Top Ten Tuesday: Back in the Day

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It’s been a very long time since I last participated in the Top Ten Tuesday list, a meme started by The Broke and the Bookish. My last post for it spoke to ten books I’d like to reread.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is asking all of us to name books from our pasts that we’d like to revisit! So here we go —

The Top 10 Books From My Childhood and Teen Years That I’d Like to Pick Up Again!


The Baby-Sitters Club, by Ann M. Martin – Because what preteen girl in the 90s wasn’t reading these books?! They’re clean (no sex, drugs, or anything else that today’s YA is saturated with), relatable, and totally retro. I can’t speak from experience as I only have a son, but I imagine these books would be really fun to pass down to a daughter!


The Sweet Valley Saga, by Francine Pascal – These two books make up some of the first historical fiction I ever read. The fact that I was already so familiar with Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield through the Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High books made me want to know more about their family and where they came from. Anyone with an interest in fictional genealogy should seriously read these two — I still have my original copies on my bookshelf today! (Though I do need to pick up copies of The Fowlers of Sweet Valley and The Patmans of Sweet Valley. Oh, Hubs….)


The Silver Blades series, by Melissa Lowell – This little series was published back in the mid-90s when figure skating was at the height of its popularity, and the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan scandal was rocking the sports world. Though it was too late for me to start training to become the next Kristi Yamaguchi by then, I could still imagine living the Olympic dream through Nikki, Danielle, Tori, and Jill, the four young protagonists of these books.


Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse – I crossed paths with Siddhartha not by personal choice, but through a class assignment in eighth grade. I remember thinking that I’d be really bored by the book when I started reading, but it affected me profoundly and I was sad to let it go when I finished with it. It’d be interesting to see if it could still affect me as deeply twenty years later!


The Immortal, by Christopher Pike – Even in middle school, I was always a fan of ancient mythology. In seventh grade, when my classmates and I were required to study French, Spanish, and Latin for a marking period each, I found myself excelling at and really interested in Latin. One of my favorite assignments involved translating a Greek myth into English, so naturally I was thrilled to read a new, kind of scary take on gods and goddesses when The Immortal was published that summer. Ancient history though it may be, I still have my copy of this book on my shelf as well!


Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, by Alvin Schwartz – I’ve never been a fan of horror movies and the covers on these books have always creeped me out, but reading Scary Stories was a rite of passage when I was growing up. Though not everyone enjoyed them, everyone read them; this trilogy is one of the few “horror” series I’ve actually had fun reading. It might be fun to reexamine them, especially once Joshua is old enough to read them.


And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie – My first real mystery! And Then There Were None will always hold a place dear to my heart, and to my bookshelf. This book was the gateway to my love affair with mysteries, particularly with Mary Higgins Clark. It may be a very old book, but it remains among my favorites…and I think it’d be really fun to go back and reread it all these years later.


Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan – Another book I read for school, and more historical fiction. The element of the novel that really stuck out for me when I first read it, and remains with me all these years later, is that of Sarah’s colored pencils, which she brings home from a visit to town to draw pictures of her former home for her new children. I hope Joshua gets to read this book when he’s in school; even if it’s not assigned, I’ll give him a copy anyway.


My Brother Sam is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier – Even more historical fiction! And this time it fed my interest in the American Revolution, which makes it even more important in my mind. My Brother Sam is Dead is a classic, and I see copies of it in the gift shop every time Hubs and I visit Historic Williamsburg in Virginia. Not only is it a great story of family and life during war, but it’s also a great teaching tool. Another book I have on my shelf that’ll be making its way into Joshua’s hands when he’s old enough!


Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice – This book is by no means a children’s or YA book, but it found its way into my hands at the tender age of 13, so it works for this particular list. This is the book that hands-down forever changed the way I read, and it’s why I saved it for last — not to mention that every other book on this list crossed my path before Interview did. This was the book that introduced me to the world of full-grown literature; I discovered just how descriptive a book could be, and how important it is for characters to really drive a plot. I developed a deep appreciation for vampire literature and for Anne Rice after reading this book, and it will forever be among my favorites. That being said, it’s been a long time since my last reading…so maybe I’ll make a point of picking it up again sometime soon.

So, have I listed anything that made you think, “OMG I LOVED THAT BOOK!!” or “Eww, what the hell was she thinking putting that on the list?!” Share your thoughts and what titles you’d add in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Once More, With Feeling

It’s been a long time since I last participated in the Top Ten Tuesday meme started by The Broke and the Bookish. My last list was all about ten books I wasn’t sure that I still wanted to read, and before that I wrote about my top ten historical fiction favorites!

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is asking all of us to name ten books that we’d love to reread! For me, that list is about a half-mile long, so narrowing it down was exceedingly difficult…but I’m happy with the result. And now, here’s…

The Top 10 Books I’d Love to Reread!


The Queen of the Damned, by Anne Rice
This is the novel that changed me completely as a reader. It altered the way I looked at books; how I analyzed descriptions and actions; how I connected with an author’s style and voice. It’s also the book that truly launched my interest in both vampires and historical fiction. One of these days (probably sometime after the New Year), I’m just going to drop everything and read this masterpiece again!


The Shoemaker’s Wife, by Adriana Trigiani
Before meeting the lovely (and fabulously Italian!) Adriana Trigiani at Book Expo America earlier this year, I’d never read any of her books. She kindly autographed a copy of her newest title, The Supreme Macaroni Company, for me and I intended to read it as part of my #30Authors contribution back in September…until I learned that it was the third book in a series. I didn’t have time to read three books, so I opted to read The Shoemaker’s Wife instead, which I had downloaded to my NOOK prior to BEA. I’m so glad I did! It’s beautifully written and researched, and it’s definitely worth a second (or third, or fourth, or hundredth) reread!


I Shall Be Near to You, by Erin Lindsay McCabe
Hands down, my favorite new historical fiction! I Shall Be Near to You offers a very different perspective on the fighting of the Civil War — that of cross-dressed female soldiers! I could, and probably will, reread this book again and again in the near future, but I have other plans for it as well. If I finish my library science degree and go to work in a high school library, I’d love to do a unit with my classes or a book club dealing with this book! It’s both thoroughly engrossing and wonderfully informational, and I think it could make a historical fiction fan out of anyone.


Bittersweet, by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Ahh, my first “big” read of 2014. Bittersweet will permanently hold a very special place in my heart, not just for the quality of the writing but also because of the author-blogger friendship that stemmed from the review I wrote for it. I’ve been shouting about this one from the rooftops all year long, and I feel as strongly about it now as I did back in January — that alone merits a reread! Don’t be surprised if Bittersweet pops up on my “top ten of 2014” list at the end of the year.


Measure Twice, by J.J. Hensley
If not for the #30Authors project, I may never have heard of J.J. Hensley and Measure Twice. (Thanks to Allison for including me!) I don’t typically read a lot of crime novels, factual or fictional, so I was initially a bit weary about this book. Once I started reading, however, I found myself completely sucked in and couldn’t put it down! It’s a great read for fans of Law and Order, CSI, Motive, and the like, and I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll want to pick it up over and over again!


Cutting Teeth, by Julia Fierro
I have to come clean about something: When I first read Cutting Teeth, I was under a bit of a time crunch and didn’t get to read it at my optimal pace. I enjoyed it but I was left feeling like I hadn’t read it closely enough and had therefore missed certain things. After my digital ARC expired, I decided to purchase a physical copy and give it another try — and I’m happy that I did. When you read it at your most comfortable speed, it’s truly a fabulous book. Every parent, myself included, can relate in some way to the story and its characters, and I loved it twice as much the second time I read it. I’m hoping I’ll love it thrice as much after the third reading!


Dorothy Must Die, by Danielle Paige
I love novels that retell classic stories (as long as they do it well), and Dorothy Must Die fits that bill perfectly. There are creepy twists throughout the book, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch Judy Garland’s portrayal of Dorothy Gale the same way ever again because of what Ms. Paige has done to the character. To say that I’m looking forward to next year’s release of its sequel, The Wicked Will Rise, is a gross understatement, and the fact that there are at least two prequel novellas already means that a reread is definitely in the cards!


The Boleyn trilogy, by Laura S. Andersen
This has easily been my favorite trilogy of late, and for good reason. It takes a well-known fragment of history and two very popular historical figures, King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and brings a new dimension to their ill-fated love story: What would have happened if they delivered a healthy son that survived to adulthood? It’s a fascinating question and opens the door to an alternate history, rich in detail, lust, and intrigue. I’m looking forward to rereading the Boleyn trilogy and continuing to spread the word about its fabulousness (because, let’s face it, it’s just that awesome).


The Roving Tree, by Elsie Augustave
I was mailed a copy of The Roving Tree earlier this year and, while I knew I’d read it, I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it without having any kind of connection to Haiti. Boy, was I wrong, and I’m thrilled that I was! I will never forget the day I finished reading the book; neither before nor after that day have I ever booted up my laptop so quickly to start working on a review. I was profoundly moved by Ms. Augustave’s writing, and I hope to pick it up and feel the shifting of Earth just as I did with the first reading. It’s a heavy story, but I promise that it is a truly spiritual experience to read (and this is coming from someone decidedly non-religious).


Then Came You, by Jennifer Weiner
Of all of Jennifer Weiner’s novels, this is the only one I never finished. I don’t remember why — if it was disinterest in the story, if I was distracted with other things, or what. All that matters is that I want to give the book a fair shake (and probably fall in love with it, as I have with pretty much all of her other books), and the best way to do that is by rereading it.

An idea has just struck me and I’m totally going to go with it. You heard it here first, friends! When we celebrate the New Year, we also celebrate new leases on life, new opportunities, and “second chances,” as it were. To go with that theme, I’m going to set up January as a month of rereads! Not only will I review the books I choose for the month, but I’ll also start a new feature — much like what I do once monthly for the From Left to Write book club — in which I’ll write a post about something personal that connects to some aspect of the book I’ve read. If it goes well in January, it’ll become a permanent part of the blog!

I’m so excited!

So now, you tell me. Which books would you love to reread?

Top Ten Tuesday: Oh, I Dunno…

Last week, I made my first attempt at compiling a Top Ten Tuesday list, a meme started by The Broke and the Bookish. It was a top ten list of books in [blank] genre that we’d recommend, and I chose to go with historical fiction, which is easily one of my favorites!

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is asking all of us to name the ten books we’re not sure that we want to read! This should be interesting. Here goes —

The Top 10 Books I Don’t Know If I Still Want to Read…


Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
After Freedom was published, I remember seeing it everywhere — like, literally everywhere. Bookstores…grocery stores…I even saw someone reading it while eating at the food court in the mall. The Jennifer Weiner-coined “Franzenfreude” (which she described as “taking pain in the multiple and copious reviews being showered on Jonathan Franzen”), grabbed my attention; I’ve always been a big fan of Jennifer Weiner’s work and agreed that the literary establishment was spending too much time and energy falling all over themselves about the same authors over and over again. I got sucked into the hype and bought a copy, brought it home and put it on my bookshelf, and told myself that I’d get to it soon and find out what the big deal was. That was four years ago, and it’s been collecting dust in that same spot on my bookshelf for all this time. I guess the Franzenfreude got the better of me, because I don’t see myself dusting it off any time soon.

 


The Selection, by Kiera Cass
Before anything else, I look for a cover that speaks to me in some way. America Singer, the protagonist of The Selection, wears a beautiful gown on this cover that happens to be my favorite color. If I were choosing to read a book solely as a cover judge, I’d jump on this one. However, I decided to check out a summary of the novel and I wasn’t really taken with what I learned. The whole idea of a love triangle, despite the interesting twist, has gotten a bit tired for me; this might be part of why I loved Divergent so much — Tobias Eaton had no competition for Tris Prior’s love. It was just the two of them and no one else. The Selection just doesn’t scream, “Read me!”, and so I think I’m going to steer clear.

 


Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Oh, John Green…I still haven’t forgotten about my experience with The Fault in Our Stars. Ever since I saw the film of that adaptation, I haven’t quite felt as strong of a pull toward his books as I had before the movie was released. More than anything else, I worry that he’s become a bit overhyped, even for YA. Looking for Alaska sounds interesting enough in summary, but frankly I’m a bit afraid of feeling let down, as I did after closing Fault. He’s a good writer, but I’m still just not seeing what the big deal is. I might pick up this or one of John Green’s other books in the future, but for the time being I feel like it’s best for me to stay away. I don’t want a previous experience to potentially ruin a good thing.

 


I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai
I feel very badly saying it, but I feel like we’ve heard so much about Malala Yousafzai in the media that the book may leave little new information for us to discover about her. I’m personally a bit oversaturated on news coverage of all things Malala, but I do own a digital copy of her book. I think I just need a little bit of time away from her, and then I’ll come back and read I Am Malala in the future.

 


The Book of Life, by Deborah Harkness
The reason I don’t want to read The Book of Life, at least at this particular time, is very simple: It’s the final book in a trilogy and I haven’t yet read its predecessors. When I hear great things about books, I want to read them right now…and I can’t do that with this book. It’s like starting to watch Game of Thrones — you can’t just pick up in the middle of the story and expect to know who everyone is and what’s going on. I haven’t seen a single episode of that show (I don’t have HBO), and though I badly want to watch it, I have to start from the beginning. That’s what I’d do with a TV show or a book, and if I can find enough room in my reading schedule to do it, I might pick up A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, and finally The Book of Life. (Besides, I’m hearing it’s a historical fantasy about witches. Sounds right up my alley!)

 


Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris
I’m not sure if I want to fall back down the rabbit hole with vampire novels. The only author who seems to completely fulfill that interest for me is Anne Rice (and thankfully, she has a new book coming out in October that I’m literally itching to read!). Aside from that, Dead Until Dark is the first in another series of vampire books that was adapted for the screen, and I’m wondering if I saw enough on True Blood to cover me. I thought it was a decent show but not so good that I just had to sign up for an HBO subscription immediately after watching the first season on DVD. The fact that pop culture is oversaturated with all things vampire doesn’t help matters. I think I’m going to let this book, and its subsequent titles, go.

 


The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
I own this book, and all of its sequels, in e-book form and, though I once couldn’t wait to read them, the feeling has long passed. With the movie to be coming out soon, there have been lots of pictures, clips, and trailers popping up online; I’ve looked at a few and just feel nothing. No, “Oh my God, I have to pick up that book now!” No spark, no interest, nothing. Sorry, Gladers.

 


I Know This Much Is True, by Wally Lamb
I Know This Much Is True has been sitting on my bookshelf for years. Years. I picked it up after reading and falling in love with Mr. Lamb’s debut novel, She’s Come Undone, which I blew through in a single afternoon. But there are always more books to be read, and I kept pushing this one back to make room for other titles I had a stronger interest in reading…and I never picked it up again. Maybe sometime in the future I’ll get back around to it.

 


Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins
Many of my fellow bloggers have been raving about this book and its follow-ups, Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After, but I just can’t seem to drum up any interest in them. The cover art doesn’t really speak to me; while it’s not the be-all and end-all of whether I decide to read something, it does play a role. Plus the plot of the book seems to revolve around Anna’s having to choose between a boy at home and another boy at boarding school, which reminds me very much of The Bachelorette (a show I despise with every bone in my body). I’m probably wrong about these books, but for now I just don’t want to read them.

 


The Mortal Instruments: City of Heavenly Fire, by Cassandra Clare
My problem with City of Heavenly Fire comes down to a couple of things. First, reading it would require me to reread not one, not two, but five other books to keep the plot fresh in my mind — this is not the kind of book you can just pick up and read on its own, much like The Book of Life above. I had read all five of the other books back-to-back when the fifth book, City of Lost Souls, came out and then had to wait for this one. I just don’t have the time to go back and read five books to be able to read this new one…and then there’s the fact that I made the mistake of reading reviews after the publication. Apparently, many die-hard Shadowhunter fans took issue with certain events in the story and hated the way Ms. Clare ended the series. I’m sure I’ll come back to this down the road, but I just don’t have the patience for it right now.

So that’s my list! Are there any titles that you agree with? Any you disagree with? What titles would be on your list?

Top Ten Tuesday: New to Historical Fiction?

Over the last month or so, I’ve noticed blog posts comprised of top 10 lists popping up on several of my favorite blogs. Through reading these lists, I discovered the Top Ten Tuesday meme at The Broke and the Bookish and decided that, after ending my hiatus, I wanted to join in the fun!

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to choose a genre and then name the top 10 books we’d give to someone new to that genre. And so, without further ado, here are, in no particular order…

The Top 10 Books I’d Give to Readers Who Have Never Read Historical Fiction!


The Boleyn trilogy, by Laura S. Andersen
This trilogy, set in the Tudor court of King Henry VIII, asks a rather provocative and fascinating question: What if Anne Boleyn had given Henry VIII the son he so desperately wanted, saving her own life and changing English history forever? I read each of these books within a day or two — they were that engrossing — and reviewed them here, here, and here earlier this year. They provide a realistic and detailed re-imagining of one of the most intriguing periods in history, and I adore them! (And yeah, they may be three separate books but they tell one long story, so for all intents and purposes they count as one!)


11/22/63, by Stephen King
This brilliant and very popular novel tells the story of an English teacher named Jake Epping who time-travels to stop the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (hence the title). How might the United States, and the world, be different if JFK had survived the attempt on his life? 11/22/63 is an incredibly well-researched and fascinating story discussing the implications of changing the past and its effects on the present and future.

 


Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
This American classic, set in antebellum Georgia during the American Civil War and subsequent Reconstruction, tells the story of Scarlett O’Hara, a snooty Southern belle with champagne taste and undying love for a man she can’t have. The outbreak of war turns her life upside down and Scarlett must adapt to a new way of life while raising three children, dealing with two husbands and the debonair Rhett Butler, and continuing to pine for the unavailable Ashley Wilkes. The tale is sprawling, much like Scarlett’s family’s beloved Tara plantation, and well worth a read.

 


Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
My favorite novel of all time just happens to fit beautifully into this category! Little Women tells the tale of four sisters growing up in Civil War-era Massachusetts. The themes of family, love, and war, among others, are as relevant today as they were when Ms. Alcott published the book. This is just one of many reasons why this is considered an American classic, and it should be on everyone’s To Be Read (TBR) pile, in my humble opinion!

 


My Brother Sam is Dead, by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier
There’s no way you didn’t cross paths with this book if you went through American K-8 schools! It’s the story of two brothers, Tim Meeker and his older brother Sam, who are growing up in Connecticut when the American Revolution begins. The boys’ father is a loyalist who, upon discovering that Sam has enlisted to fight for the American Continental Army, becomes estranged from his son. Tim tells the story of how war can tear a family completely apart.

 


The Forgotten Seamstress, by Liz Trenow
I shared a review of The Forgotten Seamstress back in May, and I feel as strongly about it now as when I read the last page. The novel tells the stories of two women, Maria Romano and Caroline Meadows, and the incredible quilt that connects them across the decades. Beautifully detailed and utterly wrenching, this is truly a must-read, especially for anyone with an interest in genealogy.

 


Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice
Who needs Twilight when you can read something as expansive and engrossing as an Anne Rice vampire novel?! Some of the various covers of this book advertise it as “the story that started it all,” and for good reason. Ms. Rice has a reputation for bringing vampires and history to vibrant life, and Interview with the Vampire (which started out as a short story) is the one with which she developed that uncanny ability. Sprawling, dark, and incredibly sexy, this is one of those books that every historical fiction buff should at minimum give a look.

 


I Shall Be Near to You, by Erin Lindsay McCabe
If you haven’t figured it out already, the Civil War is my favorite period in American history, and I Shall Be Near to You is another wonderful (and more recently written) story set in it! After Rosetta’s husband Jeremiah enlists in the Union Army, she decides she’d rather join the cause than be stuck at home as women were expected to be, and so she chops off her hair, puts on Jeremiah’s clothes, and enlists to fight alongside him. This is an incredible story of love, deception, and war. If you haven’t added it to your TBR pile, do it now!

 


The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
This epistolary novel tells the story of Celie who, when we meet her at age 14, has already been physically and sexually abused at the hands of her father for years. The focus here is on the black female experience in the early-to-mid-20th century, and it’s an important read for anyone looking to reflect on race and social injustice in America. As far as I’m concerned, this should be required reading for every American, regardless of age, gender, skin color, whatever.

 


The Roving Tree, by Elsie Augustave
The Roving Tree was the second-to-last book I reviewed before attending BEA, and it was one of those stories that hit me really hard. Iris, a Haitian native, is adopted by an affluent, white American family in the 1960s and grows up in a world where racism and sexism are the order of the day. Her story is utterly profound, completely moving, and well worth a look.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I am a huge fan of historical fiction. What novels would you add to this category? Shout them out in the comments!