#WyrdandWonder Challenge (Part III)

My next set of prompts for May’s Wyrd and Wonder Challenge

May 20Fantasy creature on the cover

(bonus points if it isn’t a dragon)

Well, the most recent fantasy book I read with fantasy creature on the cover, was Crown of Crystal Flame, by CL Wilson. It’s the final book in Wilson’s Tarien Soul series and it has a Tarien (sort of like a giant cat with wings) on the cover in the background. The first book in the series, Lord of the Fading Lands shows a Tarien a bit more clearly.
May 21Fantasy in translation

Fridays are all about celebrating fantasy from around the world – this week focuses on books that weren’t originally written in English

The one that leaps immediately to mind is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, because it’s a favorite (well really the whole Cemetery of Forgotten Books series counts) The fantasy elements are stronger elsewhere in the series, but as I said, this one is my favorite, and it has those elements as well, to a lesser extent. It was originally written in Spanish.
Another book that, well, let’s say it made a strong impression on me was Troll: A Love Story by Finnish author Johanna Sinisalo.
Actually I’m a big fan of magical realism, which I suppose is a subgenre of fantasy. It has strong associations with Latin America, so a lot of the books are in translation from Spanish. Some favorites are Like Water For Chocolate, Eva Luna, and The House of the Spirits.
I suppose many classic fairy tale collections count as well. The Brother’s Grimm and ETA Hoffman were originally in German. Hans Christian Anderson was Danish. Charles Perrault was French. They all originally wrote in their native languages.
May 22Get in the sea

Seaborne fantasy, mermaid tales, the lady in the lake – make it watery for World Maritime Day
…or if you’re feeling bitter, what fantasy would you consign to the depths and why?


I really enjoyed Carolyn Turgen’s Mermaid. It’s based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid (which is very different from Disney’s version!) and follows the point of view of both the mermaid and the princess who the mermaid’s beloved marries.
May 23Book rainbow

book spines arranged in the colours of the rainbow

Some of the colors didn’t photograph as well as I would have liked, but I didn’t have a chance to play with the lighting.
May 24On the shelf

how long has that been on your shelf / TBR?? a book / books you really should have read by now

I think these have been on my shelf for the longest:
White As Snow by Tanith Lee
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
The Blue Girl by Charles DeLint

Hopefully I can get to them soon!
May 25Chosen one #TropeTuesday

Double-edged prophecies, irresistible destiny, a plot stick you just can’t dodge – let’s end the month on a classic

Well, this month these are the books I’ve read that use that trope:
Crown of Crystal Flame by CL Wilson– This is the final book in the Tarien Soul series and the heroine, Elysetta, has every characteristic of a “chosen one.” She has a mysterious past, she was found in the woods as a baby, she has a supernatural/fantastic origin story, and she is destined to either save, or destroy, the fey.
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness-This is the second book in the All Souls series and I think that Diana has some “chosen one” characteristics too. She knows she’s a witch but she didn’t have any sense of connection to her heritage before the first book in the series. In this book, she starts her magic training, and it turns out she’s a “weaver,” a rare kind of witch that can make up spells. It’s been hinted that she might save supernatural creatures from extinction. She’s also married to a vampire, and there are prophesies about their offspring.
May 26All the feels

We all love an emotional rollercoaster – a book that gave your feelings a full on work out

I’m often an emotional wreck as I read, so this might be a long-ish list with major spoilers. Be warned…

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman- The end when Bod leaves the graveyard, and the ghosts who raised him, and goes out to pursue his future as a living person.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro– I’m counting this as a fantasy, even though you could make the argument for it being sci-fi. Really just the whole thing once we learned what the characters were and their inevitable fate.
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon- A lot of books in the Outlander series have given me all the feels on a semi regular basis, but this one totally destroyed me when Jamie sends Claire back through the stones, to the future (they both think forever), and goes off to die (they think) at the battle of Culloden…
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling– This was another series where I got emotional at many different points (the end of The Prisoner of Azkaban, the end of The Goblet of Fire, the end of The Half Blood Prince…) but if I had to pick one part of the series, it would be this book. When people we love die in battle, when Harry goes into the forest, Dobby, Snape, and really everything!
The Keeping Place by Isobelle Carmody- Once again, the Obernewtyn series has given me all the feels at several points. But this one features the Misfits getting betrayed by people they thought were allies. Many important and beloved characters are murdered in an ambush I didn’t see coming. My friend, who recommended the series warned me that we’d lose some people in this one, so I was semi-prepared, but the scope and depth of the betrayal was what destroyed me.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set in Another Country

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

March 27: Books That Take Place In Another Country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silence For the Dead by Simone St. James

Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

The Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

Precious Bane by Mary Webb

The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: New To Me Authors I Read in 2017

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

January 2: Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2017

  1. 51f6ex2-vul-_ac_us218_Mary WebbPrecious Bane– I read Precious Bane at the end of 2017 and loved it. It’s a beautiful story about Prue Sarn, a girl with a harelip, her (crazy) family, the village where she lives and her seemingly hopeless love for the weaver Kester Woodseaves. It’s been compared to the likes of Charlotte Bronte and Thomas Hardy. While I see some parallels in terms of setting and theme, I think Webb’s work has its own identity. Author Kate Forsyth recommended Webb’s Gone to Earth as a follow up read, so that’s on my 2018 TBR.
  2. 515vcf5e7ol-_ac_us218_51bn96akpgl-_ac_us218_CL Wilson– Tarian Soul series- I suppose that I’d call these books romantic fantasy. I had some issues with first one, Lord of the Fading Lands, in that it was a bit too Cinderella-ish. But some of that was changed in the follow-up Lady of Light and Shadows. It’s still not perfect mind you, but it’s got my interest enough to keep reading the 5 books series.
  3. 51dqnh9enml-_ac_us218_Lyndsay FayeJane Steele– After finding Jane Steele to be a lovely surprise (I recommend it to anyone who wonders what Jane Eyre would be like if Jane were a serial killer), I definitely want to check out some of her other work. I’m not sure if I’ll get to Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Jack the Ripper Killings by John H. Watson (basically Sherlock Holmes meets Jack the Ripper) first or The  Gods of Gotham, the first in her Timothy Wilde trilogy about a police officer in 19th century NYC. But both are on my TBR.
  4. 61xeuwoxcl-_ac_us218_1Marisha PesslNight Film– Night Film was like a crazy fever dream of a read. It was entertaining, disturbing, and innovative. I definitely want to read more of her work in 2018. Her debut, Special Topics in Calamity Physics received a lot of acclaims, so that might be where I go next. But there’s another book coming out called Neverworld Wake that also looks good…
  5. Marina WarnerFly Away Home- I really enjoyed Marina Warner’s short story collection Fly Away Home. Like many collections of short work, some stories were, of course, better than others.  But I liked how she played with the line between fantasy and realism in different ways in these stories. Next up, I may go for a novel or some nonfiction like From Beast to Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers.
  6. 51vp6vchi4l-_ac_us218_Hanya Yanagihara A Little Life– I’ve spoken about this book before. Even people who say that it’s too dark have praised the beautiful prose. Personally, I found it dark, but appropriately so, and ultimately I took something hopeful from it. I hope to read Yanagihara’s first novel, The People in the Trees in 2018. Hopefully, that’s got something equally beautiful to offer.
  7. 41hn3x56n9l-_ac_us218_Ali SmithAutumn– Autumn was the first in Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet. While it wasn’t perfect, I appreciated the emphasis on how art and current events influence our perceptions of what is temporary and transient and what is eternal and unchanging. I also appreciated that the crux of the story was about the platonic friendship of an older man and a younger woman. Platonic relationships don’t get much attention! Anyway, I definitely want to pick up the follow-up, Winter in 2018. Preferably before spring hits!
  8. 51t-vfynk1l-_ac_us218_Susan Bishop CrispellThe Secret Ingredient of Wishes– Well done magical realism- especially when it’s not the highbrow Gabriel Garcia Marquez/Isabelle Allende/Salman Rushdie kind- is hard to find. I enjoyed The Secret Ingredient of Wishes enough to want to read some more of Crispell’s work, though with titles like Dreaming in Chocolate I suspect it might make me very hungry…
  9. Johanna SinisaloTroll: A Love Story– This was a weird book. Actually, her work has been dubbed “Finnish Weird”. Troll is about a Finnish man who stumbles across an injured, sick troll (a rare species but not unheard of) and takes it in. The events of the story are mixed with excerpts from “sources” about troll folklore and scientific “sources” about where and how they live. Her only other book that’s been translated into English is called The Core of the Sun, and it sounds equally strange.
  10. 51-xlyewull-_ac_us218_Richard SikenCrush– I’m  not usually a poetry reader. I mean I’ll read a poem in a magazine here and there but I’m not usually someone who goes out and buys a volume of poetry. But Siken’s collection is a ferocious look at love and obsession. Some poems had an almost violent linguistic impact. For that reason, his follow up War of the Foxes is in on my TBR for 2018.