Review: Revolution, Jennifer Donnelly, narrated by Emily Janice Card and Emma Bering

I believe I’ve just finished reading my last book of 2015, and it was a re-read of one of my favorites, Jennifer Donnelly’s novel Revolution. This time, I listened to the audio book. I have this book in hardcover, Kindle, and audio book, but I hadn’t listened to it until this week. It was even better on a re-read than it was the first time I read it.

Since I reviewed the book last time I read it, this time, I really want to mention a couple of things that struck me. First, this book is tightly written. It all works. I picked up on so many things I missed on a first reading. The sections of Dante’s poetry correspond well to Andi’s descent into darkness and her literal descent into hell in the catacombs, where she is, naturally, accompanied by Virgil. I was so swept away with the plot the first time I read that I missed some of the artistry of the writing. Equally impressive is Donnelly’s research. She fictionalizes some details. Andi’s thesis focus, the composer Amadé Mahlerbeau, is fictional, as are her Nobel-prize winning father and his historian friend G. However, they all have their basis in historical or contemporary figures who do similar work. Another thing I noticed about Donnelly’s writing is that she allows the reader to be creative and connect the dots. She doesn’t knock you over the head with the connections. She wants you to do the work. She wants you to do some digging and find out what she has learned.

I also noticed how well Donnelly pulls off the twinning. Maximilien Robespierre and the schizophrenic Maximilien R. Peters, who is responsible for the death of Andi’s brother Truman, work very well in a pair and serve as an interesting symbol of the brutality and stupidity of the world and the cyclical nature of history’s desperate individuals. It’s almost not too hard to believe that Alex might reach across history, 200 years in the future, to save Andi and let her know that just because the world goes on, stupid and brutal, it doesn’t mean that she has to—she can be a positive force for good in the world. She can make people happy. The world can be a scary, crazy place. Particularly today, we see a lot of stories in the news that make us despair and make us want to give up. Perhaps in the end, all we have left to do is to do the good that we can. We don’t have to participate in the world’s brutality and stupidity.

Donnelly said in an interview that “a good story with a compelling character that’s well written should appeal to anybody.” I think that’s why this book is so good. Andi may be a teenager, but the fact that she is a young protagonist doesn’t make her story any less applicable or interesting. This book really makes me want to write, and that’s always the sign of a really good book to me—the ones that make me want to write.

Emily Janice Card narrated most of the book, while Emma Bering narrated Alex’s diary entries. Both narrators were brilliant. Card especially does a brilliant job bringing Andi’s sarcastic and hard edge to life. You can hear the chip on her shoulder. Card happens to be the daughter of Orson Scott Card. I read that she was named for two of my favorite writers (and Orson Scott Card’s, apparently): Emily Dickinson and Emily Brontë. I really didn’t want to stop listening to this book. I have to be doing something mindless while I listen to audio books or else I get distracted from the story. When I didn’t have anything mindless to occupy me while listening to this book, I pulled my hardcover off the shelf and read along with the narrators. I need to go back and re-read a few favorite passages.

Last time I read this book, I was craving more books just like it, but I’m afraid there probably aren’t any. It’s brilliant.

Keep scrolling for the book’s playlist. You don’t want to miss it.

Rating: ★★★★★
Audio Rating: ★★★★★

The playlist for this particular book is massive and varied, as Andi is one of those folks who loves music. All kinds. I suspect it needs a bit of revision because there are musical references on just about every page of the book. That’s another thing I love about it. The music.

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Sunday Post #39: The Last Sunday of the Year

Sunday Post

It has been a little while since I’ve written a Sunday Post entry. December proved to be a busy month, and I have to confess that time off on Sundays wasn’t really spent writing and reflecting so much as trying to catch my breath before Monday.

I have been off work for a week’s vacation and have one more week before returning. Aside from some grading, which I will need to make some time to do in the coming week, I was able to catch up before vacation. I’ve been doing quite a lot of baking, as I typically do over the holidays: gingerbread, cookies, scones on Christmas.

My husband is visiting his parents in Tennessee, and I know they’ll be glad to visit with him. It’s pretty quiet around here without him. Not that he makes a ton of noise or anything, but you know what I mean.

Meanwhile, I have been finishing books quickly. I finished the following books since my last Sunday Post entry:

I am in the middle of a re-read of Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, this time as an audio book, and man, am I ever reminded of why I love that book so much. And yet again, it has reminded me of why the French Revolution is so endlessly fascinating. I am currently watching a History Channel documentary of the French Revolution on YouTube. I am reminded once again that I still haven’t read Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution by Simon Schama, though I have a hardcover copy, nor have I finished Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser or Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. The Marie Antoinette biography has been in my sidebar for a long time. I would love to find another really good historical fiction book set in the French Revolution. I have already read Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran. I am not sure about Hilary Mantel’s novel A Place of Greater Safety. Have you read it? What did you think? I absolutely loved Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, but I wasn’t sure about this one. The reviews are not as glowing, and it’s a long book to commit to. I ought to just take the plunge. I’ve been thinking about reading it long enough.

I’ve had a quiet last Sunday of the year with my kids. All in all an enjoyable day reading and relaxing.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme. Image adapted from Patrick on Flickr.

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Sunday Post #5: History Makers

Sunday PostSince last week, when I mentioned that we have all the snow, I can tell you we probably have five feet on the ground with more on the way tonight and tomorrow. My children have yet another snow day tomorrow. My own school just called me to let me know I also do not have school; however, I do believe I have a meeting via Google Hangout, and I need to make some soap for a wholesale account, so I imagine I will be busy. We have had record-breaking snowfall the last few weeks.  The Sunday Post is starting to sound monotonous with the weather report each time. When you’re more or less snowbound, however, there’s not much else going on.

I finally finished listening to the audio book of Diana Gabaldon’s novel The Fiery Cross this week. I also finished reading The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore. Look for the review for that book to be posted on 2/17. I started reading four books this week as well:

The Tell-Tale Heart, like The Serpent of Venice, is part of a TLC Book Tour. I’m reading As You Like It as my Renaissance selection for the Literary Movement Challenge. Finished Act I as of yesterday. I am listening to Neil Gaiman read the short story collection Trigger Warning. After finishing The Fiery Cross, I didn’t want to dive right into another really long Gabaldon audio book right away. I have had Marie Antoinette: The Journey in my Kindle library for a very long time, but I finally decided to read it after watching the Kirsten Dunst film Marie Antoinette, which reminded me how fascinated I am by the French Revolution and all the history leading up to it.

The movie itself, I have to say, was kind of weird. The costumes and sets were gorgeous. The music was strange. Some of the casting was bizarre. The jury’s still out on whether I liked it or not. I searched in vain for a documentary about the French Revolution on Netflix last night, so I decided to start reading the book. Also on my list at some point is Simon Schama’s Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. I’m always on the lookout for good historical fiction set during this time period as well, so let me know if you know of anything. I have previously read Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution (loved!), Michelle Moran’s Madame Tussaud, and Melanie Clegg’s The Secret Diary of a Princess. And of course, Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. I can’t recall any others, so let me know what I’ve missed. I am not particularly more interested Ancien Régime versus post-Revolution or nobility versus Estates-General. I’m not picky.

I love reading historical fiction, which is one of the reasons I always try to participate in the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, no matter how active I actually am in the challenge. If I had to peg my favorite periods, I would say 18th and 19th century America (particularly New England, but really, it’s all pretty interesting), the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, 18th century France and England, and 19th century England. I do not much like to read WWII historical fiction, which reminds me of a post of Stefanie’s that I read over at So Many Books: “Books I Won’t Read.” I am not going to go quite so far as to say I will not read books about World War II. I really hesitate, though. I find it mentally exhausting and very depressing to read about that war, for obvious reasons. Inevitably, the books are heart-wrenching. I hate to say it feels like manipulation on the part of authors to write about the events of that war, especially when they really happened, but it’s also quite difficult to criticize. After all, anything you say in critique of books about the Holocaust just makes you sound heartless. So, I’m really careful about what I choose to read from that era. If a book has a whiff of cashing in on that tragedy at all, I can’t read it.

So far, I’ve finished seven books this year. I can’t recall ever having read that many at this point in the year. Honestly, I think the goal I set of reading 52 books has been a good motivator for me. I know I’m making more of an effort to read. I think of myself as a slow reader, but it looks like I have managed to pick up speed over time without noticing much. I very rarely can sit and read an entire book all day, and I haven’t tried timing myself to see how fast I’m actually reading. It’s more just a sense I have that I’m able to read books faster than I have in the past.

The biggest news in the book world this week is the impending publication of Harper Lee’s second novel, Go Set a Watchman, which will feature an adult Scout Finch. Some speculation in the media has made me wonder if Harper Lee was aware of what her lawyer was doing, but it’s hard to tell. This New York Times story does a fair job discussing the controversy. I am going to read the book. I have actually already selected it for my school summer reading choice. I called dibs the day the announcement was made. I am not going to miss another Harper Lee novel. Am I worried it might not be as good as To Kill a Mockingbird? Of course. It’s natural. But there is no way I’m going to miss it. And while I’m on the subject, I wish Goodreads would stop people from reviewing or rating unreleased books. Or, to be more specific, unreleased books that no one has read yet. I actually find ratings and reviews from folks who had uncorrected proofs or early access through other channels helpful. This book already has a 3.72 rating on Goodreads. Come on.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books that Feature Travel

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is top ten books that feature travel in some way. OK, wide open, so here is my list.

[amazon_image id=”0545139708″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”054792822X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Hobbit; or, There and Back Again[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0544003411″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Lord of the Rings[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0143105957″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Moby-Dick: or, The Whale (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0440423201″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Outlander (20th Anniversary Edition): A Novel[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0385737645″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Revolution[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0143039954″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Odyssey (Penguin Classics)[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0451202503″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Songcatcher[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0486280616″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn][/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0393334155″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (A New Verse Translation)[/amazon_image]

So many great books feature quests or voyages. These are my favorites. You could argue that all the Harry Potter books feature travel, but the trio travels the most in [amazon_link id=”0545139708″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows[/amazon_link], which features not just the very long camping trip, but the end of Harry’s journey and even a trip to the other side of the veil.

[amazon_link id=”054792822X” target=”_blank” ]The Hobbit; or, There and Back Again[/amazon_link] features Bilbo’s famous quest to the Lonely Mountain with 13 dwarves and sometimes Gandalf. It’s a classic quest and an excellent hero’s journey. In some ways, it is more of a straight hero’s journey and a tighter, finer story than [amazon_link id=”0544003411″ target=”_blank” ]The Lord of the Rings[/amazon_link], which is also quite an amazing quest in which Middle Earth is saved, at least for the likes of men and possibly dwarves and hobbits, but not so much elves, especially not Galadriel and Elrond.

Ishmael says at the beginning of Moby Dick that he decided to stop teaching school and sign on a whaling ship in order to “see the watery part of the world.” He saw a lot more than he bargained for, but you can’t deny it was a heck of a trip.

In Diana Gabaldon’s [amazon_link id=”0440423201″ target=”_blank” ]Outlander[/amazon_link] series, Claire Randall travels back in time when she walks through a stone circle at Beltaine, and she finds herself over 200 years in the past. Trips don’t get much farther than that.

Like Gabaldon’s Claire, Jennifer Donnelly’s Andi Alpers finds herself about 200 years in the past during the French Revolution, but she also figures out a way to move on from a terrible loss in her past in [amazon_link id=”0385737645″ target=”_blank” ]Revolution[/amazon_link].

The Odyssey is the quintessential travel book. The whole book is about the worst trip home ever. On top of that, it’s a rollicking adventure that has stood the test of time. Few books can match it.

I absolutely love Sharyn McCrumb’s novel [amazon_link id=”0451202503″ target=”_blank” ]The Songcatcher[/amazon_link], and my favorite part concerned Malcolm McCourry, who was kidnapped and brought to America from Scotland, bringing a snatch of an old song along with him on the voyage, but the real voyage in this novel is the trip that the song takes through the generations, remembered by Malcolm’s descendants and passed down through time.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is yet another classic travel book, as the book follows Huck and Jim down the Mississippi. We can see how far Huck has come in his other voyage when he decides to tear up the letter revealing Jim’s location and says, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.” Reading that line always gives me the shakes.

Sir Gawain promised he would seek out the Green Knight in the Green Chapel, and he is a knight of his word. If you are looking for reasons why Gawain is better than Lancelot, you can’t do better than the excellent [amazon_link id=”0393334155″ target=”_blank” ]Sir Gawain and the Green Knight[/amazon_link]. Plus, we have no idea who wrote it. It’s a complete mystery. He goes on a quest and finds himself in great peril, but he is true, and he returns home to Arthur’s court a wiser man.

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Top Ten Books I’d Give a Theme Song To

Top Ten TuesdayThis is an interesting topic. I’ll try to do it justice.

  1. [amazon_link id=”0743273567″ target=”_blank” ]The Great Gatsby[/amazon_link], F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Uninvited” by Alanis Morissette. This is perhaps kind of an odd choice, given the song has no connection to the 1920’s or jazz, but if you listen to the lyrics, they essentially describe how Daisy seems to feel about Gatsby.
  2. [amazon_link id=”1456364278″ target=”_blank” ]Heart of Darkness[/amazon_link], Joseph Conrad: “Head Like a Hole” by NIN. OK, this song is really aggressive and may not jump out at you when you think of Heart of Darkness, but again, the lyrics seem to speak to the book’s themes. My favorite is comparing Kurtz’s last words, “The horror!” to the last line of the song, “You know what you are.” Isn’t that the horror Kurtz was talking about? The horror of realizing what he was? Of course that line is whispered on the recording, and I didn’t hear it in this video. But still.
  3. [amazon_link id=”0385737645″ target=”_blank” ]Revolution[/amazon_link], Jennifer Donnelly: “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd. I chose this song mainly because it is a motif in the story itself. The song becomes important to Andi both for its message and music.
  4. [amazon_link id=”1594744769″ target=”_blank” ]Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children[/amazon_link], Ransom Riggs: “People are Strange” by The Doors. I am not a huge fan of The Doors. I liked them a lot more when I was in high school. However, I can’t deny there are some strange people in Riggs’s book.
  5. [amazon_link id=”1400031702″ target=”_blank” ]The Secret History[/amazon_link], Donna Tartt: “The Killing Moon” by Echo and the Bunnymen. Any list like this is better for an Echo and the Bunnymen song. Plus I think the sort of gothic nature of the song (and the fact that it was recently featured in a commercial with vampires) goes with the book’s atmosphere. “Fate… up against your will” describes Richard Papen’s complicated feelings about Bunny’s murder. Plus, “killing.”
  6. [amazon_link id=”0143105434″ target=”_blank” ]Wuthering Heights[/amazon_link], Emily Brontë: “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush. Kind of a no-brainer. This video is nearly as weird as Catherine Earnshaw.
  7. [amazon_link id=”0743482751″ target=”_blank” ]Much Ado About Nothing[/amazon_link], William Shakespeare: “Sigh No More” by Mumford & Sons. Maybe because the song just alludes to a song in the play and quotes pieces of the play, but it fits anyway.
  8. [amazon_link id=”0393320979″ target=”_blank” ]Beowulf[/amazon_link], Anonymous: “The Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin. Because VIKINGS! That’s why.
  9. [amazon_link id=”0345409647″ target=”_blank” ]Interview with the Vampire[/amazon_link], Anne Rice: “Moon Over Bourbon Street” by Sting. Yes, he actually was inspired to write the song because of Rice’s book. Fitting.
  10. [amazon_link id=”0316769177″ target=”_blank” ]The Catcher in the Rye[/amazon_link], J. D. Salinger: “How Soon is Now?” by The Smiths. The song’s narrator is an angry, misunderstood loner, just like Holden Caulfield. And honestly, I think what Holden really does want is to be loved. Just like everybody else does.

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Top Ten Books of 2011

Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday—how appropriate! What are my top ten books of 2011. Note: Not all of these books were published in 2011, but I read all of them in 2011.

  1. [amazon_link id=”0385737645″ target=”_blank” ]Revolution[/amazon_link] by Jennifer Donnelly (review): This part-contemporary YA novel/part time-travel story awakened an interest in the French Revolution that I previously did not have (I know, right?). I loved the musical aspect and had a lot of fun discussing this book with students who chose to read it for their summer reading selection. I wish Amadé Malherbeau were real!
  2. [amazon_link id=”1565125606″ target=”_blank” ]Water for Elephants[/amazon_link] by Sara Gruen (review): Jacob Jankowski is my BFF. I loved this story more than I thought I would. I didn’t think I’d like the circus aspect at all, but I found it fascinating.
  3. [amazon_link id=”1439156816″ target=”_blank” ]On Writing[/amazon_link] by Stephen King (review): This book is the best, most practical book about writing I’ve ever read, and its advice has already proven invaluable.
  4. [amazon_link id=”0451202503″ target=”_blank” ]The Songcatcher[/amazon_link] by Sharyn McCrumb (review): I love the idea of handing a song down from generation to generation, and as a family historian, I found that aspect of the novel particularly appealing. Sharyn McCrumb writers about her own ancestors in this novel.
  5. [amazon_link id=”0345521307″ target=”_blank” ]The Paris Wife[/amazon_link] by Paula McLain (review): Stories about the Lost Generation are interesting. I loved this take on what happened in Paris told more from Hadley Hemingway’s point of view than Ernest Hemingway’s (for a change).
  6. [amazon_link id=”1594744769″ target=”_blank” ]Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children[/amazon_link] by Ransom Riggs (review): This book was comical and completely engaging. I can’t wait for the sequel. I giggle every time I think of the Welsh teenagers trying to rap.
  7. [amazon_link id=”1400031702″ target=”_blank” ]The Secret History[/amazon_link] by Donna Tartt (review): I will never turn my back on a Classics major again. They are scary people.
  8. [amazon_link id=”0316068209″ target=”_blank” ]The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian[/amazon_link] by Sherman Alexie (review): I laughed all the way through this while still feeling empathy for Junior. Alexie is a gifted storyteller.
  9. [amazon_link id=”0312343698″ target=”_blank” ]Passion[/amazon_link] by Jude Morgan (review): I loved this novel of the lives of the Romantic poets Byron, Shelley, and Keats told through the eyes of the women who loved them. Mary Shelley comes across as fascinating and sympathetic, and Caroline Lamb was downright engaging.
  10. [amazon_link id=”B0043RSJQS” target=”_blank” ]The Kitchen Daughter[/amazon_link] by Jael McHenry (review): As the mother of two children on the autism spectrum, this novel about an adult with Asperger’s was fascinating. I also liked the cooking aspect and learned a truly good recipe for brownies.

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Musing Mondays—October 17, 2011

Musing MondaysIt’s Monday! That means it’s time for another Monday Musing. This week’s question is Do you judge a book by its cover?

All. The. Time. I know the adage well, but the truth is that publishers spend a lot of money paying people to design book covers. You know who I think does a consistently good job? Source Books. Just take a look at some of their covers. Sometimes judging a book by its cover has led me astray. Check out this gorgeous cover for [amazon_link id=”0345455932″ target=”_blank” ]Blackbird House[/amazon_link]:

[amazon_image id=”0345455932″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Blackbird House: A Novel (Ballantine Reader’s Circle)[/amazon_image]

And yet I didn’t care for the book.

I think it’s human nature to check out the package and be attracted to it before we get to know the contents. We do that with potential mates as well as books, so judging a book by its cover is nothing new.

Some covers I just love? The Ruben Toledo drawings for Penguin classics. My favorites are [amazon_link id=”0143106155″ target=”_blank” ]Jane Eyre[/amazon_link]:

[amazon_image id=”0143106155″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Jane Eyre: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)[/amazon_image]

and [amazon_link id=”0143105442″ target=”_blank” ]The Scarlet Letter[/amazon_link]:

[amazon_image id=”0143105442″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]The Scarlet Letter: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)[/amazon_image]

But I love [amazon_link id=”0143105434″ target=”_blank” ]Wuthering Heights[/amazon_link], too:

[amazon_image id=”0143105434″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Wuthering Heights: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)[/amazon_image]

Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the cover of [amazon_link id=”B000QRIGLW” target=”_blank” ]Twilight[/amazon_link] has been influential:

[amazon_image id=”B000QRIGLW” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1)[/amazon_image]

[amazon_link id=”B00136YCIG” target=”_blank” ]This[/amazon_link] is probably one of the most iconic covers of all time, and it has such an interesting background, too.

[amazon_image id=”0743273567″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]The Great Gatsby[/amazon_image]

Scribner has a reissue edition, which is pretty, by the way, but not as iconic as the Cugat original.

Here are some books I’ve read, bought, or received recently that I think have pretty covers:

[amazon_image id=”0312558171″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]The Ballad of Tom Dooley: A Ballad Novel[/amazon_image]

[amazon_image id=”0345524969″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart[/amazon_image]

[amazon_image id=”0385534639″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]The Night Circus[/amazon_image]

[amazon_image id=”1594744769″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children[/amazon_image]

[amazon_image id=”0345521307″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]The Paris Wife: A Novel[/amazon_image]

[amazon_image id=”0553807226″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]The Peach Keeper: A Novel[/amazon_image]

[amazon_image id=”B004SYA7PM” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Revolution [Deckle Edge] (text only) by J. Donnelly[/amazon_image]

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Top Ten Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time

Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a really fun one: a list of the books I wish I could read again for the first time. For some books, there is nothing quite like the magic of reading them for the first time, no matter how good they are on a reread.

  1. The entire [amazon_link id=”0545162076″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter[/amazon_link] series by J.K. Rowling. I will never forget discovering those books, and the slow reveal as new books were published. When I began reading them, the movies hadn’t been released yet. I read them in 2001, right before the first film came out. At that time, [amazon_link id=”0439358078″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Order the Phoenix[/amazon_link] hadn’t been published yet.
  2. [amazon_link id=”0618640150″ target=”_blank” ]The Lord of the Rings[/amazon_link] by J.R.R. Tolkien. Such a gripping read the first time around. I haven’t managed a full reread. I usually get bogged down somewhere in [amazon_link id=”0618574956″ target=”_blank” ]The Two Towers[/amazon_link].
  3. [amazon_link id=”0385737645″ target=”_blank” ]Revolution[/amazon_link] by Jennifer Donnelly. I loved this book. It’s still my top read for 2011, and it influenced me a great deal. I know I have been more open-minded about music since I read it, and I have been listening to music a lot more, too. I’m not sure I would be if not for this book.
  4. [amazon_link id=”0143105426″ target=”_blank” ]Pride and Prejudice[/amazon_link] by Jane Austen. I was so thrilled by this book the entire time I was reading. Jane was actually funny! And I loved the characters and setting.
  5. [amazon_link id=”1451635621″ target=”_blank” ]Gone with the Wind[/amazon_link] by Margaret Mitchell. I know I loved it the first time, but I’m not sure how I’d feel on a reread. It’s such a revisionist history of the South in so many ways. It would be interesting to come to it the first time again without any of the baggage I’ve accumulated over the years.
  6. [amazon_link id=”0061205699″ target=”_blank” ]To Kill a Mockingbird[/amazon_link] by Harper Lee. How would it be to read this again with the hope that Tom might be freed by that white jury?
  7. [amazon_link id=”0345441184″ target=”_blank” ]The Mists of Avalon[/amazon_link] by Marion Zimmer Bradley. My favorite King Arthur book. I ate it up when I read it for the first time in 1996 or 1997. I would like to read it again, but more than anything, I wish I could read it for the first time again.
  8. The [amazon_link id=”0440423201″ target=”_blank” ]Outlander[/amazon_link] series by Diana Gabaldon. This was another fun discovery. I read up through [amazon_link id=”044022425X” target=”_blank” ]Drums of Autumn[/amazon_link], but it took [amazon_link id=”0440221668″ target=”_blank” ]The Fiery Cross[/amazon_link] quite a while to come out, and I never have read that book or any subsequent ones.
  9. [amazon_link id=”0061990477″ target=”_blank” ]The Thorn Birds[/amazon_link] by Colleen McCullough. I read it so long ago, and I’ve never reread it, even though I’ve meant to. I would like to read it for the first time.
  10. [amazon_link id=”B000GH2YPG” target=”_blank” ]Rebecca[/amazon_link] by Daphne du Maurier. So suspenseful! How fun would it be to read again without knowing what happens or how it will end?

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Top Ten Underrated Books

Top Ten TuesdayThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is the top ten underrated books. I elected to choose just books I’ve read and absolutely loved, but don’t hear much about from others, whether book bloggers, Goodreads users, or just the general populace. I don’t understand why these books aren’t more popular than they are.

  1. [amazon_link id=”0060515139″ target=”_blank” ]A Plague of Doves[/amazon_link] by Louise Erdrich (review). This multigenerational epic is one of the best books I’ve ever read, but it’s not the first book anyone thinks of when they think of Erdrich. It’s a beautiful book and would be great for book clubs. I don’t know that many people who’ve read it, though.
  2. [amazon_link id=”1400096057″ target=”_blank” ]The Commoner[/amazon_link] by John Burnham Schwartz (review). This novel is based on current Japanese imperial family. It’s an interesting look at this traditional if widely ceremonial institution. I wouldn’t have ordinarily read it, but it was mentioned on one of my favorite GPB radio programs, which convinced me to try it. Really good book, but no one I know has read it.
  3. [amazon_link id=”014241557X” target=”_blank” ]Wintergirls[/amazon_link] by Laurie Halse Anderson (review). I think this novel is eclipsed by [amazon_link id=”0142414735″ target=”_blank” ]Speak[/amazon_link], which is phenomenal, but I truly learned a lot about eating disorders from this other, lesser-known novel of Anderson’s.
  4. [amazon_link id=”193659451X” target=”_blank” ]Persuasion[/amazon_link] by Jane Austen (review). Most people think of [amazon_link id=”184317569X” target=”_blank” ]Pride and Prejudice[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”1843175703″ target=”_blank” ]Sense and Sensibility[/amazon_link], or even [amazon_link id=”0062085654″ target=”_blank” ]Emma[/amazon_link] before they think of Austen’s last work, but it’s my personal favorite. I love Anne Elliot’s steadfastness and good sense, the naval officers, the Cobb where Louisa Musgrove fell, Bath, all of it. What a tightly written, fantastic book.
  5. [amazon_link id=”0385739893″ target=”_blank” ]Tiger Eyes[/amazon_link] by Judy Blume. We hear a lot about her other classics, like [amazon_link id=”0440904196″ target=”_blank” ]Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret[/amazon_link], the [amazon_link id=”0142409065″ target=”_blank” ]Fudge series[/amazon_link], maybe even somewhat scandalous books like [amazon_link id=”0385739850″ target=”_blank” ]Deenie[/amazon_link] or [amazon_link id=”1416934006″ target=”_blank” ]Forever[/amazon_link], but sometimes I think people forgot about Tiger Eyes. It’s my favorite Judy Blume book, and I read pretty much all of them published up through the early-to-mid ’80’s. I was a huge fan of hers. I just loved the heroine and the setting. So many YA books in my youth were set in New York. I started to wonder if YA authors realized people lived other places. Davey lived in Atlantic City, New Jersey, but most of the book takes place in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where her aunt and uncle live. As a kid living in Colorado, it was nice to read about a state closer to home, with physical attributes (such as mountains) more like my own home.
  6. [amazon_link id=”1250000939″ target=”_blank” ]The Prydain Chronicles[/amazon_link] by Lloyd Alexander. Do kids read these books anymore? I loved them. They might have suffered from a [amazon_link id=”B003RACGZM” target=”_blank” ]really poor Disney adaptation[/amazon_link]. They are such good books, though. You just never hear about them anymore. My fourth grade teacher read us [amazon_link id=”0805080481″ target=”_blank” ]The Book of Three[/amazon_link], and I remember her telling us that just because there was a guy with a skull for a head with antlers sprouting from his, well, skull, that we girls should not be put off because it was a really good book. I was skeptical, but I gave it a shot and immediately had to read the next book in the series, which might be even better than the first. I even liked the one book in the series that my teacher said wasn’t as good as the others.
  7. [amazon_link id=”014029628X” target=”_blank” ]Girl in Hyacinth Blue[/amazon_link] by Susan Vreeland (review). Perhaps because it is one of her earlier books, it doesn’t seem to have gained the same sort of traction as, say, [amazon_link id=”1400068169″ target=”_blank” ]Clara and Mr. Tiffany[/amazon_link]. I have a real love for this book, which begins with a novel concept: tracing the ownership of a painting from the current day back to its moment of creation. Plus, Vreeland introduced me to the artwork of Vermeer before I read [amazon_link id=”0452287022″ target=”_blank” ]Girl with a Pearl Earring[/amazon_link] by Tracy Chevalier.
  8. Arthur Phillips’s [amazon_link id=”0812972597″ target=”_blank” ]The Egyptologist[/amazon_link] (review). Sometimes I think I am the only person who liked this book, but it’s chock full of some black humor that I thought was hysterical. I loved the ending, especially, which was so comically horrible I didn’t know whether to feel bad I thought it was funny, or feel good that the antihero had his comeuppance. It’s hard to feel good because of a certain major twist that makes you feel sorry for him, but still.
  9. [amazon_link id=”0385737645″ target=”_blank” ]Revolution[/amazon_link] by Jennifer Donnelly (review). How come everyone isn’t reading this one? It’s been my favorite read of the year, and I never see anything about it anywhere, even from people who read more YA than I do. It’s such a great book.
  10. [amazon_link id=”0807114103″ target=”_blank” ]I Am One of You Forever[/amazon_link] by Fred Chappell. OK, granted, this one is published on a small press, and I would never have heard of it if I hadn’t been required to read it for Southern Literature in college, but it’s an amazing book, especially if you like magical realism and Southern literature. I have described as a book that drilled a hole right through my heart when I read it.

What about you? What books do you think are underrated?

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WWW Wednesdays

WWW WednesdaysTo play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading [amazon_link id=”B003A7I2PU” target=”_blank” ]The Dream of Perpetual Motion[/amazon_link], and frankly, I’m not liking it much. It has a few interesting moments (so far), but I am not finding the characters interesting or likable. The plot is weird. I am still reading it for two reasons 1) I have had it on my Kindle for a long time, and I bought it, so I feel compelled to read it; 2) I can’t get any new books right now, and the ones on my to-read list that I’m itching to read most are books I don’t have.

I recently finished [amazon_link id=”0553807226″ target=”_blank” ]The Peach Keeper[/amazon_link] by Sarah Addison Allen (review) and [amazon_link id=”0345521307″ target=”_blank” ]The Paris Wife[/amazon_link] by Paula McLain (review), both of which were amazing books. It could be that The Dream of Perpetual Motion is suffering by comparison.

The next books I really want to read are Jennifer Donnelly’s [amazon_link id=”0312378025″ target=”_blank” ]The Tea Rose[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”1401307469″ target=”_blank” ]The Winter Rose[/amazon_link], and [amazon_link id=”1401301045″ target=”_blank” ]The Wild Rose[/amazon_link]. The Wild Rose hasn’t been released yet, but I scored a copy at NetGalley, and I would like to read the other two first, as I understand it’s a sort of generational saga. I loved Jennifer Donnelly’s [amazon_link id=”B003F3PN0Q” target=”_blank” ]Revolution[/amazon_link] (review). It’s the best book I’ve read this year.

Yesterday’s post about websites and apps proved lucrative for me because I learned about NetGalley and PaperBackSwap from the post by The Broke and the Bookish. I know—where have I been and all of that. You can see my PaperBackSwap profile here, and feel free to friend me. I’m going to check out the posts by some of the other participants and see what other great book websites and apps I might have been missing out on.

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