Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Top Ten Books I HAVE to Have

Top Ten Tuesday is an award-winning meme hosted at The Broke & The Bookish!

I decided to... personalize today's topic a bit. The actual topic is, "Top Ten Books I Had to Buy... But Are Still Sitting On My Shelf Unread." This topic had a lot of overlap with my TTT post from last week (my Spring TBR list), and since it's my birthday today, I've decided to allow myself to indulge on making a list of the books that I have (present tense) to have for myself... despite the TBR mountain still being very large and all. All summaries taken from Goodreads.

1. The Bone People by Keri Hulme
In a tower on the New Zealand sea lives Kerewin Holmes, part Maori, part European, an artist estranged from her art, a woman in exile from her family. One night her solitude is disrupted by a visitor—a speechless, mercurial boy named Simon, who tries to steal from her and then repays her with his most precious possession. As Kerewin succumbs to Simon's feral charm, she also falls under the spell of his Maori foster father Joe, who rescued the boy from a shipwreck and now treats him with an unsettling mixture of tenderness and brutality.

Out of this unorthodox trinity Keri Hulme has created what is at once a mystery, a love story, and an ambitious exploration of the zone where Maori and European New Zealand meet, clash, and sometimes merge. Winner of both a Booker Prize and Pegasus Prize for Literature, The Bone People is a work of unfettered wordplay and mesmerizing emotional complexity.
So, of course, after visiting New Zealand earlier this year, I had to become extremely interested in its literature, what similarities and differences it has with literature from other English-speaking countries. The Bone People is probably the To Kill a Mockingbird of NZ: numerous accolades, reclusive author, etc. Maybe I'll love it, maybe I'll hate it... but I want it, to give it a try.

2. Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
An utterly captivating reinvention of the Rapunzel fairytale weaved together with the scandalous life of one of the tale's first tellers, Charlotte-Rose de la Force.

Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. She is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens...

Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death, sixty-four years later. Called La Strega Bella, Selena is at the centre of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition, retaining her youth and beauty by the blood of young red-haired girls.

After Margherita's father steals a handful of parsley, wintercress and rapunzel from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off unless he and his wife give away their little red-haired girl. And so, when she turns seven, Margherita is locked away in a tower, her hair woven together with the locks of all the girls before her, growing to womanhood under the shadow of La Strega Bella, and dreaming of being rescued...

Three women, three lives, three stories, braided together to create a compelling story of desire, obsession, black magic and the redemptive power of love.
This book got loads of praise from numerous reviewers over the past few weeks. Add that to a lovely cover and a compelling synopsis, and I'm sold.

3. Underground Time by Delphine de Vigan
Every day, Mathilde takes the Metro to her job at a large multinational, where she has felt miserable and isolated ever since getting on the wrong side of her bullying boss. Every day, Thibault, a paramedic, drives where his dispatcher directs him, fighting traffic to attend to disasters. For many of the people he rushes to treat, he represents the only human connection in their day. Mathilde and Thibault are just two figures being pushed and shoved in a lonesome, crowded city. But what might happen if these two souls, traveling their separate paths, could meet?

Delphine de Vigan tells this story of urban isolation with poetic precision and resilient humor, in the much lauded follow-up to her bestselling No and Me.
No and Me was a short but bittersweet read that I picked up last year and did little swoons over. I love Delphine de Vigan's turns of phrases, the way she can use language to express the easily overlooked physical and emotional details of our lives. This one looks as if it will deliver along those lines as well.

4. Lust for Life by Jeri Smith-Ready
Ciara’s con-artist parents taught her three keys to survival: keep low, keep quiet, and most of all, keep moving. But managing WVMP, the Lifeblood of Rock ’n’ Roll—not to mention becoming a vampire herself—has kept her in one place long enough to fall madly in love, adopt an undead dog... and make more enemies than she can shake a stake at.

A psychotic DJ, a wanna-be necromancer, and a posse of vengeful hippies would all love to see Ciara get her day in the sun—literally. To protect Ciara, her fiancé, Shane, has traded his flannel shirt and guitar for a flak jacket and crossbow. If she survives to walk down the aisle, will she recognize the man waiting at the altar?

In this final chapter of the award-winning WVMP RADIO series, Ciara must decide who to trust, whom to love—and whom to kill.
The WVMP Radio series is my UF drug of choice after the Kate Daniels series. By which I mean, this is the Kate Daniels series, except with hot vampires. Who can resist that? I am so glad that Jeri Smith-Ready was able to complete this series.

5. Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to European culture: a menacing, evil figure; the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. But Koschei has never before been seen through the eyes of Catherynne Valente, whose modernized and transformed take on the legend brings the action to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the twentieth century.

Deathless, however, is no dry, historical tome: it lights up like fire as the young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever child of the revolution, to Koschei’s beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power. All told, Deathless is a collision of magical history and actual history, of revolution and mythology, of love and death, which will bring Russian myth back to life in a stunning new incarnation.
"Russian-inspired literature done right" is how this book was first sold to me. This was in the weeks following my utter disappointment with / anger towards a certain YA book published last year that I'll forgo naming here, in the spirit of keeping things positive on this post. All things I've heard about Catherynne Valente point to the fact that she is a supremely talented author, and I have no doubt that she can take a culture and weave it thoroughly and convincingly into her book.

6. Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
The master puppeteer, Gaspare Grisini, is so expert at manipulating his stringed puppets that they appear alive. Clara Wintermute, the only child of a wealthy doctor, is spellbound by Grisini’s act and invites him to entertain at her birthday party. Seeing his chance to make a fortune, Grisini accepts and makes a splendidly gaudy entrance with caravan, puppets, and his two orphaned assistants.

Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are dazzled by the Wintermute home. Clara seems to have everything they lack — adoring parents, warmth, and plenty to eat. In fact, Clara’s life is shadowed by grief, guilt, and secrets. When Clara vanishes that night, suspicion of kidnapping falls upon the puppeteer and, by association, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall.

As they seek to puzzle out Clara’s whereabouts, Lizzie and Parse uncover Grisini’s criminal past and wake up to his evil intentions. Fleeing London, they find themselves caught in a trap set by Grisini’s ancient rival, a witch with a deadly inheritance to shed before it’s too late.

Newbery Medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz’s Victorian gothic is a rich banquet of dark comedy, scorching magic, and the brilliant and bewitching storytelling that is her trademark.
I've had my eye on Splendors and Glooms for a while, mostly because it's published by Candlewick and, amazingly enough, I have had a 100% success rate with my satisfaction with Candlewick books I've read. And now that this book has picked up a Newbery Honor, I think it's about time for me to see what it's all about!

7. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.
This is yet another Catherynne Valente book, but hey, she deserves extra spots on my wishlist. Somehow I missed the period when bloggers were swooning over this book, but I was delighted by the excerpts I've read.

8. The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox
One summer night in 1808, Sobran Jodeau sets out to drown his love sorrows in his family's vineyard when he stumbles on an angel. Once he gets over his shock, Sobran decides that Xas, the male angel, is his guardian sent to counsel him on everything from marriage to wine production. But Xas turns out to be a far more mysterious character.

Compelling and erotic, The Vintner's Luck explores a decidedly unorthodox love story as Sobran eventually comes to love and be loved by both Xas and the young Countess de Valday, his friend and employer at the neighboring chateau.
This is another book that worked its way onto my wishlist from my NZ trip. Then I took a closer look at that synopsis. An erotic love story between an angel and a human? Count me in!--if it's done right, of course.

9. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
A major literary event--the complete, uncensored journals of Sylvia Plath, published in their entirety for the first time. Sylvia Plath's journals were originally published in 1982 in a heavily abridged version authorized by Plath's husband, Ted Hughes. This new edition is an exact and complete transcription of the diaries Plath kept during the last twelve years of her life. Sixty percent of the book is material that has never before been made public, more fully revealing the intensity of the poet's personal and literary struggles, and providing fresh insight into both her frequent desperation and the bravery with which she faced down her demons. The complete Journals of Sylvia Plath is essential reading for all who have been moved and fascinated by Plath's life and work.
I'll make a confession: beyond a handful of her poems for high school English class, I have not read Sylvia Plath's works. I tried reading The Bell Jar when I was younger but was probably too young or something. Nevertheless, journal writing has always interested me, being an avid journal writer myself. It's so different from one's published works, yet so revealing...

10. Steel's Edge by Ilona Andrews
The Edge lies between worlds, on the border between the Broken, where people shop at Wal-Mart and magic is a fairy tale—and the Weird, where blueblood aristocrats rule, changelings roam, and the strength of your magic can change your destiny…

Charlotte de Ney is as noble as they come, a blueblood straight out of the Weird. But even though she possesses rare magical healing abilities, her life has brought her nothing but pain. After her marriage crumbles, she flees to the Edge to build a new home for herself. Until Richard Mar is brought to her for treatment, and Charlotte’s life is turned upside down once again.

Richard is a swordsman without peer, future head of his large and rambunctious Edger clan—and he’s on a clandestine quest to wipe out slavers trafficking humans in the Weird. So when his presence leads his very dangerous enemies to Charlotte, she vows to help Richard destroy them. The slavers’ operation, however, goes deeper than Richard knows, and even working together, Charlotte and Richard may not survive...
Yep. So it appeared in a TTT post again, my teeny-tiny obsession with Ilona Andrews' books. It has that name on the cover --> reason for wanting it. That is all.

Happy Tuesday, everybody!


  1. I really liked The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland...(title too long!). I thought it was such a smart book.

    Oh, and happy birthday, Steph! :)

  2. Happy birthday! :-) I hope it's super.

    As for the books listed:

    I love love love love The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland -- if you like whimsy and tips of the hat to classic fantasy, I think you'll really find it delightful.

    Splendors and Glooms is great too -- it reminded me why I love middle grade.

    I haven't read Deathless, but have serious coverlust over it.

    The Bone People looks good -- as a fan of To Kill A Mockingbird, I am adding it to my TBR stat.

    1. That's two more votes for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland and Splendors & Glooms--they're looking up!

  3. Most of these are new to me. Bitter Greens sounds great. All those spam comments are annoying, aren't they. I've been getting them a lot lately.

    1. Yeah, I know. I've disabled anonymous commenting for the time being but spam is still getting through. Grrrr. Just what exactly do those people hope to accomplish anyway?

  4. Oh, you'll love the Fairyland books. That first one is so heart-breakingly wonderful... I need to read it again. And because I discovered Valente through her children's books, I feel like I'm behind. I want to read Deathless too - it seems like a good place to start with her adult fiction (a standalone). And Splendors and Glooms is on my reading list for next week!

    Thanks for sharing your list!

  5. I'm looking forward to reading Bitter Greens as well, because it really sounds fabulous. I love that it's sort of a retelling, and I've heard pretty great things about it overall.

  6. Underground Time is so heartbreaking, but lovely. I can't wait to see what you think of it, actually, and I desperately need to check out the Fairyland books myself, not to mention finish up Ilona Andrews books (although I never want them to end)! Wonderful list! :D

    1. I saw your review of Underground Time and was so glad that you enjoyed it! It makes me hope that I will as well. :)

  7. This is a great list, Steph! Delphine de Vigan's No and Me has been sitting on my shelf for a while now. I may have to get around to that one before Underground Time. And you're right about Candlewick. They do seem to be great at picking brilliant books. Splendors and Glooms sounds fantastic! The reviews so far have been pretty encouraging, too. I will have to remember to buy myself a copy of that next time I can. :)


Hello! I'm so excited to read what you have to say. Due to high amounts of spam, I'm forced to disabled anonymous comments for the time being. Sorry for any inconvenience this causes, and I hope you can understand and still appreciate the content here!


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