Tag Tuesday: Books I Want To Read (But Don’t Want To Read)

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday was

September 14: Books With Numbers In the Title

But I feel like I did a list like this pretty recently (OK so it was 2 years ago, but how creative can you get with the topic really?). So I decided to do a Tag Tuesday instead. This tag was created by @jamishelves and I first discovered it on @zeezeewithbooks. I decided on this one because my home is slowly being taken over by books I want to read but haven’t gotten around to yet. Everything here has been living on my shelves for a long, long time…

A BOOK YOU FEEL THE NEED TO READ BECAUSE EVERYBODY TALKS ABOUT IT

Actually I don’t think I have anything on mu TBR shelf that I feel like I have to read for that reason. I cheated and used my kindle for this one. I’m going with Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I keep meaning to read it, but putting it aside and reading something else instead, for one reason or another. I really, really want to read this one though, because I’ve heard great things about it.

A BOOK THAT’S REALLY LONG

I have a few really long ones on the shelf (they tend to be put off for the longest because I know they’re a big investment in terms of time) I think the longest book on my unread shelf is Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (1007 pages). I enjoyed its predecessor, The Name of the Wind, but it’s hard to dive into a book this long. Plus who knows if/when book three will come out. I’d hate to get invested more in the series and then just be waiting, and waiting, and waiting…

A BOOK YOU OWN/HAD ON YOUR TBR FOR TOO LONG

I picked up Kristin Lavransdatter Part I: The Bridal Wreath about ten years ago at a library sale, because I’d heard that this three part novel was a great read. But before I started reading, I learned that the translation that I had wasn’t the preferred one (the consensus seems to be that the Penguin Classics edition is the best), and I wasn’t sure if I should give the one I had a shot or go straight for the preferred translation. So I put it off until I decided. And now it’s been a decade.

A BOOK THAT WAS “REQUIRED” READING
(E.G., SCHOOL TEXT, REALLY POPULAR CLASSIC — SOMETHING YOU FEEL OBLIGATED TO READ)

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard is a book I got for two reasons. One is that it was on some list I saw, somewhere, of books every writer should read (or something along those lines). Two is that I want to appreciate nature more. I feel like I’m very caught up in the human world, and I like the idea of slowing down, meditating and philosophizing on the natural world. But while that idea appeals to me, it seems like it might be a slog to read through.

A BOOK THAT INTIMIDATES YOU

The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett is the third book in the Lymond Chronicles. I enjoyed the first two but with an enigmatic hero who speaks in multilingual riddles and obscure references, it can be tough going. I actually want to buy this guide before I do read it.

A BOOK THAT YOU THINK MIGHT BE SLOW

The Overstory by Richard Powers won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It got rave reviews. But it’s about trees. How exciting can that be?

A BOOK YOU NEED TO BE IN THE RIGHT MOOD FOR

I read Paullina Simons’ The Tiger Catcher in the right mood and ended up enjoying it a lot more than I expected to. Now I’m waiting for the right mood to read the second in the trilogy, A Beggar’s Kingdom.

A BOOK YOU’RE UNSURE YOU WILL LIKE

I suppose I’m a little bit nervous about The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I love academic settings in books, and I love books dealing with the marriage plot in general (think Austen, Eliot) but I’ve had mixed reactions to some of the author’s past work.

Top Ten Tuesday: TBR Procrastination

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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September 10: Books On My TBR I’m Avoiding Reading and Why (maybe you’re scared of it, worried it won’t live up to the hype, etc.) (submitted by Caitlin @ Caitlin Althea)

Books that are intimidating because they’re really long

51saga5aeml-_ac_us218_1. Nor Gold by Kerry Lynne– Second in The Pirate Captain series 753 pages.  I’ve also heard it ends with a cliffhanger, so I’m not sure I want to start it until I have the next book nearby.

 

 

41oulsn7jul-_ac_us218_2. Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn– Got really great reviews but between the heavy subject matter and the fact that it’s 768 pages I keep putting it off.

 

 

51qkdj8lpel-_ac_us218_3. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss– Second in the Kingkilller Chronicles. I loved the first, but this is 1120 pages. Also, number three hasn’t been published yet so maybe I’ll wait until then and finish the series when it’s complete.

 

51dyrlatcxl-_ac_us218_4. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey– First in the Kushiel’s Legacy series. It’s been recommended many times, it’s sitting on my shelf, but the premise doesn’t really grab me and it’s 912 pages.  I’ll get to  it at some point.

 

51q4v7d1rl-_ac_us218_5. Trinity by Leon Uris– This was recommended by several people but it’s a heavy subject matter and it’s 894 pages.

 

 

 

51bzo0tnhl-_ac_us218_6. Kristin Lavranstradder by Sigrid Undset– This is technically a trilogy of three normal sized books but apparently the translation matters, and I have the first book in the wrong translation. At some point I’ll try to read it and if it’s no good I’ll go for this edition which is supposed to be the “good” translation, but it’s all 3 books together making it a cumbersome 1168 pages.

61jrknqrsel-_ac_us218_7. A Column of Fire by Ken Follett– Third in Follett’s Kingsbridge trilogy. I liked the first two but at 923 pages it’s hard to dive into.

 

 

 

51wxqincjul-_ac_us218_8. The Revolution of Marina M. by Janet Fitch– I loved Fitch’s White Oleander and I’m  interested in this genre change (literary fiction to historical fiction) but the fact that it’s 812 pages makes it intimidating to get started on.

 

Books I’m hesitant to start because of content

51mmdwir-zl-_ac_us218_9. The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett– This is third in Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles series. I liked the first two but they’re filled with obscure references and we rarely get into the main character’s head so it takes a lot of focus to read.

 

a1yvcyz-l._ac_uy218_ml3_10. An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear- This is the fifth in the Maisie Dobbs series. I’ve been enjoying it but after a while the terrible things that these characters go through (so far it’s not limited to war, PTSD, drug addiction, illness, and death) make it a fairly depressing experience.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorites of the Last Ten Years

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

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May 28: Favorite Books Released In the Last Ten Years (one book for each year) (submitted by Anne @ Head Full of Books)

513xypka1bl-_ac_us218_2019 (so far…) Once Upon A River By Diane Setterfield– Set in a pub in a village along the Thames in the late 19th century, this novel opens on a winter’s night. A man, badly hurt and soaking wet, staggers in holding a little girl who appears dead. A local nurse saves the man and realizes that the girl isn’t dead (anymore?), but the man has no memory of how he came across the girl or who she is. When she regains consciousness the child is unable to talk. A local family believe that she’s the baby that was kidnapped from them two years ago. Another family thinks that she’s the lost daughter of their prodigal son. A woman well into middle age believes that the 4 year old child is her sister. The story winds its way from one character to the next, and each character’s back story becomes like a tributary.

617j4awgzul-_ac_us218_2018 Idaho by Emily Ruskovich- Ann and Wade are a married couple living in Idaho. As Wade’s memory fades with early onset dementia, Ann begins to piece together the fate of Wade’s first wife, Jenny (now in prison) and their two daughters  (one dead and one missing). The novel moves from one characters point of view to another in a nonlinear fashion. There’s a sense of strangeness to the events and characters of this novel, but there’s a familiarity as well. We’re never actually told what happened to Wade’s family, but we’re given enough pieces to put it together. If you like things laid out clearly, you probably won’t like this. But if you like a bit of ambiguity and gorgeous prose, you might like this.

51vp6vchi4l-_ac_us218_2017 A Little Life by Hana Yanagihara- Four young men meet in college and become friends. When they graduate, they move to NYC and begin their lives. Willem, an aspiring actor, is kind to his core. JB is a bright, witty, and occasionally cruel painter, Malcolm becomes an architect at a prominent firm. But the nexus of the group is Jude, withdrawn, intelligent, with a dark, unspeakable childhood of trauma behind him. Over the years, their friendships deepen and change as they face different challenges. But Jude himself is their greatest challenge. We do eventually learn what happened to Jude, and it’s ugly. Very ugly. Like hard to read about. But there’s something beautiful about Jude’s struggle to overcome it, and his friend’s struggle to help him.  Much like Jude’s like the experience of reading this is tragic, traumatic, and sometimes brutal. But it’s also beautiful.

51muf7bj-ll-_ac_us218_2016 The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss– When some unexpected excitement comes to an inn one evening, the innkeeper faces it like a veteran. But then he goes back to his regular life, and tells his story. Kvothe’s childhood was spent in a troupe of travelling players. When he encounters an Arcanist (sort of a scientist/wizard) he’s tutored and develops into a powerful Arcanist in his own right. When the world of his childhood is overturned, Kvothe just barely escapes and becomes a beggar before fate brings him to University. He makes several friends and several enemies before discovering the reason that his was killed. This is a pretty epic novel that covers the first 1/3 of Kvothe’s life and is the first in a planned trilogy.  I haven’t read the second book yet, because I’m waiting for a release date for the third book before I invest more time in the series.

41oplfqimil-_ac_us218_2015 The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters– Dr. Faraday is called to Hundred’s Hall, the home of the Ayers family. As a child his mother worked there as a maid. But now, its owners (a mother and her two adult children) are struggling to keep up with modern society. He treats the young maid, but he strikes up a friendship with Caroline Ayers, the daughter of the house. He also begins to treat her brother, Roderick, who is still recovering from wounds he sustained during WWII. He comes to understand the family’s dire financial straits. The stress of the attempts to reconcile these straits coincide with some disastrous events that may or may not be supernatural in origin and lead to tragedy. But  what’s great about this novel is that it remains ambiguous, hovering on the edges psychological and supernatural without fulling diving into either category.

51jx4jtbmpl2014 Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth– Forsyth’s Rapunzel retelling is a wonderful braid of narratives that overlap. Charlotte Rose de la Force is banished from Versailles after a number of scandalous love affairs. She goes to a convent where a nun tells her a story of a young girl who was  sold by her parents for a handful of lettuce after her father is caught stealing from the courtesan Selena Leonelli. Margherita is the price he pays for his crimes. She grows up locked away in a tower. The combined stories of these three women tell the traditional Rapunzel story as well as the story of the women who wrote it. The novel is both a historical fiction account of real women and a fairy tale retelling.

41-kxlbhnl-_ac_us218_2013 The Other by Thomas Tryon– Holland and Niles Perry are thirteen year old identical twins. They live in a small New England town with their parents, and when their father dies in a tragic accident, the extended family gather, while their mother stays in her bedroom, heartbroken. This allows the boys to roam free. Holland, always a bit of a prankster, grows more sinister with his games. This book offers several twists on the ghost story genre as well as the evil twin/doppelganger trope. One seems fairly obvious from the beginning but that twist plays out early on, and there several other surprises in store.

51eksizfwl-_ac_us218_2012 Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson– Major Pettigrew is a rather cranky widower living in Edgecombe St. Mary, an English country village where nothing much changes (which is how he likes it!). When he strikes up a friendship with Jasmine Ali, a widowed Pakistani shopkeeper, they bond unexpectedly over their love of books and the loss of their respective spouses. As their friendship develops into something more, they and the village must decide what elements of culture and tradition are worth preserving and what should change with the times. It’s a gentle story about the ways people are different and the things that they have in common.

41oyve54sgl-_ac_us218_2011 Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier– Catrin, a young scribe, takes refuge from a mysterious danger in Whistling Tor, a crumbling fortress that belongs to Anluan, chieftain living under a curse. Retained to sort through some family documents, Catrin and Anluan form a surprising connection. But if they are to have a future together, Catrin must unravel the mysteries of Anluan’s family curse. This Beauty and the Beast variation incorporates elements of mystery, fantasy and romance.

81l67wbztml._ac_ul436_2010 The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton– In 1913, a little girl is discovered alone on a ship headed to Australia. She has nothing but a small suitcase with a book: a single volume of fairy tales. She is taken in and raised by a couple, but when they tell her the truth on her twenty first birthday, Nell goes to England to try to trace her real identity. The quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor, a Cornwall mansion that is home to the doomed Mountrachet family. But it’s not until many years later when Nell’s granddaughter Cassandra discovers the garden of the book’s title that the mystery can finally be solved. This book combines several elements I love: dual timelines, Gothic drama, and fairy tales.

 

 

 

Top Ten Tueday: Books I Didn’t Read in 2017 But Meant To

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

January 9: Ten Books We Meant To Read In 2017 But Didn’t Get To (and totallyyyy plan to get to in 2018!!)

51uehkb-x4l-_ac_us218_1. Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien– I know. I can’t really call myself a fantasy reader (let alone writer) and not have read these! I will, I swear! They’re sitting on my shelf waiting for me. I think part of the reason I haven’t read them yet is that I want to have a nice chunk of time to really get lost in them. But I did make some progress already. I decided to get started and I’m about 100 pages into The Fellowship of the Ring.

 

51dyrlatcxl-_ac_us218_2. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey– This one starts off a series has been recommended to me for years. I have it sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me. But again I feel like I’m waiting for a point where I can just read, and lose myself in the world of the books.  That time may never come though!  I do want to get through some of these books before I’m a senior citizen.

 

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3. Ride the Wind by Lucia St. Clair Robson– I’m not usually a fan of “westerns” but this was very highly recommended by a coworker, who isn’t usually a big “reader” so I feel like I should give it a chance. Actually plot-wise it does sound interesting. It’s about Cynthia Ann Parker, who was kidnapped by the Comanche Indians at the age of nine and grew up to be a Comanche woman. It’s based on a true story and is supposedly very well researched.

 

51q4v7d1rl-_ac_us218_4. Trinity by Leon Uris– I’m a fan of author Cindy Brandner’s Exit Unicorns series and she cites this as a book that book that was hugely influential to her. She says “Long ago I read the book Trinity by Leon Uris. It changed everything for me. I was thirteen at the time and I remember reading that last page, closing the book with a sense of profound loss and just knowing that this is what I wanted to do, tell stories that made people think, cry, laugh and create characters that would live for others as vividly as they lived for me. People that readers would consider personal friends and that they would wonder about long after the last page was turned.” I certainly want that experience as a reader!

5191u-sptxl-_ss135_5. After Anatevka by Alexandra Silber– In 2007 Alexandra Silber played Hodel in the London revival of The Fiddler on the Roof. In 2015 she played Hodel’s older sister Tzeitzel in the Broadway revival of the show. She’s obviously spent a lot of creative time and space with these characters. In this book, she imagines what Hodel’s life would be like after the curtain falls. We leave Hodel on the way to join her lover, Perchick in a Siberian labor camp.  This book picks up at that point. Often actors imagine a backstory for their characters, but I like the idea of imagining a “forward story” for one. I think that when you’ve spent a lot of time and energy in a creative world, it’s can be hard to let go of. This is an interesting way of keeping it alive. Plus, a historical love story against a turn of the century Russian backdrop? Yes, please!

41oulsn7jul-_ac_us218_6. Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn– This was written in 1966 and has been in print ever since its publication, yet for some reason, it doesn’t get talked about all that much. Learning that made me curious. It’s about a black man and a white woman who fall in love in Depression-era New Orleans. I bought it in 2017 and haven’t started it yet because it’s 750+ pages about a pretty heavy subject (race in America). Hopefully, in 2018 I’ll be able to give it time/attention/thought.

51qkdj8lpel-_ac_us218_7.  The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss- I loved The Name of the Wind, the first in the Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy. This is the follow-up. It’s sitting on my shelf and I’ve been putting off starting it because I want to know that the trilogy will have a conclusion. This book came out in 2011. No word on a release date for number three yet. Hopefully, we’ll hear something about a release date for it in 2018 so that I can start this one!

51mmdwir-zl-_ac_us218_8. The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett– This is book three of Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. They follow the adventures of the main character (sometimes he’s a hero, sometimes he’s more anti-hero), a sixteenth-century Scotsman with a talent for getting into and out of trouble. The first two books in this series can work as stand-alones, but supposedly with this one, it becomes more of a series where each book is dependent on the books that came before. These books can be a lot of fun but they’re dense. We hardly ever get inside the main character’s head, so his motives are often a mystery. Sometimes it’s only in seeing the result of an action that we understand why the character did it. They’re also loaded with allusions to classical literature and words and phrases that you need several dictionaries to understand. That means that reading them when you have other stuff on your mind can be a challenge. I really hope I get to make some progress on this series in 2018 though.

51bzo0tnhl-_ac_us218_9. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset– This is another series that I’d intended to start in 2017. It’s the story of a woman’s life in 14th century Norway, and it hasn’t been out of print since it was initially published in 1927. The author won the Nobel Prize for Literature in the 1930s and at the time, this trilogy was her only published work. I had intended to begin this year, but the translation that I had felt very laborious. I’ve since learned that the translation by Tiina Nunnally (linked) is the way to go.

51saga5aeml-_ac_us218_10. Nor Gold: The Pirate Captain, Chronicles of A Legend by Kerry Lynne– I read The Pirate Captain, the first book in what is intended to be a trilogy in 2017. I enjoyed it a lot in spite of the fact that there was some serious “borrowing” from Outlander and Pirates of the Carribean in terms of plot and characters! It’s not literary greatness by any means, but it’s a fun historical romantic adventure. I wanted to wait until book 3 is out (projected release is sometime in 2018) before reading this one because it supposedly ends with a cliffhanger, and I have no patience to wait and see what happens!

Top Ten Tuesday: Back To School Freebie

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

August 22Back To School Freebie: anything “back to school” related like 10 favorite books I read in school, books I think should be required reading, Required Reading For All Fantasy Fans, required reading for every college freshman, Books to Pair With Classics or Books To Complement A History Lesson, books that would be on my classroom shelf if I were a teacher, etc.

This week I’m doing ten favorite  books set in schools

41x7kokbrol-_ac_us218_1. The Secret History by Donna Tartt– Richard arrives at the prestigious Hampden College, where he is accepted among a group of five students who study Classics with Julien Morrow, an eccentric, morally questionable professor. They spend a lot of time drinking they confess to Richard that one night they accidentally killed a man while drunk. By telling Richard what happened, they make him involved in the cover up. But when one of the group wants to come clean, the others decide that they must kill him too. This second murder leads to a slow erosion of what moral standards the group may have had, and ultimately emotional and psychological disintegration. I read this for the first time in high school at the same time that my English class was reading Crime and Punishment. I saw strong parallels throughout the novel (though there are also a lot of allusions to Greek Classics) and even noticed that Richard’s narration quotes Dostoevsky at one point.

“I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.”

61ugxeeqibl-_ac_us218_2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro– Yes, this was also made into a film. The film adaptation is pretty good but, unsurprisingly, the book is better. Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy are students at Hailsham, a school in the British countryside, where the teachers constantly remind the students how special they are. When the reader learns what makes the students at Hailsham unique, it doesn’t happen all at once. It’s a slowly dawning realization As you’re reading and speculating what the secret might be, you’re also hoping that you’re wrong. We’re never actually explicitly told the reason but eventually the evidence mounts to the point where it’s impossible for the reader to ignore. That element of slowly dawning horror was absent from the film, unfortunately, where we are told the secret in the first ten minutes. The film does explore the repercussions and implications, but it misses the slow impact of the book.

“I saw a new world coming rapidly. More scientific, efficient, yes. More cures for the old sicknesses. Very good. But a harsh, cruel, world. And I saw a little girl, her eyes tightly closed, holding to her breast the old kind world, one that she knew in her heart could not remain, and she was holding it and pleading, never to let her go.”

41xfknijvel-_ac_us218_3. Villette by Charlotte Bronte– Lucy Snowe, an orphan without resources, travels to France to teach English at a boarding school for girls. At the school Lucy becomes involved in the lives of several teachers and locals, and is visited by the ghostly figure of a nun, who was believed to have been buried alive on the school grounds as punishment for being unchaste. She also falls in love with M. Paul Emmanuel, another teacher at the school. But the lovers are kept apart by several antagonists. This book is said to be based on Charlotte Bronte’s time teaching English at a French boarding school where she fell in love with the (married) headmaster. Initially this experience inspired her first, unsuccessful novel, The Professor. After that book was rejected by publishers, Bronte reworked the material and turned it into Villette, which was her fourth novel.

“What I felt that night, and what I did, I no more expected to feel and do, than to be lifted in a trance to the seventh heaven. Cold, reluctant, apprehensive, I had accepted a part to please another: ere long, warming, becoming interested, taking courage, I acted to please myself.”

51kuavgfel-_ac_us218_4. The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy– Will McLean is a sensitive writer, who attends The Carolina Military Institute to fulfill a promise to his dead father. Even though Will isn’t suited for the brutality of  military training, his success as an athlete, his strong academic performances, and his general integrity, draw the admiration of his classmates and teachers. But the south in the 1960’s is in turmoil over desegregation, and the school has just admitted it’s first black cadet. Will is asked to support and mentor Tom Pearce, who is sure to face some degree of racism. But when it becomes clear that a group of students is trying to run Tom out of the Institute, Will encounters a secret so horrible that it could destroy the Institute.  This is primarily a coming of age story told from Will’s point of view. In his four years at the Institute, Will has a romance, encounters corruption, and must decide what kind of person he ultimately wants to be.

“Evil would always come to me disguised in systems and dignified by law.”

41nfbzo132l-_ac_us218_5. On Beauty by Zadie Smith– This book has been described by the author as an “homage” to EM Forester’s Howard’s End. There are some specific parallels, but the novels are more broadly linked by the depiction of two families with very different values, becoming intertwined. In this case, one family is the Belsey family; Howard (a white Englishman), Kiki (his African American wife), and their children. Howard is a university professor and his nemesis is Monty Kipps, a Trinidadian, living in Britain, with his wife, Carlene, and their kids. In spite of the tensions between their husbands, Kiki and Carlene become friends.  But rivalry between their husbands grows as Howard and Monty clash over university policies, as Monty’s successes highlight Howard’s failures. When their children become involved with the goings on at the university things get even more chaotic.

“He was bookish, she was not; he was theoretical, she political. She called a rose a rose. He called it an accumulation of cultural and biological constructions circulating around the mutually attracting binary poles of nature/artifice.”

61yilvqhjhl-_ac_us218_6. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett– When British widower, Captain Ralph Crewe, who has been living in India sends his daughter Sara, to Miss Minchin’s Boarding School for Girls in London, he pays extra for her to have special treatment. Miss Minchin is openly kind to Sara because of her wealth. But she secretly resents the girl for that very reason. Sara is a generally kindhearted girl who makes friends with the underdogs of the school. But when Miss Minchin gets word that Captain Crewe has died, and lost his wealth just before his death, she is left with a large unpaid bill for Sara’s school fees and luxuries. So she takes all of Sara’s possessions, makes her live in the attic and work in the school as an errand girl. Despite her misfortunes Sara relies of the support of her friends, and her vivid imagination. Meanwhile, Captain Crewe’s friend, and business partner, Carrisford, is guilt ridden. Their business ventures did not fail as they’d believed, but  Captain Crewe and Carrisford were both  ill and delirious. By the time Carrisford had recovered and learned that their ventures had made them both wealthy beyond their wildest dreams, Captain Crewe was dead. He is determined to find Captain Crewe’s daughter, and heir.

“Perhaps to be able to learn things quickly isn’t everything. To be kind is worth a great deal to other people…Lots of clever people have done harm and have been wicked.”

51muf7bj-ll-_ac_us218_7. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss– Kvothe is an innkeeper who was once a swordfighter, magician, and musician, rumored to have killed a king and started a war. When he save the life of Chronicler, a travelling scribe, he agrees to tell Chronicler the story of his life. As a child, Kvothe grew up among a  group of traveling performers. When the troupe acquires a scholar Kvothe gains tutoring in science and “sympathy” (a magic that changes one object by using links with another). When the troupe is massacred, Kvothe is left alone. In order to learn more about the reasons for the massacre, Kvothe manages to get in the University,  where the vast archives might have the information he seeks. But he also makes some dangerous enemies, among the students and the instructors. This is the first in a trilogy, followed by The Wise Man’s Fear. The third is forthcoming.

“I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me.”

51wdp-epb5l-_ac_us218_8. Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman– While I might have appreciated this book before I became a teacher, I don’t think it would have resonated with me as much. There are parts where I was reading and thinking “OMG this is my life!” Not literally. Some things have changed in education since the book came out in 1964. But surprisingly few.  When Sylvia Barrett graduates from college and gets a teaching job, she’s eager to shape young minds. She ends up  buried in interoffice memos, lesson plans, and letters to and from students/parents/other teachers/administration. The story is told entirely through these memos, notes, and letters.  If it were written today, the story might be told via emails and texts, but the content would be largely the same. What keeps this book in the humorous (rather than being just depressing!) is that in spite of all of the crap they have to go through, at times the system is redeemed by teachers who genuinely care about their students, and by students who want to learn. That doesn’t always happen and too many fall through the cracks in a flawed system. But when it does happen that connection does happen it’s worthy of celebrating. It’s something that Sylvia learns in the course of this book.  But its also something that she’ll constantly have to remind herself of as she struggles through the days that can feel endless.

“I am writing this during my free . . . oops! un-assigned period, at the end of my first day of teaching. So far, I have taught nothing — but I have learned a great deal. To wit:
We have to punch a time clock and abide by the Rules.
We must make sure our students likewise abide, and that they sign the time sheet whenever they leave or reenter a room.
We have keys but no locks (except in lavatories), blackboards but no chalk, students but no seats, teachers but no time to teach.
The library is closed to the students.”

51qlgj6zojl-_ac_us218_9. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling- Did anyone actually think that I was going to leave Hogwarts off my list? Has anyone reading this list not been “sorted”? I’m a Ravenclaw, in cause anyone was wondering. Haven’t we all had moments where we long for an owl messenger or a hidden train platform? Over the first six books in this series, Hogwarts becomes a character in and of itself. Which makes the fact that the seventh book takes the characters away from Hogwarts all the more jarring. But it’s also interesting to see that they carry it with them wherever they may be. For all the characters, Hogwarts itself, the teachers, the students, the ghosts, and Quiddich becomes ingrained in who they are as people. And I think most readers could say the same.

“What is the difference, Potter, between monkshood and wolfsbane?”
At this, Hermione stood up, her hand stretching towards the dungeon ceiling.
I don’t know,” said Harry quietly. “I think Hermione does, though, why don’t you try asking her?”
A few people laughed; Harry caught sight of Seamus’s eye and Seamus winked. Snape, however, was not pleased.
Sit down,” he snapped at Hermione. “For your information, Potter, asphodel and wormwood make a sleeping potion so powerful it is known as the Draught of Living Death. A bezoar is a stone taken from the stomach of a goat and it will save you from most poisons. As for monkshood and wolfsbane, they are the same plant, which also goes by the name of aconite. Well? Why aren’t you all copying that down?”
There was a sudden rummaging for quills and parchment. Over the noise, Snape said, “And a point will be taken from Gryffindor house for your cheek, Potter.”

51rvjiougpl-_ac_us218_10. The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray- In 1895, Gemma Doyle has a vision of her mother’s death, just before her mother commits suicide in India, and Gemma is shipped off to boarding school in England. At the Spence Academy for Young Ladies, Gemma must deal with the guilt about not having prevented her mother’s death,  her continuing visions of the future, and being shunned by her classmates. She’s also been followed by Katrik, a mysterious Indian boy who warns her to fight off her visions. As Gemma manages to form bonds with some other girls at Spence, she and her friends are drawn into the other worldly realms of her visions. They look at it as a “bit of fun” before their future as the wives of Victorian men. But there may be more danger than they’re aware of. The realms of Gemma’s visions are powerful, and several organizations want that power for themselves. This trilogy (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing) has strong echoes of Gothic novels like Jane Eyre or Rebecca. But it also has elements of fantasy that call to mind a more feminist Harry Potter. The series also deals with social issues in Victorian times.  It’s hard to explain but it’s  a lot of fun!

“Felicity ignores us. She walks out to them, an apparition in white and blue velvet, her head held high as they stare in awe at her, the goddess. I don’t know yet what power feels like. But this is surely what it looks like, and I think I’m beginning to understand why those ancient women had to hide in caves. Why our parents and suitors want us to behave properly and predictably. It’s not that they want to protect us; it’s that they fear us.”

Top 10 Tuesday: Summer Reads Freebie

May 23: Summer Reads Freebie

The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday . My day job (teaching) gives me time to really catch up on reading in the summer. So I have a list of books about a mile long. But I’ll only share the top ten. These tend to be books I’ve been intending to read forever but will finally have a chance to get to and appreciate. But they’re also books that are being released this summer.

  1.  A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara- I’ve seen this recommended everywhere for a long time. Often when that’s the case I find the book itself a bit disappointing. But there are the rare cases that I find the praise is deserved. A 700 page book that’s frequently described as “tragic” and “traumatic” is a bit much to handle while working, but that’s what summer reads are for.
  2. Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker- I will just because it’s Jane Eyre fan fiction but even aside from that it’s supposed to be good. And Jane Eyre fan fiction tends to be good. Check out Wide Saragasso Sea by Jean Rhys or Jane Steele by Lyndsey Faye to see what I mean. They’re totally different for the original novel, and completely different from one another, but very much worth reading.
  3. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff- I read Groff’s Fates and Furies this year, and I loved her writing. This one of her other novels. I also plan to check out Arcadia and some of her short fiction.
  4. The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel- I’ll admit that the Flowers in the Attic references appealed to me. 12 year old Fran still lives in me somewhere.
  5. The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor- For some reason I love the story of the Cottingley fairies. This novel imagines it with a duel timeline story (something else I love).
  6. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss- I loved The Name of the Wind, the first in Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles trilogy. This is number 2. I haven’t read it yet, because it’s long (993 pages), but summer is a great time to dig into something long, and absorbing.
  7. Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon- I’m an Outlander addict. The wait between books in this series is painful. Its made slightly less painful by the fact that the TV series is very good. But the new season of that doesn’t premiere until September.  So how to make it through the bleak and bitter droughtlander? Well, fortunately author Diana Gabaldon gives fans the “bulges” to enjoy. These are novellas that she writes either about secondary characters, or character backstory.  They’re not as absorbing as the main series of course, but it keeps us addicts sane(ish) until the next book is released.
  8. The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett- This is third in Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles series. I think the series is definitely worth reading (based on the first two books) but they’re not easy reads. We don’t really get inside the character’s thoughts much, so it’s often a while before we understand what’s going on and why.  The main character is a brilliantly educated polygot who often makes references that I don’t get right away. So it takes some effort to get into. Over the summer I have the time and mental space for that.
  9. The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer- Blame the Outlander comparison for this one! But it actually looks good independent of anything else, and I love historical fiction combined with paranormal/sci-fi stuff.
  10. After Anatevka: A Novel Inspired by “Fiddler on the Roof” by Alexandra Silber-  Alexandra Silber is an actress and singer who played the role of Hodel in the 2007 London revival of the musical Fiddler on the Roof. In 2015 she played Hodel’s older sister Tzeitel in the Broadway revival of the same show. In this book she extends her creative reach to imagine the lives of the characters after the events of the musical. I’m interested to see what she does with it. Will her focus be primarily on the two roles that she’s played or will it extend elsewhere? I’m a big fan of Alexandra Silber’s blog, London Still. She’s pretty awesome. In addition to being an actress/singer/novelist, she’s written three modern language adaptation of Greek tragedies. She also teaches musical theater at Pace University, and elsewhere.

Well is there anything that I should add to the list?