Top Ten Books I Found Through Recs/Hype

This is a rendition of Top Ten Tuesday by the thebrokeandthebookish.wordpress.com. The prompt was books people keep telling you you must read, but I felt more comfortable listing works I’ve already read for that reason and liked rather than just passing on other recs or books you’ve probably heard the hype about already, anyhow. So, here goes:

Top Ten Books I Found Through Recs/Hype:

1. “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling
-My secret’s been that I actually put this down the first time I tried to read it and only picked them up again for the hype…only to get thoroughly into the fandom.

2. “The Other Boleyn Girl” by Philippa Gregory
-This was lent to me by my mother, who firmly believes that Anne did probably engage in incest with George in order to beget an heir.

3. “The Great, Good Thing” by Roderick Townley
-A friend gifted me this work and I loved its meta style.

4. “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman
-I’m actually not a fan of most of Gaiman’s works, and the synopsis for this book is not something I normally go for, but somehow I really like this one.

5. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams
-This one actually had to be recommended to me over years, simply because it’s so hard to explain and the title sounds boring to me, I think.

6. “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana Wynne Jones
-One of my happiest author discoveries, I think this was actually thrust upon me by my little sister.

7. “Wee Free Men” by Terry Pratchet
-This is another big author whose works I largely don’t connect with, so I need recommendations to find the ones that I do really enjoy.

8. “Soulless” by Gail Carriger
(Full review here: http://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/soulless-the-parasol-protectorate-series-1/)
-This was another gift from a friend.

9. “Her Royal Spyness” by Rhys Bowen
(Full review here: http://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/her-royal-spyness/)
-A friend literally put this into my hands in a bookstore and I couldn’t put it down.

10. Georgette Heyer books
-This regency romance author I found because a close friend began a reading aloud marathon of them with me, and luckily she wrote enough for me to still be working through them. Examples are:
“The Grand Sophy”: (http://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/the-grand-sophy/)
“Black Sheep”: (http://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/regency-romances-best-bickering/)
Frederica,
and for mysteries-
“Behold, Here’s Poison”: (http://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/behold-heres-poison/)

Well, I guess that rather doubled as my reading secrets blog. So, what are your favorite books discovered through insistent recommendations?

Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 3)

Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 3)
By: Gail Carriger
(http://gailcarriger.com)
Orbit Books 2010
A steampunk historical romance review

GermanBlameless

On her own, Alexia finds herself facing down epic scandal, betrayal, and assassins wielding homicidal ladybugs. Needless to say, she responds by gathering loyal companions and traveling across Europe to find answers, be it from scientists, murderous vampires, or even the Holy Templars.

An involving, quick read, Blameless amps up the action and world-building. The supernatural machinations behind this plot lead to more twists and consequences for the Maccons’ set. From devious schemes and werewolf drunkenness on the home front to the strange and sinister philosophies of Europe, Carriger puts her characters through the wringer. The expansion of French and Italian culture continues to expand this fascinating paranormal world with Alexia’s spirited tourism and unexpected transports to lead the way.

The middle book, Blameless proves the least light-hearted, but brings a passion and a flawed reality to these characters that enhances them through the rest of the series. Like tea, a sip of the unsweetened stuff will make the properly served version taste even better.

Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 2)

Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 2)
By: Gail Carriger
(http://gailcarriger.com)
Orbit Books 2010

A steampunk historical romance review

GermanChangeless

Changeless sees the intrepid Alexia Tarabotti settled into a position of power, both as muhjah to the queen and Alpha of the Woolsey pack. So when immortals of all kinds suddenly begin to lose their powers on a wide scale, Conall Maccon runs off to tend to his old Scottish pack, and suspicious activity begins to follow Alexia around, she is naturally up to the task.

This sequel considerably broadens Carriger’s world in several directions, by introducing the rest of Conall’s werewolf pack, delving into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the Alpha’s move to London, taking readers to Scotland, and uncovering more details about this world’s intriguing rules and wherefores. The new characters are introduced and expanded without taking away from the original characters’ growth, the numerous mysteries facing Alexia keep the plot steaming along full-speed ahead, and this heroine performs her antics with such aplomb that I didn’t mind that some questions don’t get wrapped up until later books. Amazingly, the clothing details of bizarre hats and edgy attire attain even greater heights of distinction in this work.

In short, this is the vindicated and indomitable Alexia Maccon as everyone loves to see her, and the plot has enough going on to keep her busy and readers highly entertained. However, unlike Soulless, this book ends on an abrupt note that requires swift continuation into Blameless, so have it at the ready.

Top Ten Books I’m Not Sure I Want to Read

This is a rendition of Top Ten Tuesday by the thebrokeandthebookish.wordpress.com. This week’s prompt was the top ten books you’re unsure you want to read through. This week was tricky, but there are some books with ???s after them in my mind and here they are:

Top Ten Books to Read or Not to Read?

1. “Gathering Blue” by Lois Lowry
-I loved “The Giver” and I’m not sure about it having sequels. I don’t think it needs sequels and I’m worried about delving into them, particularly so long after reading the first book and with the knowledge that I missed the sequels because their publisher shared my opinion that “The Giver” should stand on its own. On the other hand…well, there’s more! That everyone’s talking about! And that might be fun to revisit…I don’t know.

2. “The Time-Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger
-I’ve heard so much about this and it has time-travel! And librarians! But whenever I actually have this book physically in my hands it just doesn’t call to me, it falls flat.

3. “Islands of Chaldea” by Diana Wynne Jones and her sister Ursula
-See, I love Diana Wynne Jones, and I have actually had one success with a book finished by another author, but…it’s just so dangerous! Especially now that Diana’s gone and it’s touted as her last work, and…it feels dangerous.

4. “Six Gun Snow White” by Catherynne M. Valente
-This book sounds beautiful and I love fairy tale retellings, but…confound it, I hate westerns! It’s a conundrum

5. “Return to the Hundred Acre Wood” by David Benedictus and Mark Burgess
-I love Winnie the Pooh. It’s hard to have Winnie the Pooh tales out there I haven’t read, I have all of A.A. Milne! Yet…that’s A.A. Milne. I find this new author thing suspicious. o.O

6. “The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Emma Thompson
-Same problem as above, although I’m not as attached to this rabbit and I do like Emma…

7. “I, Mona Lisa” by Jeanne Kalogridis
-I really enjoy this author and I have read other books by her, but for some reason this one, with the reference to such an iconic art piece just doesn’t hook me in. Messing with things that are too iconic just seems forced, overdone, or just like a poor idea so often…

8. Proust
-I began his works before and they are intriguing, but…they are so exhausting. And so hard to get back into once left. I just don’t know that I can keep going at all, even through the first volume…

9. “The Lunar Chronicles” by Marissa Meyer, particularly “Cress”
-Again, I love fairy tale retellings and I am particularly fond of Rapunzel. On the other hand, that makes me more prickly than ever about Rapunzel and particularly things that try to give fairy tales more excitement or draw them together have proved pitfalls before.

10. Books by Stephen Fry
-I love this man and find him all that Polonius imagined himself to be, but having tried one of his works and utterly failed to get into it, I am wary. Yet, I hear such interesting things and have every reason to believe them true…

This is nerve-wracking, dragging all my reading instincts and hesitations out into view. Any reassurances, confirmations, or warnings?

RIP Robin Williams

“Death is not extinguishing the light;
Genie_applause

it is only putting out the lamp
aladdin-28

because the dawn has come.”
disney_aladdin_genie2_16_9_large

-Rabindranath Tagore

Top Ten Books for a Beginner to Historical Fiction

This is a rendition of Top Ten Tuesday (and a Day…or Three) by the thebrokeandthebookish.wordpress.com. This week’s prompt was the top ten books you’d give someone to introduce them to your choice of a genre. I chose historical fiction because I feel there’s many wonderful books that are sadly overlooked.

Top Ten Books for a Beginner to Historical Fiction (many of which are just my top ten historical fiction books)

1. “Scaramouche” by Raphael Sabatini
-I know I mention this a lot and there’s an abundance of reasons for it! This book is set in the French Revolution and is good for drama nerds, lovers of wit, and people who like “The Princess Bride.”

2. “Mistress Wilding,” also by Raphael Sabatini
-This has one of my favorite first sentences: “‘Then drink it thus,’ cried the rash young fool, and splashed the contents of his cup full into the face of Mr. Wilding even as that gentleman, on his feet, was proposing to drink to the eyes of the young fool’s sister.” As you can see, it is high on passions, as well as British history and romance, in both senses of the word.

3. “The Borgia Bride” by Jeanne Kalogridis
Borgia_Bride
-This novel focuses on Sancha, bride of the youngest Borgia son and notorious in several tales. For fans of the Borgias, Italian history, “Game of Thrones,” scheming, and strong female leads.

4. “Master of Verona” by David Blixt
(Full review here: http://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/the-master-of-verona/)
-This is another Italian history tale, that focuses on Dante’s son and explains the feud behind “Romeo and Juliet.” Obviously, for fans of Shakespeare, Italian history, and those who like to discuss philosophy.

5. “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Tracy Chevalier
-This tale of a girl’s entanglement with Dutch painter Vermeer provides excellent insight into a historical mindset in a lovely succinct, brief manner for such intense themes.

6. “The Second Duchess” by Elizabeth Loupas
-Another Italian setting, Barbars marries the Duke of Ferrara in 1565. This is another literary crossover tale as it’s based on Robert Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess.” For fans of poetry, murdery mysteries, and paranormal works.

7. “The Grand Sophy” by Georgette Heyer
(Full review here: http://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/the-grand-sophy/)
-This regency romance with a shockingly in-control heroine is a hilarious, quick read for fans of romance, Regency Britain, and humor.

8. “Her Royal Spyness” by Rhys Bowen
(Full review here: http://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/her-royal-spyness/)
Her Royal Spyness
-This murder mystery set in 1930s England showcases a witty, practical, and engaging heroine who leads us on a light, quick read for fans of mystery, humor, British history, and reliable narrators.

9. “Lion of Ireland” by Morgan Llywelyn
lionofireland
-This history of Brian Boru brings early Ireland to vibrant, detailed life. For fans of Ireland, “Game of Thrones,” military tales, scheming, and “Vikings.”

10. “Catherine called Birdy” by Karen Cushman
-A fit introduction for younger readers, this daily diary book is set in 1200s England from a teenage girl who discusses holy days, marriage prospects, and daily concerns like food, animals, and who can fart at will.

Yes, indeed, if we switch out “Catherine Called Birdy” for “Baudolino” by Umberto Eco, this would basically be a list of my top ten historical novels of the moment. But “Baudolino” is not for beginners…So, if you aren’t one, I highly recommend it to you. What historical novels do you like?

The Grand Budapest Hotel

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2278388/)
Directed by: Wes Anderson 2014

the-grand-budapest-hotel-tv-spot-invasion

This film works like a kind of wedding cake. The aesthetics are the frosting, absolutely gorgeous to look at and it makes you crave sugar. The plot is this delightful thin line of raspberry filling: not really the point of the film, but bright, sharp, and with a proper pop of flair, much like master concierge and star of this story, Gustave H. I believe the reason this film is harder to connect to for some is because in most cases the plot provides the cake itself and drives the viewing. So, to have the plot provide only a line of filling may seem like it was made disproportionately or without enough sponge. Yet, this movie does have a very solid cake base to hold up the filling and the frosting. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is driven by tone. What holds together this pastry of marvelous images and whacky doings together is that feeling that happens by looking at the world as it is while remembering how it once seemed to be. It’s a nostalgia cake baked with the whimsy to imagine and the resignation to live on. When paired with the visuals of eccentric people thrusting themselves zealously into outrageous positions, it’s extremely humorous.

Like wedding cake, it may not be to everyone’s taste, but it has real symbolic depth that’s worth trying out. Besides, the cinematic frosting is fantastic!

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