TTT: Top 10 Books I Love but I Just Haven’t Talked About As Much (with quotes!)

toptentuesday
Copyright : The Broke and the Bookish

I know for myself (and probably most of you) that there are tons of books I’ve read that I absolutely loved – I just don’t talk about them as much. So naturally, I had to participate in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (if you don’t know what that is, click here) hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. So let’s get started.

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Mulan = one of the best movies ever.

Top 10 Books I Love (I Just Don’t Talk About Them Much)

  1. The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine (first read in 2001)

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This is the cover I have

I love Ella Enchanted, but I actually prefer The Two Princesses of Bamarre. I discovered it in a tiny Northern Michigan bookstore when we were on vacation (15 years ago, *cough, cough*). At the age of twelve, I was obsessed with fantasy and still high off of reading through The Lord of the Rings by myself a couple of times (my dad read it to us when we were little). I was also at that stage when you’ve fallen in love with something (in my case, the feeling that LOTR gave me), and you read ravenously, just trying to find that feeling. This is also around when I discovered Robin McKinley and Patricia Wrede, who have remained lifelong favorites as well. Anyhow, this is a story about the bond between two sisters – one who starts out as the classic “hero,” and the other, who becomes a hero. And it was way before Frozen. ;P

“I put my fingers around the unmarked ring of the spyglass and twisted. The scene became clear. 
Oh no! A hairy brown spider clung to a vine! I couldn't go there!
I'd go to the desert to find a dragon. I began to reset the spyglass, but then I stopped myself. A spider was worse than a dragon?
No.
My first monsters would be spiders, then.” 

2. Dragon’s Milk (The Dragon Chronicles) by Susan Fletcher

“The wild creatures of the earth are as milk for the human spirit; to destroy them is to starve our souls.”

I love these covers <3

While Susan Fletcher is better known for Shadow Spinner (another one of my all time favorites), her Dragon Chronicles were some of the books I reread repeatedly growing up. It’s somewhere between MG and YA, as  I recall. The heroine, Kaeldra, is a gawky, awkward girl who gets thrust into a difficult situation – she basically becomes orphaned Draclings (baby dragons) nanny, in a world where dragons are misunderstood and hated. There are two sequels that take place in the same world, and I remember liking them just as much.

3. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

“We have our clothes, some more splendid than others,—this is our credit; but when a man dies he has only his skin;”

Over a thousand gripping pages (really!), The Count of Monte Cristo is an epic adventure and revenge drama with complex characters and intricate morality. Edmond Dantes is wrongfully imprisoned, and he swears to get the ultimate revenge on the man who put him there. Will Edmond follow his path to the end, or will his convictions and his fear of Heaven stop him before it’s too late? You’ll have to read it to find out. And if you saw that movie, it left out, well, almost the entire book. Another one of my all-time favorite novels, and a definite influence on my writing. On an interesting side note, the nonfiction book The Black Count (about Dumas’ father-an inspiration for a lot of the Count’s adventures) is also well worth the read.

“There are men who have suffered and who have not only gone on living, but even built a new fortune on the ruins of their former happiness. From the depths into which their enemies have plunged them, they have risen again with such vigor and glory that they have dominated their former conquerors and cast them down in their turn.”

4. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

One of the most beautifully written, lyrical fantasies I have ever read. It’s my favorite one of McKillip’s novels, and the one that made me track down her other novels. Sixteen year-old Sybel is given a baby to raise, even though her only companions up to that point were a fantastical menagerie of creatures. This book is gorgeous, magical, and if you haven’t read it, you should. A strong female lead, enduring themes, and amazing prose – this is one of those “so close to perfect it hurts” novels.

“What do you think love is- a thing to startle from the heart like a bird at every shout or blow? You can fly from me, high as you choose into your darkness, but you will see me always beneath you, no matter how far away, with my face turned to you. My heart is in your heart. I gave it to you with my name that night and you are its guardian, to treasure it, or let it whither and die. I do not understand you. I am angry with you. I am hurt and helpless, but nothing will fill the ache of the hollowness in me where your name would echo if I lost you.”

5. Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis

“Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them. Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.”

“I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”

I might have mentioned this book in passing, but I haven’t sung its praises enough. This was the last work Lewis completed, but it started out as one of his earliest projects. Most people know how C. S. Lewis loved Greek Myths and classic literature. Till We Have Faces is the story of Cupid and Psyche told from Psyche’s sister Orual’s perspective. But it isn’t a simple retelling – it’s a complex, dense, thought-provoking, and deeply philosophical novel that thoroughly explores the nature of love itself. Till We Have Faces is nothing you would expect if you’re only familiar with The Chronicles of Narnia – it’s more akin to The Four Loves, or C.S. Lewis’s essays on the power of myths and legends. If I could just take a handful of books to a deserted island, this would be one of them.

“Oh, I can see it happening, age after age, and growing worse the more you reveal your beauty: the son turning his back on the mother and the bride on her groom, stolen away by this everlasting calling, calling, calling of the gods. Taken where we can't follow. It would be far better for us if you were foul and ravening. We'd rather you drank their blood than stole their hearts. We'd rather they were ours and dead than yours and made immortal.” 

6. Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer

“Confidence is ignorance. If you’re feeling cocky, it’s because there’s something you don’t know.”

Twelve. Millionaire. Genius. Criminal. Artemis Fowl is all of those things. And Eoin Colfer sells it with the writing equivalent of a cheeky grin and a magician’s sleight of hand. One of my favorite middle grade series ever, Artemis Fowl is laugh out loud funny. The characters are hilarious, the plots are crazy, and at the center are the epic odd couple of Artemis and his loyal butler, Butler. Yes – Butler. Butler is the other best thing about these books.

“That was horrible. Horrible. That poor little guy."
Pex was unrepentant. "Yeah, well, he asked for it. Calling us ... all those things."
But---buried alive! That's like in that horror movie. Y'know -- the one with all the horror."
I think I saw that one. With all the words going up on the screen at the end?"
Yeah, that was it. Tell you the truth, those words kinda ruined it for me.”

7. The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf (The Squire’s Tales #3) by Gerald Morris

“I said you lie, knave!” shouted Beaumains, drawing his sword. “And for telling such craven falsehoods, you must die!”
The knight looked plaintively at Roger. “What’s wrong with this fellow?”
He was dropped on his head when he was a baby,” answered Roger.”

This book is hysterical – even if you haven’t read the Arthurian original that it reinterprets (The Kitchen Knight). I loved every book in this series, but this one is a definite stand out. It takes Arthurian story constructs and constants, and turns them completely on their heads, all while keeping the basic story intact. With its witty, sharp-tongued heroine, a dash of faeries, crazy characters, and of course, the aforementioned sense of humor, this is another book I’ve read repeatedly.

8Sorcery & Cecelia: or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

“I am determined to have the headache Thursday, if I have to hit myself with a rock to do it.”

Manners, Magic, and Mayhem

The concept behind this book is positively brilliant: two writers decided to write letters to each other, assuming the characters of Regency girls with magical aptitude. Their letters became this delightful light fantasy novel that mixes Jane Austen with Diana Wynne Jones’ style magic and hilarity. The sequel, The Grand Tour is equally funny, and highly recommended.

“She probably enjoys cutting up everyone's happiness. Not to mention cutting up other parts of people; given her penchant for poisoning people and turning them into beech trees, I fail to see how she has reached thirty without leaving a trail of bodies behind her.” 

9. The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

While I’ve mentioned my affection for Pearl’s writing, I doubt I’ve praised this book enough. Dante’s Inferno is a favorite of mine, and this historical novel surrounds the translation of the Inferno made by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Oh, and there’s murder most foul, as well.* But who doesn’t like to watch a group of middle-aged writers solve a murder, all while being terribly literary?

“The force of Dante's poetry resonated most in those who did not confess the Catholic faith, for believers would inevitably have quibbles with Dante's theology. But for those most distant theologically, Dante's faith was so perfect, so unyielding, that a reader found himself compelled by the poetry to take it all to heart.”

10. The Kestrel (Westmark Trilogy #2) by Lloyd Alexander

The dedication in this book: “To those who know they are only human, but strive to be nothing less.”

Lloyd Alexander is another author I’ve touched on at times – with his excellent Prydain Chronicles being one of my favorite MG fantasy series ever. I’ve also named off Westmark in passing. But The Kestrel is one of the first, and best YA novels (that I have read) to deal with the trauma of war and fighting (especially for causes you believe in). Theo, the young printer’s devil from the first book, convincingly transforms into the Kestrel, a fearsome warrior and bogeyman to haunt the enemies dreams. Humanity, hatred, fear, rage- this book covers it all, in a surprisingly slim package. There are touches of Les Miserables and A Tale of Two Cities (two more of my all-time favorite novels), but it’s an easier read. Not convinced? Read this excellent review and see if it changes your mind.

Well, if nothing else, I’ve learned that I need a shelf just for silly fantasy novels (I hadn’t realized what a great favorite they were of mine until I started working on this list!)

Have you read any of these books, or do you intend to?

What are some favorite books that you don’t mention enough?

15 thoughts on “TTT: Top 10 Books I Love but I Just Haven’t Talked About As Much (with quotes!)”

  1. Does Sorcery & Cecelia actually feature an enchanted chocolate pot? Because if it does, then I need to read that book. And then eat it. (Kidding, of course. *lol*)

    I think the only book I’ve read on this list is The Count of Monte Cristo. That was a while ago, probably sometime when I was in school, so I don’t remember much of it. I’d really like to read C.S. Lewis’ Til We Have Faces, though. I’ve only read his Chronicles of Narnia, so I should expand my horizons in terms of his work.

    1. There is a legitimate enchanted chocolate pot, among other things. You should read it someday (I’d pick a bad day when you need to be cheered up). And the idea of writing an epistolary novel with another author is such a fun idea. I tried to do it once with a friend, but . . . I ended up writing book-sized letters, and hers died out after about a month . . .

      Most of these are pretty obscure – published in the 80’s fantasy heyday, or about 10 years later. I found most of them in dusty bookshops, fading into obscurity. But you always treasure the ones you discover on your own, right?

      Till We Have Faces is nothing like Narnia (which I’m sure you realize), but it’s well worth the read. As a mythology nut myself, it resonated on many levels.

      Funny and unrelated – I was on your blog commenting while you were on mine – cracked me up when I noticed!

      1. *adds The Enchanted Chocolate Pot to her wishlist as stomach grumbles hungrily* Thanks!

        Oh yeah, I figured from the blurb that Til We Have Faces is much different from Narnia. But I should make a point of checking out C.S. Lewis’s non-Narnia works at some point. 😉

        “Funny and unrelated – I was on your blog commenting while you were on mine – cracked me up when I noticed!”

        Lol! It’s probably not the first time it’s happened – nor the last!

        1. The prose from Till We Have Faces makes me despair – but in the best possible way. It’s so dense and beautiful, and you could write essays on half of the paragraphs in there. I read it first when I was immersed in the study of Greek Mythology, and that definitely helped. But even when I read it again years later, I still loved it to pieces. However, I know plenty of people who didn’t like it. It’s kind of one of “those” books, you know?

  2. Oh oh I ADORED Shadow Spinner when I was a kid! 😀 And my sister read those ones, but for some reason I never did?! Major fail to me, clearly. I want to read them someday. ;D And I also need to read Artemis Fowl…omg, I caaan’t believe I haven’t. That series is ICONIC. XD

    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

    1. Shadow Spinner was the best. I might hold Susan Fletcher responsible for my Ancient Persian obsessions. The Dragon Chronicles lean a little MG, but they were fun reads, and if I ever have kids someday, I’m handing them all of these books/series right off.
      Again, Artemis Fowl is MG, but I LOVE THOSE BOOKS. They still crack me up. And clearly, books that always make you laugh are books you should treasure.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Cait 🙂

  3. I am ashamed to admit I have not read any of these.
    I do have two books of Artemis Fowl I found for sale, but I need the 1st book before I jump into the series.
    The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf sounds hilariously funny! I added it to my tbr list. 🙂

    1. If you have even a vague interest in King Arthur, I’d recommend Gerald Morris. His books can get a wee bit indecent (in the vein of Shrek), but nothing too bad. And they’re HILARIOUS.
      Don’t be ashamed! These are pretty obscure picks (minus Artemis Fowl & The Count of Monte Cristo) 🙂 I’m just happy to be exposing them to fresh pairs of eyes 🙂

      Thanks for reading!

    1. Yes, they are mostly fun books! I still pick up The Enchanted Chocolate Pot when I need a pick me up. Till We Have Faces, The Kestrel, and The Count of Monte Cristo aren’t as light of reads, but they’re all totally worth reading in their own right. After looking over my shelves, I DO tend to gravitate toward silly fantasies, so if you ever need any more recommendations, just ask 😛

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Oh my goodness! Nearly every one of these is a top favourite (and a few that aren’t only aren’t because I haven’t been able to GET them yet!)

    Bamarre, Monte Cristo, Faces–sigh. Some of the first and best of their genres that I read. As for Lloyd Alexander, I only wish I could find copies of his non-Prydain work! Also, I now have three more books that I need to check out…

    You have exceedingly good taste!
    (And I swear I’m not saying that just because one of my books was on your last week’s top ten 😀 )

    1. Thanks! Lloyd Alexander is a lifetime favorite of mine – I hope you get the chance to read the rest of his books someday 🙂

      I actually downloaded a copy of “Masque” this week, and I plan on reading it pretty soon here. And I totally understand author bias, lol. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
      -R

  5. *flails* YOUR NEW SITE IS GORGEOUS. *feels very negligent for not finding it till now because I am a behind bee*

    Okay, now that that’s taken care of… THIS LIST! *huggles it*

    Bamarre was fantastic! Hmm, I’ve seen Dragon’s Milk around but haven’t read it… sounds interesting! (I also have Shadow Spinner and need to read it…)

    I so want to read The Count of Monte Cristo! I want to find an actual copy but they’re all abridged so I’m going to have to read the ebook from gutenberg I think but ebooks are so daunting when they’re huge. o.o

    :O I JUST got The Forgotten Beasts of Eld from a library sale on a whim. I now need to read it very badly if you say you like it that much!

    I’m a bad C.S. Lewis fan since I haven’t read that one yet… on my list!

    I’ve started the Artemis Fowl series and need to devour the rest… I think I didn’t like the first one as much as I wanted to, since it was kind of crude or something, but I need to read the rest anyways because I really like Artemis (and Butler)… 😀

    I’ve read the first two Squire’s Tales books (I LOVED them) so The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf is next for me…

    :O I didn’t know that’s what Sorcery & Cecelia was about! O_O You have sold me on this one. *jots it down* I need more Patricia C. Wrede anyway…

    THE KESTREL!!! ALSKDJFLKDJ IT’S LIKE MY FAVORITE AHHH. <3 I love Theo and Florian and the story and just all of it so much. <3<3<3

    Sorry, I had to reply to nearly all of these. XD You always have awesome taste. 😉

    1. Apologizing for commenting? *The nerve!* 😛
      Thanks! I love the new look myself, but it’s so lovely to have everyone’s super nice feedback about it. Anything that takes that long should be worth it, you know?

      Artemis Fowl is a bit crude (and the humor can be juvenile), but I love the books anyway. Butler is my favorite. As I recall, the humor gets a bit better overall as the series continues . . . *not positive but pretty sure*

      THE KESTREL!!!!

      If you do pick up Sorcery and Cecelia, I’d love to hear your thoughts. And seriously, writing a book in letters while in character is the BEST IDEA.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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