Love is a Kind of Magic

In honor of February, we are on our last installment of Romance classics. In the past few weeks we’ve visited English romance classics, and world romance classics.

Today we are diving into the category of Fantasy Romances! These are a little sparse to choose from the English canon (canon= what we call the collection of all classics), as there aren’t a ton of fantasy books written before the early 1900’s in general that are still well known today, let alone romantic ones. That said I’ve combed through all the lists of classic literature and found three that fit this theme perfectly AND are a good read. Win-win, amirite?

Ramayana

ramayanThis Central Asian classic (India, Bengal, Persia, and basically every culture in that whole region have their own versions of it) features a beloved wife who is kidnapped by a demon and held for basically a year. Then the hero rescues her, only to have their relationship fall apart at the question of whether she still loves her husband or has instead fallen for her once captor. This story could be described in Western literary terms as “The Tale of Everyman” meets “Hades and Persephone”.

The King of Elfland’s Daughter

51fp8xbgpblThis book by Lord Dunsany hails from the 1920’s. That means any similarities between it and JRR Tolkien’s character Lúthien Tinúviel and her love story can’t be because Elfland is a copy of that story- after all, it predates it.

This is a story of an elf maiden and a human man falling in love. Their love is NOT smooth sailing. I feel like I’ve already revealed too much of the plot by saying it has some similarities to Lúthien, so I won’t go any deeper into this. Suffice to say it has elves and magic and two lovers from different worlds who will not find it easy to be together.

Beren and Lúthien

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Now that I’ve mentioned them I have to include them again, huh? “Beren and Lúthien” is the first NEW book by J.R.R. Tolkien that has come out in years. Once again his son has combed through piles of old notes and done a bit of judicious editing to bring the story together into one novel for the benefit of the legions of fans of the deceased author.

The story of a human and elf falling in love, I am not so sure of the rest of what happens in this tale. I have read abbreviated references to this, of course, included in the footnotes and appendices of Tolkien’s previous books, but I have not gotten around to this particular full length novel version. I’m really looking forward to reading it, actually!

Which of these is your favorite?

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A World of Love

This month we’ve embarked on a series of romance books, and we come today to the second installment: global romantic literature. I think many of my American readers will have read at least one of the books in my last post, but today we are going to go what may be new territory for you.

Global Romantic Literature

Today we will visit Japan, Russia, and France via some of their books. Be emotionally prepared that things will get pretty rough in these books, because the concept that “Romance=happy cheerful books that always have great endings” is a pretty modern invention, and we are delving into the history of the genre today.

The Tale of Genji

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Probably the most globally well known Japanese book- not including famous manga series because that’s sort of considered a different category of story telling in America at least- The Tale of Genji is also really interesting because it was written by one of the earliest female writers in the world. Murasaki Shikibu, like all women of her time, was not allowed to be taught the sophisticated characters called Kanji every book before her was written in. The uneducated and women were restricted to writing in the basic letters of hiragana, which were made to be simple looking versions of complicated kanji- with the association that it was for simple people. The author was one of the first to write an entire novel in the only form of literacy available to her, but the plot was not simple at all.

It follows our main character who goes from riches to rags, plus the women he loved and his affairs, and how much each of his romances sucked. It’s sort of riches to rags to riches meets family drama, and a romance colors every stage of the story because honestly wooing the ladies is just Genji’s favorite hobby.

In modern terms this book might not sound super interesting. But if you are the kind of person who likes to hear all the juicy details of Becky’s on again and off again relationship with Todd who she sometimes dumps to be with Corey, then you might really be into the novel version of that kind of every day drama. In book terms that means if you really liked the love triangle aspect in Twilight this might be right up your alley.

Anna Karenina

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Apparently you can buy the vintage book on Etsy (photo props not included)

As this one is not a British classic it wasn’t taught in any of the literature classes I took in school, or even college. (Funnily enough “Genji” was, but that’s just because I took a Japanese class in Highschool, for all the good that did me.) That said, it’s definitely a classic- just a Russian one. If you like drama, drama, drama, then this is for you. It’s sort of like Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars and Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” all rolled up in one huge drama of affairs and divorce and spurned love.

Le Grand Meaulnes

9780141441894Called in the English translation “The Lost Estate,” this has become a must read for me. Be forwarned: this French classic is a tragedy. At least I consider it one. All the pieces were lined up for this to be a beautiful perfect happily ever after, but then the characters had to go and ruin it. That’s probably exactly why this is considered a top must read of all French books ever written, according to the French, according to a survey taken of a few French people.Is that complicated enough for you? It gets worse. The plot in this thing twists and turns. As before this has affairs, and heart breaks, and a lot of messiness going on (but the good kind of plot messiness that makes a story juicy, not the lazy plot hole variety at all.)

Which of these books have you read before? Which would you add to your TBR pile?

Love, Luck, and Literature

With a little bit of luck, most people will someday and at some point in their lives fall in love. Maybe not right away, but sometime.

I am one of those people who is not content with the idea of “someday”, and I’d like to fall in love right now, thank-you-very-much. After all, I may be an author- but I am still in my twenties. I have dreams.

Thankfully, this is the month where it isn’t completely disgustingly soppy to read your heart out through the history of romantic fiction. This month we are going to start a series focused on different genres of Romantic Fiction. Up first today we have:

Classical Romance Books

We’ve been going over classical books every Wednesday for the past few months, and today is no different. Here are my top three picks for interesting classic love stories.

Pride and Prejudice

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Penguin’s annotation free edition

This image matches the exact edition of the book “Pride and Prejudice” that is sitting on my bookshelf at this very moment. I love it. I’m not a fan of everything Jane Austen wrote (in fact this is the only book of hers I would give five stars to) but I still think it’s great. I think it’s a love story that can connect to many people- two people who don’t understand each other and don’t get along eventually come to realize they are actually very similar and end up seeing each other more clearly and falling in love because of it. It’s a messy plot, which I think makes sense because love is a rather messy thing for most people. The very beginning of the book has been called slow by many people; but the thing to remember is that even though the romance itself does not start on page one, family drama worthy of any modern sitcom most certainly does. And I must admit, I like family dramas. After all, I wrote one as my first book.

You can check out many free versions of the classic online or in any ebook market (Amazon, etcetera), or you can find a lot of copies with notes on the plot itself or included historical notes to give you a better understanding of the setting and how it affects to story.

Jane Eyre

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Penguin’s edition of the book

This one is possibly even more famous than the last. Charlotte Bronte wrote a book that is moody and what many find to be a perfect antidote to happy peppy love stories. Jane’s childhood is plagued by abuse and neglect, and then her adulthood is plagued by poverty and heartbreak when she finds the one man she finally falls in love with is unattainable- because he already has a wife?!? Then the plot rambles about a bit in more desperate circumstances until things finally settle down.

 

I won’t lie, it isn’t the fastest paced book out there. But keep in mind many classical books move super slowly because the authors were paid by the word and had the financial incentive to stretch things out to be as long as possible- kind of like when you have two thousand more words due for your essay but you’ve already covered all your points so you resort to adding junky filler material.

I still think it’s worth a read, especially if most romance stories are a little too grossly cheerful and cheesy for you. You’ll find none of that nonsense in here. I especially recommend this to anyone who loved “Me Before You” and “Me After You”, but keep in mind this one does actually have a fairly happy ending.

North and South

9781496081797This book delves into a romance between an industrialist- one of the many men of the Victorian era hiring even children to work in factories and paying his workers so little they can hardly afford their daily bread and skipping the expense of any safety equipment in the factories- and the woman who loves him even though she is fighting for worker’s rights and the betterment of the working class. The big divide between their morality would make many think that a romance couldn’t work for them, but do they figure out a way to a happy ever after somehow? Read on to find out.

 

 

Which of these would you read?

Adventures in The Forest

The forest is a pretty magical place to me, but it’s not that way all the time. Any part of nature can be treacherous and threaten your life. Especially if you live in it all alone without the conveniences of modern life to show to you from danger. Today were going to dive in to some classic and some new adventure books based in the wild!

Hatchet

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Hatchet is an adventure classic, a straightforward tale of a boy who ventures into the world alone and must fight against the forces of nature which threaten to kill him even while his secret tries to tear him apart.

My Side of The Mountain

Sam is a 12-year-old boy who hates his family's cramped New York City apartment and decides to run away to his great-grandfather's abandoned farm in the Catskill Mountains. He reads a book about wilderness survival and uses his fledgling skills to stay alive: camping, hunting, and even making a peregrine falcon named Frightful his pet and hunting companion. Inspired an entire generation of kids including probably Richie Tenenbaum to be fascinated by falconry, and was named to the the Newbery Medal Honors list in 1960.

This was one of my dad’s favorite books growing up, but it took me a few chapters to warm up to it. Naturally, when I was forced to read it in school, I wasn’t a fan of it at first just because I was against the principal of assigned reading. once I really got into it though I was a big fan of this! It’s a classic survival book, yes, but it’s cool in the clever ideas he uses for said survival. I will definitely be reading this!

The Sign of the Beaver

It's 1769 and 12-year-old Matt is left on his own in the wilderness while his father resettles their family. He befriends a 14-year-old Native American chief's grandson named Attean and learns to hunt and fish, and is eventually invited to join the tribe and move north. Some of the descriptions of native culture in this book are dated, but the underlying message is of acceptance and understanding.

This book is a little different because it relies on teamwork for the hero to survive. it’s a pretty historical novel, not really because it’s old but because some of the cultural portrayals are. That said a story of a boy basically abandoned by his family coming to find his identity through friendship with someone who is supposedly his enemy by virtue of race alone is both interesting and encouraging. I flipped through it, but I definitely intend to sit down and read it front to back someday soon.

Have you tried these books? What adventure books are your favorites?

Adventures in The Snow

I recently completed a post on awesome classic adventure books based in the jungle. You guys seemed to be fans of it, so I will take this series further!

The Call of the Wild

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This classic tale is about a man, his dogs, and the struggle to survive. I’m particularly drawn to rereading this right now because I feel I struggle to survive with how the weather has been very gross this winter!

Balto, but the book

The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic by [Salisbury, Gay, Salisbury, Laney]

I think everyone has heard of the heroic dog named Balto. The story of a sled team racing to get medicine during a pandemic is still well known thanks to a 90s  animated movie. THIS version, however, is a little more grown-up and a lot more factual! I’m a major dog nut, some definitely reading this.

Winterkill

Winterkill

Something old, something new, right? I wanted to feature a more recent adventure book because it’s awesome. “Outside the gates of Emmeline’s village is a horror no one stupid enough to tempt. But facing the unknown might be the only way to escape the evil hiding among their own…” this is on my must read list for winter and I think it just might end up on yours too.

Have you read any of these books? Can you recommend your own favorite adventure novels?

Adventures in the Jungle

This month we are going to dive into action stories, starting with today’s scene: the jungle. A lot of interesting action stories are based on this setting, and today we are going to look at a few of them.

Tarzan of The Apes

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Edgar Rice Burrough wrote this classic tale of a child abandoned on foreign soil and orphaned by a wildcat’s attack who ended up being raised into a man by apes. A rather unlikely tale, indeed, despite the scattered stories throughout human history of feral children raised by various types of animals- sure, it can happen, but it usually doesn’t.

This combines a bit of the element of survival, plus exploring strange jungles (always an Action genre favorite), along with the question of finding your place in the world. And maybe a little bit of romance on the side with our heroine/damsel-in-distress Jane.

The Jungle Book

jungle_book-2What would a collection of jungle based action books be without Kipling’s most famous book? I’m personally not a huge fan of the author as a human, my impression of his personality when he was alive was of a fairly ethnocentric individual based on reading his work, but I’m not one to hold a questionable author against a good book.

This book features another feral child (Are all jungle themed action books based on feral children???) who doesn’t really go on a quest so much as he just lives his very colorful life, but then in the end a bad guy pops up so he has to leave his home and join the humans. It’s a little unusual as far as plot goes because leaving home to start an adventure is usually the beginning of the story and not the end, but this book breaks that standard and I kind of like that.

Ken Ward in the Jungle

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This book features a museum curator and his explorer brother, and their adventures together. Instead of Africa or India, this jungle is supposedly in Mexico. I kind of like that this is still a solid adventure novel, but unlike the others the star of the book is a giant nerd. There’s something appealing about that to me as a giant literary nerd.

You should definitely read this book, especially since you’ve probably never read it and none of your friends have- so this is basically the #1 Hipster choice of classical books. Even if you don’t care about being the first of your friends to know about something new, this is a fun read anyways. And, again, as is classic for adventure novels, there is no slow pacing so you won’t be bored at any point unless you respond to books very differently than I do.

Which of these have you read already or plan to read in the future?

 

 

Deck the Halls! A Fantasy Christmas Book Roundup

Let me tell you, for years I have labored under the misunderstanding that Christmas books were only written for small children or adults. Well my friends, I have now stumbled onto the world of YA Christmas books, and I’m happy to share that discovery with you!

Not just any YA books though. Today in #SeasonReading I am exploring holiday books that focus on ~Fantasy~. I know, I didn’t think a Christmas/YA/Fantasy genre crossover was possible before either, but I’m so glad to learn it is.

I’ve rounded up a variety pack of different interesting sounding holiday themed books. Full disclosure though, I have not actually read any of these books. They just sound interesting to me and have good reviews online. Just thought I should warn you.

Sweet Christmas Books

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A YA Fantasy based on the story of Santa’s popular daughter falling in love with the new outcast in town. The reviews of this are a little mixed because it is apparently a very punny and cute book, and it seems some people were annoyed by the cuteness. I feel like that doesn’t necessarily have to be the book’s fault though- it may be a great book, but it’s well known that Americans tend to feel something almost like revulsion when something cute is aimed at anyone over the age of five. If you actually enjoy cute sometimes though this sounds like the reviewers did actually enjoy the story itself a lot so it sounds like a win if you are interested in an easy read.

Gritty Christmas Books

The Coal Elf

A bit of Dystopia has come to the North Pole. This is sort of like “The Giver” meets the story of Santa’s elves, and I have to say I’ve never seen a genre that needed a gritty oppressive society as much as Christmas Fantasy. Is that even a genre? I feel like it must be, I’ve read so many books about Santa’s workshop when I was a kid. Anyway, this book sounds exciting, and if the cuteness of the first option isn’t cutting it for you then this is the complete opposite and should be right up your alley.

Christmas Fairy Tales

The Metal Horse Learns Spanglish: And Other Quirky Holiday Stories

If the other two options sounded too much- too cute, too harsh- then this should be the Goldilocks book that is just right. A collection of stories you definitely have never read or heard of before, involving heroes that have never stared in other books before, this is kind of like a much less famous fairy tale collection in the same vein as Hans Christian Anderson, except of course it’s written from an American perspective.

Christmas Books for Teens

I know these books have been added to the top of my tbr pile. What about you? What do you think? Do these books sound like a win for you?

Tis The Season for Readin’

I think as today is December first it is officially the Holiday Season. That’s right, it’s time for holiday breaks off of school, and sipping warm drinks (if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, that is!) The best thing of all to celebrate in my mind is that a season that comes with vacation time, to me, is basically a season for reading!

This month I’m going to share a few reading lists of the books I personally love to read each December. #SeasonReading is all about books that make you get the warm fuzzies and think about giving, thankfulness, family, friends, and the holiday you celebrate as well as learning about other holidays out there!

Christmas Novels

To start this series off with a bang I’m going to jump us into the necessary Christmas classics! Obviously I’ll stretch the definition of classic a little bit- who doesn’t love a reinterpretation of a well loved story, like reading a book version of the Nutcracker?- but they’ll be familiar stories in some form or another to the majority of you. I also only included full length novels in this list. There are plenty of picture books for children that fill the theme, but we aren’t going to go over them today because I think when I’m in a mood for a novel never really seems to overlap with the times I’m in a mood to enjoy a dear friend in the form of a picture book, you know?

Don’t worry if that’s not your thing though- we’re going to do more modern YA holiday books, novels featuring other holidays, and cross genre holiday novels. You’re bound to find something you are interested in reading up on!

Hiddensee

Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by [Maguire, Gregory] Check it out here

This creative retelling of the Nutcracker is at the top of my own Christmas wish list. I still haven’t read it, but it has a lot of great reviews and comes from the same author who wrote “Wicked” (yes the very same book that inspired the Broadway musical!) so I am pretty sure it will be amazing. By the way- I get literally no money out of recommending other author’s books. I really don’t benefit at all from it. But I want you guys to enjoy the holidays with great books more than I want to make a buck.

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol | Penguin Books Australia

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe Quotes. QuotesGram

This really isn’t the first thing people think of when they think of Christmas books. But it is a full length novel that details the fight between Father Christmas and the evil witch who got rid of Christmas, so it’s still pretty apropos. Besides, it’s a great story and I think there’s always a reason to read a good book.

What do you think of this list? Do you love it? Share your favorite Winter holiday novels with me in the comments, especially if you want to share your favorites for the diverse holidays blog post!