Top Ten Tuesday: Books

Since there are more than 10 books on my Goodreads Favorites Shelf, so I’ll pick my ten favorites from that list. The fun thing about Top 10 lists is that my tastes can change, so I can use this particular prompt again sometime. These are in no particular order.

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

Many stories tell of damsels in distress, who are rescued from the clutches of fire-breathing dragons by knights in shining armor, and swept off to live happily ever after. Unfortunately, this is not one of those stories.

True, when Creel’s aunt suggests sacrificing her to the local dragon, it is with the hope that the knight will marry Creel and that everyone (aunt and family included) will benefit handsomely. Yet it’s Creel who talks her way out of the dragon’s clutches. And it’s Creel who walks for days on end to seek her fortune in the king’s city with only a bit of embroidery thread and a strange pair of slippers in her possession. But even Creel could not have guessed the outcome of this tale. For in a country on the verge of war, Creel unknowingly possesses not just any pair of shoes, but a tool that could be used to save her kingdom…or destroy it.

This is one of those stories that I could read again and again and again even though it’s a much lower reading level than most of the other books on this list. It’s a great story and I really love the main character and the focus on handicrafts like embroidery and dress making. The attention to detail in the descriptions – especially the clothing – is to die for.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

You can’t make a post about fantasy books without including the father of modern fantasy J.R.R. Tolkien. I almost included the Silmarillion instead of the Hobbit, but I decided that I honestly like the Hobbit more just because it’s less headache inducing.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the “gift” of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been cowed by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: “Instead of making me docile, Lucinda’s curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally.” When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella’s life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way. Yes, there is a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and a happily ever after, but this is the most remarkable, delightful, and profound version of Cinderella you’ll ever read.

This is maybe my favorite book of all time and even more so since I’ve met Gail Carson Levine and got her to sign my copy of A Tale of Two Castles. The only reason that the autographed book is not Ella Enchanted is that my copy had fallen apart from too much love. This was my first introduction to two very important things: Fairytale rewrites and the fact that the movie can be very, very different (incomparably so) than the book. Gail Carson Levine is a great person, to quote Jubilation: “Oh, Gail Carson Levine. She’s a super classy person—have you seen her Goodreads profile? She doesn’t even review books she didn’t enjoy, because she doesn’t want to add to all the petty snarky shit that’s in the world.”

Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Benevolence is not your typical princess–and Princess Ben is certainly not your typical fairy tale.

With her parents lost to assassins, Princess Ben ends up under the thumb of the conniving Queen Sophia. Starved and miserable, locked in the castle’s highest tower, Ben stumbles upon a mysterious enchanted room. So begins her secret education in the magical arts:mastering an obstinate flying broomstick, furtively emptying the castle’s pantries, setting her hair on fire… But Ben’s private adventures are soon overwhelmed by a mortal threat to her kingdom. Can Ben save the country and herself from tyranny?

Oh so good. I can’t tell you the first time I read this – or what happened to my original copy (read in about fifth grade). I think it got lost when we moved in seventh grade, and as such I was no reacquainted with Ben until I tracked it down on my Kindle in high school. At the time I read it, it was the most complex and engrossing book I’d ever read (short of a failed attempt to read LOTR in third grade).

 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy. He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.) Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason: Harry Potter is a wizard! The first book in the “Harry Potter” series makes the perfect introduction to the world of Hogwarts.

I’ll let this one speak for itself.

A Curse as Dark As Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

This ravishing winner of the ALA’s William C. Morris YA Debut Award is a fairy tale, spun with a mystery, woven with a family story, and shot through with romance.

Charlotte Miller has always scoffed at talk of a curse on her family’s woolen mill, which holds her beloved small town together. But after her father’s death, the bad luck piles up: departing workers, impossible debts, an overbearing uncle. Then a stranger named Jack Spinner offers a tempting proposition: He can turn straw into gold thread, for the small price of her mother’s ring. As Charlotte is drawn deeper into her bargains with Spinner-and a romance with the local banker-she must unravel the truth of the curse on the mill and save the community she’s always called home.

Give me more. This ranks up there with Princess Ben in terms of “I read it early and then forgot about it.” The style is similar to the things I love best about Gail Carson Levine and Jessica Day George with a little bit of Grimm’s style thrown in.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I really liked this book and I also really connected with it. I read it for the first time for my school’s book club in tenth grade and although I’ve not read it again I connected with it. It felt like real life – come on, we all know that Simon Snow is a poor alias for Harry Potter – and the fact that it started as a NaNoWriMo makes it even better.

Death’s Acre by Dr. Bass

Dr. Bill Bass, one of the world’s leading forensic anthropologists, gained international attention when he built a forensic lab like no other: The Body Farm. Now, this master scientist unlocks the gates of his lab to reveal his most intriguing cases-and to revisit the Lindbergh kidnapping and murder, fifty years after the fact.

The only non-fiction to make the list. Dr. Bass is one of my heroes. If you’re not familiar with his work with anthropology (starting the world famous A.R.F. better known as The Body Farm) then you should be. With his co-author Jon Jefferson he’s written many a fictional account that are the best and most realistic you’ll ever read. His autobiography is even better. But be warned: it’s not for the faint of heart.

Seraphina by Rachael Hartman

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

Nothing in the universe could have prepared me for this book. I picked it up just for the cover – the copy in my school library doesn’t have a summary on the back – and I never looked back except for the two year wait for book two. It’s rather like Game of Thrones: drama, intrigue, dragons – all those good things without the sex. The last thing I’ll say: make use of the character index in the back.

The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein

ZACK, HIS DAD, and new stepmother have just moved back to his father’s hometown, not knowing that their new house has a dark history. Fifty years ago, a crazed killer caused an accident at the nearby crossroads that took 40 innocent lives. He died when his car hit a tree in a fiery crash, and his malevolent spirit has inhabited the tree ever since. During a huge storm, lightning hits the tree, releasing the spirit, who decides his evil spree isn’t over . . . and Zack is directly in his sights.

Home of the world’s best stepmother.

I don’t usually like scary stories AT ALL, but I loved this book so very much (it’s yet another that I have autographed!). I first read it in sixth grade and I was sucked in by the descriptive language and the chills and laughs that it gave.

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