes place outside the school. But I’m counting this because I’d call the relationship that Conchis has with Nicolas to be very academic (at least to start off). There’s also a film adaptation, but I haven’t seen it yet.

Top Ten Tuesday: Places in Books I Would NOT Want to Live

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

March 30: Places In Books I’d Love to Live

For this one I decided to twist things a bit: I’ve given a bit of thought to places in books I’d want to visit/see (here and here ) but these are places I would avoid!

1.Manderley in Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier- In this case the problem is the servants. Well, really just the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers; but she’s cruel, treacherous, cunning and destructive. Who wants to live with that?

2. Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling– Here there would be two major issues. One is the fact that I have a crappy sense of direction and I’d probably get lost all the time. The other is the ghosts in the bathrooms. There are some places I just need privacy, and that’s one of them.

3. Panam in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins- The reasons for this one should be fairly obvious. But I would always worry about being chosen for the Hunger Games. I know if I was selected I’d be one of the first to die. Actually there are a lot of dystopias I wouldn’t want to live in. I won’t list them all (that would be a different list) but really most of them sound pretty awful!

4. Obernewtyn in the Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody– You could call this one a dystopia I suppose. It takes place in a pretty awful post-nuclear holocaust world. But Obernewtyn itself, after the first book in the series (where it’s a horrible place), becomes sort of a refuge. So I suppose if I had to live in that world this is where I’d choose, but I’d rather not live there at all thankyouverymuch. Just a note: these books are pretty popular in Australia but I think they deserve to be better known in the US.

5. Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– In this one, the biggest problem is the madwoman in the attic who constantly escapes the woman who’s supposed to be watching her, and starts fires. When picking literary houses, that’s an issue I just can’t overlook.

6. Wuthering Heights in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte– This one is pretty bad too. From the master of the house who is on a vengeful mission, to the ghost who wanders the moors outside, I would just rather not deal with any of them.

7. Neverworld Wake in Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl- Sort of a limbo state between life and death where the characters must relive the day of their deaths over and over again until they vote on one member of the group to be the sole survivor. Not only does the prospect of limbo sound bad, but reliving the same day endlessly until you make an impossible decision? No thank you!

8. Foxworth Hall in the Dollinganger series by VC Andrews– In this house I don’t know what’s worse: the religious fanatic owners, the greedy, heartless daughter, the sadistic butler, or the four kids locked up in the attic.

9. The Overlook Hotel in The Shining by Stephen King– Even if it weren’t for the malevolent ghosts that drive you crazy, I wouldn’t want to live somewhere that’s so isolated. Plus, the fact that you have to take care of the boiler carefully or the whole place will blow up, sounds very stressful. So the fact that it’s haunted just makes it a bit worse. Really any/every haunted house book falls in this category (similar to dystopias) but I won’t list them all.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Meant to Read in 2020

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

January 19: Books I Meant to Read In 2020 but Didn’t Get To (You could take this opportunity to tell us what’s left on your seasonal TBRs from last year. Or books you were super excited about and then you didn’t get to them.)

I love this topic. I decided to stick to books that I’d intended to read in 2020 and didn’t – because 2020 happened. It also ties in with my book club topic for this week: most anticipated reads on 2021. Because those anticipated books that I didn’t get to in 2020 are my most anticipated reads of 2021 now.

  1. Blackthorn: A Gothic Thriller by Judy Nedry– Because it’s a gothic thriller! They’re my bread and butter! This one is sitting on my kindle waiting for me. I have a strong preference for physical books, but in this case, the ebook was free.

2. They Never Learn by Layne Fargo- I don’t know why, but “dark academia” has been appealing to me as a genre so much lately, but it has. I suppose I’ve liked several (The Secret History, Never Let Me Go, Lake of Dead Languages, The Broken Girls) and it seems like there are several new ones out that have caught my eye.

3. I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are by Rachel Bloom– I really liked Rachel Bloom’s show Crazy Ex Girlfriend, and I’ve been looking forward to her debut essay collection. The fact that I didn’t read it in 2020, says more about 2020 than anything else.

4. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert– Someone in my book club recommended this highly, and it sounded really interesting to me, so put it on my list. But it’s a loooong list!

5. The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins– I have a weakness for Jane Eyre fan fiction. It can be brilliant and innovative (Wide Sargasso Sea) take on it’s own identity (Rebecca) or just not really go anywhere (The Flight of Gemma Hardy) but I’m always interested.

6. Madam by Phoebe Wynne– This also falls in the “Dark academia” genre, and with comparisons to The Stepford Wives, The Secret History and Circe, it definitely got my attention!

7. Where the Light Enters by Sara Donati- This is the second in Donati’s Waverly Place series and since I enjoyed the first book in the series The Gilded Hour. While some plotlines were wrapped up in that, others were left open, so I’m hoping for some resolution in this one!

8. Beautiful Wild by Anne Godbersen- Anne Godbersen’s Luxe series is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. I also enjoyed her Bright Young Things series, but not quite as much. I was a bit disappointed in her follow up, When We Caught Fire. I’m really hoping her new novel is a return to form.

9. When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole– I’d heard about this book this summer amidst the discussion and protest around BLM. Cole is better known as a romance author (I read An Extraordinary Union, and I hope to read the rest of the Loyal League trilogy too) but this book marked a change in genre to psychological thriller, so that Cole could tackle issues of racism and gentrification, class inequality, predatory housing practices, and more. Yes there’s fun stuff too (romance, mystery) to balance it all out. I hope I get to it in 2021.

10. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell– I’ve seen this recommended highly by several writers who I really respect. Plus I loved O’Farrell’s I Am, I Am, I Am (which was essays not fiction but still demonstrated beautiful writing, so I think that would apply regardless of genre) and I’m always interested in fictional speculation about the life and work of Shakespeare.

Well, that’s just the beginning of a long list of books I meant to read in 2020 and didn’t get to? Do you have any from my list on yours?

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: 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:

ttt-new

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: 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

Top Ten Tuesday: Gothic Romance

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

February 26: Places Mentioned In Books That I’d Like to Visit (submitted by Georgia @justreadthemm)

I wasn’t really inspired by this week’s topic because I felt like I’ve done something similar in the past (see here and here) so I figured I’d do my own thing. I’m currently reading Nine Coaches Waiting By Mary Stewart and it’s reminding me how much I love a good Gothic. Think big creepy houses, a mystery waiting to be solved, a hero who is somehow tangled up in the mystery… I actually came across this little page about the commonalities of the cover designs in the genre.  Anyway, here are some of my favorites.

51k3i-j1fl-_ac_us218_1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-  I doubt that anyone is surprised to see this one here! The British governess who goes to the mysterious Thornfield Hall, falls in love with the master, and gets caught up  the question of what’s going on in the attic is definitely sort of prototypical for the genre. But I also love it for Jane’s complexity as a character. It makes her seem very real in a way that not all Gothic heroines are.

 

41ufepph-wl-_ac_us218_2. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier– Like Jane Eyre, this novel seems to bookend the genre. The commonalities in terms of plot have led some to call Rebecca a retelling. I’d actually argue that a bit, but that’s not really the point here. In this case we have a young woman who marries the wealthy widower Maxim De Winter and moves with him to his imposing family home, Manderley, where Maxim’s late wife, Rebecca, still seems like the mistress of the house.

91n4fz7r-xl._ac_ul436_3. Dragonwyck by Anya Seton– When Miranda is given the chance to be the companion to the child of a distant cousin she leaps at the chance. So she goes to Dragonwyck in the Hudson Valley. Here she meets Nicholas Van Rynn, and his wife, Johanna. Miranda is  entranced with the elegant mansion, and the aristocratic master. So when Johanna dies, it just makes sense to marry Nicholas. But as time passes, Miranda comes to realize that her new husband has dark secrets that threaten everything that she holds dear.

51onssuljil._ac_ul436_4. Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt- When Martha gets a job as governess to Connan TreMellyn’s young daughter she goes to live with them in their Cornish mansion. Alvean, Martha’s charge, is a notoriously difficult child, as her three previous governess’ can attest. But Martha thinks that Alvean is acting out due to the loss of her mother, Alice. She wants to help the girl. As she learns about the family (and naturally, falls in love with Connan…) she discovers that secrets from the past may have led to Alice’s death, and may threaten her future.

51xd7qx0o7l-_ac_us218_5. A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott– Rosamond Vivian meets  Phillip Tempest and is pretty quickly swept off her feet. They run away together to marry, and everything is more or less perfect until Rosamond realizes that Phillip has been lying to her from the beginning. She flees from Phillip thus beginning a “love chase” that is both “long” and “fatal” (see what I did there?) This was first published in 1996, because it was too sensational for publication when it was originally written in 1866.

51hzkq6uiel-_ac_us218_6. Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart- This is my current read, so its hard to say too much about it, since I want to avoid spoilers. But I will say that I’m surprised I manged to go this long without having read it, since I like the genre and the author. Unlike many other books in the genre this takes place in a French chateau rather than an English mansion. Our heroine, Linda Martin, is a governess (quelle surprise!), for Phillipe, a young orphan. Phillipe’s guardian,  his uncle, Leon de Valmy seems charming, but for some reason the young boy is terrified of him…

51y8le-aoal-_ac_us218_7.  Silence For the Dead by Simone St. James– In 1919, Kitty Weeks, falsifies her background to obtain a nursing position at Portis House. Portis House is a remote hospital for soldiers left shell shocked after WWI. Kitty has her reasons for wanting to disappear. But when she arrives at Portis House she learns it was once a private home until the owners left abruptly. Did it have something to do with the nightmare that all the patients at Portis House seem to share? Something that’s so terrifying they won’t speak of it? Kitty’s ally is Jack Yates. He’s a war hero, and inmate, and possibly a madman.

51gkwlv5zql._ac_ul436_8. The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins– Walter Hartwright is an artist who has been engaged as a drawing master to Laura and Marian Fairlie. On his way to Limmeridge House, where the orphaned Fairlie sisters live, he encounters a mysterious woman in white who begs him for help and then disappears. When he arrives at Limmeridge House, he discovers that Laura Fairlie bears an uncanny resemblance to the mysterious woman. Walter soon falls in love with Laura who is facing an arranged marriage to Sir Percival Glyde. That marriage will bring her, Walter, and Marian into contact with Glyde’s mysterious friend Count Fosco, as well as a fortune and a lot of secrets.

51mn5td6ql._ac_ul436_9. The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley- Archaeologist Verity Grey is sent to the Scottish Borderlands because her boss is convinced that it is the resting place of the lost Ninth Roman Legion. His reasoning is based on the fact that a local boy has seen a ghostly soldier wandering the fields, and the owner of a remote manor house is convinced that his property contains the bones of the lost legion. So Verity is a bit skeptical when she arrives but she is joined in the excavation by a number of colleagues, including the handsome David… But as they investigate the Ninth Legion they learn that some secrets may be buried for a good reason…

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Literary Rebels

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

December 11: Freebie (Make up your own topic, or use a previous TTT topic you might have missed.)

This week I decided to go with an old topic. These are some of my favorite rebellious characters in books.

1. Randal Patrick McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey– I’ve actually started to feel differently about McMurphy in recent years. When I first read this book, I was in high school and my sympathies were 100% with McMurphy as he tried to upset the routine in a  mental hospital, rallying the patients to demand better treatment. But since I started teaching, I saw how important routine is when managing large groups- especially groups of people who are vulnerable to upset and need consistency to feel safe. I started to see Nurse Rached’s reasons for wanting to run her ward the way she does, and McMurphy’s tricks (running a card game, sneaking in prostitutes) seemed like less an admirable attempt to think outside the box and more of a dangerous upset to a vulnerable population. 

2. Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood– It’s ironic that Offred’s rebellion against role that she’s been forced into as a woman, initially involves reading fashion magazines and sneaking cosmetics. Usually we see those things as part of the role into which out society pushes women. But when the basics of bodily autonomy are denied, when one’s clothing is no longer one’s choice and reading is forbidden, then secretly indulging in these ways of claiming your own identity are acts of rebellion. From these initial rebellions, Offered goes further, embarking on affair with a mean who also longs to escape Gilead. In doing so, Offred asserts her right to make choices about what she does with her mind and her body.  

3. Matilda Wormwood in Matilda by Roald Dahl– I love that this rebel us a five year old girl, who stands up to the adults who don’t live up to their responsibility to protect and care for her. In doing so she also “frees” her teacher, an adult who has been cowed by cruelty. Matilda is someone who has been told she’s powerless by everyone in her life, but flat out refuses to accept that. As a kid, I was very jealous of her ability to take power into her own hands!

4. Jane Eyre in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– Jane is a rebel early on, with her Aunt Reed and at Lowood. But it’s really at Thornfield that she refuses to violate her principles, even when a part of her wants to. She’s given the opportunity to spend her life with the man she loves. He’s a rich man and she’ll live a life of luxury. Yes he’s secretly already married to a crazy lady, but no one has to know that. But Jane knows, and she knows that in trying to marry her anyway, without telling her, he tried to make her into something she’s not. So she leaves, even though it breaks her heart to do so. Rebelling against your own desires is one of the hardest things to do. 

5. Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell– Scarlett initially seems like a perfect southern belle. And she is, until she doesn’t get what she wants! When she’s widowed a sixteen year old Scarlett refuses to live the quiet, dignified life that society dictates for her. Instead she goes dancing. And stops wearing black. And gets remarried. Her rebellions continue as she insists on living on her own terms in spite of a world that tries to dictate the terms. But she discovers that pursuing what she thinks she wants, may cost her what she truly does want. Actually I see Melanie Wilkes as a rebel too. When society turns its back on Scarlett and condemns her, Melanie remains a steadfast friend. 

41ocx2m77yl-_ac_us218_6. Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyoevsky– Sometimes rebelling against the status quo doesn’t lead characters to do “the right thing.” In this case, Raskolnikov  rebels against conventional morality by murdering a woman whom he believes the world would be better without. Regardless of his victim’s moral character, this act of rebellion has ripples that Raskolnikov never could have predicted, and he learns that sometimes when society says something (like murder) is wrong, we should just listen!

517zcqxmvll-_ac_us218_7. Valancy Stirling in The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery– Valancy isn’t a rebel initially. She’s a 29 year old spinster who lives under the thumb of her domineering family. But when a devastating medical diagnosis gives her an expiration date that’s a lot sooner than she’d like, Valancy gets the courage to rebel, to live the way that she wants to, with the person she wants to. She’s definitely not what we tend to think of when we think of rebels. But she defies her surroundings and her inhibitions to live the life that she wants. IMO that makes her a rebel. 

31mezqr7t8l-_ac_us218_8. Pamela O’Flaherty in Exit Unicorns by Cindy Brandner– Again this is a seemingly odd choice in a book that’s essentially about rebels. Other characters are more overt about leading political rebellion. But for other characters, that rebellion is something that they were born into. For Pamela isn’t not. Pamela is an Irish American. She grew up far away from any conflicts between British and Irish, Protestant and Catholic. Her rebellion started in her very choice to leave behind that distance and throw herself headfirst into the conflict. 

51zdmvpgfgl-_ac_us218_Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery– A lot of critics see Becky Sharp as the inspiration for Scarlett O’Hara. Whether or not that’s true, only Margaret Mitchell can say, but Becky is a character who doesn’t have many advantages in terms of the world she was born into. She makes a place for herself in it by seeing the flaws in people- the way they see the world and the way that they see themselves- and exploiting those flaws. Vanity Fair is subtitled A Novel Without A Hero, and while that’s perhaps true, it does have a compelling, rebellious protagonist. 

519rvznz89l-_ac_us218_10. Satan in Paradise Lost by John Milton– When he announces “Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heaven” Milton’s Satan tells us that he’s a rebel who won’t be beholden to anyone. He’s literally happy to be in the worst place imaginable, as long as he gets to do what he wants. According the William Blake, Milton (whether or not it was intentional), glamorized Satan making him an epic, almost heroic figure. “‘The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels and God, and at liberty when of Devils and Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.” So if you believe that, Milton was a bit of a rebel too.