top 5 tuesday: Favorite Book Titles

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm.  This week’s topic:

DECEMBER 4 – Top 5 book titles

When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy

I love everything about this.  I love the subtitle and I love that the title is a line written by the protagonist’s husband.  The framing of her narrative around this abusive man is so effective, and when you read that line in the book it’s such a gut punch.

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Elif Batuman

There’s something about describing your own protagonist with this bizarrely harsh word that I’m always drawn to.  (Have read the Batuman, have not yet read the Dostoevsky.)

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

Delightfully irreverent and contradictory.  This is a fantastic pairing of words.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

I mean.  This title is perfection.  Haven’t read this yet; am largely interested because of that title.

Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch by Henry Miller

Another one I haven’t read, so I do not have the slightest clue how the title works in the context of the book, but that is just the most wonderfully unexpected way to finish a title that begins with ‘Big Sur’ and I just adore it.  Also because Hieronymus Bosch is one of my favorite artists and I’m just dying to know the connection between California and the Northern Renaissance.

What’s your favorite book title?  Comment and let me know!


top 5 tuesday: Characters Who Would Win Survivor

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm.  This week’s topic:

MARCH 27th – Top 5 characters that would win the show Survivor

Allow me to show my true colors as a complete nerd for a second here – I love Survivor.  I’ve watched every season multiple times (that’s over 35 seasons, over 500 episodes… all multiple times.  I have no life).  Being stranded in an airport for 5 hours with Stephen Fishbach was one of my personal highlights of 2016.  I love this prompt.

In case you are unfamiliar: Survivor is a reality television competition show, in which approx. 16-20 strangers are stranded on an island together, separated into ‘tribes,’ and compete in challenges.  The losing tribe has to vote someone out until the number of competitors dwindles down.  Eventually the two tribes merge and it becomes an individual game, and of the remaining 2-3 players at the very end, a jury of their peers votes for a winner, who receives a million dollars.  Basically, they’re voting for the person they believe “outwitted, outplayed, and outlasted” the rest of the competitors the best.  What makes Survivor so tricky is that as soon as you show how capable you are – whether it’s your intelligence or physical prowess – you’re seen as a threat to win the game, and your tribemates are going to want to vote you out.  And since you’re eventually judged by the very people you’re having a hand in voting out, it’s critical that you’re able to do so without making enemies of them.  Winning Survivor requires not only physical strength, but mental stamina, quick thinking, intelligence, and often, the ability to fly under the radar, and to manipulate without people realizing that you’re the one pulling the strings.  That’s the reason I love it so much – it’s a deceptively psychological game.

And it’s on Hulu – go watch it!

So, to add a completely unnecessary level of nerdiness to this prompt, I decided to choose my 5 favorite Survivor winners, and choose 5 fictional characters who I think are the most similar, who’d also be great at the game.  (Also NB that these are not necessarily my favorites in terms of personality, etc., just who I thought played the best Survivor games and were most deserving of the million dollars in direct relation to their gameplay.)

So, uh… spoilers for Survivor seasons: 27, 18, 13, 16, 24.

5. Tyson Apostol, Blood vs. Water (27) – Kaz Brekker, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Tyson is probably one of the most ruthless winners Survivor has ever seen.  He’s not a particularly nice person, but he’s upfront about who he is.  He won’t pretend to be your friend and then stab you in the back; he’ll be honest about the fact that he isn’t your friend to begin with.  But what makes him such a great winner is just how capable he is: he’s intelligent, physically strong, and he strategically runs the entire season.  Everyone knows it, too, but they’re a little afraid to vote him out because they don’t know what they’d do without their de facto leader.  Enter Kaz Brekker, ridiculously capable and unapologetically ruthless… but people flock to him anyway.  I think he could win Survivor with his eyes closed and his hands tied behind his back.  (There’s also the fact that Tyson won a season where loved ones are competing against each other on opposite tribes, and though he seems to not care about anyone, his weakness is his now-wife Rachel… I don’t need to comment on the obvious Kaz parallels there.)

4. James “JT” Thomas, Tocantins (18) – Charles Macaulay, The Secret History by Donna Tartt

In contrast, JT is one of the ‘nicest’ winners in Survivor history.  He is a good ol’ southern boy who everyone’s drawn to, and, like Tyson, no one really wanted to vote him out even though they knew he’d win if he got to the end.  He’s pretty much The Golden Boy… but he also knows that people see him as altruistic and he’s ready to use that to his advantage (e.g., when Stephen admitted that he hadn’t wanted to bring JT to the final 2, JT acted like it was a deep personal betrayal and then later admitted that he was putting that on for show to garner sympathy).  So, for The Golden Boy who can be a bit of an asshole, Charles Macaulay is the perfect fit.  He seems the type who’d be able to win over anyone’s trust just by batting his eyelashes, but he also has that underlying manipulative streak.

3. Yul Kwon, Cook Islands (13) – Noa Baek, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

When it came down to the final 3 players this season, the two that were in contention to win were Yul, the quiet, understated, intelligent player, and Ozzy, one of the best physical competitors in Survivor history who won most of the challenges.  Yul won by a single vote, which I was thrilled about, because if I were on a Survivor jury I’d prioritize intellect over physical strength any day, and I loved his strategic game play.  The first character who came to mind for Yul was Noa, whose quiet sort of intelligence could be a huge asset, and allow him to slide under the radar.

2. Parvati Shallow, Micronesia (16) – Vanda, Venus in Fur by David Ives

(aka my wife.)  Parvati Shallow is the quintessential femme fatale of Survivor – everyone gravitates to her, and she is the queen of manipulation.  In a good-natured way, though; she always has a smile on her face and she knows it’s just a game.  But still, she can be pretty ruthless, and Vanda is a perfect fictional counterpart to her.  At the beginning of the play, Vanda is a beautiful woman who appears to be willing to do anything to appease the male playwright/director she’s auditioning for, but throughout the course of the play the power dynamic gradually shifts, and Vanda ends up in total control.

1. Kim Spradlin, One World (24) – Sansa Stark, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

In my opinion, the best Survivor winner, who played one of the best and most understated social, physical, and strategic games.  Kim is in control of her entire season from start to finish – she decides who goes home on nearly every vote, but she doesn’t let anyone know that she’s pulling the strings; she’s more subtle about it.  It reminds me so much of Sansa Stark and the way she quietly manipulates everyone around her at King’s Landing – e.g., goading Joffrey into fighting where it’s the most dangerous in a way that’s so subtle you can hardly even tell she’s doing it.  I think Sansa would be dismissed early on by her tribemates on Survivor for not being particularly capable, but then she’d sneak up on them and absolutely kick ass.

Who else in the bookish community watches Survivor?  Let me know!!

top 5 tuesday: New to Me Authors in 2017

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm.  This week’s topic:

DECEMBER 12TH – Top 5 (OR 10!) new to me authors in 2017

I wasn’t initially going to do this topic since it slipped my mind this week, but I was #blessed with a snow day today and have nothing better to do, so why not!

I could easily do 10, but I think I like the challenge of narrowing it down to 5.

123715Agatha Christie.  It’s hard to believe I only read And Then There Were None earlier this year – I feel like I’ve been reading Christie for so much longer.  Since then I’ve read five more Christie novels – Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Three Act Tragedy, Sparkling Cyanide, and Crooked House – and none of them has received less than a 4 star rating from me.  I’m not even a little bit tired of her books, and I can’t wait to read even more in 2018.

7195John Boyne.  I know, I won’t shut up about John Boyne, but I just think he’s brilliant.  I’ve only read two of his books so far – The Heart’s Invisible Furies and The Absolutist, and no, I’ve never read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – but both of them ripped my heart out, which, if you know me, is something I particularly enjoy.  He also published this fantastic Guardian article today about why women are better writers than men which is worth checking out, particularly if you hate Jonathan Franzen.

Also this was the single most iconic moment of 2017:


recp_vsv_400x400Lisa McInerney.  Another Irish writer I discovered this year, when I read her genius debut The Glorious Heresies.  This book knocked the wind out of me in the best possible way.  McInerney provides a really brilliant exploration of crime and poverty in contemporary Ireland – her novel is is moving and profane and challenging and utterly fearless.  I’ve never read anything like it.  And her character Ryan Cusack still haunts me.  I can’t wait to hopefully read the sequel, The Blood Miracles, next year.

38185Mary Renault.  I’ve only read one Renault novel so far, Fire From Heaven, and it took me the better part of three months, so that probably doesn’t sound like the biggest endorsement ever.  But it’s one of those books that’s completely worth the effort that you need to put into it.  Renault’s research into the life of Alexander the Great is absolutely impeccable, and I have so much admiration for her as a writer and historian.  I didn’t want to rush straight into The Persian Boy, the next book in her Alexander trilogy, but I really look forward to getting around to it in 2018.

3p216vdmMin Jin Lee.  I haven’t stopped talking about Pachinko since I read it very early this year, but that’s only because that book ripped my heart out and positively haunted me.  I still find myself thinking about that novel and its characters – and since I’ve read about 90 books since then, that’s a pretty big accomplishment.  I haven’t gone back and read Lee’s debut yet, but I intend to, and I will definitely pick up anything she publishes in the future.

Honorable mentions to: Donal Ryan, Leigh Bardugo, M.L. Rio, Caite Dolan-Leach, Mira T. Lee, Josh Malerman, Maggie Stiefvater, Edward St. Aubyn, Kanae Minato, David Mitchell, Mohsin Hamid, David Vann, and Brian Friel.  And probably others.

Who’s your favorite author that you discovered in 2017?  Comment and let me know!

top 5 tuesday: Favorite Quotes

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm.  This week’s topic:

OCTOBER 17 – Top 5 book quotes

Narrowing down this list PAINED ME so think of these as my top 5 book quotes at this exact moment in time (8:54 pm on a Monday in October), because in ten minutes I’m sure I would have chosen a different selection.  Also I’m not going to add my commentary to these, I’m just going to let them speak for themselves, but if there’s anything that needs clarifying or if you’re curious as to why any of these struck me, do let me know.

31548“It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideal which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real, they are bruised and wounded. It looks as if they were victims of a conspiracy; for the books they read, ideal by the necessity of selection, and the conversation of their elders, who look back upon the past through a rosy haze of forgetfulness, prepare them for an unreal life. They must discover for themselves that all they have read and all they have been told are lies, lies, lies; and each discovery is another nail driven into the body on the cross of life.”

– W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage

michaud-the-subversive-brilliance-of-a-little-life-320“Now he got out of bed and wrapped his blanket around himself, yawning. That evening, he’d talk to Jude. He didn’t know where he was going, but he knew he would be safe; he would keep them both safe. He went to the kitchen to make himself coffee, and as he did, he whispered the lines back to himself, those lines he thought of whenever he was coming home, coming back to Greene Street after a long time away – “And tell me this: I must be absolutely sure. This place I’ve reached, is it truly Ithaca?”- as all around him, the apartment filled with light.”

– Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life


“If you show someone something you’ve written, you give them a sharpened stake, lie down in your coffin, and say, ‘When you’re ready’.”

— David Mitchell, Black Swan Green



harper-perennial-edition“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

— Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

51yqc21t3nl-_sy344_bo1204203200_“He stood between death and life as between night and morning, and thought with a soaring rapture, ‘I am not afraid’.”

— Mary Renault, Fire From Heaven




What are your favorite quotes and what did you think of mine??  Comment and let me know!

top 5 tuesday: Favorite Book Covers

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm.  This week’s topic:

OCTOBER 17 – Top 5 favourite book covers

Cheating a bit, but here we go:


Human Acts by Han Kang: This is one of my all-time favorite cover designs; I love the simple yet eerie imagery and I love the dissonance of the muted yellow.

The William Morrow covers of Agatha Christie‘s novels.  A few faves: And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, Endless NightSparkling Cyanide.  I’m obsessed with this series of covers and I’m slowly working on collecting them all…. I may go broke in the process but I’m having fun with it so far.


Running by Cara Hoffman.  This was a very strange little novel that I didn’t completely love, but I think the cover design is stunning – I love the Greek statues and the slightly off-tone primary colors.


The Vegetarian by Han Kang: I genuinely tried to narrow it down and choose only one Han Kang cover, but I love both of them so much.  I love how delightfully creepy this one is, and I love the bold red of the background.

The Kopp Sisters series by Amy Stewart: Girl Waits With Gun, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions.  I love the old fashioned newspaper cover design and the use of bold colors.  And Constance Kopp’s no-nonsense expression in all of these images is pretty great.

What can I say – I’m pretty predictable.  Bold colors + some cool art design + clean font are the way to my heart.

What are some of your favorite book covers?

top 5 tuesday: Spooky Books (+Films!) for Halloween

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm.  This week’s topic:

OCTOBER 10 – Top 5 spooky reads for Halloween!

For someone who likes horror as much as I do, I surprisingly do not read much horror.  I think it’s probably because I don’t see it recommended very often in the online bookish circles that I follow, so a lot of it just flies under my radar?  Well, anyway.  Here are 4 horror novels and 1 just sort of ~atmospheric one.  (Also, my omission of Stephen King is due to the fact that I’ve never actually read anything by him.  Oops.)

594139Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.  Let’s get the non-horror out of the way.  I seem to talk about this book a lot, but only because it’s so good.  Rebecca is an atmospheric, Gothic novel about a young woman who marries a rich man whose mysterious, alluring dead ex-wife Rebecca exerts a certain pull over their lives.  It’s not a ghost story, but it is haunting in a more psychological way, and the creepy setting of the Manderly estate makes for an excellent book to read around this time of year.

27833617The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon.  Set in an abandoned motel in rural Vermont, this is obviously a book that I had to check out.  This is an eerie, creepy, suspenseful paranormal horror book that isn’t the least bit gruesome, so if you like your horror light on the gore, this is a perfect book for that.  While I did have a few criticisms by the end, I ultimately thought it was ridiculously entertaining, and genuinely frightening at times.

32796253Final Girls by Riley Sager.  Another one that I’ve talked about a lot, but I promise it’s a quick, engaging read that is well worth checking out.  This mystery/thriller novel is more of a love letter to the horror genre than a proper horror novel in its own right, but the flashback scenes set in a cabin in the woods are properly chilling.  This is a novel which follows a young woman, Quincy, the sole survivor of a brutal massacre that left several of her friends dead years ago.  The problem is, she can’t remember what happened that night.

27997200The Silent Children by Amna K. Boheim.  This is a fantastically entertaining modern-day ghost story set in Vienna, filled to the brim with dark family secrets.  It follows the story of a young man, Max, who discovers some unsavory details about his family’s past, including flashbacks to World War II era Vienna.  I’ll admit that I had a slow start with this book, but once it hits its stride about 20% in, it’s almost impossible to put down.

51xb75isx7l-_sx343_bo1204203200_The Last Night at Tremore Beach by Mikel Santiago.  This is a vaguely paranormal mystery set on the idyllic Irish coast, as renowned composer Peter Harper decides to spend some time on his own following a messy divorce.  One night as he makes his way home during a storm, Peter is struck by lightning, and in the events that follow, dreams and reality begin to blur as he attempts to save his family from an impending crime.  This is another highly entertaining novel that’s easy to fly through in a couple of hours.

BONUS: I may be a book blog, but I love horror movies.  Hands down the best part of Halloween tbh.  Rather than making a separate post for this, I thought I’d just tack these on here.  So here are some of my favorites!

p12732076_p_v8_aaHush (2016)
Directed by: Mike Flanagan.
Starring: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr.

Hush is a subversive twist on the slasher genre… it starts with the ‘woman alone in a cabin in the woods being terrorized’ premise, but slowly progresses into something so much better.  The main character, played by Kate Siegel, is deaf, and she uses her deafness to her advantage to fight back against the man who’s psychologically torturing her.  It’s amazing and also terrifying… I would not advise that you watch this alone if you live in a cabin in the woods.

teaser_poster_for_2017_film_get_outGet Out (2017)
Directed by: Jordan Peele.
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams.

On this list, I’d say that Get Out is the least scary film, so if you like psychological thrillers more than flat-out horror, I can’t recommend this highly enough.  I’m sure everyone knows the premise since it was getting so much buzz earlier this year, but briefly – an African American man goes to visit his white girlfriend’s parents for a weekend, and… things get creepy.  It’s a really socially relevant film, but also weirdly humorous and incredibly well made.

mv5bmmu0mjblyzytzwy0mc00mjlilwi3zmutmzhlzdvjmwvmywy4xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtqxnzmzndi-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_It Follows (2014)
Directed by: David Robert Mitchell.
Starring: Maika Monroe.

It Follows is a paranormal horror film about this supernatural entity that follows a group of teenagers around after they have sex.  It’s better than I’m making it sound, I swear.  Basically, if you have sex with someone who’s come into contact with this demon thing, it follows you everywhere, but it can only walk at one pace and in a straight line – so you can run from it, but it always catches up with you eventually.

the_witch_posterThe Witch (2015)
Directed by: Robert Eggers.
Starring: Anya Taylor Joy, Ralph Ineson.

Set in 17th century New England, The Witch is a paranormal horror film, focused on one family who suspect their daughter (played by the stellar Anya Taylor Joy) of witchcraft.  One thing I wish I’d known going into this film is that it’s written in period-appropriate dialogue, including the likes of ‘thou hast,’ etc, you basically feel like you’re at a Shakespeare play – and it takes some getting used to, but the overall result is done incredibly well.

p8694014_p_v8_acThe Woman in Black (2012)
Directed by: James Watkins.
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds.

I’m sure every Harry Potter fan knows about The Woman in Black, but I had to include it, as it’s one of my all-time favorites.  Adapted from the novel by Susan Hill, it’s a downright terrifying ghost story set at a haunted estate in an English village.  I tried to get my dad to watch this with me once and he only lasted about ten minutes.

What are some of your favorite horror films and novels?  Comment and let me know!  I need some recommendations! 

top 5 tuesday: My Most-Read Authors

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm.  This week’s topic:

OCTOBER 3 – Top 5 most read authors

5. George R. R. Martin (5)

I love this series and can’t wait for The Winds of Winter.  I enjoyed all of these with the exception of ADWD which really dragged for me.  Anyway… highly recommended!  You don’t need to be a big fantasy fan to enjoy these.  I’m certainly not.

Favorite to least favorite: A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Dance With Dragons.

4. Lisa See (6)

Lisa See is one of my favorite historical fiction writers.  Each of her novels is set in a different period and location in Chinese history, and they’re all thoroughly researched and richly detailed, so I’ve learned a ton from reading her.  And they’re also entertaining as hell.  The one exception was China Dolls, which was a major flop – otherwise, I’d highly recommend checking out any of her novels if you aren’t already familiar with her.

Favorite to least favorite: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Shanghai Girls, Dreams of Joy, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, Peony in Love, China Dolls.

3. Kazuo Ishiguro (7)

I was OBSESSED with Ishiguro when I was a teen… he was probably one of the first adult fiction writers that I discovered outside of school, and I flew through all of his novels.  The Buried Giant was a major letdown when it was published a few years ago – I’m hoping he goes in a different direction with the next novel he writes.  Anyway.  Never Let Me Go is one of my favorite novels of all time and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  Though any of these are worth checking out – except, The Unconsoled would not be a good place to start with him.

Favorite to least favorite: Never Let Me Go, The Remains of the Day, A Pale View of Hills, When We Were Orphans, The Unconsoled, An Artist of the Floating World, The Buried Giant.

2. J.K. Rowling (13)


Favorite to least favorite: Harry Potter*, The Cuckoo’s Calling, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Silkworm, The Casual Vacancy, Quidditch Through the Ages, The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

* Order of the Phoenix, Goblet of Fire, Deathly Hallows, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Sorcerer’s Stone, Half-Blood Prince.

1. Jodi Picoult (13)

DON’T LAUGH AT ME I went through a major Jodi Picoult phase when I was like 15.  Anyway.  I’m giving her the #1 spot over JKR even though they’re technically tied because all of these are actual novels.

Favorite to least favorite (take this with a pretty massive grain of salt after the first couple, because it’s been a decade since I read most of these and they all kind of blur together): The Pact, Second Glance, Salem Falls, My Sister’s Keeper, Nineteen Minutes, Handle with Care, House Rules, The Tenth Circle, Keeping Faith, Change of Heart, Plain Truth, Picture Perfect, Harvesting the Heart.

Darn, if only I had read Career of Evil before posting this J.K. Rowling could have won… oh well.  I will be working diligently to dethrone Jodi Picoult in upcoming months.  I have a feeling that Agatha Christie is eventually going to be the winner, but as of now I’ve only read four of her novels.

Who’s your most read author?  Comment and let me know!

top 5 tuesday: Characters to Team Up With to Rule the World

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm.  This week’s topic:

SEPTEMBER 26TH – Top 5 characters I would team up with to rule the world!

Characters’ moral compasses may vary.

51bcsc2fcflSansa Stark (A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin).  My girl!!!  I think I’ve waxed eloquent about my love for Sansa Stark enough on this blog, so I’ll just get right to it.  Sansa is the sort of character who has a tremendous amount of growth, and while I wouldn’t necessarily want to team up with her 11-year-old self to rule the world, the young woman she becomes is one of the most formidable and capable characters in the entire series.  She learns from the best and the worst alike, and she knows how to navigate the complex political situations she finds herself in.  I want to team up with her to save Westeros and then dismantle the patriarchy.

23437156Kaz Brekker (Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo).  (I would just like to point out that Sansa and Kaz are like….. the very embodiment of the two Types of characters I always fall for.  The dichotomy of my being summed up in this one unlikely pair.)  Anyway, this one doesn’t require a whole lot of explanation… Kaz is the sort of character you’d rather have on your side than against you, so while he may not be the most trustworthy person in the world, I’ll take my chances.  He’s the sort of criminal mastermind who could easily take over the world if he decided that would be an advantageous course of action.

41cigepew5l-_sy344_bo1204203200_Henry Winter (The Secret History by Donna Tartt).  Henry is one of the most memorable characters I’ve ever encountered.  He may not be a Good Person, but I don’t think he’s a bad person either… and at any rate, he’s another one who I’d rather have on my side than against me.  Plus, his idea of taking over the world would probably include ‘make The Iliad required reading for everyone’ and let’s be real, that aligns very nicely with my own agenda.

1371Helen of Sparta (The Iliad by Homer; classics).  Anyone powerful enough to (inadvertently) bring about a war is someone I want to be partners in crime with.  Helen is one of my favorite characters, and the thing that makes me defend her character is how little agency she has in her narrative: she’s stolen by Paris and then her husband Menelaus wages a war to get her back.  The question of what Helen herself wanted has long been debated – did she go willingly with Paris, or was it kidnap? – and anyway, I’m saying all this because I want to give Helen a narrative where she’s in total control.  i.e., Ruling the world.

pillars-of-the-earthAliena of Shiring (The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett).  Aliena is one of the most capable characters I can think of.  She goes from being brought up in nobility to having absolutely nothing, to starting her own business as a wool merchant.  She’s someone who gets shit done, and above that, she’s also just a deeply good person.  I’d gladly rule medieval England with her.


Which character(s) would you team up with to rule the world?  Comment and let me know!

top 5 tuesday: Books for Non-Readers

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm.  This week’s topic:

SEPTEMBER 12TH – Top 5 recommendations for non readers

If you’re not a reader, I’m not sure what you’re doing on my book blog, but hello!  I have some recommendations for you!  What kind of non-reader are you?

“I don’t read because books are boring.”  Try:

32796253Final Girls by Riley Sager: This novel is essentially a love letter to the horror genre, and while it may not be the most terrifying thing you’ve ever read, I guarantee that it’s going to be one of the most addicting.  I find that a lot of the time people who don’t read get bored with books easily and put them down after a few chapters, so my remedy for that is to suggest a book that’s going to be impossible to put down.  Look no further than Final Girls!

“I don’t read because I don’t have enough time.”  Try:

518f2bgo8wyl-_sx312_bo1204203200_The Grownup by Gillian Flynn: For any non-readers who are find high page counts daunting for whatever reason – try a short story!  This is the only Gillian Flynn that I’ve read so far, but I loved it.  It grabs you from the very first unforgettable sentence, and takes you on a crazy ride.  It’s part mystery, part thriller, part horror – a sort of modern, contemporary spin on the haunted house premise – and it ends up being nothing like you expect when you start it.

“I don’t read because I don’t like fiction.”  Try:

5096865In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.  Capote tells the true story of the murder of the Clutter family in 1959 Kansas, focusing on the capture and the execution of the killers.  While there’s a bit of fictionalization in the way Capote spins this story (notably including bits of dialogue that he couldn’t possibly have been privy to), it’s a mostly faithful and thought-provoking account.  If you’re someone who doesn’t like a lot of fiction, try a true crime book like this one, or a biography or memoir.

“I don’t read because I just want to relax at the end of a long day.”  Try:

259912The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice.  I had to wrack my brains to come up with something outside my usual tragic and depressing tastes, but we got there in the end.  This is actually one of my favorite books ever – I read it several times as a teenager and it is just so damn delightful.  It’s a sort of coming of age, romance, vaguely chick lit-y thing set in 1950s London.  If you’re looking for something that makes you feel happy and isn’t terribly intellectually rigorous, look no further!

“I don’t read because I’m more of a visual person.”  Try:

220px-funhomecoverFun Home by Alison Bechdel: And finally, I feel like it would be remiss to not mention a graphic novel.  Admittedly it’s the only one I’m familiar with, but I still love it a lot.  In Fun Home Alison Bechdel recounts what it was like to grow up in a funeral home, though it’s mostly a story about her relationship with her father, and coming to terms with her sexuality.  The illustrations here are gorgeous, so if you’re a visual person, you’ll love it, though the prose is strong on its own.

What books would you recommend to non-readers?  And have you read any of my choices?  Comment and let me know!

top 5 tuesday: Favorite Retellings

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm.  This week’s topic:

AUGUST 22 – Top 5 Retellings

To absolutely no one’s surprise, I am a little obsessed with Greek mythology, and so to absolutely no one’s surprise, I am cheating big time with this prompt.  I tried to narrow it down to five and failed spectacularly.

Bright Air Black by David Vann
The original: Medea by Euripides & The Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes

Bright Air Black is one of the most stunning books I’ve ever read.  The prose is gorgeous and lyrical, and the characterization of Medea is everything I could have asked for.  Vann renders her as a sympathetic figure without losing any of the ferocity that makes her such a fascinating and iconic figure.  Because this novel is so character driven, I’d recommend familiarizing yourself with the story of Medea before reading it, probably through reading the Euripides play, though the Apollonius of Rhodes story also factors heavily into Vann’s narrative.

Lavinia by Ursula LeGuin
The original: The Aeneid by Vergil

I’ve read The Aeneid about a hundred times, and I have to admit, that probably clouded my judgment of Lavinia just a little bit – I don’t personally love this quite as much as the others on this list.  But it felt unfair to omit it.  It’s a beautifully written book that tells the story from the point of view of Aeneas’s wife, in a way that’s both inventive and also incredibly faithful to the original.  I wouldn’t say it’s necessary to have read The Aeneid before reading Lavinia – in fact, reading Lavinia first might be a better way to approach the story.

Alcestis by Katherine Beutner
The original: Alcestis by Euripides

The play by Euripides is one of the only remaining Greek ‘tragicomedies’ that we have access to (though scholars still argue about how exactly to classify it).  It’s undoubtedly tragic and comedic at the same time.  Basically, the story is that king Admetus had been promised by Apollo that he could cheat death, as long as when the day of his death came, someone would agree to die in his place.  That person ended up being Admetus’s wife, Alcestis, who ends up going to the underworld before being eventually retrieved by Herakles.  In Beutner’s retelling, when Alcestis dies, she falls in love with the queen of the underworld, Persephone.  This isn’t a flawless book, but the prose is lovely and evocative, and I loved the lesbian twist to the story.  All things considered, I really enjoyed reading this.  It’s certainly not necessary to have read the Euripides play before reading this novel, though with its short length I’d recommend going for it.

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson
The original: Herakles & Geryon from The Geryoneis by Stesichorus

Autobiography of Red isn’t an autobiography at all, but a retelling of this rather obscure Stesichorus poem.  This is a ‘novel in verse,’ so basically a lengthy poem about the life of Geryon, the monster who in Carson’s story is actually the protagonist.  There’s also a gay twist here where Geryon is in love with Herakles.  This book is absolutely striking and unlike anything I’ve ever read.  Anne Carson is a goddess.  It’s absolutely not necessary to read the Stesichorus before reading this book – there’s an introduction that explains away any questions you might have.

An Iliad by Lisa Peterson & Denis O’Hare // Ransom by David Malouf // The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The original: The Iliad by Homer

Retellings of The Iliad are my raison d’être, so I couldn’t choose just one.  Each of these retellings is completely unique and brings something different to the story.

An Iliad by Lisa Peterson & Denis O’Hare: This is a play which spins The Iliad in a firmly anti-war direction.  This play is a one-man show, where the main character, ‘The Poet,’ recounts the story of The Iliad, focusing on the conflict between Achilles and Hector.  In this interpretation, the Poet is forced to recount the same story again and again until there is no more war.  It’s an incredibly hard-hitting interpretation of the story.  I would love to see a live performance of this, but even reading the script was very entertaining.

Ransom by David Malouf: This short little book is a beautifully written retelling of books XXII – XIV of The Iliad, where the Trojan king Priam crosses battle lines to ransom the body of his son Hector from Achilles, who had murdered Hector and has been publicly desecrating his body.  Malouf’s prose is vibrant and lyrical, and his characterization is stunning.  This is a must-read for all Iliad fans.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller: Probably the most famous Iliad retelling, The Song of Achilles tells the story of Achilles and Patroclus, which Miller depicts as an explicitly romantic relationship.  This book is gorgeous and devastating and while not 100% faithful to The Iliad, Miller pays homage to it in a satisfying way.  I love this book a lot.

BONUS: One more!  I had to include this non-mythological retelling:

East of Eden by John Steinbeck
The original: Cain and Abel from the Bible

East of Eden is one of the most beautiful family sagas I’ve ever read.  It tells the story of two families in Salinas Valley California, the Hamiltons and the Trasks, whose two family stories come to mirror the fall of Adam and Eve and the story of Cain and Abel.  You don’t need to be religious to appreciate this book – even without the biblical undertones, this book is striking.

So those are my top five eight retellings – what are some of your favorites?  And what do you think of my choices?  Comment and let me know!