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!

Memorable Quotes: Prince Lestat

“The world went dark. Black.
And then it exploded with light. All I could see was this light. Galaxies exploded in this light, whole sweeping pathways of innumerable stars pulsed and disintegrated as the light grew brighter and brighter. I heard my own distant cry…
My body had become this light, this throbbing, pulsing, shivering light, this simmering light. And I felt as if it were pouring out of me through my fingers and my toes, through my cock, through my skull. I could feel it generated and regenerated inside me, inside my pounding heart and pouring out so that I seemed immense, immense beyond all imagining, expanding in a void of light, light that was blinding, light that was beautiful, light that was perfect.
I cried out again. I heard it but never meant to do it. I heard it.
Then the light flashed as if to blind me forever, and I saw the ceiling above me, and I saw the circle of the chandelier — the flashing prismatic colors of that chandelier. The room came down around me as if descending from Heaven and I was not on the floor at all. I was standing on my feet.”

(Prince Lestat, pages 412-413)

Holy wow! Sounds profound! It sounds like Lestat, who narrates this passage, was experiencing a rebirth. In real life, though, if I had heard these words I would have thought someone was describing their death — impossible as that may be, since dead men supposedly tell no tales. That being said, near-death experiences are not completely uncommon. I’m glad to say I’ve never had such a thing happen to me. Have you? What do you think you might say after surviving such an ordeal? Do you think this quote might accurately describe dying or near-death experiences, or something else entirely?

Book Review: Prince Lestat, by Anne Rice

Published: October 28, 2014 by Alfred A. Knopf
Format: Hardcover
Source: Self-purchased
Purchase (**Affiliate Links**): AmazonBarnes and NobleIndieBound

The Goodreads synopsis: “The novel opens with the vampire world in crisis…vampires have been proliferating out of control; burnings have commenced all over the world, huge massacres similar to those carried out by Akasha in The Queen of the Damned… Old vampires, roused from slumber in the earth are doing the bidding of a Voice commanding that they indiscriminately burn vampire-mavericks in cities from Paris and Mumbai to Hong Kong, Kyoto, and San Francisco. As the novel moves from present-day New York and the West Coast to ancient Egypt, fourth century Carthage, 14th-century Rome, the Venice of the Renaissance, the worlds and beings of all the Vampire Chronicles—Louis de Pointe du Lac; the eternally young Armand, whose face is that of a Boticelli angel; Mekare and Maharet, Pandora and Flavius; David Talbot, vampire and ultimate fixer from the secret Talamasca; and Marius, the true Child of the Millennia; along with all the other new seductive, supernatural creatures—come together in this large, luxuriant, fiercely ambitious novel to ultimately rise up and seek out who—or what—the Voice is, and to discover the secret of what it desires and why…

And, at the book’s center, the seemingly absent, curiously missing hero-wanderer, the dazzling, dangerous rebel-outlaw—the great hope of the Undead, the dazzling Prince Lestat…”

And dazzling, he is. (As always.)

Full disclosure here: Anne Rice is my literary idol. She’s the first “grown-up” novelist I ever read, completely obliterating all of my earlier literary experience. Before a family friend lent me her copy of Interview with the Vampire, the closest I’d come to adult literature was the teenage drama of Sweet Valley High. I mean, don’t get me wrong…yay for Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield! Team Todd! But Anne Rice introduced me to an entirely new world that I’d never before even dared to dream about. Tweens and teens these days have so many vampire series aimed at them, but they’re all child’s play compared with the canon of Anne Rice.

Prince Lestat fits in perfectly with Ms. Rice’s previous Vampire Chronicles, I’m so happy to say. This most recent novel is as deliciously, richly descriptive as its predecessors, and diving into the world of the Tribe, as the vampires have come to call themselves, felt like putting on an old favorite sweater. I’ve never physically left the North American continent, but Prince Lestat, like Ms. Rice’s earlier books, left me feeling like I should have been carrying a fully-loaded passport for all the countries and eras we traveled to. That being said, I have to admit that I haven’t read all of the Chronicles; several of the characters and backstories were unfamiliar to me, but I was able to keep up without a problem. I think that as long as you’ve read the first three Vampire Chronicles — Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, and The Queen of the Damned — you should have a strong enough foundation in Ms. Rice’s mythology to understand what’s happening in Prince Lestat.

As to the story itself, I was initially a bit on the fence regarding whether I liked it. I found the Voice a bit irritating — why couldn’t he just come right out and tell someone what he wanted and why he was issuing these commands? — until I realized whose voice it was, which changed everything. What this has to do with Lestat and how he becomes known as the Prince, I’ll leave for you to find out. Lestat himself frequently disappeared from the early part of the book in favor of telling the stories of minor characters, and I found myself really missing him; he is, after all, the Brat Prince, the character around which the entire series revolves! Thankfully, his presence was much stronger in the back half of the book, and I’m thrilled that he’s the Prince (though I have to admit, I was pretty grossed out by the process through which he gained that power). Aside from Lestat, I mourned the lack of time we got to spend with Maharet, as she’s one of my favorite vampires, and celebrating the introduction of Seth who, as it turns out, has a very close connection to Akasha. I wonder if he’ll get his own book someday?

Overall, Prince Lestat is just what I was hoping for and pretty much everything I needed it to be. The OMG moments (all of which caused my jaw to literally drop open and Hubs to ask me what was wrong), the decadent description, the detailed conversations, the wonderfully-drawn and revisited immortals, and Lestat — oh, Lestat! — fill the pages with a story that, if you’re a fan of Anne Rice and her vampires, you just have to read! All hail Prince Lestat!

Be sure to say hi to Anne Rice on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and visit her website!

January Rereads!

Happy New Year, everyone! The start of a new year also heralds the start of a new month, and that means a new booklist is in order! The idea for this month’s booklist came from a post I did way back in November about books I’d like to reread. The books I’ve chosen this month made the list for different reasons: Maybe I started reading and didn’t get to finish; maybe time constraints had forced me to read more quickly than I’d wanted; maybe I’d finished reading but just wanted to go back and give the book a second go. No matter the circumstances, making this month’s list was extremely easy. So here we go — my January Rereads!

And to go along with my regular reading, I’ve also signed up to participate with Tanya, Becca, and Savvy in the Travel the World in Books Readalong! The featured book for January is….

I’m already halfway through Prince Lestat and so far I’m loving it!! I can’t wait to share my thoughts with you on that and on all things books and Joshua!

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?