Sunday Post #15: Wuthering, Wuthering Heights

Sunday PostWhat has been happening this week? It’s been crazy busy. I haven’t had a ton of time to read, so I sat down and read most of today (with the exception of doing a little bit of work and washing the dishes). I have been spending most of the day wandering the moors, reading The Annotated Wuthering Heights. What a great addition to my library. I am truly enjoying it. Each time I read Wuthering Heights, I notice something I didn’t pick up on last time, and this time, it’s how horrible Nelly Dean is. I mean, I have often thought of her as mostly a reliable narrator, and because of her, I have really disliked Catherine. Heathcliff is just plain hard to like, no matter what. As soon as you start feeling sympathy for him, he goes off and kills lapwings for no reason or hangs a dog. Perhaps because I’m reading an annotated version, I am noticing so many more things than I ever have before. All the birds, for one thing; I’m sure I noticed that before, but even though the annotations don’t discuss the birds in a great amount of detail, I think my antennae are up, so to speak, and I’m noticing the symbolism more than I usually do. And there are birds just everywhere in this book. Another thing I am seeing are the close connections to the Romantic poets. The annotations help there, and I am really pleased I chose to read this one for the Literary Movement Reading Challenge. Hope I can finish it in time! Even if I don’t, I definitely want to finish reading this lovely annotated version. I realize a lot of people hate this book, but I think if you peel it apart and and see what makes it work, it is genius. I am especially enjoying the nuances I am noticing in Nelly’s character this time around.

I finished reading Pleasantville by Attica Locke and wrote a review for the TLC Book Tour this week as well. A good read. I am also still working away on Katherine Howe’s Conversion on audio. The reader for that one is really good. I recommended it to a bunch of my students this week when I saw it was one of their choices for a summer read.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic was top ten favorite authors of all time. You know, I am actually liking the idea of saving these for my Sunday Post instead of doing them on Tuesday. I just have less time to write during the work week. To qualify as a favorite author, I decided that I needed to love multiple books by the same author. So I didn’t count authors who have only written one novel. I also didn’t count authors if I had read only one of their works (even if I loved it). So here is my list:

  1. William Shakespeare
  2. Jane Austen
  3. J. K. Rowling
  4. J. R. R. Tolkien
  5. Diana Gabaldon
  6. Ernest Hemingway
  7. Sharyn McCrumb
  8. Jasper Fforde
  9. Neil Gaiman
  10. Judy Blume

Who would be on your list?

Authors whose work I love, but whom I didn’t count because of my self-imposed rules are Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, and Emily Brontë.

Some links I enjoyed this week:

Here’s a bonus for you:

For the record, I have always believed it really was Catherine’s ghost who disturbed Lockwood early in the novel.

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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Sunday Post #10: Sweet Sunday

Sunday PostAh, sweet Sunday, about halfway through my spring break. I’m curling up with a glass of wine at the end of the day. I usually try to write my Sunday Post blog earlier in the day.

This week, I finished and reviewed two books: The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli and Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman. I absolutely loved The Lotus Eaters; it prompted me to want to learn a little bit more about Vietnam. I’ve been watching a documentary on Netflix. I feel the documentary is barely scratching the surface. More reading might be necessary. You know, I have a clear memory of General Westmoreland visiting my high school in Anaheim. It must have been 1987 or 1988. We had some sort of assembly, and he talked to us. I had the distinct impression he was trying to defend himself, and I couldn’t figure out why. I had no idea who he was, really. I wonder why in the world he came to speak at my school?

I started reading three books this week as well: Candide by Voltaire, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (audio book narrated by Stephen Fry), and Pleasantville by Attica Locke (TLC Book Tour; galley copy). I know what you’re thinking: you haven’t read Candide? You haven’t even read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Nope, I haven’t read either, but I’m fixing it. I am really enjoying Hitchhiker’s Guide. Stephen Fry is a perfect narrator.

Isn’t it nice to be on spring break? I have all this time to read and watch documentaries on Netflix. I have been making a lot of soap this week, too. Most of it is for a wholesale customer, but I made a batch of Cedar & Saffron for my store. It smells great. Quite masculine. Those are safflower petals on the top. It won’t be that pretty shade of yellow, sadly, once it hardens up. It will turn a brown color due to the fragrance. I hope it will be pretty.

Cedar & Saffron SoapAnother thing I did this week is make a digital story about my grandmother, who taught herself to sew in the 1950’s and established a nice sewing business in her home. You can watch the digital story here if you like.

I ordered this copy of Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr’s Wayfaring Strangers this week as well.

Wayfaring StrangersThe book comes with a CD of music that includes music from artists on both sides of the Atlantic, including Dolly Parton and Dougie MacLean. I’m excited to dive into that one. I am particularly interested in the migration of music from Ulster and Scotland to Appalachia. I have ancestors that I’m quite sure were Ulster Scots, Irish, and Scots, and in some branches of my family, a strain of music runs in a thread in nearly every generation. I’m a musician. My uncle is a musician. My grandfather was a musician. His grandmother played the organ, as did her mother; his grandfather played the fiddle. My grandfather’s grandmother had an ancestor who also played the fiddle. Perhaps this musical thread is one reason why I connected so strongly to Sharyn McCrumb’s novel The Songcatcher. I am certain it’s why I connect so strongly to Celtic and Appalachian music.

So that was my week. How was yours?

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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R.I.P. Challenge

R.I.P. ChallengeYay! It’s time once again for my favorite reading challenge! I have participated in the R.I.P. Challenge for several years. The idea is to choose your particular peril—details are in this post on Carl’s site—and just have fun reading. Carl also provides a linkup for reviews.

You can read whatever you like as long it fits your definition of creepy, spooky, gothic, scary, etc. The challenge runs from September 1 to October 31. I am a little late in starting it this year. I am not really sure what I’m going to read, but here are some choices:

[amazon_image id=”1435291204″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Mr. Timothy[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”1402217099″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]My Cousin Rachel[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0895875764″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Ghost Riders[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0312388861″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Rosewood Casket: A Ballad Novel[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0451184726″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]She Walks These Hills[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0099541394″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]A Dead Man In Deptford[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”1616201932″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]When She Woke: A Novel[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0385521073″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Ghostwalk[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”1416550550″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Forgotten Garden: A Novel[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”1451683030″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Map of Time: A Novel[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0061120057″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Little, Big[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0060557818″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Neverwhere: A Novel[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”076793122X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Dracula in Love[/amazon_image]

If you have read any of these books, let me know what you thought of it/them. I am trying to make up my mind.

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books that Feature Travel

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/

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 for People Who Like X

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/

Oooh, I haven’t participated in Top Ten Tuesday in a while, and even though it’s technically Thursday, this one looks like too much fun to pass up. This week’s theme is Top Ten Books for People Who like ______. I’ve been unpacking my books, and I’ve been thinking about the connections among my different reads. My husband made the remark today that we have a lot of good books, and we really shouldn’t need to go to the bookstore in a while given how many great books we have. He’s right.

  1. If you like the Harry Potter books, you should try Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series: The Eyre AffairLost in a Good BookThe Well of Lost PlotsSomething RottenThursday Next: First Among SequelsOne of Our Thursdays is Missing, and joining the ranks in October, The Woman Who Died A Lot. Jasper Fforde’s series is hilarious bookish fun, and even has a few references to the Harry Potter series.
  2. If you like Emily Brontë’s classic Wuthering Heights, you will enjoy Sharyn McCrumb’s historical fiction retelling of the infamous Tom Dooley case, The Ballad of Tom Dooley. McCrumb herself has described the novel as Wuthering Heights in the Appalachians, and it’s true. The story’s characters greatly resemble their counterparts in Wuthering Heights in many ways. I loved it.
  3. If you liked A Moveable Feast or The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, try Paula McLain’s excellent novel The Paris Wife for Hadley’s side of the story. One of the best books I read last year. Highly recommended.
  4. If you liked Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, you will enjoy an updated retelling of the story, The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey. I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would.
  5. If you liked Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, try Jennifer Donnelly’s Tea Rose series, beginning with The Tea RoseThe Winter Rose and The Wild Rose round out the series, but the first one is the best one.
  6. If you liked Moby Dick, or even if you only sort of liked it because it got bogged down in cetology, but you liked the good parts, you will love Ahab’s Wife. Oh.My.Gosh. One of my favorite books ever. Sena Jeter Naslund’s novel introduces the amazing persona of Una, wife of Captain Ahab, from one line in which Ahab mentions her in Moby Dick, and she’s one of the most incredible fictional people you’ll ever meet. I love her. She is one of my fictional best friends.
  7. If you liked Twilight, but you wished you could read about grown-ups, and you wanted less purple prose and better writing, try Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches, the first book in the All Souls Trilogy. The second book, Shadow of Night, comes out in about a week. You will like Matthew much better than Edward. Trust me.
  8. If you liked Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion by Jane Austen, and you are a little unsure of all those Austen sequels, try out Syrie James’s fictionalized what-if? novel The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen that wonders aloud whether or not Aunt Jane had a real romance that inspired her great books.
  9. If you liked Suzanne Collins’s thrilling Hunger Games series, you will enjoy Veronica Roth’s Divergent and its sequel Insurgent. Not sure when the next book in the trilogy comes out, but I can’t wait. Her books are amazing. They will remind you of The Hunger Games without feeling anything at all like a ripoff.
  10. If you liked Great Expectations and The Turn of the Screw, you will love John Harwood’s The Ghost Writer. The book makes several allusions to both novels, but it also contains four complete short stories within the text of the novel (written by the protagonist’s grandmother), and it’s set in a creepy house with a secret.

Bonus: If you like Victorian novels period, and you want to read a love letter to the Victorian novel, or if you like Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, try Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale.

Feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments. Just because my husband says we have a load of good books doesn’t mean I’m not always looking for more.

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Top Ten Historical Novels

Top Ten TuesdayHistorical fiction is my favorite genre, and I’m not sure I could pick an adequate top ten. There are so many great books that fit into this genre. You can find my list below with the following caveats: I simply haven’t had a chance to read a lot of great historical fiction that’s out there yet, so this list is necessarily limited to just those books I have experience with, and also I have decided not to include classics that were set during their own contemporary times but are history now (e.g. [amazon_link id=”0486284735″ target=”_blank” ]Pride and Prejudice[/amazon_link] or [amazon_link id=”1441408223″ target=”_blank” ]Jane Eyre[/amazon_link]). Also, these are in no particular order (aside from the order in which they occurred to me) because I couldn’t begin to rank them. Finally, I selected these particular books out of all the historical fiction I have read and loved because they so perfectly evoke their time settings that they bring the historical eras in which they are set alive (with historical accuracy) and simply couldn’t take place any other time.

  1. [amazon_link id=”034549038X” target=”_blank” ]The Dante Club[/amazon_link] by Matthew Pearl: Not only is this book a solid thriller with fun connections to Dante’s [amazon_link id=”0812967216″ target=”_blank” ]Inferno[/amazon_link] and the Fireside Poets, but it is also a great snapshot into life in Boston right after the Civil War. In terms of period detail and engaging reads, you could do worse than Matthew Pearl for sure.
  2. [amazon_link id=”0780748433″ target=”_blank” ]Catherine, Called Birdy[/amazon_link] by Karen Cushman: This is a middle grades/early YA novel set in 1290 in England. Catherine is the daughter of a knight, and Cushman captures the Middle Ages (particularly, the lives of a family in a small manor house) in exquisite detail.
  3. [amazon_link id=”0152164502″ target=”_blank” ]The Coffin Quilt[/amazon_link] by Ann Rinaldi: The subject of this YA novel is the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys. Told from the viewpoint of Fanny McCoy, the novel touches on all the major events of the feud and is simply one of the most well-written YA novels I’ve ever read.
  4. [amazon_link id=”0345521307″ target=”_blank” ]The Paris Wife[/amazon_link] by Paula McLain: This novel about Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage and time in Paris perfectly captures the lives of the American artist expatriates living in France during the 1920’s. It’s a gorgeous novel.
  5. [amazon_link id=”1565125606″ target=”_blank” ]Water for Elephants[/amazon_link] by Sara Gruen: This isn’t just great historical fiction. It really captures an era and a subculture that I’ve not seen captured as well in any other novel. Superb read.
  6. [amazon_link id=”0765356155″ target=”_blank” ]Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell[/amazon_link] by Susanna Clarke: While also classified as fantasy, this novel also explores England during the Napoleonic Wars, including brushes with Mad King George and Lord Byron as well as the Duke of Wellington. The footnotes are a great touch. I loved this novel.
  7. [amazon_link id=”039331507X” target=”_blank” ]Nothing Like the Sun[/amazon_link] by Anthony Burgess: I don’t think I’ve read another historical fiction book about Shakespeare that touches this one. Burgess’s characters speak like Elizabethans, and the events described are both believable and fun homages to Shakespeare’s plays. The premise behind the book is that Shakespeare’s tangled love life majorly influenced all of his work.
  8. [amazon_link id=”B000FC10KC” target=”_blank” ]Ahab’s Wife[/amazon_link] by Sena Jeter Naslund: Oh, how I love Una Spenser. She is my fictional BFF. She is amazing. I need to read this one again. As you might have guessed, this book takes the passage in [amazon_link id=”B003GCTQ7M” target=”_blank” ]Moby Dick[/amazon_link] in which Captain Ahab mentions he has a young wife at home and creates her character and her life (and it’s a fascinating life that, in my opinion, puts that of her husband to shame).
  9. [amazon_link id=”0061577073″ target=”_blank” ]The Poisonwood Bible[/amazon_link] by Barbara Kingsolver: This novel about Christian missionaries in the Belgian Congo right as the country declares its independence from Belgium is a fascinating snapshot into the Congo of the 1960’s as well as the lives of Christian missionaries and also serves as an allegory for America’s own role in colonialism.
  10. [amazon_link id=”0061990477″ target=”_blank” ]The Thorn Birds[/amazon_link] by Colleen McCullough: When I read this novel, I couldn’t put it down. I haven’t read a lot of books set in Australia, but this novel seems to so perfectly capture the times and setting. Meggie is an engaging heroine, and who doesn’t love Father Ralph de Bricassart?

Because I read a ton of historical fiction, I need to include some honorable mentions:

  • [amazon_link id=”0547550294″ target=”_blank” ]The Witch of Blackbird Pond[/amazon_link] by Elizabeth George Speare: This YA novel is set in Colonial Massachusetts and is a great vehicle for middle schoolers (or even their older siblings and parents) to learn about that time period in history. I can’t think of too many books that do as good a job with this era.
  • [amazon_link id=”0312378025″ target=”_blank” ]The Tea Rose[/amazon_link] by Jennifer Donnelly: This book is a fun read, but has a few lapses in terms of credibility (at least for this reader). Set in Whitechapel as Jack the Ripper ravages London, this novel is the story of Fiona, daughter of one of the Ripper’s victims, who makes her way to New York and builds a tea empire from scratch.
  • [amazon_link id=”B001NLKT2E” target=”_blank” ]The Commoner[/amazon_link] by John Burnham Schwartz: This story of a commoner’s marriage into the Japanese imperial family makes for a great read, too, though Schwartz takes some liberties to make his character’s ending happier than that of the real model for his heroine.
  • [amazon_link id=”0060515139″ target=”_blank” ]A Plague of Doves[/amazon_link] by Louise Erdrich: Some of this novel is contemporary, which is one reason I didn’t include it above, but it is one of the finest novels I’ve read and concerns the repercussions of a murder and hate crime that sent ripples through a community for generations.
  • [amazon_link id=”B003WUYROK” target=”_blank” ]The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane[/amazon_link] by Katherine Howe: Also partly set in contemporary times, this novel concerns Connie Goodwin’s attempts to learn more about her ancestors’ grimoire and secret powers.
  • [amazon_link id=”0399157913″ target=”_blank” ]The Help[/amazon_link] by Kathryn Stockett: While this book certainly evoked Mississippi of the 1960’s, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, it did not seem as realistic to me as some of the books I included in my top ten.
  • [amazon_link id=”0307588661″ target=”_blank” ]Madame Tussaud[/amazon_link] by Michelle Moran: This novel, set during the French Revolution, was an excellent read and shone a spotlight on a historical figure who hasn’t perhaps received as much attention as she was due.
  • [amazon_link id=”0143034901″ target=”_blank” ]The Shadow of the Wind[/amazon_link] by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: Barcelona’s book world during the 1930’s and 1940’s, though to me, the plot did not have to be set during era or in that place.
  • [amazon_link id=”0451202503″ target=”_blank” ]The Songcatcher[/amazon_link] by Sharyn McCrumb: Again, because this novel is set partly in contemporary times, I excluded it from the list above, but the historical fiction parts were my favorite. This novel is the story of how a song learned on the crossing from Scotland to America in the eighteenth century was passed down in a family and survived to the present day.
  • [amazon_link id=”039306915X” target=”_blank” ]Emily’s Ghost[/amazon_link] by Denise Giardina: The story of Emily Brontë and one of the better historical fiction novels about the Brontë family.
  • Pretty much anything by Jude Morgan. Love him. And Syrie James. And Tracy Chevalier. I mean, this was really a hard topic for me to narrow down.

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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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Sunday Salon: The Shelf Awareness Interview

Still Life with Plato

No, Shelf Awareness isn’t interviewing me, but I love to read their author interviews, and they always ask the same questions (at least in my limited observation). They’re fun questions, too. So should Shelf Awareness ever want to interview me, they can simply copy and paste.

On your nightstand now:

I actually have a stack of books against the wall more than a pile on the nightstand. In my stack are [amazon_link id=”0451169522″ target=”_blank” ]Misery[/amazon_link] by Stephen King, a few Sharyn McCrumbs I want to get to, [amazon_link id=”0711231893″ target=”_blank” ]Tea with Jane Austen[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”B001P3OLEM” target=”_blank” ]Burning Bright[/amazon_link] by Tracy Chevalier, [amazon_link id=”0060791586″ target=”_blank” ]The Widow’s War[/amazon_link] by Sally Gunning, [amazon_link id=”0312304358″ target=”_blank” ]Moloka’i[/amazon_link] by Alan Brennert, [amazon_link id=”0679781587″ target=”_blank” ]Memoirs of a Geisha[/amazon_link] by Arthur Golden, and [amazon_link id=”0152053107″ target=”_blank” ]A Northern Light[/amazon_link] by Jennifer Donnelly, among other books I dip into occasionally.

Favorite book when you were a child:

When I was in the third grade, it was [amazon_link id=”0142408808″ target=”_blank” ]Superfudge[/amazon_link] by Judy Blume because Mrs. Elliott read it to us, and it was impossible to check out of the library for months afterward. I also loved [amazon_link id=”0807508527″ target=”_blank” ]The Boxcar Children[/amazon_link] by Gertrude Chandler Warner. When I was a little older, [amazon_link id=”0385739893″ target=”_blank” ]Tiger Eyes[/amazon_link] by Judy Blume.

Your top five authors:

  1. J. K. Rowling: Her books are pure, imaginative escapism, and I am grateful for all the time I’ve spent at Hogwarts.
  2. Jane Austen: She is my literary comfort food. I can always turn to her for a good read.
  3. William Shakespeare: Unqualified genius and master of the English language.
  4. F. Scott Fitzgerald: Beautiful turns of phrase and poetic writing. I admit his place here rests on one book—[amazon_link id=”0743273567″ target=”_blank” ]The Great Gatsby[/amazon_link].
  5. Barbara Kingsolver: I so enjoyed [amazon_link id=”0061577073″ target=”_blank” ]The Poisonwood Bible[/amazon_link], and [amazon_link id=”0061765228″ target=”_blank” ]The Bean Trees[/amazon_link] is one of the few books I’ve read in one sitting.

I should note that list fluctuates, but it’s true for today.

Book you’ve faked reading:

[amazon_link id=”1461120292″ target=”_blank” ]The Red Badge of Courage[/amazon_link] by Stephen Crane. I’ve still never finished it. I read the Cliff’s Notes for a test in American Realism and Naturalism in college, and I earned a B on it. If I’d read it, I could probably have earned an A, but that’s the way it is.

Book you’re an evangelist for:

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. I think everyone should read it, even if they don’t think they’re interested in Africa. What Kingsolver did with that book amazes me, and it’s the kind of writing I aspire to.

Book you’ve bought for the cover:

I’ve talked about this before, but I bought Alice Hoffman’s [amazon_link id=”0345455932″ target=”_blank” ]Blackbird House[/amazon_link] because I liked the cover, and it didn’t pay off. However, [amazon_link id=”0743298039″ target=”_blank” ]The Thirteenth Tale[/amazon_link] by Diane Setterfield and [amazon_link id=”B003WUYROK” target=”_blank” ]The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane[/amazon_link] by Katherine Howe, both of which I bought for their covers, paid off beautifully.

Book that changed your life:

This is a hard one, but I’m going with Harper Lee’s [amazon_link id=”0061743526″ target=”_blank” ]To Kill a Mockingbird[/amazon_link]. I never get tired of that book. It helped me look at my own beliefs and made me question what I would do if I were Atticus. Would I have the guts to do the right thing in the face of so much prejudice and opposition in the town, especially knowing I was licked before I began? The reason that Atticus is such a hero is that he did all this and so few people would.

Favorite line from a book:

The last page of The Great Gatsby is beautiful:

And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

And as I sat there, brooding on the unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in the vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run raster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning—

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

I never tired of The Great Gatsby, and that page contains so much gorgeous writing.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Oh, surely the [amazon_link id=”0545162076″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter[/amazon_link] series. The wonder and waiting for the plot to unfold was one of the best reading experiences of my life.

The Sunday Salon

photo credit: chefranden

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R.I.P. Check-In

Bicycle

Some time this week, I should finish my 44th book, which puts me in a good position to meet my goal of reading 50 books this year. As Halloween draws to a close, I’m happy to say I also finished the R.I.P. Challenge. I read four books: [amazon_link id=”1594744769″ target=”_blank” ]Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children[/amazon_link] by Ransom Riggs (review), [amazon_link id=”1400031702″ target=”_blank” ]The Secret History[/amazon_link] by Donna Tartt (review), [amazon_link id=”0312558171″ target=”_blank” ]The Ballad of Tom Dooley[/amazon_link] by Sharyn McCrumb (review), [amazon_link id=”0441020674″ target=”_blank” ]Those Across the River[/amazon_link] by Christopher Buehlman (review), and [amazon_link id=”0385534639″ target=”_blank” ]The Night Circus[/amazon_link] by Erin Morgenstern (review).

At this point, I plan to focus on writing my NaNoWriMo book, which isn’t to say I won’t be reading (I certainly will), but it may impact my choices somewhat. I don’t plan to pick up anything difficult, heavy, or long this month. Meanwhile, I’ve been tearing through Stephen King’s [amazon_link id=”1439156816″ target=”_blank” ]On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft[/amazon_link], which has some great common sense advice. I am feeling sort of grateful for my experience as an English teacher. At least grammar and conventions aren’t a hurdle. I loved King’s advice to pick up a copy of Warriner’s Grammar. Best grammar text series ever.

I am really excited to start writing tomorrow.

photo credit: Ian Sane

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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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