Category Archives: Literature

Retro Reread #4: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

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The first time I read this, I was in elementary school and my mom was going through her collection of old books and she told me to read this one and if I liked it, I could keep it. The most emotional connection I made was with Hannah, Kit, and Prudence’s friendship. Hannah is lonely and has been regularly persecuted for being a Quaker and then she is regularly accused of being a witch. Kit has lost her grandfather and her home and has come to this harsh new place. Prudence has been badly treated by her mom and her dad doesn’t have a spine. They are all a bit different than the people around them but together they are able to be themselves and find comfort. Prudence becomes a lot stronger and happier.

The second time I read it, I did it for school. I got even more out of it then because we were discussing things as a class. That reading did focus more on how Hannah Tupper and Kit were treated especially amidst the accusations of witchcraft. Both of their lives are saved because there are people willing to stand up for what is right. That court scene still gets me in the feels.

Speaking of feels: I do like the romances in this book. I was totally rooting for Kit and Nat. I think they are fabulous individually and together. But Mercy and John’s romance grabbed at my heartstrings the most. That dramatic scene in winter between them gets me every single time.

Status: still one of my favorites. I loved it as an elementary school kid and it’s lost none of its power even though I’m reading it as an adult this time.

A Breath of Life by Clarice Lispector

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This was my pick for the Read Harder task “set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author.” I chose Lispector because I’d never heard of her, wanted to know more, and to my knowledge I haven’t read a book set in Brazil or by a Brazilian author.

It is hard to explain my reaction to this book. It is about an author who creates a character and then watches this character live and die. I found it moving and disturbing.

It also reminded me of Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami in style (clipped yet profound) as well as subject matter (different types of writers) but A Breath of Life does not go further than the relationship between this author and his creation, Angela. Yet it is all so complex and strange.

Put simply, I adored it but it isn’t for everyone.

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR!

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and they are back from hiatus! This week the theme is my spring TBR. I’m going to be honest though… my TBR is pretty nebulous and flexible so these were the first ten that came to mind that I haven’t started reading yet.

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The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare is one of my favorite books of all time and it’s my Retro Reread pick for April.

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The Gods Are Thirsty by Tanith Lee is my favorite historical fiction novel of all time and it is my Retro Reread pick for May.

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I got this ebook from a Goodreads giveaway forever ago and recently there was an update that hopefully fixed the typos.

I got Romancing the Inventor and Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger and Storming by K.M. Weiland for Christmas and I want to read them soon.

I got these from the library recently. The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer will count for a Popsugar Challenge task and History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera will count for a Read Harder task. I’m working on Temeraire Book 3: Black Powder War but I’ve been flying through this series.

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I finally decided to subscribe to the Book of the Month Club and I picked Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach for my first month because it sounded really interesting.

The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

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This might be changing it up a little bit but The Tale of Genji is an important book in Japanese literature study.

I read excerpts of it in college but this year I decided to read the whole thing. I started it in January and I finally finished it this week.

Another title for this book could be “The Life of a Philandering, Rich, Royal Dude.” It does get a little repetitive and most of the sections of this book are about Genji having issues with his wife and his courtship with other women.

There came a point where I wasn’t really reading this for the plot or characters. I enjoyed reading the culture notes, appendices, and looking at the pictures. That’s what gives this book its longevity and importance. There is a lot to be learned about Heian culture even though this is a work of fiction. Historians and literary critics both find something to value here.

If Heian period culture and history is something you are passionate about and you’ve read other books on the subject, I definitely recommend reading the fancy Penguin edition of this book. If you are interested in the Heian period but don’t know where to start I would recommend The World of the Shining Prince by Ivan Morris which talks about the cultural and historical background of The Tale of Genji and uses excerpts from the book to illustrate points. If you want to know what all the fuss is about but are intimidated by this giant book, you can probably find an anthology with excerpts and you would get the gist. You can also read excerpts from Murasaki Shikibu’s diary if that is more your style, although I will say that her personality is not my favorite. She comes off a little whiny and stuffy at times.

Thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!

6 Mini Reviews

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Six mini reviews for you this week!

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Poetry and the Police: Communication Networks in Eighteenth-Century Paris by Robert Darnton

Liked

This was my first microhistory (a nonfiction history book about a very specific topic; typically not very long, relatively speaking). I thought it was super interesting. This one is about poems that were recited before the French Revolution that were not flattering to the king.

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Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge

Meh

This one wasn’t atrocious but I was disappointed. It was Romeo and Juliet mixed with Sabriel but not that well executed. I didn’t connect with the characters and the background was a little unclear so the plot was a little confusing.

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An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

Meh

This was for the Manly 100 list and it went over my head for the most part. Economics can be an interesting topic but I’m definitely not an expert in the field and this was not really for someone who doesn’t know (or remember!) a whole lot about it.

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Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis by Anne Rice

Liked

Lestat gets to go back in time and see the fall of Atlantis! I thought this was interesting concept to take on and we learn more about Amel. I don’t want to say much because this is the latest in a long series.

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In a Different Key: The Story of Autism by John Donvan and Caren Zucker

Liked

Definitely a subject close to my heart, this gave me so much history that I didn’t know. It also reinforced how lucky my family has been to live in a time where this can be diagnosed and there are options. We still have a ways to go though.

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Irkadura by Ksenia Anske

This book was like taking a beating. Horrible things happen to this girl and it really doesn’t let up. I can’t recommend this to everyone but it was a valuable experience for me.

Top Ten Tuesday: Romance?!

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the theme is romance types and tropes.

I do read romances but I need them a particular way and I can’t define it. I just know from the first page whether or not we’ll work as a couple. If I’m cringing or grimacing at the first sentence then that romance is not for me. If it makes me laugh or intrigues me then, yes, I want a second date and possibly a long-term commitment after that.

One. “I’m looking for a mind at work.”

I normally don’t reference Hamilton when blogging but this quote seems so relevant in this moment. I want to know the writer put some thought (and heart!) into what they’re writing. I’m definitely not looking for a paint by numbers or mad lib to pass the time. I want my mind and heart to engage with the material. If the author didn’t put in the effort, it shows.

Two. I like historical romance, heavy on the historical.

Three. No Jane Austen knock-offs. They can be inspired by her, I have no problem with that. (Gail Carriger is clearly inspired by Jane Austen but she decidedly has her own unique style and voice.) If a writer doesn’t have their own style it’s obvious, like a bad cover of a great song. Jane Austen knock-offs are guaranteed to make me cringe.

Four. I like romantic comedies because they’ve got comedy.

Five. I like the cuter side of yaoi. That super-explicit stuff is not my jam and bread.

Six. I really like making fun of the romantic wackiness that is Fushigi Yugi.

Seven. My favorite fantasy series have romances I actively root for.

Eight.  I tend to ignore descriptions of the leading men. In my head they look how I want them to look. (For instance, Lucivar is blonde in my head even though Anne Bishop keeps telling me he has long black hair.)

Nine. I don’t pick actors to represent the characters in the books I’m reading (but when I’m writing I will think of actors who should play my characters).

Ten. I’m not automatically turned-off by insta-love in books.

January Wrap-Up!

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There are a fair few to get through so I will be brief with each one!

One. The World of the Shining Prince by Ivan Morris

Liked

This was my prep before reading The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu because this book goes over the culture of that time period in Japan.

Two. Batgirl, Volume 1: The Batgirl of Burnside by Cameron Stewart

Bleh

This was one of my options for the Read Harder task “superhero comic with a female lead” and I felt like it was an awkward thing that didn’t know what its identity was supposed to be. I was a bit disappointed.

Three. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Volume 1: BFF by Amy Reeder

Liked

This was my pick for the Read Harder task “all-ages comic” and I liked the main character and the concepts presented. I’m excited to see where this goes.

Four. The Magician’s Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia 1) by C.S. Lewis

Liked

This was part of my epic reread of the Chronicles of Narnia and I decided to read them in chronological order. This is meant to fulfill the Popsugar task “childhood favorite.”

Five. The White Cat: An Old French Fairy Tale

Liked

This is a picture book edition of the fairy tale originally created by Comtesse Marie d’Aulnoy and it fulfills the Popsugar task “cat on the cover.” This tale reminds me strongly of “Puss in Boots” but the White Cat is female and a strong ruler of her own land plus she helps out the prince with his problems.

Six. Faith, Volume 1: Hollywood and Vine by Jody Houser

Loved

This was another comic I picked up with a female lead and I loved it! I’d read a few comics that day that weren’t what I needed. Then I read this one and I was blown away. I loved the characters and the plot. I’m excited to read the next volume!

Seven. Archie, Volume 2 by Mark Waid

Meh

This one wasn’t awful. There were some good and funny moments but overall I felt there were better plots that could have been explored.

Eight. Throne of Jade (Temeraire 2) by Naomi Novik

Loved

Temeraire and Laurence go to China and their lives get even more complicated. I loved the first volume and decided to count this one for the Popsugar task “book involving a mythical creature.” I’m excited to read the next one.

Nine. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Loved

This was the first book on the list of 100 Books Every Man Should Read. This was also a reread for me but my first time not reading it for school. Reading it felt so good. His words are like little chocolates and I ate them so quickly.

Ten. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Bleh

Full disclosure: I read a reworded and abridged version of this book. I told one of my coworkers about my struggles with the real thing, how I couldn’t get past the first few chapters, and she let me borrow this version she bought for her teenagers. I rage read it but I got through it.

Eleven. Selected Letters of Jane Austen

Liked

It was fun to read but it was also hard to follow because we only get one side of the conversation.

Twelve. Yona of the Dawn, Volume 3 by Mizuho Kusanagi

Liked

Fushigi Yugi aesthetic but with a deeper plot. I won’t go into too much detail because I don’t want to spoil anything. I like this series so far and I’m impatiently waiting for the next volume to come out.

Thirteen. Grayson, Volume 1: Agents of Spyral by Tom Seeley

Liked

I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Dick Grayson – Robin – Nightwing dies but it turns out he’s not dead and he’s working as a double agent. Superhero comic meets espionage thriller.

Fourteen. Dragonbreath, 1 and Fifteen. Attack of the Ninja Frogs (Dragonbreath 2) by Ursula Vernon

Liked both

Danny is a dragon and he has some interesting and funny adventures with his best friend and mythical relatives.

Sixteen. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Liked

This was the second book on the list of 100 Manly Books and I was surprised by how much I liked it. I’d read excerpts of it in school (most famously “It is better to be feared than loved.”) but he argued a few topics related to ruling and he backs up his positions with examples from history.

Seventeen. Starflight by Melissa Landers

Meh

I listened to this one and I don’t really prefer that format. I tuned in and out which probably explains most of my confusion. I didn’t connect with the characters or sympathize with them. The plot also seemed to be full of awkward soap opera tropes.

Eighteen. Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose

Meh

This was the third book on the Manly list. I think it is important to read first hand accounts of war but it was not something I enjoyed.

Nineteen. Harriet the Invincible (Hamster Princess 1) by Ursula Vernon

Loved

This is a different take on the “Sleeping Beauty” fairy tale. Harriet was cursed by an evil fairy when she was a baby. Her parents told her that when she turned to twelve she would prick herself on a hamster wheel and fall into eternal sleep. So Harriet figures that until then she’s invincible because the curse has to keep her alive at least until she’s twelve and has to prick herself. Therefore, she decides to go on adventures. I felt so empowered while reading this one.

Twenty. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia 2) by C.S. Lewis

Loved

This was my first Retro Reread. I read it to answer the question: is this still one of my favorites? The answer is: yes it is. I felt the same magic reading it this time as I did when I was a kid. If you haven’t read the Chronicles of Narnia yet, I recommend starting with this one and follow the publication order rather than the chronological order.

Twenty-one. Ten Count, Volume 1 by Rihito Takarai

Loved

This is the first yaoi manga I’ve read in a while and I’m glad I found this one. This was a strong start to the series. Reviews indicate that it is downhill from here but I’m curious to see where it goes and why they say that and whether or not I agree.

Twenty-two. Her Royal Spyness, 1 by Rhys Bowen

Liked

A coworker recommended this one to me and I thought the writing was witty and fresh. I also liked that Georgie was nobility but penniless. But it was a little predictable. I knew who the murderer was right after she found the dead body.

Twenty-three. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Loved

I hate to add to the hype but I will anyway. We follow multiple generations descended from two sisters who are African but who end up in very different circumstances. I thought this was well-conceived and well-executed.

Twenty-four. Adulthood Is a Myth by  Sarah Andersen

Liked

Definitely check out her social media because what you see there is what you’ll find in this collection. I particularly relate to all her cartoons about being an introvert.

Twenty-five. The Boy Next Door by Meg Cabot

Liked

I was definitely in the mood for a Meg Cabot romantic comedy this month. This story is told through emails between characters and the whole thing was pretty funny. Plus there’s a mystery.

Twenty-six. The Republic by Plato

Meh

This was the fourth book on the Manly list and I hate to say it but most of this was over my head. I understood (sort of) the concept of ideal forms and The Cave but I wasn’t really sure what to do with the rest.

Twenty-seven. Tokyo Ghoul, Volume 4

Liked

Slowly but surely I carry on with this manga series.

Phew! Are you still with me?

I did reviews for a few of these on 3 Fates Books (but that blog is gone now) and I wasn’t sure it was a good idea to try and repost them all today so I did this January Wrap-up instead.

Thank you for reading! Do you have thoughts and feelings about any of these books you’d like to express? Let me know in the comments below!