Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’d Recommend To Readers Who Have Never Read Fantasy

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish.

I am a very big fan of fantasy, and my bookshelves are a testiment to that fact. Below I am sharing a list of my Top Ten Favorite Fantasy Books that I would recommend to readers that are new to the genre of fantasy. I hope you will enjoy them. I would love to know if you try any of my recommendations or if there are any others you would recommend to me.

 The Night Circus

1. The Night Circus- Erin Morgenstern

I LOVE this book. I have read it at least 10 times (probably more) since it came out. A mysterious circus that only opens at night, with no color but black, white and shades of grey. A battle between two magicians, a love story in the making,  red headed twins, beautiful imagery, and delicious descriptions that lift the scents of the circus right off the page…and so much more. You will not want it to end, and you will return to it often after you finish it. Absolutely Charming!

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2. The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicles Book 1)- Patrick Rothfuss

My best friend (Vania..who runs this blog with me) basically took this book off the shelf and literally opened it and placed it in my hands and told me to start reading it, while at a bookstore for another book event. That’s how much she loved this story…and am I glad she did. I fell head over heads for this story. You can’t help but love the hero and his trust sidekicks…and absolutely loathe the villians. There are demons, and sword fights, magic spells and even the fae. You will not want to put this book down. You will be engorged and if you are wise, you will read it slowly…as it is part of three…and the third is not yet written. Which leads us to book 2 and number 3 on our list….

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3. The Wise Man’s Fear- (The Kingkiller Chronicles Book 2) Patrick Rothfuss

Here we continue with the adventures of hero…it starts like this

My name is Kvothe.
I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trehon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.
You may have heard of me….

If just those few sentences don’t grab at you and fill you with curiosity, I have no idea what will.

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4. Neverwhere- Neil Gaiman

This is a very odd, and curious book. About a girl named Door who lives in the secret hidden world under London. She is running for her life, when she stumbles right into the arms of our hero Richard and completely turns his world upside down. This is a book about “a city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.” Neil Gaiman never ceases to amaze me at how much of a brilliant story teller he is and this is one of his best works. Filled with quirkiness, and a side of twisted-ness…a truly Gaiman masterwork.

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5. Harry Potter Series- JK Rowling

One of the most beloved book series of all time! No amount of words can ever describe how glorious this whole series is. It’s simply magical and you will just have to dive in and fall in love with it yourself. It’s not just for little kids, it will surprise you and enthrall you.

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6. Grimms’ FairyTales- The Brothers Grimm

I love a good fairy tale and these boys have them, but they aren’t all sugar and spice. These tales are pretty dark and some even a bit twisted, but if you are like me and not turned off by a little blood or violence. The real version of these stories are not sugar coated like the Disney ones, but they are a much better read.

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7. The Princess Bride- (S. Morgenstern) reconstructed by William Goldman

Loved this book from the moment I read the title, and I was not disappointed with the story I found inside.  ” Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.” So if that list of things that occur within these pages appeal to you, you will enjoy this book very much. 

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8. Game of Thrones Series (7 book series)- George R.R. Martin

They are long, and a bit confusing, and some even find it to be too violent, too brash, and far too much swearing. However, if you are looking for a historical fantasy saga that probably will never end because the author has yet to finish the last remaining 2 books…this might be for you. You have people fighting to be rulers of the 7 kingdoms, many sword fights, be-headings, incest, revenge, poison, betrayal, shadow creatures, and ice monsters, plenty of bloodshed, torture, and sex. These books are brutal and you will probably throw them at some point out your window, against a wall or just yell at it various times as you read it. The story and characters will keep you going….even if it hurts too much.

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9. Lilith- George MacDonald

This book is weird. It has religious undertones and sort of goes into the Jewish myth about Adam’s first wife “Lilith” as well as Eve (Adam’s second wife). DON’T let that stop you from reading it. If you take it just as a story, (especially if you are not religious) it will be like reading any other myth or fairy tale. It is very interesting, and makes you question the world around you. It’s very philosophical to a certain point. If you like to “read between the lines” and “see” more deeply into secret meanings and symbols you will enjoy this one. Just keep an open mind…

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10. Interview with the Vampire- Anne Rice

I could not compile a list about fantasy and not have my favorite vampire novel on it. I think Anne’s vampires are the epitome of the “romanticized undead” and I love them. Beautiful, deadly, witty, charming, and immortal. Anne’s lovely descriptive writing lures you deep into the story, and before you even get to the middle of the book you too will be begging for Lestat to make you one of them, no matter the price.

Did any of your favorites make the list? Are you going to read of of the ones I mentioned? I would love to hear your feedback!

Book Review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Book Review: The Goldfinch by Donna TarttThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
on October 22nd 2013
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 773
Goodreads
three-stars

It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.
As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.
The Goldfinch combines vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher's calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

The synopsis of this book had me at “an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate”. 

I am very interested in the concept of fate, and having experienced many sides of loss and of obsession I felt I could relate to this story very well.

I loved the beginning of this book, especially Theo’s mom. She loves art and makes us fall in love with art by the way she describes and acts regarding art. When she describes  how she feels about a painting, its magic. There were things about her that reminded me very much of my own mother.  She was caring , cool, smart and funny. I was not happy about what happened to her…

“You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life”

Theo Decker (age 13) and his mother decide to go view a Dutch Masters exhibit, and while separated for a few minutes a bombing occurs, killing Theo’s mom and many others. Theo can’t find his mom, but those find a man whose granddaughter he had been admiring…a cute little red-headed girl…who gives him a ring, and tells him to take it to Hobie….and also tells him to “rescue” a painting of a goldfinch from the wreckage, which also happens to be his mother’s favorite. The story follows Theo through his youth, and into adulthood. It follows his struggle with dealing with the loss of his mother and also coming to terms with the bombing of the museum and how it was not his fault she did not survive. There is his struggles with drug use as well as his alcohol abuse, and antique furniture fraud. Meanwhile the fate of the painting hangs in the balance and you don’t know what will happen to it.  I read a review that mentioned how anxious this story made them, and I must agree. You are constantly worried for the painting, worried about Theo’s poor life choices, worried for the elderly Hobie, etc. You just want things to turn out okay, but it doesn’t always.

There were times that I questioned why was I still reading, because you don’t always like what’s happening in the book, or the characters. There are so many times I just wanted to punch sense into Theo’s brain, along with the  rest of the characters (particularly Boris, Theo’s father and Xandra). It was Tartt’s pose and the way she wrote about the painting that kept me going. You could say I became just as obsessed with the Goldfinch painting as Theo was.

“—if a painting really works down in your heart and changes the way you see, and think, and feel, you don’t think, ‘oh, I love this picture because it’s universal.’ ‘I love this painting because it speaks to all mankind.’ That’s not the reason anyone loves a piece of art. It’s a secret whisper from an alleyway. Psst, you. Hey kid. Yes you.”

“When I looked at the painting I felt the same convergence on a single point: a glancing sun-struck instance that existed now and forever. Only occasionally did I notice the chain on the finch’s ankle, or think what a cruel life for a little living creature–fluttering briefly, forced always to land in the same hopeless place.”

A few Quotes I particularly loved…which made all the dull, less likable parts of the book bearable…

“Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only—if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn’t it? And isn’t the whole point of things—beautiful things—that they connect you to some larger beauty?”

“I don’t care what anyone says or how often or winningly they say it: no one will ever, ever be able to persuade me that life is some awesome, rewarding treat. Because, here’s the truth: life is catastrophe. The basic fact of existence — of walking around trying to feed ourselves and find friends and whatever else we do — is catastrophe. Forget all this ridiculous ‘Our Town’ nonsense everyone talks: the miracle of a newborn babe, the joy of one simple blossom, Life You Are Too Wonderful To Grasp, &c. For me — and I’ll keep repeating it doggedly till I die, till I fall over on my ungrateful nihilistic face and am too weak to say it: better never born, than born into this cesspool.”

“A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.”

“Only here’s what I really, really want someone to explain to me. What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can’t be trusted–? What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all the blandly-held common virtues and instead straight toward a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster?…If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to turn away? Stop your ears with wax? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is screaming at you? Set yourself on the course that will lead you dutifully towards the norm, reasonable hours and regular medical check-ups, stable relationships and steady career advancement the New York Times and brunch on Sunday, all with the promise of being somehow a better person? Or…is it better to throw yourself head first and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?”

“That life – whatever else it is – is short. That fate is cruel but maybe not random. That Nature (meaning Death) always wins but that doesn’t mean we have to bow and grovel to it. That maybe even if we’re not always so glad to be here, it’s our task to immerse ourselves anyway: wade straight through it, right through the cesspool, while keeping eyes and hearts open. And in the midst of our dying, as we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn’t touch.”

In the end, you will either enjoy and love this book by the time you finish it, or you might throw it across the room and hate it. However, I don’t think that decision can be made based on reading a review of the book. I think you need to go out there and pick it up and dive into the story. I was seduced by the painting…maybe you will be too.

**This review was originally posted on Reading In The Tardis**

three-stars

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Movies with Fabulous Costumes

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish.

So this week we are going to take a little break from talking about books, instead we are going to chat about our Top Ten Favorite Movies with Fabulous Costumes.  I am a sucker for a  corsets, poofy dresses and pretty much anything  considered a “period drama”. How about you? Are any of your favorites on the list? Did I miss any really spectacular costume movie? What are some of your favorite “costumed” movies?

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1. Marie Antoinette

Gorgeous dresses, corsets and shoes…OH LA LA! Plus delicious pastries and a shoe montage!

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2. Interview with the Vampire

Brad Pitt…can bite me any time…but also amazing costumes, one more beautiful then the next.

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3. Harry Potter

Totally whimsy! They went all out on these movies, and it’s really great to see the book “come to life”.

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4. Pride and Prejudice

Colin Firth…dripping, wet, see through shirt…plus the dresses of course.

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5. Amadeus

More glorious dresses…yes I have a thing for corsets, and parfait colors.

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6. Moulin Rouge

Glitz and glitter and an explosion for your eyes, plus more corsets.

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7. Barry Lydon

Just the sheer amount of styles and actors that the person in charge of the costume team had to dress is impressive, plus it’s a movie not to many people seem to know.

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8. Star Wars

I am usually not a fan of very “sci-fi” ” ultra spacey” costumes, but I have to give kudos to the costume department, as well as the hair and makeup team.

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9. Lord of the Rings

From beautiful fairies to nasty trolls and brave hobbits…this movie had so much going on. Stunning!

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10. Titanic

“I’ll never let go Jack”…I wanted to be Rose and to have her entire closet. Beautiful representation of the Edwardian period.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Classic Books

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish.

Here is a list of the Top Ten Classics I grew up reading. To me they are considered “Classics” and I am sure that most of them are on an official “Classics” list too.

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1. Pride and Prejudice-Jane Austen- I can’t even begin to explain how much I love this book. I own various copies of it, and have watched all the adaptations (yes…even the crappy ones)…and pretty much read it at least once a year.

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2. Dracula– Bram Stoker- There’s just something about Vampires…and this was the book that started my vampire obsession when I was just a little pre-teen.

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3. Anne of Green Gables (The Entire series)-L.M. Montgomery- Filled with the beautiful countryside of Prince Edward Island, the imaginative and feisty red headed Anne and all her glorious adventures. I love Anne so much, that I proceeded to read the entire series that follows her into adulthood.

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4. Little Women– Louisa May Alcott- Of all the sisters I loved Jo the best with her independent soul and creative whimsy, but all her sisters were special in their own way.

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5. Emma– Jane Austen- Charming, flawed, but lovely Emma and her matchmaking mischief. Sometimes you want to smack sense into her, but in the end you know she means well and just has some growing up to do.

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6. The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairytales– Grimm- I read these over and over and over again throughout my childhood and into my adulthood (though I see them now in a very different light and see how really “dark” many of the stories are).

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7. The  Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe– C.S. Lewis- Completely enchanting and marvelous tale, that made me want to check the inside of all wardrobes in every house I ever spent time in as a child.

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8. The Picture of Dorian Gray– Oscar Wilde- This book fascinated me, because it showed a very interesting look into the human pysche with plenty of points of discussion regarding right from wrong, what we are willing to give up to have our heart’s desires. As well as not judging or assuming to know a person by the face they show on the outside.

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9. Sense and Sensibility– Jane Austen- Yes, another Jane Austen book, but how can you blame me? After all I would probably put all her books on this list because I love them all, but I limited myself to just three. 🙂 My favorite character in this one is Marianne Dashwood, because I see so much of myself in her, especially my younger self. She leaps before she looks, she wears her heart of her sleeve, she is an absolute romantic and of course she also pays the consequence for not listening to her more sensible sister Elinor Dashwood (been there, and done that). A book about more than just balls and finding husbands (that’s how things were back then). I think Sense and Sensibility teaches a great deal about being a good sister/friend, learning to listen/have patience, but also when to throw caution to the wind.

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10. The Awakening– Kate Chopin- Last but not least a book that truly made me question many things in my young life when I first read it at 17. Coming from a very “classic” and “conservative” family background of what was socially expected of me (marriage to a man, bringing up a family, instead of following my dreams, my goals, my desires) this book made me see that it was okay to not want those things, though it would probably not be easily accepted by those around me. At the time I was engaged to be married to a much older man, and that was the future I had planned out for me. This book was a critical point in helping me question what I wanted out of life. I’m lucky because most of society these days are okay with the choices I made (even if my family was not at the time), but that is not a luxury women had in Victorian times or even just a few years ago. It’s not even a luxury that women have in many countries in the present day. Though written long ago, there are still critical issues that we still deal with today in this book, such as equal rights for all women and gender crisis.

What are some of your favorite Classics? How do you define “Classic”?

Book Review: The Shining Girls By Lauren Beukes

Book Review: The Shining Girls By Lauren BeukesThe Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
Published by Mulholland Books on June 4th 2013
Pages: 375
Goodreads
three-half-stars

The Girl Who Wouldn't Die Hunts the Killer Who Shouldn't Exist
The future is not as loud as war, but it is relentless. It has a terrible fury all its own.
Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mazrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future.
Kirby is the last shining girl, one of the bright young women, burning with potential, whose lives Harper is destined to snuff out after he stumbles on a House in Depression-era Chicago that opens on to other times.
At the urging of the House, Harper inserts himself into the lives of the shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He's the ultimate hunter, vanishing into another time after each murder, untraceable-until one of his victims survives.
Determined to bring her would-be killer to justice, Kirby joins the Chicago Sun-Times to work with the ex-homicide reporter, Dan Velasquez, who covered her case. Soon Kirby finds herself closing in on the impossible truth . . .
The Shining Girls is a masterful twist on the serial killer tale: a violent quantum leap featuring a memorable and appealing heroine in pursuit of a deadly criminal.

What made me read this book? Time travel. I saw it as a really “twisted” version of Doctor Who. In this case, the killer would be The Doctor and he travels in time in this house aka ‘The Tardis” looking for his next companion which he would turn into his next victim. Yes, there you have it folks…a pretty messed up Doctor Who fanfic, but that is not what the book is about.

Kirby the main character is AMAZING. She survives a very horrific murder attempt on her life. She is courageous, funny, super independent, very clever and determined. I think that if the novel did not have such a brilliant main character to center itself around, it probably would have fallen apart. 

Time Travel. I have always been fascinated with this concept. There is no explanation as to why “the House” can time travel, it just does. The time frame being from the late 1920s to the 1990s in the same city.

There was a creep-tastic villain, named Harper, a hobo from the Great Depression era. You don’t have too much information about his background, family life etc. We know that while some of the reason he kills is because “the House” is making him do it, but there is more to it than that. He is sadistic and likes meeting the girls when they are children and pursuing them until they get to a certain age. However, he feels a bit underwritten too. He is mainly just a guy with a knife, killing women because he has a deep hate for them.  He is cruel and sadistic but we don’t know why, or what makes him this way. He just is. He hunts down all these “shining” girls because in his messed up head he thinks if he kills them all for “the House,” there will be a greater purpose revealed to him in the end. We never  find out why these girls are considered “shinier” than others, what makes them Shining Girls. (I am assuming it’s just based on all the potential they have, but Chicago is a big town, and there has to be plenty of equally potential filled girls there.)

Besides Kirby, the other victims don’t get much “book time”, and their stories are rushed through or told as quickly as possible. It almost felt like their murders were not as “important” as Kirby’s  (except when describing the gruesome scenes). The end also felt rushed and sort of bundled together. The research for the time period and city was very well done.

I will definitely read more books by Lauren Beukes and I hope she continues to grow and develop as a writer, and that her stories expand with her.

**This review was originally posted on Reading In The Tardis**

three-half-stars