#WyrdAndWonder’s Desert Island Reads

This month I’ll be attempting to participate in Wyrd and Wonder’s Challenge celebrating the fantasy genre (well see how much I get done. It’s a busy month for me!). But today I managed to think about my Desert Island Reads.

Here are The Rules:

  • Eight (audio)books – your Desert Island Reads float ashore in a watertight chest, phew!
    • If you want to take a series, each book in it counts as one of your eight unless a collected edition has been published. So Temeraire would be all your books; The Lord of the Rings could be just one (rather heavy) book
    • No, you can’t have a fully-loaded ebook reader. Nice try
  • A podcast, TV show or movie – for when you really can’t read any more
    • If you choose Podcast / TV show: yes, you get all the episodes / seasons
    • If you choose Movie: since I’m being lenient, yes this can be a series / franchise
  • One thing you just can’t do without
    • A favourite food, something comforting, a touch of luxury – this can be pretty much whatever you like, so long as it’s inanimate, can’t help you escape or communicate with the outside world, and doesn’t require electricity or internet connectivity
    • Bonus: you can listen to audiobooks / podcasts or watch your TV show / movie (on some magical waterproof device that doesn’t need power and has very limited storage, shh)
    • Don’t worry: you already have access to any medication you require to manage medical conditions, plus a well-stocked first aid kit

Assuming you do this for the Wyrd And Wonder Challenge, please limit your bookish and entertainment picks to fantasy titles. If you’d like to make a non-fantasy-related response at another time, you’re very welcome.

So…

Eight books

1.Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien – Yes, I have a collected edition. I also have a rather complicated history with these books. In the past, I’ve found them very hard to get into. But I am a fantasy reader and writer, and they are a genre cornerstone. I think on a desert island I’d have time to really dive into it!

2. Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss- I enjoyed The Name of the Wind, but the sequel has been sitting on my shelf for a while. I sometimes need to summon up the motivation to commit to a really long book (over 1000 pages). But again, If I’m on a desert island with limited reading material, I think I can manage it!

3. The Red Queen by Isobelle Carmody- This is the final book in the Obernewtyn series. I’ve read and enjoyed all the others. But this one is another book I’ve put off due to the size (again, over 1000 pages). But as I look at this list, I’m thinking I should stop being intimidated by really long books!

4. The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis- Yes, again this is a collected edition, and it’s a series I’ve been meaning to reread for a while. I think that the island would give me a chance to do that.

5. Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm – Pretty much anyone who has ever looked at this blog knows that I’m a fairy tale girl! This would let me dip into different stories that would suit different moods.

6. Hans Christian Anderson’s Complete Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Anderson- My reasoning for this one is pretty much the same as above.

7. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by William Shakespeare- I figure this counts, because plays like A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest are definitely fantasy. Macbeth has three witches, and other plays have hints of the supernatural here and there. Plus Shakespeare holds up to repeated readings.

8. Burning Your Boats by Angela Carter– Carter’s short stories can suit every mood. Plus, they’re books you can get more out of them, each time you read them.

A Podcast/TV Show/Movie

This is tough! I think I’m going with TV show, since that’s the most entertainment bang for my buck (it’ll take me the longest to get through). On one hand I’m tempted to pick something I’ve never seen before. I’ll get a chance to binge. But what if I don’t like it? It seems like a big risk…

I’ll go with The Twilight Zone, assuming that in addition to all the seasons I’ll have access to the reboots as well. I haven’t seen every episode so there will be something for when I’m in the mood for something new. But I like the episodes I’ve seen, so the risk factor is fairly minimal. The anthology structure gives me some variety.

One Thing You Just Can’t Do Without

A lifetime supply of chocolate. I think no explanation is needed for this one.

Unpopular Literary Opinions

  • 41rryji1bvl-_ac_us218_A lot of contemporary interpretations of Romeo and Juliet misunderstand the play completely.
    • If they don’t believe in love at first sight, they dismiss they entire play. OK, Macbeth opens with witches. Hamlet meets a ghost. Do you say “witches/ghosts don’t exist, so clearly this play offers nothing of value”?  Why should love, at first sight, be any different?
    • They say Romeo is fickle because he thought he was in love with another girl prior to meeting Juliet. But if you look at the poetry, Romeo’s language, once he meets Juliet, becomes more sophisticated. This indicates that it’s the real thing. So why include that other girl at all? Well, it’s Shakespeare telling us that this isn’t a childish infatuation because Romeo’s had that and it looked different.
    • They claim that Romeo and Juliet were two immature teens who didn’t really understand love or life. IRL, of course, a couple in their early teens wouldn’t understand true love. But for the sake of the play, we need to accept that this is a “perfect” love. It’s meant to be. Then we see the tragedy of what happens to a perfect love in a world filled with hate.
  • 511jzqi9ekl-_ac_us218_In Little Women Jo made the right romantic choices. She and Laurie would have been a disaster as a couple. They’re way too similar in terms of personality and they’d have clashed all the time. Jo also had a deep love for her family and defined herself in terms of her sisters. Laurie also loved her family, and saw Jo as sort of the “Lead March Sister.” In other words, the way he saw her was exactly the way she saw herself. He didn’t challenge her perceptions at all. Bhaer knew and cared for Jo independent of her family.
  • 51tt9v9vjl-_ac_us218_Wuthering Heights is not a romance. A love story, perhaps, but not a romance. And really it’s just as much a “hate story” as it is a “love story.” Even with the two characters who get a happy romantic ending, we’re ultimately left wondering if it was worth it. Lowood observes Cathy and Hareton together and grumbles “‘They are afraid of nothing…Together, they would brave Satan and all his legions.'” Then he walks back and in the churchyard sees “the three headstones on the slope next the moor: the middle one grey, and half buried in the heath; Edgar Linton’s only harmonized by the turf and moss creeping up its foot; Heathcliff’s still bare.” The implication is that the price of Cathy and Hareton’s happiness is those three graves.
  • I think of John Green as a YA version of Nicholas Sparks. Which is fine if you like that, but I don’t really. I like his vlogs and persona but I feel like as a writer he doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done before.
  • 51xipv5h1l-_ac_us218_I actually think that Go Set A Watchman enriched To Kill A Mockingbird and the characters. I much prefer to see Atticus Finch as a flawed human being rather than a perfect white savior. It makes sense that as a child, Scout perceives her father as a hero. And it makes sense that as an adult she’s able to see him as he is: a person with strengths and weaknesses and prejudices. It also makes sense for Atticus’ racism to come out in the way that it does. When an innocent man is accused of a crime that he didn’t commit, Atticus defends him, because a) it’s his job and b) people shouldn’t be held responsible for things that they didn’t do. But twenty years later, when civil rights are becoming a major issue, it seems believable that Atticus, who grew up in a segregated world where the power was squarely in the laps of white males, might begin to feel threatened. He fears to lose the privilege that’s been his all his life.
  • I like the Ron/Hermione pairing in Harry Potter. They’ve got the whole opposites attract thing going for them. They balance each other out. But I always felt like the Ginny/Harry pairing was just so that Harry wasn’t left romantically alone at the end of the series.51iosghk0l-_ac_us218_
  • 41rrzplmctl-_ac_us218_Rupi Kaur has yet to really impress me as a poet. I know a lot of people find her really relatable and I don’t want to diminish that. I think it’s wonderful when people have that response to something, even if I don’t share it. Especially since I can see why they relate to it. A lot of the themes that Kaur addresses in her work are universal. But I feel that, with a few exceptions, she doesn’t address them in an innovative or artful, or skillful way. My problem was that there is enough potential in the work for me to wish it was better.
  • I don’t particularly care for Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books. I know that a literary detective in a futuristic world who goes inside books sounds like it should be right up my alley. I tried the first three books in the series but they just left me cold.
  • Stephen King is underrated from a literary point of view. He’s seen as a purely commercial writer. Yes, he’s written his share of trash, but when he gets it right, he really touches on our societies secrets, fears, and shame.

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Boyfriends

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

October 3: Top Ten Book Boyfriends/Girlfriends (Which characters do you have crushes on?)

Ah book boyfriends. They make up the vast majority of boyfriends for me. They’ve broken my heart and put it back together again. There are some notable omissions on here. I didn’t include Heathcliff because his sociopathic tendencies are sort of a turn off for me. I also didn’t include Mr. Rochester because, while I do ship him with Jane the whole “I forgot to tell you I’m already married” thing at the wedding would have been a deal breaker for me (though I’m glad it wasn’t for Jane). There are also a few that appealed to me once but don’t so much any more. And of course a few are sort of embarrassing.

51z5jz2frjl-_ac_us218_1. Peter Pan from Peter Pan by JM Barrie- Yes I was a little kid when this crush ruled. I loved Peter Pan in all his incarnations. Like him, I never saw the appeal of adulthood. He had this whole world for himself, with a tribe of friends around all the time. He had enough danger to keep things exciting, a devoted fairy friend and the ability to fly. What’s not to love as a kid? But even when I was very young I sensed some sadness from him. While the idea of eternal childhood, free of adult supervision appealed to me, I was also somewhat aware that it wasn’t quite right. There comes a time when all kids- even those who can fly, need structure, family and stability. Peter didn’t have that. Even the eternal childhood that I envied had something “off” about it. Because childhood is only one part of life. To stay in it, is to deny the rest of what life has to offer. Children are very future oriented and Peter Pan lived in a perpetual present. Of course this gave him a bit of a tragic element, which only made me love him more.

There could not have been a lovelier sight; but there was none to see it except a little boy who was staring in at the window. He had ecstasies innumerable that other children can never know; but he was looking through the window at the one joy from which he must be for ever barred.

511prxozevl-_ac_us218_2. Jeremy Dragon from Here’s to You Rachel Robinson by Judy Blume- Jeremy’s actual last name is Kravtiz but a jacket makes him known as Jeremy Dragon to the title character and her friends. And “Dragon” sort of suits him better. A dragon is a mysterious, dangerous, fantasy. As is the cutest guy in middle school, for Rachel Robinson, a gifted and talented “good girl”. As a result she doesn’t really consider him as a real life option. She does have a crush on an older man however. But when that reveals itself to be a dead end, it turns out that Jeremy is interested in Rachel. I don’t know why this character, and this element of the story resonated with me so much. It was probably a bit of a wish fulfillment fantasy. I saw bits of myself in the goody goody Rachel. So her shock that Jeremy might see her as something other than awkward was similar to my own. I don’t know if that means that the story line was well developed, or just that it did its job in making pre-teen Fran swoon.

“Just when you think life is over, you find out it’s not. Just when you think you’re never going to fall for someone else, it happens without any warning! I hope this doesn’t means I’m… jumping from Obstacle to the next. I don’t think it does. I don’t think it means anything except life is full of surprises and they’re not necessarily bad.”

51kc21bqngl-_ac_us218_3. Gilbert Blythe from the Anne series by LM Montgomery- When Gilbert first meets Anne Shirley in school, he teases her about her red hair, calling her carrots. In return she breaks a slate over his head. Great romances often have rough beginnings! Over the years, Gilbert apologizes and he and Anne become friends. Gilbert wants more, but Anne dreams of a knight in shining armor. It’s not until some later that she comes to realize that her knight in shining armor might just be her kind, supportive friend. And that her romance with him might be better than anything she could have dreamed up! Gilbert sees Anne both as the girl she was and the woman she becomes and he loves both: the awkward and the graceful.

Gilbert stretched himself out on the ferns beside the Bubble and looked approvingly at Anne. If Gilbert had been asked to describe his ideal woman the description would have answered point for point to Anne, even to those seven tiny freckles whose obnoxious presence still continued to vex her soul. Gilbert was as yet little more than a boy; but a boy has his dreams as have others, and in Gilbert’s future there was always a girl with big, limpid gray eyes, and a face as fine and delicate as a flower.

-From Anne of Avonlea (Book 2 of the Anne series)

41rryji1bvl-_ac_us218_4. Romeo Montague from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare was my literary crush when I was about twelve or thirteen. I eventually outgrew this one. But I always felt that those who accused Romeo of being fickle were misreading the text- I still do. Romeo’s initial infatuation with Rosaline isn’t supposed to tell us his love for Juliet isn’t true. Just the opposite. It’s supposed to tell us that this isn’t a boyish infatuation; he’s already had that. When he meets Juliet his language changes significantly, and he begins speaking in elegant poetry. That indicates that love has brought him to greater sophistication. As for love at first sight, no I don’t really believe in it (I do think people can fall in love quickly but perhaps not that quickly!). But I don’t believe in ghosts or witches either and their presence doesn’t keep my from believing the characters in Hamlet or Macbeth! Plus, who wouldn’t want to be the woman who inspires a man to speak like this?

O! she doth teach the torches to burn bright
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear.

51xphws9jdl-_ac_us218_5. Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon- A lot of people who list Jamie as a literary crush argue that he’s perfect. I’m including him here because he’s far from it. He’s got flaws, and not just the kind that the writer threw in because someone told her that characters can’t be perfect. His flaws are as much a part of who he is as his strengths, and sometimes they’re one and the same. His stubbornness makes him act like a jerk at times; but it also makes him as devoted as one can possibly be to his loved ones. At times his views of women come off as old fashioned, which is also good: an 18th century hero who talks like he just finished reading Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinham wouldn’t ring true. But whatever he might say and whatever mistakes he makes, he’s still the 18th century guy who saw a crazy lady running around in her underwear, spewing foul language, and skillfully providing healthcare and fell hard.

When the day shall come, that we do part,” he said softly, and turned to look at me, “if my last words are not ‘I love you’—ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.”

-From The Fiery Cross (Book 5 of the Outlander series)

51omzinvtpl-_ac_us218_6. Alexander Belov Barrington from The Bronze Horseman series by Paullina Simons though I might break up with him after something he pulled in The Summer Garden… I overlook it here only because that whole part of the book seemed very out of character to me. In the first two books (and through most of the third) Alexander is the brave, stubborn, devoted man who brings you ice cream. That’s the dream isn’t it?  Well Alexander has a temper, and sometimes sees things as black and white, when they’re not. But that’s balanced by a strong sense of right and wrong, and a willingness to sometimes do the wrong thing for the right reasons, and vice versa.

“Tatiana…you and I had only one moment…” said Alexander. “A single moment in time, in your time and mine…one instant, when another life could have still been possible.” He kissed her lips. “Do you know what I’m talking about?”
When Tatiana looked up from her ice cream, she saw a soldier staring at her from across the street.
“I know that moment,” whispered Tatiana.”

41gwjpjhljl-_ac_us218_7. Gabriel Oak from Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy- Gabriel Oak is a farmer. He works his land, and he works hard. He’s reliable and has common sense. He proposes to Bathsheba Everdine early in this novel and is refused. He remains her loyal friend throughout. Even when she is acting impulsive or unwise, Gabriel never wavers in his devotion. When Bathsheba eventually realizes what she gave up when she turned down Oak’s proposal, he doesn’t gloat. He doesn’t tell her to get lost. He is simply happy because the woman he loves wants him. The life that he wants with her is simple:

And at home by the fire, whenever you look up there I shall be— and whenever I look up, there will be you.

51zpob-ijil-_ac_us218_

 

8. Sir Francis Crawford of Lymond from the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett- Though his spot on the list might be temporary. In the first two books he earned his place on here, but I haven’t read the rest of the series yet. He might break my heart. Lymond is  a difficult character to describe because it’s hard to get to know him. He’s handsome. He’s incredibly smart. He speaks a number of languages and is extremely well read. He’s generally good at fighting and intrigues. But we spend most of the books seeing him from other people’s points of view. That makes him intriguing as a literary crush! But as I said, I’m only two books into the series. I might learn something I don’t like!

Considering Lymond, flat now on the bed in wordless communion with the ceiling, Richard spoke. “My dear, you are only a boy. You have all your life still before you.”

On the tortoise-shell bed, his brother did not move. But there was no irony for once in his voice when he answered. “Oh, yes, I know. The popular question is, For what?”

-From Queens Play (Book 2 of the Lymond chronicles)

419ewleob1l-_ac_us218_9. Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen- the only Austen hero to make my list (I like a few others two but there were reasons they didn’t make it on the list) seems like someone you could potentially be happy with. We get to know him first through his faults; pride (and prejudice!), stuffiness, a tendency to be judgmental. But when we get to know the other side to his personality- loyalty, a fundamental sense of decency, honesty, we get a fuller picture of whole person.

In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.

51nbhw4ql8l-_ac_us218_10. Carl Brown from Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith- In 1927 Carl and Annie fall in love and get married. Most books would end there, but that’s where this one starts. Carl is a second year law student. Annie left school at the age of 14 to work and support her family. Right away the couple face financial difficulties. Carl’s work and his studies keep him busy. Annie is very intelligent and an avid reader, but isn’t well educated, and feels awkward and a bit uncomfortable in a university setting. Even when he doesn’t always understand where Annie is coming from, Carl always loves her. When things get difficult her doesn’t regret his decision to marry her. He never wavers in the certainty that this is who he is supposed to spend his life with.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Featuring Characters Based on Characters in Other Books

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

September 26:  Ten Books That Feature Characters ____________: Examples: Ten books that feature black main characters, characters who hold interesting jobs, characters who have a mental illness, characters that are adopted, characters that play sports, etc, etc. Can’t wait to see what you all come up with!

I decided to do ten characters that are based on characters in other books. There are a lot of retellings of classics that are just bad. But at their best, these books can be innovative, and original. They can add another layer of understanding to the original text and characters, by highlighting elements that were subtextual in the original. I felt that all these characters added something to my understanding/appreciation of the original text/character. For the purpose of this list I didn’t include characters from fairy tales, myths or legends.  There must be a definite source.

51kbodhni5l-_ac_us218_1. Wide Saragasso Sea by Jean Rhys based on Antoinette (Bertha) Cosway Rochester from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre has inspired a lot of fanfiction. Some is good, some isn’t. But novel, featuring the madwoman in the attic from Jane Eyre is haunting, strange and lovely. Antonette Cosway is a Creole heiress who grew up on a decaying plantation in the West Indies. She’s essentially sold into marriage to an Englishman. He brings her to England, away from the only world she knows. In England she finds herself isolated, and expected to conform to narrow expectations of what a woman of her race, class, and gender should be. It’s enough to drive someone insane. In Jane Eyre, I see Mr. Rochester’s actions toward his mad wife as problematic, yes. But given the fact that his wife was a danger to herself and others, she had to be confined. Keeping her confined at home with full time care seemed kinder than what she might expect in a 19th century mental hospital. But in this book, from the wife’s perspective, we begin to wonder if that’s really the case.

“As soon as I turned the key I saw it hanging, the color of fire and sunset. the colour of flamboyant flowers. ‘If you are buried under a flamboyant tree, ‘ I said, ‘your soul is lifted up when it flowers. Everyone wants that.’

She shook her head but she did not move or touch me.”

51dqnh9enml-_ac_us218_2. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye based on Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: This re-imagining of Jane Eyre features a smart, independent, sympathetic serial killer in the place of the traditional heroine. Jane Steele, like Jane Eyre, was born poor, orphaned, and sent by her aunt to a horrible school (after Jane- accidentally- killed her cousin). At the school she befriends another girl, but the brutal headmaster is preying on the vulnerable girls in his care. So really Jane was justified in what she did… After she leaves school the bodies pile up. She eventually takes a job as a governess, where she cares for the ward of Charles Thornfield. As Jane falls in love with Mr. Thornfield, she becomes curious about his mysterious past. She also becomes rather conflicted about her own. Will a handful of homicides be a deal breaker for Mr Thornfield? This stands out among other works of fanfiction for it’s cleverness and dark humor.

” Reader, I murdered him.”

51628cg19vl-_ac_us218_3. Jack Maggs by Peter Carey based on Abel Magwitch from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens: Early in Great Expectations, our protagonist, Pip, encounters Abel Magwitch, a convict. He helps Magwitch and in return Magwitch becomes his secret benefactor. This book opens with Jack Maggs, illegally returned to England from the prison island of Australia. He has a plan that involves revenge, retribution, and justice. He wants to find his “son” and reclaim his house. He draws the attention of a variety of characters including a writer/hypnotist, who promises to help Jack in his quest in exchange for probing his psyche. The names and dates are changed a bit from Great Expectations, but the book makes no secret about the fact that Dickens is its source.

“Now, each day in the Morning Chronicle, each fortnight in the Observer, it was Tobias Oates who ‘made’ the City of London. With a passion he barely understood himself, he named it, mapped it, widened its great streets, narrowed its dingy lanes, framed its scenes with the melancholy windows of his childhood. In this way, he invented a respectable life for himself: a wife, a babe, a household. He had gained a name for comic tales. He had got himself, along the way, a little belly, a friend who was a titled lady, a second friend who was a celebrated actor, a third friend who was a Knight of the Realm, a fourth friend who was an author and tutor to the young Princess Victoria. He did not dare look down, so far had he come. Until this morning, when his fun and games had killed a man.
Then the doctor had cast him out, and this criminal, this outcast, had felt himself free to pick him up and shake him as though he were nothing but a rabbit.”

51e95ew86gl-_ac_us218_4. March by Geraldine Brooks based on Mr. March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: We don’t spend much time with the March girls’ father in Little Women. He was away at war for a while. But this novel tells of his experiences with the war. Not only does this paint a horrific (and, sadly, most likely accurate) picture of war, but it also makes the reader look at Little Woman in a different way. How are the March family’s social activism and beliefs linked to their loss of status and fortune? How is all of the above linked to the abolitionist movement? It’s also interesting to see how March sees his wife and daughters. We feel like we know them well from Little Women, but March sees them a bit differently than a reader might.

“I am not alone in this. I only let him do to me what men have ever done to women: march off to empty glory and hollow acclaim and leave us behind to pick up the pieces. The broken cities, the burned barns, the innocent injured beasts, the ruined bodies of the boys we bore and the men we lay with.

The waste of it. I sit here, and I look at him, and it is as if a hundred women sit beside me: the revolutionary farm wife, the English peasant woman, the Spartan mother-‘Come back with your shield or on it,’ she cried, because that was what she was expected to cry. And then she leaned across the broken body of her son and the words turned to dust in her throat.”

51t5nldq8kl-_ac_us218_5. Clarissa Vaughn from The Hours by Michael Cunningham  based on Clarissa Dalloway in Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf: The Hours is always a tough book to describe. It imagines Virginia Woolf in the process of writing Mrs. Dalloway. It also imagines a 1950’s housewife, reading the book, and questioning her life. But for me, the most vivid of the three main characters is Clarissa Vaughn, who, like Mrs. Dalloway, is throwing a party, and trying to get things ready for it. Like Mrs. Dalloway, we follow her through her day, as she confronts her life and her choices. The three stories eventually intertwine and come together. But for me Clarissa’s strand seems to stand out a bit. I read this book in college and my professor called it “literary graverobbing” due to Cunningham’s channeling of Woolf’s style. I wouldn’t call it that myself, because I see it more as Cunningham have a conversation with Woolf than with copying her.

“Dear Leonard. To look life in the face. Always to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it. To love it for what it is, and then, to put it away. Leonard. Always the years between us. Always the years. Always the love. Always the hours.”

51f63bxc2nl-_ac_us218_6. Bod from The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaimen based on Mowgli from The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling: Bod (full name; Nobody Owens) is an orphan who has been raised in a cemetery, by ghosts. We go through several vignettes and episodes in Bod’s childhood. While I was reading this, I honestly didn’t see any parallels to The Jungle Book. Even the title didn’t tip me off…. But when a friend pointed it out, all of a sudden it was unmissable!

“We who make stories know that we tell lies for a living. But they are good lies that say true things, and we owe it to our readers to build them as best we can. Because somewhere out there is someone who needs that story. Someone who will grow up with a different landscape, who without that story will be a different person. And who with that story may have hope, or wisdom, or kindness, or comfort. And that is why we write.”

51x1xphoasl-_ac_us218_7. Erik from Phantom by Susan Kay based on Erik from The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux: It’s hard to believe, just based on it’s massive popularity, but Gaston Leroux’s novel The Phantom of the Opera wasn’t all that good. It had its moments, but it seemed to veer from mystery to horror to romance and back again.  I never felt a strong attachment to any character.  In this book Susan Kay resolves a lot of those issues. She follows the character, Erik, from birth. Erik is horribly disfigured from birth, but also, astonishingly gifted. He travels across Europe, learning that while love might forever elude him, power is within his reach.  He creates a home for himself in cellars of the Paris Opera House, where he must finally resolve his conflicted nature. We feel for this character, in a way that we don’t in Lereux’s work, because we’ve seen his journey. His past isn’t as mysterious, but we’re more invested in it.

“Is the mask magic?” he demanded with sudden, passionate interest.
“Yes.” I bowed my head, so that our eyes no longer met. “I made it magic to keep you safe. The mask is your friend, Erik. As long as you wear it, no mirror can ever show you the face again.”
He was silent then and when I showed him the new mask he accepted it without question and put it on hastily with his clumsy, bandaged fingers. But when I stood up to go, he reacted with panic and clutched at my grown.
“Don’t go! Don’t leave me here in the dark.”
“You are not in the dark,” I said patiently. “Look, I have left the candle …”
But I knew, as I looked at him, that it would have made no difference if I had left him fifty candles. The darkness he feared was in his own mind and there was no light in the universe powerful enough to take that darkness from him

51p4swqetkl-_ac_us218_8. Willie Bodega from Bodega Dreams by Ernesto B. Quinonez based on Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald- Just as Fitzgerald evoked Long Island, Quinonez evokes Spanish Harlem, where Willie Bodega rules. He can get you whatever you need, in exchange for loyalty. Chino is a young man who turns to Bodega for a favor, and finds himself drawn into Bodega’s world, where he learns that Bodega’s ultimate goal is his first love, Vera. The book is notable for how it recreates the  setting. Even someone who has never been to Spanish Harlem comes away from reading this, with an understanding of the sights, the sounds and the smells.

“He was street nobility incarnated in someone who still believed in dreams… triggered by a romantic ideal found only in those poor bastards who really wanted to be poets but got drafted and sent to the front lines.”

41-f8aif5zl-_ac_us218_9. Ada from Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier based on Penelope from The Odyssey by Homer: I read The Odyssey by Homer when I was in high school. It wasn’t really my thing. When I heard that Cold Mountain was inspired, in part, by Homer’s epic, I wasn’t that interested in reading it. I’m glad I overcame that hesitation though. I found Penelope one of the more interesting characters in The Odyssey, and I wanted to spend more time with her than Homer did. Fortunately this novel gave me Ada, a Southern gal waiting for her fiance to return from the civil war. As her beloved Inman journey’s home to her, Ada must learn to revive her father’s farm and to survive in a new world.

“…for you can grieve your heart out and in the end you are still where you were. All your grief hasn’t changed a thing. What you have lost will not be returned to you. It will always be lost. You’re only left with your scars to mark the void. All you can choose to do is go on or not.”

514hkgpgol-_ac_us218_10. Felix Phillips from Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood based on The Tempest by William Shakespeare: Felix was once a renowned theater director. He was ousted from his post by his assistant, and so he hides away and plans his revenge. Under a fake name he begins to teach literacy in a prison. Each year his class puts on a Shakespeare performance. When the time is right for Felix’s revenge, he  stages The Tempest for his former assistant. As he stages the play he reenacts the events in his own life. It’s all very meta.

“The rest of his life. How long that time had once felt to him. How quickly it has sped by. How much of it has been wasted. How soon it will be over.”

 

The New York Times “By the Book” Tag

I found this on Thrice Read‘s blog and it spoke to me. I’m curious as to other people’s answers to some of these so please share if you want to!

What book is on your nightstand now?

Actually, physically, on my nightstand? The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell and Jane Austen: The Secret Radical by Helena Kelly.

What was the last truly great book you’ve read?

Wow, tough question. I guess that depends on what you mean by “great”. I’ll go with A Little Life by Hana Yanagihara. It’s not an easy book but I think it speaks to the reasons why we struggle through life. It’s about what drives us to survive through all types of hardships. The main character, Jude, endures more tragedy and trauma than anyone should have to. But there is so much about his life that’s beautiful. The writing in the book is also stunning and I think I cried straight through the last 50 pages or so.

If you could meet any writer – dead or alive – who would it be? And what would you want to know?

Honestly, the first person I thought of as an answer to this was William Shakespeare. I’d like him to a) clear up the whole “authorship” thing once and for all. Because I’m convinced that anyone who thinks it was someone other than William Shakespeare thinks that out of snobbery, and I’d like to prove it and b) Because I’m curious as to whether he actually believed the stuff in some of his histories or if he was trying to appease a Tudor monarchy.

What books might we be surprised to find on your shelf?

My shelves are pretty varied in terms of authors and genres. I have a bit of everything. Maybe The Element Encyclopedia For Magic CreaturesThe Element Encyclopedia For Magic Creatures? I use it for research in my own writing.

How do you organize your personal library?

By genre (roughly). Actually it’s crying out to be reorganized at some point soon!

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What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet?

Millions! Off the top of my head, a few are Precious Bane by Mary Webb, The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan, Half A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and The Time of My Life by Cecelia Ahern.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you are supposed to like but didn’t?

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson is the first book that pops into my mind. I felt like I should have liked it. It’s right up my alley: historical fiction, a twist of fantasy, lovely prose… But the story, about a woman who lives her life over again and again, left me cold. I didn’t care about Ursula because ultimately there was no risk. If things went wrong for her, she could always just start over again.

What kind of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?

I tend to be drawn to most genres

  • mystery/thriller
  • fantasy/sci fi
  • historical fiction
  • magical realism
  • literary fiction
  • romance (depending on the type)

The exceptions are:

  • religious/spiritual fiction (I’m not very religious and I don’t like feeling that I’m being preached at)
  • erotica
  • really graphic/gory horror
  • nonfiction about subjects in which I have no interest

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

Just one? That’s making it really hard! Does the Constitution of the United States count as a book?

What do you plan to read next?

I don’t know for sure. It depends what I’m in the mood for when I’m done with what I’m reading now. If I want something fun and escapist, maybe Blood Rites. It’s been a few months since I last checked in with Harry Dresden. Or if I’m not in the mood for fantasy, maybe Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspar. I don’t think I’ll be up for something too heavy, since school is starting up and that’s somewhat stressful.