Top Ten Tuesday: Books That I Got Lost In

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

November 24: Thanksgiving/I’m Thankful for… Freebie

For this list I decided to look at the kind of books I’m thankful for. This year I definitely sought out the experience of losing myself in a book for a while. I was thankful when books allowed me to do that. So I decided to list books that I was able to fall into, and forget about reality for a while. They’re not all books that I read this year (nor are they all great literature, by any stretch of the imagination!) but they’re books that gave me the sort of experience that I was grateful for this year. Hope that makes sense!

  1. Harry Potter series- In spite of my ongoing issues with the author, I will always have love in my heart for these books. They created a world that I cared about, and let me live in it with the characters for seven books. When it was done, I felt like I’d grown up with these characters. Oh, and I say that I can put an entire series in one spot on this list! My list my rules!

2. Outlander series- This isn’t perfect either (I think issue with a few themes) but it did create another world that I could live in. Reality disappears when I read about the reality of these characters even if they’re doing something relatively mundane (with the right characters, a chapter on laundry can be fun!) but knowing these guys, excitement and adventure is usually just around the corner.

3. The Dollinganger series by VC Andrews- Full disclosure: I got lost in this series when I was about 12. What was shocking and page turningly compelling then, probably wouldn’t hold up now. But I do remember spending an entire bus ride on a school field trip engrossed in Petals On The Wind (I had just finished Flowers in the Attic and I needed to know what came next!)

4. The Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray- I came for the Victorian era feminism. I stayed- glued to the page- the find out about the worlds in which Gemma found herself. I was invested in these characters, intrigued by the mythological systems that Gemma encounters, and eager to see what a young Victorian girl with little agency in her own life, could do with supernatural realms of power. I read the first two back to back, but The Sweet Far Thing hadn’t come out and that point, so I had to wait to finish.

5. Intensity by Dean Koontz- I can’t remember what first made me pick this book up. I think someone might have recommended it. But I remember starting it on a Friday and not putting it down for the rest of the weekend.

6. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton- I picked this up with relatively low expectations (the only Morton book that I had read prior was The House at Riverton, which I thought was just OK) but I was pleasantly surprised. The story spoke to a lot of my literary tastes (multiple timelines, fairy tales, historical fiction) and just cast a spell on me. I’m glad I gave Morton another chance because now she’s an automatic read for me.

7. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield- I started getting into this late one night, and couldn’t put it down until the next morning. It was a literal all nighter. I distinctly remember coming upon a plot revelation at around 1am and wishing I could talk to someone about it!

8. Queen of Camelot by Nancy McKenzie- In this case, I don’t know why I found this book so compelling. It retold a story that I find interesting but not usually riveting. But this book was glued to my face for some reason. I read it at work during my lunch break. I also enjoyed the second and third in the author’s Camelot trilogy, Grail Prince and Prince of Dreams, but not quite as much as this one.

9. The Bronze Horseman by Paulina Simons- This is another one that I suspect would not hold up well to a reread, but teenage Fran was unable to put the book down (or stop crying when it was over!) I ordered the rest of the trilogy and read it ASAP.

10. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel- I read this my freshman year of high school and was briefly interested in studying human evolution because of it. The subject still interests me, but not as something to study. Unfortunately the quality of the books in the series diminished with each one (second was good, third was OK, fourth and fifth were not good. I didn’t even bother with #6)

11. The Pact by Jodi Picoult- For some reason everyone in my high school was reading this book, so I picked it up. In retrospect, I think some of the themes wouldn’t hold up well, but at the time, I recall it being a page turner. Though I see it’s subtitled “A Love Story” and I don’t recall it being that at all…

I think sometimes the experience of not being able to put a book down depends on the right book finding you at the right time. In these cases, these books found me in the right mood/frame of mind to read them compulsively. Some hold up better than others, and some I’d rather remember well, than revisit. Regardless, I am very thankful when I’m able to disappear into a book world, like I did with these.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Book Recommendations for Outlander Fans

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

August 15:  Ten book recommendations for ______________: (Skies the limit here…examples: for Hufflepuffs, for fans of Game of Thrones, for people who don’t normally read YA, for animal lovers, for video game lovers, etc.

Maybe it’s the fact that the 3rd season of the TV series is coming up, but lately I’ve been looking for read alikes to the Outlander series. If you haven’t read Outlander, the series is 8 books in at the moment with a ninth in progress (the author says she expects it to be 10 in all) and it follows the adventures of Claire, a WWII combat nurse who falls through time, and her 18th century husband, Jamie Fraser.  Even though the premise is fantastical, these books are really well researched from a historical perspective. Jamie and Claire find themselves caught up in the Jacobite rebellion of 1845 and later in the Revolutionary war. They interact with actual historical figures and at real events. After eight books, the characters start to feel like old friends. So once you finish the series it can be hard to jump into something else. Here are some suggestions:

51byrmqnal-_ac_us218_1. Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati (the Wilderness Series) In 1792, Elizabeth Middleton, a 29 year old spinster, arrives in upstate New York. Her father brought her there with promises that she could be a school teacher, but the real motive was to marry her off to Richard Todd, a physician who is more interested in her inheritance than her. Elizabeth finds her attention drawn to Nathaniel Bonner (son of “Hawkeye” Bonner, hero of James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans). Nathaniel has a strong connection to the Mohican (Mahican) people. His wife was a Mahican woman who died years earlier. The Mahican want to buy part of their land back from Elizabeth’s father. Richard Todd wants it for his own purposes and Elizabeth finds herself sympathizing with the Mahican claim. Meanwhile, her relationship with Nathaniel leads to more conflict between the Mahican and the European settlers.  This kicks off the start of a six book series (it’s followed by Dawn on a Distant Shore, Lake in the Clouds, Fire Along the Sky, Queen of Swords, and The Endless Forest) that follows Elizabeth, Nathaniel and their family.  Outlander fans should be on the look out for a cameo from some Outlander characters in the first book.

“Elizabeth Middleton, twenty-nine years old and unmarried, overly educated and excessively rational, knowing right from wrong and fancy from fact, woke in a nest of marten and fox pelts to the sight of an eagle circling overhead, and saw at once that it could not be far to Paradise.”

51omzinvtpl-_ac_us218_2. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons (the Bronze Horseman trilogy) -On the day that WWII begins, Russian, Tatiana Metanova goes out to buy some food. On the bus, she meets Alexander Belov, a young soldier in the Red Army. Alexander and Tatiana are drawn to one another immediately, and he helps her bring her packages back to her family’s apartment. That’s when Tatiana discovers that Alexander is the same man that her sister, Dasha, had been talking about falling in love with. Tatiana is very devoted to her sister and refuses to steal her boyfriend. So she tells Alexander that nothing can happen between them. Complicating matters further is the fact that another soldier, Dmitri, has information that could destroy Alexander. And Dmitiri is romantically interested in Tatiana. In order to protect Dasha’s feelings and Alexander’s life, Tatiana and Alexander find themselves draw into a romantic quadrangle, as German forces siege Leningrad.  As the brutal Russian winter begins, Tatiana, Dasha, Alexander, and Dmitiri face starvation, deception and danger. This is the first in a trilogy (it’s followed by Tatiana and Alexander and The Summer Garden). There are also two prequel books that tell the story of Alexander’s parents; Children of Liberty and Bellagrand.

“Tatiana lived for that evening hour with him that propelled her into her future and into the barely formed, painful feelings that she could neither express nor understand. Friends walking in the lucent dusk. There was nothing more she could have from him, and there was nothing more she wanted from him but that one hour at the end of her long day when her heart beat and her breath was short and she was happy.”

515yocsadl-_ac_us218_3. Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon (The Lord John series)- Maybe this is cheating, because it’s technically an Outlander spinoff series, but I’m counting it anyway. We meet Lord John briefly in Dragonfly in Amber, and start getting to know him better in Voyager. The events of this series take place during the events of Voyager, usually while the main Outlander characters are doing other things. Lord John is an interesting character. He’s a good man, and honest by nature, but the reality of the world he lives in forces him to live a lie every day. He’s involved in several mysterious events in this series. There are a few full length novels in addition to this one; Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, and The Scottish Prisoner (Jamie from Outlander is the title character, and a co-narrator in this one) as well as a number of novellas. You find find some information about the books and the suggested reading order here and here.

Tom gave him a look of mingled bewilderment and suspicion, obviously suspecting that Grey had made up the word upon the moment for the express purpose of tormenting him.

51fbqr8a2jl-_ac_us218_4. The Pirate Captain: Chronicles of A Legend by Kerry Lynne (The Pirate Captain series)– This series has faced accusations of being an Outlander rip off (with no time travel) mixed with a bit of Pirates of the Caribbean, but it’s still a fun read in it’s own right. It takes place in the years after the battle of Culloden. Catherine MacKenzie is the widow of a Scottish rebel. She has survived for several years living secretly London. She gets passage on a ship away only, to be kidnapped in a pirate raid. Captain Nathanael J. E. Blackthorne wanted revenge against the men who destroyed his life. He ended up with Cate MacKenzie as a rather inconvenient hostage. They fall in love but have both been hurt in the past, and are both hesitant to trust. They’re also facing several external threats. This series continues in Nor Gold, and Treasured Treasures (coming in late 2017).

Beset by a chill reminiscent of the more sour days in the Highlands, Cate hunched on the trunk, listening to the gale tear at the windows and doors, clawing to violate her solitary bastion. The ship lurched to dizzying heights, and then sickeningly pitched downward, disorienting one to the point of doubting which way was up. The rain a hammering drone, the wind screaming through every crevice, and the grind of planking combined into a din that battered one to numbness.

31mezqr7t8l-_ac_us218_5. Exit Unicorns by Cindy Brandner (the Exit Unicorns series) – In 1968 Belfast, Northern Ireland, the lives of three very different characters intersect. Pamela O’Flaherty just arrived in Ireland, after the death of her father, looking for the man that she fell in love with as a child. James Kirkpatrick is a wealthy industrialist who has lost everything he cares about. Casey Riordan is a member of the IRA who just been released after five years in prison. As the lives of these characters intersect, love for people comes into conflict with love for country. Ireland itself is on the brink of revolution. A civil rights movement is building. The changes threaten the lives of these characters and extend them possibilities  they never imagined. There is also a connection to Ireland’s mythical past that skirts the edges of this story; a sense of a lost magic. The series is continued with Mermaid in A Bowl of Tears,  Flights of Angels, and In the Country of Shadows. Brander is working on the next book in the series.

“From the time I was born, I’ve been surrounded by people who had to be strong everyday just to survive. They had to be hard in mind an’ in heart to get from one year to the next. An’ ye’ve seen my back, I’ve known hatred, come to understand it well an’ promised myself I’d never be vulnerable to it again. But I’d no idea that love could make ye ten times more open to destruction. I’ve had men beat me until I was certain there was only a minute or two left between me an’ the grave an’ yet the fists an’ the knives never hurt the way it does when I think of losin’ ye.”

51f5bryehbl-_ac_us218_6. Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson- In 1682, Catriona (Cat) Campbell first meets Alasdair (Dair)  Og MacDonald. They’re little more than children at the time and even though they know they’re supposed to be enemies, they like each other. As they get older that turns into something more. By 1691, King William offers the Highland clans a pardon for their part in the Jacobite Rebellion, as long as they take an oath of allegiance. The Chieftain of the MacDonald takes the oath. Later, when a regiment of soldiers led by the Campbell clan arrives at the MacDonald  household, Highland hospitality demands that they offer them a place to stay. They believe it’s safe, since both clans took the same pledge.  But the Campbells were under orders from Captain Campbell, to slaughter the MacDonalds,  supposedly to show what happens to those who only took the oath under duress. What followed, became known as the brutal Massacre of Glencoe. The longstanding feud between the two clans threatens to tear Cat and Dair apart as they become pawns in the fight. There are times when it feels a bit like a Scottish Romeo and Juliet plotwise but it’s actually very rooted in real history. Alasdair Og MacDonald was a real person, and he did marry a Campbell (though her name was Mary, not Cat).  It’s good for readers who want a well researched historical romance in Scotland with very little bodice ripping!

Such plain, simple words, and so eloquent a declaration. In that moment he shared all the pain, all the insecurities of an awkward lass made to believe she was worthless to any man but a feckless father who preferred whisky and wagers to pride in himself and his daughter.

51em7j9uqel-_ac_us218_7. A Knight in Shining Armour by Jude Devereaux- Dougless Montgomery had been on vacation in England with her boyfriend, when he ditched her in a churchyard with no money, no car, and no passport. She sits down near the grave of Nicholas Stafford, an earl who died in 1564, to have a good cry. When the earl himself shows up Dougless is shocked to say the least! He says that he’s been falsely accused of treason, and he wants to clear his name. Dougless agrees to help. As he falls in love with Dougless, Nicholas realizes he doesn’t want to leave her and go back to his own time. But when he’s pulled back into his own time anyway, Dougless heads back to the 16th century to find him. I’m not usually a “romance” genre reader but I do make exceptions. This was highly recommended and I enjoyed it. Another book by Deveraux that Outlander fans may like is Remembrance.

My soul will find yours.

51dpf3jtk7l-_ac_us218_8.  Green Darkness by Anya Seton– I think many Outlander fans would like most of Seton’s work. It’s well researched historical fiction with a strong focus on human relationships. I would also recommend Devil Water, which deals with a Jacobite rebellion about 30 years prior to Culloden.  This one is a bit different from Seton’s other work though because there’s a supernatural element. In the 1960’s, Richard brings his new wife, Celia to his ancestral lands. Almost immediately the couple begins to act differently. Richard begins to be cruel and Celia has strange fits and visions. It’s a Hindu guru who eventually figures out what’s wrong with the couple. As things begin to get dangerous, it’s obvious that Richard and Celia need to resolve something that happened in their previous lives in order to be happy in this one. Celia goes back to her past life in Tudor England, where she was a young woman in a forbidden love affair with a monk.  Only by resolving this couple’s tragic end can Celia and Richard find peace in their 20th century lives.

“As there were no real answers in her life. She was in abeyance. Stuck in a pattern of waiting for a future she could not guess.”

51kvyusq41l-_ac_us218_9. The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley– Once again I think Outlander fans would enjoy a lot of Kearsley’s books. I also recommend Mariana, The Firebird, The Shadowy Horses, and A Desperate Fortune. I chose this one for the list because it’s features time travel in a more prominent way than some of the others. Eva Ward returns to Cornwall following the death of her sister Katrina. It’s the place that Eva remembers being Katrina being happiest, and where she wants to spread Katrina’s ashes. She renews some friendships, but the Cornwall house just isn’t the same without her sister. When she slips into 1715, and then back to her own time, she worries for her sanity. Eventually her trips to the past get longer. But no matter how long she stays in 1715, no time passes in the 21st century. She returns to the same moment she left.  Eva bonds with Daniel, the 1715 owner of the house where she’s staying, and Daniel’s friend Fergal. Daniel is a widower, a smuggler and a Jacobite. As she falls in love with Daniel, Eva begins to question where, and when she belongs. But even if she chooses to stay with Daniel, how is she supposed to handle her knowledge of the future? And how does she avoid getting pulled back to her own time?

“Whatever time we have,” he said, “it will be time enough.”

61wblmzijl-_ac_us218_10. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (Kingsbridge trilogy)- In the 12th century, Prior Phillip of Kingsbridge decides to build a cathedral. He hires Tom Builder to accomplish the task, which eventually falls into the hands of Tom’s stepson, Jack.  Meanwhile, Aliena, the daughter of the Earl of Shiring promises her dying father that she’ll see her brother, Richard, installed in his rightful position as Earl. But she and Richard are soon cast out of their own when their castle is seized. They end up in Kingsbridge, where Jack falls in love with Aliena. But pursuing a future with Jack might mean abandoning her promise to her father.  The “sequel” World Without End takes place about 200 years later. The cathedral is still in the process of being built, though the characters and events of the first book have become the realm of legend. The third, A Column of Fire, will be released in September. It takes place in Kingsbridge Cathedral in 1558. Just a note, Outlander fans may also enjoy Follett’s A Place Called Freedom, which is a love story that begins in Scotland in the 1760’s and eventually moves to the American colonies.

She looked at his young face, so full of concern and tenderness; and she remembered why she had run away from everyone else and sought solitude here. She yearned to kiss him, and she saw the answering longing in his eyes. Every fiber of her body told her to throw herself into his arms, but she knew what she had to do. She wanted to say, I love you like a thunderstorm, like a lion, like a helpless rage; but instead she said: “I think I’m going to marry Alfred.”

Honorable Mention

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel (Earth’s Children series) I was hesitant to include this series in the list, because while the first book (Clan of the Cave Bear) was great, and the second, The Valley of Horses was very good, and the third, The Mammoth Hunters was pretty decent, the second half of the series showed a steady decline in quality. The Plains of Passage (book 4) was alright, but a bit redundant. The fifth, The Shelters of Stone was fairly dull and the sixth, The Land of Painted Caves, was hard to finish. So I would suggest that Outlander fans read the first four books which brings the characters to a decent leaving off place. Then ignore the last two books.