June 22: Bookish Wishes (My birthday is today, so celebrate with me by granting the wishes of your friends! This is a popular thing to do on Twitter, but today we’re blog hopping. List the top 10 books you’d love to own and include a link to a wishlist so that people can grant your wish. Make sure you link your wishlist to your mailing address [here’s how to do it on Amazon] or include the email address associated with your ereader so people know how to get the book to you. After you post, jump around the Linky and grant a wish or two if you’d like. Don’t feel obligated to send anything!)
I feel a little uncomfortable linking to my wish list, but here are the next ten books I want/plan to buy:
The Dorothy Dunnett Companion by Elsbeth Morrison– I started reading Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles series a few years ago. I enjoyed the first two books, but they’re slow going because the main character speaks several languages and makes references to things that the reader may or may not be able to understand. That can make them hard to follow. But many fans recommend this companion as a helpful guide to the series.
2. The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons– I keep meaning to get this one, and something always takes priority. I won the second book in Simons’ End of Forever saga in a goodreads giveaway last year. But it seems like the kind of trilogy that you really have to read in order. I keep meaning to get the first book for that reason. I can only hope that after I read the first one, I’ll still want to read the second, since it’s been sitting on my shelf forever.
3. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay – I’m a fan of the film adaptation of this book, but I still haven’t read the book itself. I also recently saw the miniseries that came out in 2018 (also based on the book). It wasn’t as haunting as the film, but now I’m interested in how both of these adaptations relate to the source material.
4. Lace by Shirley Conran– I was recently with a group of older women who were talking about how this book was such a guilty pleasure in the early 80’s. I looked it up, and discovered this article, and now I’m sort of on a mission to read all of the books that it discusses!
5. The Victorian Chaise-longue by Marghanita Laski– This has been on my wish list for a while along with a number of other Persephone titles, but I recently read a really interesting blog post about (that I’d love link, but I can’t find it!) and that shot it to the top of my list.
6. Sung in Shadow by Tanith Lee- This is another book that I learned about in a rather oblique way. I was looking up information about Lee’s SILVER trilogy, which went unfinished due to Lee’s death in 2015. In 2009 she wrote an essay about her intentions for the books, In that, she mentions this one, another book that she’s written, not in the SILVER series. Since I enjoyed the SILVER books I’d like to get to this at some point.
9. Fallen Angel by Kim Wilkins– I think I heard about this one from author Kate Forsyth‘s social media. I’m a fan of Forsyth, and when an author I admire recommends a book, I pay attention. This one sounds really good, but it’s not easy to find!
10. Miss Buncle’s Book by DE Stevenson– This is the first in series. It was recommended to be a while ago, and I haven’t gotten to it yet (same old story…) I do want to make it a priority though, because it looks like the kind of thing I’ve been in the mood for lately.
I’m trying to find some beta readers for my new book, Frost. It’s a stand alone sequel to Beautiful (you don’t need to have read Beautiful to understand anything here. It follows different characters). It’s been through about 3-4 drafts and one edit at this point, and I’d like a better idea of what it needs next.
In the past, I’ve found betas in this goodreads group and on twitter, but I’m not having any luck this time around. Does anyone else know where beta readers can be found? Also if anyone wants to beta read it, please let me know!
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 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.
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.
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!”
2. Gravity is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty- This was a weird book. It’s about a woman, Abi, whose brother disappeared on her birthday 20 years earlier. That same year she started getting chapters from some sort of self help manual, The Guidebook, in the mail. So when Abi is invited to an all expense paid weekend retreat to learn “the truth” about the Guidebook, she links it with learning the truth about her brother’s disappearance. And all of this happens in roughly the first 50 pages of the book. I don’t want to give away too much, but this book goes in a direction I never expected- in a good way.
3. The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins- I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone looking for a fast read, but if you’re looking for a thriller that takes its time with the set up and execution, this is one. It’s about Olivia, a British historian with a high flying career and a beautiful family. She also has a research assistant, Vivian. But we quickly come to realize that Vivian has ulterior motives for helping Olivia; motives that reach back into the women’s’ past, and may lead one of them to murder.
4. The Book of Speculation by Erica Swyler– This was a dual timeline story, where one of the tales bordered on fantasy, without ever fully taking the jump into it. It’s about Simon, a librarian, who lives alone in his family house on Long Island. When a rare book dealer sends him a volume that may have some connection to his family, Simon gets caught up in the tale of a misfit, living and working with the circus. But it may also reveal a curse on Simon’s family. If that’s true, only the book can save them. This book had sketches by the author alongside the text. I’m always amazed my people who can do two things (in this case writing and drawing) well.
5. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor- This book is nicknamed the Nigerian Harry Potter. It’s about a girl who was born in New York City but lives in Nigeria. Her features are west African but she’s albino. She doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere. But when she discovers that she’s a “free agent” she realizes that she’s got latent magical power and a lot of catching up to do. As she’s learning her footing, she and her friends are asked to track down a career criminal who also knows magic. The Nigerian setting and folklore gives this book a unique flavor.
6. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware– Rowan is a nanny for a family living in the Scottish highlands. The house has an advanced communication system built into it. “Happy” is an app that controls everything from ordering food when the fridge runs low, to turning on the lights and drawing the curtains. She’s not put off by the fact that four previous nannies left the job in the past year. But soon Rowan comes to wonder if the ghostly tales that were told about the house are true.
8. Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner– Hotel Du Lac isn’t a big adventure with a complicated plot. I’d call it “quiet” book. It seems to be moving along at a slow pace, but then it sneaks up at you with it’s wit. It’s about Edith Hope, an author of romance novels which she writes under a different name. But when she realizes that her life is resembling one of her novels (and not in a good way!) she escapes to the quiet luxury of the titular Swiss hotel. But when she gets to know the other guests, she realizes that they all have their own drama. I loved the characters in this book. They started to feel like old friends after a while. Apparently it was adapted for TV in 1986, as a joint production between the BBC and A&E Television Networks. I’ll have to give that miniseries a look to see how it translated to TV. If done properly, I can see it working well.
9. The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares by Joyce Carol Oates. When I was in college I interviewed Joyce Carol Oates for our campus newspaper The Bard Free Press. Well, “interviewed” might be overstating my role in the process. A fellow reporter asked her legit questions, and I nodded emphatically while slightly starstruck. But in the process of becoming totally dumbstruck by awe of Oates, I gained an appreciation for this author who doesn’t subscribe to genre pigeonholing at all, who moves from novel to short fiction to drama and back again. Who is incredibly prolific. When I saw this book consisting of a novella, and six short stories, I was intrigued. Oates often shines when she tackles the dark complexities of the human psyche, and that’s certainly the case of these seven intense tales.
10. The Witches of Crannock Dale by Thomas M. Kane– Full disclosure requires me to reveal that the author of this book is a friend of mine, so I may not be an unbiased judge. But it carves a unique place for itself in the fantasy fiction landscape. Set in a fictional place at an indeterminate time, the book follows the coming of age of 11 year old Mara Bennett. When her aunt is arrested for witchcraft, Mara vows to do what she can to help. But her efforts to learn more lead her deep into local politics, power struggles and threats of war. Mara makes a likable young protagonist, in a complicated world, trying to keep her family safe and close amidst a dangerous situation. I look forward to following her through the series.
The endpaper is a voile dress fabric designed in 1933 when Mary would have been 18: brightly-coloured tulips are surrounded by swirls of green, white and blue, images of freedom and happiness that evoke the simplicity and beauty of an English country garden. X
A Cup of Persephone: Post a pic of your Persephone read paired with a mug or cup of something delicious.
Mariana and tea (the tea got cut out of the shot a little, but I think it still counts!)
“But Mariana was wrong. You couldn’t die. You had to go on. When you were born, you were given a trust of individuality that you were bound to preserve. It was precious. The things that happened in your life, however closely connected with other people, developed and strengthened that individuality. You became a person.”
2.The Blue Rose By Kate Forsyth– My friend got me this for the holidays this year. She knows that I’m a big fan of Kate Forsyth, and this is her latest. I’m looking forward to starting it soon.
3. White As Snow by Tanith Lee- I found this in a secondhand store recently and I was excited because it’s been on my TBR for a while: it’s a combination of a Snow White retelling and Persephone/Demeter/Hades story. Lee is a really underappreciated writer IMO.
5. The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra M Gilbert and Susan Gubar– This was another secondhand find. I used it a bit for several classes in college because it has some amazing criticism regarding female 19th century writers. I’d love to revisit it at several points as I read things now. It’s not really a book you read cover to cover in one sitting. It’s more a book you refer to and read a chapter here and there.
6. The Visitors by Sally Beauman– Another secondhand shop find. I don’t know anything about this one. I just picked it up because it looked interesting. Hopefully it is.
7. Panchinko by Min Jin Lee- I actually read this one already. It was about a Korean family living in Japan in the 20th century. It was really interesting in that it dealt with a historical time and place that I knew almost nothing about.
8. Sapphire Skies by Belinda Alexandra– I got this from a secondhand shop too (they have paperbacks for $1 so I always figure, even if it turns out to be bad, what do I have to lose?) and it looked interesting so I decided to give it a shot.
Going through a career change. Teaching was so draining that I felt like I didn’t have the energy for anything else: writing, a social life, etc. I’m doing content writing and curriculum development now. It’s been an adjustment. It still is, but I’m starting to feel a bit more confident. I’m nervous even writing that because I don’t want to jinx myself!
Slowly working my way through beta feedback on Frozen Heart. It’s always difficult opening yourself up to criticism, and in a way, beta feedback and editing is like going to someone and saying “please rip this apart” and then cringing while they do. The most painful feedback often ends up being the most helpful though. One beta reader was very critical of this draft of Frozen Heart but I think she also pointed out some issues that I’m glad that someone noticed before I published it. But it’s hard get yourself in the right headspace to tackle those criticisms.
Writing some short stories. I haven’t really decided what to do with them yet, but for some reason I had several ideas that lent themselves to short fiction (not my usual medium)
Discovering the joy of “have done” lists. I’ve never liked keeping “to do” lists. It feels daunting to see everything you haven’t done yet listed in front of you. I feel like I’ll never get it done. But when I keep a list of things I have done I feel accomplished at the end of the day. Even if the things I put on aren’t major things, seeing them written down gives me a sense of satisfaction. I’ve even started doing things that I’ve been putting off because it means I’ll get to write it down on my list!
Reading good books. In addition to my Persephone Readathon reads (Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski and Flush by Virginia Woolf, both of which I recommend highly) I’ve recently enjoyed:
The book follows Hilary Wainright, a British intellectual who married Lisa, a French girl, just prior to WWII. They were separated just before the German occupation, with Lisa stuck in Paris with their newborn son, and Hilary in England. Lisa was a resistance worker and was killed during the war. The baby disappeared. After the war, Hilary returns to France to try to find his son. He has a friend who is devoted to helping him, but he’s not sure how he’ll know if the child (who he only saw as a newborn) is his. Furthermore, after his wife’s death, Hilary successfully turned off his emotions. He is reluctant to make himself emotionally vulnerable again.
Beautiful Endpapers: Show us a photo of your current book’s endpapers/your favorite Persephone endpapers/or design your own endpapers.
This is the endpaper used in Little Boy Lost:
The endpaper is a fabric designed in 1946 by the Hélène Gallèt studio in Paris – the green is reminiscent of bourgeois France, and the pattern has both fleur-de-lis and childlike, primitive stars.
In Six Words: Describe your current Persephone read in 6 words.
Quote This: Share a quote from your current read.
I think this quote sums up the main character’s dilemma through out the book.
“You see, Pleaded Hilary, I am incapable of giving. I dare not give and so I’m running away. I’ve finished with ordeals. I am fleeing to the anesthesia of immediate comfort and absolute non-obligation.”
The book ends with a beautiful passage that I won’t quote here because of spoilers.
Read This: Give a book recommendation/readalike based on a Persephone title.
My recommendation in this case would be another Persephone book: Saplings by Noel Streatfeild. Like Little Boy Lost, Saplings looks at what happens to children during wartime, and like Little Boy Lost, it’s not pretty. But the children in both these books are in some sense lucky. They’re not exposed to direct violence and they’re not left without adult care. To some extent, their physical needs for food and shelter are met. Yet they all suffer terrible loss and lack the consistency and affection that children need.
Page to Screen: Share the Persephone title you would most like to see adapted for the screen. Include your dream cast if you’d like.
Well Little Boy Lost was made into a film in 1953. It was a musical starring Bing Crosby which seems like a very odd choice given the source material. I haven’t seen it but I’d kind of like to out of morbid curiosity. Crosby seems totally miscast as the Hilary I imagine. In terms of contemporary actors I think that Matthew Goode or Harry Lloyd might work.
Jessie @ dwellinpossibility is hosting the third annual Persephone readathon this week. I’m excited to dive back into some Persephone titles. This week I’ll be reading Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski. It’s been on my TBR for a while, and I’ve heard great things about it. Set in the days following WWII it’s about a father looking for his son.
Additionally I’ll be participating in the Persephone Readalong. We’ll be reading Virginia Woolf’s Flush, which is a “biography” of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel. I love the idea of a biography of a famous person’s dog, but the book isn’t just about that. ‘Although ostensibly about the taming of a pedigree dog, Flush addresses the way society tames and classifies women,’ writes Sally Beauman.
I’m looking forward to a great week of reading and challenges! Is anyone else participating in this year’s Persephone readathon?