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!”

#PersephoneReadathon Days 4&5

persephonereadathon-1

(Day 4) Author Shout-out: Shine a spotlight on a neglected woman writer you wish more people knew about

Wow, this is tough because there are SO many amazing female writers out there!

  • I love Kate Morton’s work. Usually, she writes dual timeline novels set in England. My favorite is probably The Forgotten Garden, though The Distant Hours is a close second. I’d recommend her work to fans of Susanna Kearsley.
  • Kate Forsyth started off writing a popular fantasy series The Witches of Eilenan, but I’m a fan of her more historical novels. The plots are based on fairy tales, but Forsyth weaves them into real history. Bitter Greens is a triple timeline novel based on Rapunzel. It’s probably the most “fantasy” of the newer books. The Wild Girl is based on Dorchen Wild, the wife of Wilhelm Grimm. The Beast’s Garden is a WWII set love story based on “The Singing Springing Lark” which is the Grimm’s version of Beauty and the Beast.
  • Sarah Addison Allen writes magical realism. Her debut Garden Spells is a bit like Practical Magic and I’d recommend it to fans of Alice Hoffman. I also enjoyed most of her other work. I also really liked The Sugar Queen and The Girl Who Chased the Moon.
  • Finally, Eva Ibbotson wrote so many fantasy novels for an audience of teens and middle-grade readers. Fans of Harry Potter need to check out The Secret of Platform 13 right now. She also wrote some lovely romances and short stories intended for adults. I’m fond of most of her work for older readers (which has since been reprinted, targeting the YA market) but my favorites are probably The Secret Countess, A Company of Swans, and The Morning Gift.

(Day 5) Read This: Give a book recommendation/readalike based on a Persephone title

Since I’m currently immersed in The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett, I’ll go with that one. I can easily see how it influenced Burnett’s most famous novel, The Secret Garden. Like The Shuttle, The Secret Garden emphasizes that the restoration of a place’s natural beauty can restore a broken spirit as well. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte is another novel that comes to mind. Like The Shuttle it looks at an abusive marriage in a time and place where feminism wasn’t even a thought, and divorce was taboo. Though Helen (the protagonist of Tenant) is very different from Rosalie in The Shuttle and handles her situation in a very different manner. Finally, The American Heiress also deals with the turn of the 20th-century trend for wealthy American girls to marry impoverished British nobility.

Top Ten Tuesday: Mother’s Day Related Freebie

For The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday

May 16:  Mother’s Day related Freebie: favorite moms in literature, books about motherhood, best mother/daughter or son relationships, books to buy your mom, worst moms in literature, etc. etc.

I wouldn’t want a different mom in real life. Mine is pretty amazing. But on the page I’ve seen some winners and losers. These are the most notable according to me. All of these have something to be said for them, even if I wouldn’t want them to be my own.

  1. Marmee in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott- Yes, it’s kind of predictable. But really how can you not include the warm, loving Marmee, who encouraged her daughters to be smart,kind women, and led by example? Marmee took over the March household while her husband was a war, and raised her daughters through hardship and poverty.
  2. Marilla Cuthbert in Anne of Green Gables (series) by LM Mongomery- Marilla never intended to be a maternal figure. She intended to have a boy come stay with her and her bother, Matthew, and help them out. But when the orphan Anne Shirley is sent, rather than the boy Marilla expected, Marilla doesn’t know what to make of the optimistic, intelligent, spirited young girl. While Matthew takes  to Anne right away, Marilla hold her at a distance. But as she gives Anne structure, and food, and a home she ends up loving the girl as the daughter she never had.
  3. Mrs. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen- Yes, she’s ludicrous. I don’t dispute that. But she also sees a disturbing reality. She had five daughters who, due to the law, can’t inherit her husband’s property.  She and her husband won’t live forever. Unless they marry well, the Bennett girls will be alone, homeless, and unable to support themselves. Given those circumstances she does what she can to ensure a decent future for her daughters.
  4. Precious in Push by Sapphire- Her life is heartbreaking. She becomes a mother, as a teenager, under the worst possible circumstances (she’s raped by her father). Yet in spite of that, she loves her children and wants a better life for them. For my one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the book is when the illiterate Precious is learning the alphabet. She whispers what she knows of it to her son in utero. She knows that education could mean a better life for her children. She wants that advantage for them, even if, at the moment, the only thing she can give her son is part of the alphabet. It’s all she has, and she’s gives it to him.
  5. Katie Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith- Francie relates more to her creative, sentimental father, Johnny. But as Johnny’s alcoholism grows worse, he is unable to hold down a job. Katie holds the family together with grit, determination and hard work. She is determined that her children will have a better life than she did, and she gives them the strength that they need to survive in a tough world.
  6. Ingrid from White Oleander by Janet Fitch- This is a deeply flawed mother if ever there was one. After she is sentenced to life in prison after killing her boyfriend, Ingrid’s daughter, Astrid, is sent from one foster home to the next, experiencing all kinds of trauma. When Astrid’s false testimony could set Ingrid free, Astrid makes it clear to her mother that she’ll do it, but it will have a deep psychological cost. Ingrid must decide if she can put her daughter’s needs before her ow for the first time ever.
  7. Ma in Room by Emma Donoghue- Ma also becomes a parent under pretty horrendous circumstances (kidnapped, imprisoned in a small shed, and raped), but she loves her son, Jack, and makes a world for him in the small room that they share. When if becomes clear that this way of life isn’t sustainable for them, Ma arranges for the five year old  Jack to be taken from the room so that he can  free them both. Jack has difficulty processing the outside world after being locked up in a small space for his whole life. And Ma must confront questions regarding her actions in captivity. Did she always do what was best for Jack? And if not, can she live with herself?
  8. Margaret Johnson in The Light in the Piazza by Elizabeth Spencer- Margaret is visiting Italy with her mentally disabled daughter, Clara in the 1950’s. Clara falls in love with a young Italian and he with her. There’s a language barrier so Clara’s condition is less obvious than it might otherwise be. Margaret watches this relationship bloom and realizes that Clara may be more capable than anyone imagined. Margaret (whose own marriage to Clara’s father is unhappy) finds herself torn by two equally strong impulses: to stop the relationship and spare her daughter the pain of love gone wrong; or to take a risk see Clara have something that Margaret never did- a love that last a lifetime.
  9. Helen Graham in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte- Anne is often the unfairly forgotten Bronte sister. But she created a strong, loving memorable mother in Helen Graham. Married to an abusive, alcoholic, Helen breaks the law and risks kidnapping charges when she takes their son, and leaves him. She took this risk because she saw the influence that her husband was having on their son, and to her that was more torturous than any legal repercussions.
  10. Eva Khatchadourian in We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver- I’m sure that this is a controversial pick. Some people consider Eva to be the true villain of the piece. I’m not sure that she’d disagree with them! Eva was ambivalent about motherhood at first and always felt alienated from her son, Kevin. She even wonders if those feelings contributed to Kevin’s horrific violent rampage as a teenager. Did she sense evil in Kevin before his crimes? Was that why she found it so hard to bond with him? Or did Kevin sense her conflicted feelings about motherhood early on? Were his crimes in some way a reaction to that? In the aftermath of violence, Eva reviews her life as Kevin’s mother. She also considers what it means to be his mother in the future. Can she ever forgive him for what he’s done? Was she responsible in some way? I think that the last paragraph of the book speaks volumes:

“…after three days short of 18 years I can finally announce that I am too exhausted and too confused and too lonely to keep fighting; and if only out of desperation or even laziness I love my son. He has five grim years left to serve in an adult penitentiary, and I cannot vouch for what will walk out the other side. But in the meantime there is a second bedroom in my serviceable apartment. The bedspread is plain. A copy of Robin Hood lies on the bookshelf. And the sheets are clean.”

And a few honorable (or less than honorable) mentions:

  1. Corrine Foxworth Dollenganger in Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews- Yes it’s hard to be a widow with four young children. Especially with no money. And if your parents are rich I can see where it would be tempting to throw yourself on their mercy even if they did disown you upon your marriage. But when Corrine learns that she’ll be disinherited if her father ever learns that her marriage produced children, her solution is to lock them up in the attic of her family’s mansion. Christopher (14), Catherine (12), and the twins, Cory and Carrie (3) live up in the attic for several years. And by hiding them away, Corrine ensures that they will repeat the sins of their parents (it’s no accident that their name sounds like “doppelganger”). The repercussions of the horrors that happen in the attic haunt the children for the rest of their lives.
  2. Margaret White in Carrie by Stephen King- I was actually a bit conflicted about this because Margaret loves her daughter and honestly believes that she’s doing the best thing for her. Another widowed mother in difficult circumstances, Margaret is very close to her outcast daughter. But when Carrie starts exhibiting telekinetic powers and acting a bit rebellious, Margaret begins to fear for her soul. Her solution is questionable to say the least: killing Carrie while she’s still young and innocent so that the girl can still be saved.