Tag Tuesday: A Few Tags I’ve Been Meaning To Do

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic was:

March 16: Books On My Spring 2021 TBR

But I didn’t want to do yet another TBR, so I decided to clear up some tags that I’ve been meaning to do.

The first is the Get To Know The Fantasy Reader tag which was originally created by Bree Hill I found it on Hundreds and Thousands of Books

The Questions

What is your fantasy origin story? (The first fantasy you read)

I honesty don’t know which one I first read. I read fairy tales obsessively as a child. When I loved a story I’d seek out as many versions of it as I could find, and compare and contrast them. (Yes, I was like 5 at the time!)

If you could be the hero/heroine in a fantasy novel, who would be the author and what’s one trope you’d insist be in the story?

Hmm… That’s an interesting question. I’d want it to be someone who wouldn’t do anything too terrible to a hero or heroine, so that leaves out a lot of authors! Maybe I’d go with Eva Ibbotson. Her fantasy books are intended mostly for younger readers, and while enough happens to make them interesting to an older audience, it’s usually nothing terrible to characters we like! As for tropes, I’d like to be the “Lucky Novice” whose never done something before, or done something with minimal training, and can do it really well. I usually have to practice a lot to be even halfway decent at something!

What is a fantasy series you’ve read this year, that you want more people to read?

This year is still fairly young and I haven’t read that many fantasy series yet. I suppose I’ll highlight Fairy Godmothers Inc., which is the first in the Fairy Godmothers, Inc. series. But it’s got a major caveat: while I think the series has potential I didn’t like the first book. I found the two main characters to be awful, separately and together. I say the series has potential though because it seems like the kind of thing that follows different characters in each book. It’s about three fairy godmothers living in the magical town of Ever After, Missouri. Love is the source of the magic in their world, but it’s running low. They decided to help attract more love to the town of Ever After by making it a popular wedding destination. But they need some help promoting it. They ask their goddaughter Lucky (who tends to have terrible luck!) a popular artist, to fake-marry their godson (and her ex) Ransom Payne (a billionaire who runs a chocolate company) in a high profile ceremony. Lucky and Ransom both agree because they want to help their beloved godmothers, but they are both the most annoying characters I’ve read in a long time. But the book is clearly setting up for a series set in Ever After, revolving around Fairy Godmothers, Inc. The residents of Ever After include Red and her werewolf Grammy, a frog prince named “Charming”, a reformed evil queen, and more. I don’t recommend it yet, because as I said I didn’t like the first book. But I think it has the potential to be a feel good, fun series, so I’ll give it another chance.

What is your favourite fantasy subgenre? 

Ummm, I can’t choose! I’ll say that fantasy inspired by fairy tales; even though that can fall into several different subgenres. After all, Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series which is sci-fi oriented, but is fairy tale inspired. Meanwhile Juliet Marillier’s work is also fairy tale/legend inspired but it tends have a strong historical setting. The Fairy Godmothers, Inc series I mention above seems like it also draws heavily from fairy tales, but it has a light, magical realist tone. So I guess “fairy tale inspired fantasy” allows me to cheat and pick lots of different subgenres!

What subgenre have you not read much from?

I don’t read much in the way of Sword and Sorcery. I’m not really into reading about straight out battles and violent conflicts most of the time. I prefer more subtle rivalries. But there are exceptions to every rule.

Who is one of your auto-buy fantasy authors?

Just one?! I’ll say Juliet Marillier. I’ve read some books of hers that I’ve liked more than others, but I don’t think I’ve ever read one that I disliked.

How do you typically find fantasy recommendations? (Goodreads, Youtube, Podcasts, Instagram..)

All of the above. There are some bloggers whose opinions I trust, and I look at what my friends are reading on Goodreads mostly though.

What is an upcoming fantasy release you’re excited for?

Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley is described as “Jamaica Inn by way of Jeff Vandermeer, Ursula Le Guin, Angela Carter and Michel Faber” so that’s a big “yes, please!” from me.

What is one misconception about fantasy you would like to lay to rest?

I suppose I’d have to differentiate between reading fantasy and writing fantasy for this one. For reading, I’d say the notion that it’s only for kids has to go. Yes, you can absolutely have fantasy intended for children. But the genre can often get dark, violent, subversive, and disturbing. In other words, not for children at all! In terms of writing, I’ll say that the idea that fantasy writing requires no research needs to die. There’s a lot of research involved. I rant about it a bit in this post.

If someone had never read a fantasy before and asked you to recommend the first 3 books that come to mind as places to start, what would those recommendations be?

This is a tough one!

I wouldn’t do series because that’s a commitment and some don’t get really good until quite a ways in. I also think some classics of the genre tend to be too dense for beginners. Plus those always come with high expectations. So I’ll go with

The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson– This books is a relatively easy, quick read, that uses a lot of the tropes that Harry Potter does, in a stand alone story.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern– I recommend this one because it’s a stand alone of reasonable length that introduces readers to a more magic realist variation on fantasy. Plus I think Morgenstern beautifully engages the reader’s senses.

-The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker- This gets into the mythical creates of two different traditions and draws them together in a historical setting. It’s a great example of how fantasy can draw on different sources, and set itself in the “real” world. I actually see now that there’s a sequel that’s coming out in June, but I think it works as a stand alone, if someone chooses to read it that way.

I’ve also been meaning to tackle The Classic Book Tag, which I first encountered on BookwyrmKnits blog. It was originally created by It’s A Book World.

An overhyped classic that you didn’t really like

The one that jumps to my mind is War and Peace. I read it in college in a freshman seminar that explored the themes of war and peace in general. It wasn’t the worst book I read in that class (Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, I’m looking at you!) but after some really dense stuff, I was sort of looking forward to getting into a novel. Besides which, I actually enjoy big, sweeping, epic stories,. But nothing about the narrative or the characters grabbed me. My professor said that Tolstoy was “a great writer, who needed a great editor.” While I think that’s true, I think some of his writing is more compelling in other work. Here he gets to bogged down in extraneous stuff.

Favorite time period to read about

I’m a fan of the Victorian era, which is a pretty long era, spanning Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837-1901. A lot of my favorite writers of days past (the Bronte sisters, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Elliot, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins) were of this time period.

Favorite fairy tale

I was recently asked this question in an interview I did with F H Denny. I hope no one minds if I copy/paste this from my answer!

To be honest I think Beauty and the Beast has always been a favorite. I love almost every version I’ve read/seen (yes, including Disney!) It’s strange that one of the elements that always appealed to me was the forgotten, enchanted, castle where the Beast lives, but that’s an element that I didn’t include in my retelling at all!

I go on to talk about some pitfalls I wanted to avoid in my own work, so read the interview if that interests you. But I do think that the “gothicness” of the story always appealed to me. The brooding hero, who seems like a villain at first, the abandoned, enchanted castle…

What is the classic you are most embarrassed you haven’t read yet

I try not to be too embarrassed about not having read certain books yet. I mean, having new books to read (even when they’re not technically “new”) is one of life’s great joys, isn’t it? I consider myself pretty well read, but I’ve only been on earth so long, and there are other things I’ve had to do!

There are a few books I feel like I should have gotten to by now though. One of them is Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy. I think what’s stopped me so far from reading it, is the fact that it’s considered depressing, even by Hardy’s standards! I think he’s a beautiful writer, but he can be kind of a downer, and lately I haven’t felt up to tackling anything like that.

I was in a recent book club discussion where someone mentioned Moby Dick and I realized I’ve never read that before either. I’m not sure if I want to. Part of me wants to read it, if only to say I did, but another part figures “why bother? There so much out there I actually want to read!” Any advice from anyone who’s read it?

Top 5 classics you would like to read soon

Well there are many, many classics that I’d like to reread. But in addition to those I’d like to get to these for the first time:

Picnic At Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay- I really like the film adaptation and I’ve always found the story to be very intriguing.

The Lark by E. Nesbit- I’ve enjoyed E. Nesbit’s books for children and I’d like to read some of her work for adults as well.

Armadale by Wilkie Collins- I’ve really enjoyed Wilkie Collins’ other work that I’ve read. The is the only one of his “major” novels that I haven’t read yet.

Maggie-Now by Betty Smith- Again this is a case of me having liked the author’s other work, and wanting to read more of it.

The Common Reader by Virginia Woolf- I’ve always liked Virginia Woolf best as an essayist so I definitely want to get to this at some point.

Favorite modern book/series based on a classic

So many wonderful choices… Can’t decide on just one…

I’ll go with two books by one author: Circe and Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. It’s strange that I loved these books even though I’m not a big fan of the Greek classics on which they were based! I discuss them in this post for anyone interested.

Favorite movie version/tv-series based on a classic

Again, I feel almost like my head is about to explode from so many choices! I’m going to cheat and pick one movie and one tv series.

For film, I’m going with an adaptation of Little Women. I know the Greta Gerwig adaptation was really popular recently, but I actually prefer the 1994 adaptation. Not only is it a beautifully made film with an excellent cast, but it focuses on the story and characters, and not some of the more pedantic aspects that Louisa May Alcott got bogged down with at times. It emphasizes some of the politics and philosophy in which Louisa May Alcott (and her father, Amos Bronson Alcott) strongly believed, but it never espouses these ideas at the expense of the narrative. Rather, it highlights the moments that the narrative espouses these ideas.

For a TV series, I’m going to go with the 2005 BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. It’s an eight episode miniseries, that manages to convey the epic scope of the novel, without getting bogged down in the minutia. Some of Dickens’ work easily lends itself to adaptation. This book isn’t one of them. I’m very fond of it. In fact, I might call it a favorite, but the plot, surrounding a chancery court case doesn’t lend itself to big, dramatic scenes or spectacle. Some of the twists and turns may even seem contrived to 21st century readers/viewers. However this series manages to make it compelling drama with a strong cast. It also manages to recreate the dark, well, bleak, atmosphere of Dickens’ novel in a way that works cinematically.

Worst classic to movie adaptation

The one that comes to mind first is the 1995 adaptation of The Scarlet Letter. The book was about the cruelty of public shaming and punishment, guilt, and pain. The movie features a Hollywoodized romance that changes the ending and in the process ends up contradicting the message of the book. It also features a very miscast (IMO) Demi Moore.

Favorite edition(s) you’d like to collect more classics from

I think that Virago Modern Classics are very pretty, and they include a lot of lesser known, underrated classic works. Ditto for Persephone Books. I don’t want to replace all my classics with fancy elaborate editions tough. I like the mishmash of classics that line my walls, with my notes in them, and places I’ve dog-eared still creased a bit. It always annoys me a bit when people have classic editions that look like they haven’t been opened!

An under-hyped classic you would recommend to someone

I’m going to push for The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte. She’s often overlooked in favor of her sisters (which is easy to happen when your sisters are Emily and Charlotte Bronte!) and even Lucasta Miller’s book, The Bronte Myth, dismissed her in a few sentences. But her work was just as strong in it’s own way, as that of either of her sisters. I love how angry she looks in the family portrait that’s on the book cover next to this text. I always imagine her saying “How dare you overlook me! I’m brilliant!”

Top Ten Tuesday: Longest Books

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For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

October 9: Longest Books I’ve Ever Read

In most cases, these are based on the edition that I read/own.

51v43macoil-_ac_us218_1. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson (1534 pages)- I read this one in college. I enjoyed the class where I read this, and I don’t remember it being quite this long, but we read a different edition, so it’s possible it was slightly adapted.

 

 

 

51autt1ny5l-_ac_us218_2. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1488 pages)- In my high school French class we read an adaptation of this (like, a major adaptation. The book we read had about 120 pages. It was really more of a synopsis written in French!) and I read the whole brick (er… book) in college. I definitely think it’s a beautiful book but I could have done with less exploration of the sewer system in 19th century Paris.

 

51j4urrkj3l-_ac_us218_3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1296 pages)- This was another college read. My professor called Tolstoy a “great writer who could have used a great editor.” I think that sums up my stance on it!

 

 

 

51qrndx-oxl-_ac_us218_4. Shogun by James Clavell (1152 pages) I read this in high school and really enjoyed it. It was an interesting depiction of a European encountering an entirely different kind of life in feudal Japan. From what I understand now, this had some issues with historical accuracy, but it was still enjoyable.

 

 

51aradik9al-_ac_us218_5. Sarum by Edward Rutherford (1059 pages) I remember reading this book as a teenager. I liked parts of it and disliked other parts. I know it was about Stonehenge (and England in general) and it told different stories set there over different time periods. But I couldn’t tell you anything about any of those stories.

 

 

519tffz6szl-_ac_us218_6. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke  (1024 pages) I definitely wanted to like this book more than I did. I loved the idea of a fictional “study” of magic in 19th century England. I liked the story of the rivalry between two magicians. But ultimately, this felt like a chore to read.

 

 

419c5syx7xl-_ac_us218_7. The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon (1008 pages) The Outlander series is made up of long books, but the fifth is definitely the longest. Or maybe it felt longer because it wasn’t as fast moving as some of the other books in the series. A lot of character development happens here, but it’s primarily a transitional book. It serves to bring the characters relationships to where they need to be for book six.

 

51polcsfrl-_ac_us218_8. Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor (986 pages) I remember a few scenes from this book vividly but a lot of it I remember as a sort of montage. I read it in college, I think. Amber was a compelling character and the book definitely left me wondering what would become of her in the future.

 

 

51vxh2jgv8l-_ac_us218_9. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (960 pages) I think of Scarlett O’Hara as sort of Amber’s (see above) literary sister. Both are determined, glamorous, selfish, and scandalous. Both books also tell long stories that ultimately leave the reader in a place where we’re still wondering what will happen next to the characters. I suppose it’s a feat to write a book that’s nearly 1000 pages long, and leave readers wanting more!

 

51an8oy5w4l-_ac_us218_10. Hawaii by James Michener (937 pages) This book tells the story of several families over the course of Hawaii’s history. I remember some of the later portions but the earlier ones don’t come to mind at all. It’s been a long time since I read this though.

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Didn’t Like But Am Glad I Read

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

May 15: Books I Disliked/Hated but Am Really Glad I Read (maybe just for bragging rights)

51j4urrkj3l-_ac_us218_1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy– I read this my freshman year of college. I wanted to like it, but after 1000 pages of characters and battles that I didn’t care about, I couldn’t. I just felt no emotional investment in anything that happened in it.  I’m glad I read it though, even if only to say that I did!

 

 

51juyqutpyl-_ac_us218_2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy– I read this book several years after reading War and Peace, and I didn’t like it much better. I did have some interest in the Anna/Vronsky story as well as the Kitty/Levin story, but reading a few hundred pages about Russian agriculture was enough to kill that interest. One of my professors in college said that “Tolstoy was a great writer who needed a great  editor.” Perhaps I’d enjoy him more as a writer if he’d had one.

 

4113v6q36il-_ac_us218_3. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer– The first time I read this I enjoyed it somewhat. Then I started to think about some of the troubling aspects of the central relationship. Then I read the sequels and things headed downhill at an increasing speed… But I’m glad I read it because it’s spawned so many imitations and prompted some interesting conversations.

 

519tffz6szl-_ac_us218_4. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke– I actually didn’t “dislike” this book. I love the idea of writing a novel as an academic study of magic. I liked a lot of the humor in this and thought it was very clever. The problem is that I wasn’t able to invest anywhere emotionally. I didn’t particularly care about either character. That made the undeniably clever writing fall flat. I’m glad I read it for the elements that I did like, but I wish I’d enjoyed it more.

 

41ntp6atgkl-_ac_us218_5. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson– This is a book that I really wanted to like. I thought I would like it prior to reading it. Actually, I did enjoy the first 1/3. But then it started getting very repetitive. Every time I felt like we were making some progress, we’d be sent back to the beginning again. Yes, I understand that was the premise. But for me, it worked better as a premise than in practice. I’m still glad I read it because it’s allowed me to participate in some really interesting discussions, with people who did like it as well as people who didn’t.

51-obg7xgml-_ac_us218_6. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand– I actually don’t remember too much about the actual plot, but philosophically it didn’t appeal to me at all. It could have been subtitled “why it’s really a good thing to be selfish.” Here’s the thing; I don’t believe that it is good. I know a lot of people find the book inspiring and think that it encourages them to take personal responsibility to lift themselves up by the bootstraps, and all that. But in order to do that, you need boots, to begin with. I’m glad I read it because it shows another point of view and a way of perceiving the world that’s different from my own. But I didn’t enjoy it or agree with it.

51gkxhz8wgl-_ac_us218_7. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson– Here’s the thing. It’s not all small stuff. Some stuff is big and important. Stressing about it won’t necessarily help anything, but sometimes it’s a part of being involved in the world around you. As you may be able to tell, I have a tendency to stress. A lot. Which is why I read this book.  I don’t want to say it wasn’t worthwhile because it did put some things in perspective, I did notice a few things that weren’t worth the time and attention I was giving them and it helped me notice some bad habits that make my life a bit harder. But, for me, stress is a byproduct of caring. I don’t want to stop caring about the important things.

51pgysvdoel-_ac_us218_8. Blood Meridian: or The Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy– I read this in a college class called “Innovative Contemporary Fiction.” It stood out as the only book in the class that I really disliked. Maybe part of my distaste for it stems from the fact that I’m not a fan of the western genre in general. McCarthy is an undeniably talented writer, but the book featured a lot of repetitive violence that is essentially pointless. We don’t care about the people on whom the violence is inflicted, nor is there any emotional connection to those inflicting it, so essentially it’s rendered meaningless. I appreciated the accomplishment of McCarthy’s prose, and for that reason, I’m glad I read it in an academic setting because we were able to really delve into that. But it’s not a book I liked.

41fcz0g6yal-_ac_us218_9. Just Kids by Patti Smith– I first discovered Patti Smith as a writer rather than a musician, which I think is how many readers know her initially. I read her book M Train, which I felt was beautiful, sad, and triumphant, in a quiet, thoughtful way. I was really eager to read her National Book Award-winning bestseller, Just Kids.  Maybe the hype made it too hard for the book to live up to it. Maybe, because I read M Train, a memoir of Smith’s middle-aged years onward, going back to her youth in this book felt regressive. I don’t know. I did like parts of it, such as the depiction of the downtown NYC art scene in the late 1960’s, but on the whole, it didn’t resonate with me. I’m glad that I did read it because it allowed me to put the Smith depicted in M Train in a more complete context, but I wouldn’t call it a “must read.”

41ttg75bcil-_ac_us160_10. The Bhagavad Gita– The Bhagavad Gita is a 700 verse scripture that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. It consists of a dialogue between the Prince Arjuna and his guide Lord Krishna. It’s influenced thinkers ranging from Gandhi to Thoreau, to Emerson, Jung, and Oppenheimer. I read it as part of my Freshman Seminar in college. I didn’t enjoy reading it. I found it rather repetitive and cumbersome. But so many of my classes in college focused on literature from the Western canon. It was nice to have a class that had a more broad lens.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Can’t Believe I Read

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

January 30: Books I Can’t Believe I Read

I decided to be pretty open in how I interpret this one. It could mean books I can’t believe I read because they’re not my usual genre or books I can’t believe I read because I hated them so much, or books I can’t believe I was lucky enough to read. A lot are books that didn’t appeal to me at first but I read them anyway and was surprised by how much I liked them. A few are books that looked great and I can’t believe I kept reading them when I discovered how disappointing they were.

51j4urrkj3l-_ac_us218_1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy– I read this for a class in college. I wasn’t a fan. I found the war parts dull and several of the peace characters really irritating. It’s a long book to read when you’re not enjoying what you’re reading! But I did it.

 

 

 

51qf7-d2cl-_ac_us218_2. Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews– This is more in the category of “I can’t believe I read this stuff in middle school!” I loved it at the time. I read the whole thing in a weekend and went right on to the sequels. But the story involves incestuous romance, child abuse, religious fanaticism, and that’s just the first book in the series! Scandalous stuff for an 11-year-old!

 

41bdgu2fkpl-_ac_us218_3. New Moon by Stephanie Meyers– Well I can believe I read the first one. It was really hyped and I like to check books out when they’re really popular with a lot of people. But I can’t believe I read the rest of the series. I suppose because I found the first one to be OK (at the time) and then wanted to finish what I started? I don’t think much of this series though.

 

51vg7zt42ul-_ac_us218_4. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda– Stories told in reverse don’t usually work for me. It usually becomes more about the trick than the story itself.  That was my problem with this book. I read this because I found it for a dollar at a used book sale. It was worth the dollar but I’m glad I didn’t spend much more than that.

 

 

51pnvfoqqcl-_ac_sr160218_5. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken– I think I outgrew YA a few years ago. That’s a very general statement. There are many YA books that I love. But in general, the YA fantasy trilogy/series thing doesn’t interest me much anymore. But a few people told me that this series was a lot of fun so I decided to give it a try. It was a fast read, but even though it ended with a pretty big cliffhanger, I realized that I didn’t care enough about the characters to keep reading.

 

515a-chyel-_ac_us218_6. Public Secrets by Nora Roberts– I don’t usually read Nora Roberts. I have nothing against her, but I always saw her as sort of “corporate” in a way… I picked up this book when I was staying at my grandmother’s house and needed something to read. It was OK. It didn’t make me want to run out and read lots more Nora Roberts books, but it entertained me enough at the time.

 

51bphux9gl-_ac_us218_7.  Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear– Something about this series seemed very… blah to me when I first read the description. Or maybe I just didn’t find the cover intriguing (I know, I know, I’m not supposed to judge them that way…) I read the book based on a recommendation and I’m really glad that I did. Three books into the series, I’m loving the series about a female psychologist/detective in England between WWI and WWII.

 

51lnzses14l-_ac_us218_8. The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley– I picked this up because a dual timeline novel taking place in contemporary England, and during WWII sounds right up my alley. The review from Shelf Awareness said that it was  “sweeping, poignant saga that will enthrall fans of The House at Riverton, Rebeccaand Downton Abbey”. So really it’s not surprising that I read it. What’s surprising is that I kept reading it. I suppose I wanted to see if it got better as I went on. It didn’t.

61wblmzijl-_ac_sr160218_9. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett– My dad recommended this one to me. I had my doubts about being entertained by a novel about building a cathedral in the middle ages. But once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.

 

 

 

41ii-qq8gpl-_ac_us218_10. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley– I’d seen this recommended so many times. When it started off slow, I told myself to give it time. When it didn’t get better, I told myself there must be a reason why people love it so much. When I finished the book I wondered why I gave it so much time and effort.