Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Reads and Recommendations, Summer 2011

Summer is a busy time for reading! As a professional writer, my #1 chore is to write, write, write. My #2 chore is to read, read, READ! So I spent a great deal of my  time this summer both reading and writing. Here is a list of the fiction I read and decided to recommend this summer! There were other books on my reading list as well that did not make this cut. I saved the best for you!

1.  Jane Eyre. I read this once before back in high school and appreciated it then. But the reading was different between 15 and 25! I appreciated Charlotte Bronte's skill with words and the very personal emotion she brings to her character, making Jane one of THE great literary figures in all British fiction.

Opening Line: "There was no possibility of taking a walk that day."

2. The Princess and the Goblin. This one was another reread, a book I read over and over again in my childhood. It amazed me as I read it to see HOW much George MacDonald has influenced my own work. I knew he was an influence, for sure, but it took reading his work in my post-publication days to truly understand. This book is one of the few I can honestly place in the Adored category.

Opening Line: "There was once a little princess whose father was king over a great country full of mountains and valleys."

3. The Last Unicorn. This was, I suppose, Summer of the Rereads! I read this book for the first time just two years ago and was captivated by Beagle's lyrical style. Needing a bit of refreshment after several Seriously Awful reads, I picked it up again. Just as captivating as the first read! Quirky and strange and heartbreaking. Unicorns rise up out of the ocean, a fiery red bull consumes with rage, and a prince lounges in a glade reading a magazine. This books makes me laugh and cry.

Opening Line: "The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone."

4. A Tale of Two Castles. My YA read of the summer, though this might be more Children's than YA. Gail Carson Levine was a favorite of mine when I was younger. This, her newest story, was not my favorite of her work (that honor belongs to The Two Princesses of Bamarre, with Ella Enchanted running a close second). But it was charming in its own way, especially Meenore, the Sherlock Holmsian dragon. Ms. Levine has developed a much more sparse narrative voice than she used to use. While I appreciate the poetry she is attempting to achieve, I miss some of the fullness and spunk of her earlier novels. But this is coming from a Lover of Victorian Novels, so take that opinion with a grain of salt! Her story is a fun mystery, and she indulges in just the right amount of world building so that the scenes come alive!

Opening Line: "Mother wiped her eyes on her sleeve and held me tight."

5. Lord Jim. I have only ever read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness before. While I found it intriguing, it also scared the daylights out of me! Lord Jim was not frightening so much as heartbreaking. Conrad takes his character to the very edge, showing first how his greatest weakness becomes his greatest strength, and then how that same strength takes him back into weakness. Amazing. And Conrad writes a great deal of it in Stream of Consciousness, a narrative voice I usually can't stand. Yet it was brilliant!

Opening Line: "He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built, and he advanced straight at you with a slight stoop of the shoulders, head forward, and a fixed from-under stare which made you think of a charging bull."

6. Wyrd Sisters. I can't help myself. I always fall back on Terry Pratchett when under stress. There were a couple of stressful weeks this summer, and my husband, darling man that he is, bought this book for me to help relieve that tension! It worked like a charm. Wyrd Sisters is a comical (and yet sometimes frightening) retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth, but with its own remarkable cast of characters and more than enough twists to keep you on your toes. No one writes people with the reality that Mr. Pratchett does. And the more bizarre the story, the more real his characters become.

Opening Lines: "The wind howled. Lightning stabbed at the earth erratically, like an inefficient assassin. Thunder rolled back and forth across the dark, rain-lashed hills."

7. Lords and Ladies. So, after finish Wyrd Sisters, I had to read the sequel. I had read this hilarious retelling of A Midsummer Night's Dream (scarcely a retelling . . . more of a nod-to) two years ago. Once more, I was enthralled by Mr. Pratchett's insanely other and dangerous faerie folk, the Lords and Ladies, pitted against the insanely ordinary heroes and heroines of his mountain kingdom of Lancre.

Opening Lines: "Now read on . . . Where does it start?"

8. Thief of Always. One word to describe this story: CREEPY. Rohan and I read it aloud to each other on dark and stormy nights. Reminded me of Neil Gaiman's Coraline, but maybe not quite as much fun. Still YA friendly, but only if you're in the mood for a bit of a scare.

Opening Line: "The great grey beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive."

Of all my summer reading, those are the pieces that stood out to me. I also pursued quite a bit of non-fiction, and might write up a list of those recommendations later. We shall see, we shall see!


Anonymous said...

I now know some good sounding books to read! Like you, I read Gail Carson Levin's A Tale of Two Castles this summer. I enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as The Two Princesses of Bammarre and Ella Enchanted:)


Galadriel said...

I've read about half of those or so.

Miah said...

I love, love, LOVE Jane Eyre. It is one of my favorite books!

Anonymous said...

I realy love Gail Carson Levin's books, my fav is Ella Enchanted I was soooo!!!! disaponted in the movie. Manise

Anonymous said...

Thanks for post. I'm definitely going to be adding some new books to my to read list.