Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I’m Thankful I Reviewed

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This week is all about being thankful!  I’m so glad I have the opportunity to review for Long and Short Reviews.  I’ve discovered so many wonderful books and authors over the years.  Here are ten books or series I’m thankful I had the opportunity to read and review.

The Magician’s Workshop Series by Christopher Hansen and J.R. Fehr-This series is so much fun!  I could not put these books down.  The longer I read, the more I enjoyed this series.  I’m anxiously awaiting Volume 3.  Here are my reviews of Volume 1 and Volume 2.

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Eagle En Garde by Olga Godim-I reviewed this fantasy a few years ago, but it is one that has stuck with me.  Here is my review.

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Heroes for Hire: Discount Prices by C.S. Feldman-I’m always up for a great fantasy, adventure story, and I thoroughly enjoyed this one.  Here is my review.

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Persephone, Daughter of Earth and Sky, and The Iron Queen by Kaitlyn Bevis-I love Greek mythology and these books put an interesting spin on the myth of Persephone and Hades.  There are more books in the Daughters of Zeus series, and I fully intend to read them.  Here are my reviews for Persephone, Daughter of Earth and Sky, and The Iron Queen.

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Blistered, Priestess, and Warrior by Deidre Huesmann-This is another series based on Greek mythology.  All three of these books are very compelling, and I truly enjoyed watching all the characters grow and change over the course of the trilogy.  Here are my reviews for Blistered, Priestess, and Warrior.

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Blind Eye and Blood Moon by Marilyn Todd-These are the first two books in a mystery series set in ancient Greece.  I have yet to read the third book, but it is definitely on my tbr list.  Here are my reviews of Blind Eye and Blood Moon.

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Mercy of the Moon by Jennifer Taylor-This is a fantastic story.  The characters stayed with me long after I finished reading it.  Here is my review.

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Fallen Grace by Katie Roman-A great young adult fantasy adventure.  Here is my review.

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First Frost and Glass Frost by Liz DeJesus-I love fairy tale retellings and Ms. DeJesus has certainly done a great job.  I really need to read the last book in the series!  Here is my review of First Frost and Glass Frost.

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Trajectories, Gathering Speed, and Flying in the Dark by Tess Grant-This paranormal trilogy is gripping.  I couldn’t read it fast enough.  Here are my reviews of Trajectories, Gathering Speed, and Flying in the Dark.

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How about you?  What books are you thankful for?  Have you read any of these?  If so, what did you think?

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween!

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It’s Top Ten Tuesday time again!  This week is all about Halloween.  When choosing spooky stories to read at this time of year, I tend to gravitate toward the classics.  Something creepy enough to give me goosebumps and get my imagination going, but not graphic enough to give me nightmares.  Sometimes, as you’ll see in my list, I just want to read something fun with my children.  Here are ten stories put me in a Halloween mood.

1. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz-This is a classic Halloween story.  I read the book and watch the tv special every year.

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2. Garfield’s Halloween Adventure (Garfield in Disguise) by Jim Davis-Another classic!  I get this out every year and it never gets old.

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3. Anything by Edgar Allan Poe-Nobody does horror and mystery like Edgar Allan Poe!  I recommend The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Masque of the Red Death, The Fall of the House of Usher, and Ligeia.

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4. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson-This story isn’t exactly scary, but it is horrifying in its own way, and certainly thought provoking.

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5. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice-This is the first book I ever read about vampires, and it is still a favorite.

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6. Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin-This novel takes the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and tells it from the point of view of a maid.  It is every bit as creepy as the original.

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7. The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde-A thoroughly entertaining ghost story.

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8. Dracula by Bram Stoker-This classic vampire story should be read at least once in a lifetime.

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9. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving-This eerie short story deserves a read around Halloween.

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10. A Bottomless Grave and Other Victorian Tales of Terror edited by Hugh Lamb-I haven’t read this book yet, but it was recently given to me and now seems like the perfect time to check it out.

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How about you?  What do you enjoy reading at Halloween?  Have you read any of these?  If so, what did you think?

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Favorite Cookbooks

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This week is all about food!  I love to cook.  I have so many great memories of spending time in the kitchen with my family and friends talking and laughing as we experiment with new recipes and revisit old favorites.  I’ve amassed quite a collection of cookbooks, and these are some of my favorites.

1. Anything by Ree Drummond-I own and love all of her cookbooks, and I pre-ordered her newest one months ago.  She has a wide range of recipes from the quick and easy to more complex, but she makes it easy with step by step instructions and pictures to guide you through.  Not only are the recipes delicious, but her cookbooks are fun to read as well.  She sprinkles delightful stories and pictures throughout her books.

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2. Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook-This is a classic cookbook with lots of good pointers for those learning to cook.

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3. 500 Best Ever Recipes: Mediterranean-I love Mediterranean food, especially Greek food.  Everything I’ve made out of this book has been delicious.

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4. Best Loved Hershey’s-One word explains my love of this book, chocolate!

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5. Old Fashioned Apple Recipes-I love fall baking, especially with apples.  This little book is brimming with tasty recipes.

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6. Southern Biscuits by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart-What’s not to love about biscuits?  Sweet and savory biscuits can be found within the pages of this gem.

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7. 101 Slow Cooker Recipes by Gooseberry Patch-This is the time of year when I get the urge to get my crock pot out.  My house smells wonderful as the food slowly simmers.

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8. Best Ever Cookies by Gooseberry Patch-Cookies for all occasions and holidays!

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9. Weber’s Smoke: A Guide to Smoke Cooking for Everyone and Any Grill by Jamie Purviance-I don’t actually use the grill or the smoker, but my husband does and he’s made some great meals out of this book.

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10. Dadgum That’s Good Too! by John McLemore-Another good smoking and grilling cookbook.  I like to pick out recipes for my husband to try.

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How about you?  Do you enjoy cooking?  If so, what are your favorite things to make?  Let’s talk in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books That Feel Like Autumn to Me

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Every autumn I get the urge to read two different kinds of books: classics and ghost stories.

There was something nice about sitting in English class and discussing the plot of a classic novel. I’ve always been a bookworm, so I’d often already read whatever it was our teacher had assigned to us. It was still interesting to listen to their lessons about them, though.

Why I associate October with ghost stories is pretty self-explanatory. Halloween is by far my favorite holiday of the year. Half of the fun of it is getting spooked! The majority of the horror tales I read are about ghosts, and that’s even more true in the weeks leading up to Halloween.

Most of the books on this list are classics. Many of them are ghost stories, too, and some of them even fit into both categories.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.

The idea of being stuck in a lonely, old house as the weather began to become cold frightened me nearly as much as the possibility of that home being haunted. While there were many subplots I love about this story, the ones that deal with Jane’s lifelong fascination with the supernatural were by far the most interesting ones to me.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.

There were metaphorical – and quite possibly literal – ghosts everywhere in this story. They send a chilll down my spine every time I read about them again.

The Plague by Albert Camus.

One of the things I liked the most about these characters was seeing how they all responded to the very high possibility that at least some of them would die after they contracted the plague. Autumn is a time of the year when many plants and animals die or become dormant for the year. It feels appropriate to read about the cycle of life and death while it is so openly happening in the world around me.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

Some young adult books are honestly just as much fun for adults to read as they are for kids. I’d never thought about growing up in a graveyard before I discovered it, but the storyline never fails to make me smile.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.

This is one of my all-time favorite ghost stories. The movies that were based on it were good, but the original will always be the best. I can’t imagine many things more frightening than a ghost who takes her revenge on people who dare to step foot onto her property or interact with her in any way.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.

Ichabod Crane’s encounters with the headless horseman will never stop scaring me. One of the things I like the most about this tale is that it gets a little spookier every time I reread it even though I know exactly what is going to happen next.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.

Just like Jane Eyre, this was about a governess who moved to a new home and soon begins to seriously wonder if it’s haunted. Worse yet, she feared that the ghosts were trying to harm the children she was looking after. What was the governess really experiencing? Was she hallucinating, or were there really ghosts there? Were her charges in real danger? I deeply enjoy revisiting these questions every time I return to this book.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein.

For some strange reason, I have only ever read and reread this book during the months of September, October, or November before moving onto The Lord of the Rings trilogy in late autumn or early winter. This has happened so many times now that I can’t separate The Hobbit from this time of the year. They are completely tangled up together in my mind.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.

Sarah Waters is one of my favorite authors of all time, and this is one of the many reasons why. As soon as she introduced Dr. Faraday to the audience and began to give away small hints about the strange mansion he visited in order to treat the formerly-wealthy family who lived there, I began to come up with my own theories about whether that home was really haunted or if something else could be to blame for the weird things happening there.

 

The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde.

What would a ghost do if the family who moved into his home refused to be frightened of him? I absolutely loved this premise the first time I heard about it. What a creative way to tell a ghost story!

What books remind you of autumn?

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Boyfriends

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This week’s topic is book boyfriends!  What makes a good book boyfriend?  While good looks are certainly a bonus, I need more than a handsome face.  I’m attracted to characters who have personalities that leap off the page.  Whether that means they have a heart of gold, are a bit of a bad boy, or simply are intriguing, these are characters from some of my favorite books that I’ve found myself drawn to.

Mr. Darcy-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen-Mr. Darcy is a classic hero of literature.  My list of book boyfriends would not be complete without him.

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John Thornton-North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell-John Thornton is another favorite of mine from classic literature.  He’s such a passionate character.  I love the intensity of the relationship between John and Margaret.

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Adam Hauptman-Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs-Adam is a very intimidating man with a great heart underneath.  His antagonistic relationship with Mercy in the beginning of the series was so much fun, and I loved watching them grow into one of the best couples in fiction.

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John Pritkin-Cassandra Palmer series by Karen Chance-I am several books behind in this series, but John is absolutely one of my favorite characters.  He’s strong, loyal, and the way he interacts with Cassie is extremely entertaining.

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Aragorn-The Lord of the Rings series-J.R.R. Tolkien-I’ve always had a soft spot for heroes, and Aragorn is one of the best.

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Peeta Mellark-The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins-Peeta is such a solid man in a volatile world and by far my favorite character in this series.  His love and devotion for Katniss is incredibly heartwarming.

Adrian Ivashkov-Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead-Adrian piqued my interest in the Vampire Academy series, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to get to know him better in the Bloodlines series.  He comes off as extremely arrogant, but underneath all his bravado is the sensitive soul of an artist.

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Eric Northman-Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris-Eric is definitely a bad boy, but so intriguing.  He has an undeniable allure, and I believe he truly cares for Sookie.

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The Beast-Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley-I have always been drawn to this fairy tale.  Like Beauty, I fell in love with the beast.

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Hades-Daughters of Zeus series by Kaitlin Bevis-Hades is definitely mysterious, powerful and dangerous, but his love for Persephone is strong and true, which is why I like him so much.

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Top Ten Tuesday: First Ten Books I Gave Five Stars

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This week’s topic is Throwback Freebie!  I’ve been reviewing for Long and Short Reviews for over eight years, and I have had the opportunity to read so many wonderful books.  When I read this week’s topic, I decided to go back through my reviews and list the first ten books I rated five stars, in no particular order.  I have given Goodreads links as well as links to my review if possible.  I had so much fun remembering these books.  I just might have to read some of them again!

Enemy of the King by Beth Trissel-This is the very first book I gave five stars!  I really enjoy historical fiction, and I’ve had the pleasure of reading several of Ms. Trissel’s books.

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Margaret’s Rematch by Farida Mestek-This sweet, historical romance was a delight to read.

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He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not: Deadly Games #1 by Lena Diaz-This mystery had me on the edge of my seat!  Here is my review.

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The Hollow King: Night of the Gryphon Book One by Tasarla Romaney-This is the first book in a young adult, fantasy series that I really enjoyed.  Here is my review.

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Twilight Over Moldavia: Moldavia Moon #2 by Stephanie Burkhart-This is the second book in a great paranormal series.  Here is my review.

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The Disciple by Jemma Chase-I absolutely loved this short story!  I found it extremely thought provoking.  Here is my review.

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The Caves of Etretat: Book One of Four by Matt Chatelain-This is a wonderful mystery/suspense.  It is very detailed and obviously well researched.  I read the whole series.  Here’s my review.

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Fatal Induction: Professor Bradshaw Mysteries #2 by Bernadette Pajer-A great mystery with well rounded secondary characters.  Here’s my review.

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The One Book of Etretat: Book Three of Four by Matt Chatelain-The third book in this series was gripping!  There was so much to wrap my mind around.  Here’s my review.

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Persephone: Daughters of Zeus #1 by Kaitlin Bevis-I love Greek mythology, and this young adult retelling centered on Persephone and Hades captured my interest.  Here is my review.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Difficult Books

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This week’s topic is all about struggling with books.  Sometimes a book takes a bit of patience to get through, and that’s okay!  I’ve read plenty of books that were slow reads and required a larger investment of my time, but ultimately ended up being worth it.  Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.  Some books are just plain difficult.  I’ve started my list with books that took patience that I ended up liking and I’ve worked my way down to those I didn’t enjoy.

1. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories by Washington Irving-I’ve found this collection of stories is best in small bites.  I would pick it up and read a story or two and then set it aside for a while before coming back for another taste.

2. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper-I tried to read this book for the first time back when I was in junior high, and I barely made it through the first chapter.  However, I came back to it as an adult and thoroughly enjoyed it.

3. Paradise Lost by John Milton-This book definitely requires time and focus to read.  I must confess I haven’t read the entire book, but I like the sections I’ve read so far.

4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte-Such an intense book!  As I read, I had to take breaks from the darkness and all the powerful emotions contained in its pages.  The main characters are completely horrible, but the story is fascinating.

5. Animal Farm by George Orwell-This book is absolutely brutal and terrifying, but I’m glad I read it.

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6. The Host by Stephenie Meyer-I don’t dislike this book, but I don’t really like it either.  The premise is interesting, but I wasn’t particularly drawn to any of the characters.  I finished it, but probably won’t ever read it again.

7. The Awakening by Kate Chopin-I can appreciate this story for its literary merit, but it isn’t one I’ll read again.

8. Undead and Undermined by Mary Janice Davidson-This series was great when it first came out.  It was completely ridiculous, but a whole lot of fun to read.  However, by the time I read this installment, the series, in my opinion, had ceased to be fun.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever come back to it.

9. Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris-This is another series that I had a lot of fun reading in the beginning, but the last few books were difficult to read.  I was determined to finish the series, but it was a struggle, and I didn’t care for the ending.

10. Blood Noir by Laurell K. Hamilton-The Anita Blake series was one of my favorites for a long time, but it gradually began to lose its luster.  However, I kept reading the books hoping the magic would return.  Unfortunately, by the time I read this book, I decided it was time to say goodbye.

How about you?  Have you read any of these books?  What books have you found difficult and/or slow to read?  Did you enjoy them?

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Hidden Gems in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Genre

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 I’m casting a wide net for this week’s post because there are so many stories in the SFF universe that haven’t received as much as attention as I think they should. These books are about everything from nineteenth century ghost stories to the adventures of sentient dinosaurs to dystopias set in the distant future.

If you love the science fiction and fantasy genres as much as I do, I hope you find something here that makes you smile.

1. Angelica: A Novel by Arthur Phillips.

This is one of the creepiest ghost stories I’ve ever. The main character was a spiritualist living in the late 1800s who was hired by a family to figure out if their young daughter was being haunted by a ghost of her deceased sibling or if there was some other reason for all of the strange things that happened around her.

2. Westlake Soul by Rio Youers.

Westlake, the main character, was a young man who was in a permanent vegetative state after a surfing accident. He has to use his newfound ability to astral project figure out how to save himself from a dangerous, supernatural villain who wants to kill him.

The storytelling was phenomenal. I honestly didn’t know what would happen to Westlake next while I was reading it because of how many plot twists there were.

 

3. Ember from the Sun by Mark Canter.

What would it be like to raise a Neanderthal child in contemporary society? After a group of scientists discovered a band of Neanderthals who had been frozen for millennia, they rescue an embryo from the womb of one of them and implanted it into a human woman’s body.

The little girl who was born as a result of that experiment grew up in a world where there was no one else like her. I loved seeing how she adjusted to the news that she wasn’t human and what she did with her life as she grew older. This was such a unique story.

4. World Made By Hand by James Howard Kunstler.

I’ve often wondered what life would be like if some kind of disaster shut down the federal government and towns were left to their own devices. How long could the average town provide for the people who lived there without receiving any outside help at all?

This story asked this question as well as answered it. It wasn’t exactly post-apocalyptic, but it did take an honest approach to what would happen after a community’s roads, hospitals, and social safety net begin to break down badly.

5. Far-Seer by Robert J. Sawyer.

I’m a huge fan of all of Robert J. Sawyer’s books, but Far-Seerer is special because the main character isn’t human. He was an intelligent dinosaur living on a faraway planet who was trying to figure out where his species came from and why they evolved to be so violent.

The adventure he went on in order to find answers to those questions is a must-read.

6. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer.

Like World Made By Hand, the characters in this book had to rely on themselves to stay alive after an asteroid knocked the moon a little closer to Earth and society fell apart completely.

Unlike the characters in World Made By Hand, though, Miranda and her family must survive the severe after-effects of tsunamis, earthquakes, and a sun whose rays have been severely dimmed from volcanic ash that is cluttering up the sky.

There were many sad ways to die in this tale, but I loved its descriptions of what happens when people run low on food without losing hope.

7. Mara and Dann: An Adventure by Doris Lessing.

This is set in Africa several thousand years from now when almost no one remembers the technology and knowledge that humans used to possess.

Mara and Dann were two young siblings who must try to survive in a world where climate change has left large pockets of land uninhabitable and there is danger at every turn. One of my favorite parts of this book was reading the descriptions of the few pieces of modern technology that have survived and trying to guess what they originally were. Some of them were put to use in ways that contemporary people would never have thought of.

8. Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy.

The main character, Connie Ramos, was a woman who was seriously mentally ill. While being treated for her illness in our timeline, she started to communicate with someone from the future. Were her conversations real or another symptom of her disease? Figuring out the answer to that question was nearly as interesting as watching Connie explore a society so different from her own.

9. Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor.

If aliens ever do contact Earth, the first city they visit could very well be Lagos, Nigeria. This was such a suspenseful tale. I caught myself holding my breathe more than once while reading it, especially during the scene when humanity first makes contact with another species.

10. The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo.

Imagine being married off to the spirit of someone who has already died. I had never heard of this custom before, but I was fascinated by the idea of an unmarried ghost being restless and needing a spouse in order to find peace.

The murder mystery that Li Lan eventually found herself tied up in only made the plot better.

What are some of your favorite science fiction and fantasy books that aren’t well known?

Top Ten Books I Read in School

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Back to School Freebie is this week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme!  I’ve been fortunate to have had some excellent teachers and professors who made literature come alive and exposed me to stories that really made me stop and think.  These are ten of my favorites, and I highly recommend them all.

1. The Lady or the Tiger by Frank R. Stockton-Very little can be said about this story without spoiling it.  However, I will say that the ending spurred some intense discussion in my class.  I’ve come to different conclusions about it at different points in my life.

2. The Tell-Tale Heart and Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe-Poe’s work is wonderful and I just couldn’t pick between these two works.

3. Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton-Many authors make references to Greek mythology.  Consequently, I’ve found it very useful to be familiar with the myths.  I’ve always enjoyed this collection.

4. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley-I love this story even though it is a heart-breaking tragedy.

5. Snapshot of a Dog by James Thurber-This bittersweet story about a dog was my first introduction to James Thurber.

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6. The Giver by Lois Lowry-I was blown away when I read this for the first time.  I’ve enjoyed it many times since then.

7. The Crucible by Arthur Miller-This is another piece that absolutely floored me the first time I read it.

8. The Dead by James Joyce-This novella slowly builds toward a brilliant and emotional ending.

9. A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner-Such an intriguing story with a shocking and creepy conclusion.

10. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson-Another excellent story full of tension.

Have you read any of these?  Did you enjoy them?  What are some of your favorites stories you read in school?

Miscellaneous Musings: Summer Reads

Wow, can you believe that July is almost over now? It feels like this summer began five minutes ago! There’s something about this time of year that makes me want to dive into a good book and not surface again until the temperature drops in September.

Here are a few of my favorite summer reads from this year as well as from previous years.

 

The Water Babies: A Fairy Tale for a Land Baby by Charles Kingsley was so whimsical that it could make me forget even the hottest day of the year. I especially loved the descriptions of the water in the opening scene and how it played a role in what happened to the main character after that.

While this was technically written for children, it’s something that I think today’s adult readers will enjoy even more than kids would.

I would normally never recommend a book about someone attempting to commit suicide as a light summer read, but A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman blew my mind.

The main character definitely wasn’t someone who was easy to love. In fact, he was my idea of an perfectly awful neighbor when this story began. I can’t say much else about the plot without giving away huge spoilers, but I will tell you that it was nothing like what I was expecting it to be.

 

The Waiting: The True Story of a Lost Child, a Lifetime of Longing, and a Miracle for a Mother Who Never Gave Up by Cathy LaGrow and Cindy Coloma began with the author talking about she being raped by a stranger at a picnic in 1928. The baby that resulted from that awful attack was placed for adoption, and 77 years later mother and child were reunited after decades of searching.

The story of Cathy’s unconditional love for her daughter was beautiful. This might not be a typical summer read in some ways, but it’s a story that I’m very glad to have read last month.

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue was one of the most interesting mysteries I read in July. Imagine being hired to make sure that someone isn’t eating! That is, the main character’s job is to either catch her charge sneaking food or figure out how someone can survive for years without eating anything at all.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg was one of the first summer novels I can remember reading. This is one of those rare cases where the movie is just as great as the book, although I would recommend reading the book if you really want to get immersed in Ruth and Idgie’s world.

Bugs can be found everywhere at this time of the year, so I might as well read all about them in Bugged: The Insects Who Rule the World and the People Obsessed with Them by David MacNeal. I’m still on my library’s waiting list for this book, but I’m hoping to be next in line by August.

Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is at the top of my to-read list for this summer. I absolutely love stories that follow the same family through multiple generations, so I suspect that I’m going to really enjoy seeing what happens to Kintu’s descendants as the plot progresses.

What have you been reading this summer? What books do you associate with this time of the year?