Tantalizing Tuesday!

I know that I’ve done Top 10 Tuesday posts in the past, but those have been difficult for me at times, because — depending on the topic — making a list of 10 books that fit that topic can be challenging.  So I thought of Tantalizing Tuesday instead.

What is a Tantalizing Tuesday post?

The way that I’m thinking this will work is that it will be semi-similar to a Top 10 Tuesday, in that there will be a list.  But that’s where the similarity ends.  I’ll share book recommendations here regarding books that I find tantalizing for one reason or another.  Reasons could range from “this book gave me a glimpse into a world that I really want to read more about” to “I really wished I could live in the world this book described” to “I want to read other books by this author, STAT!”

1.) The Little White Horse – Elizabeth Goudge.

I first read this book when I was probably 9 or so.  Even now, Ilittle white horse cover 1947 remember when I was first introduced to this book.  It was an edition that was published in 1947 as the first American edition (The Little White Horse was originally published in 1946).

The Little White Horse is a children’s book, yes.  But it’s written so magically, so beautifully, that it’s suitable for any age.  Even now, 18 years after I first read it, I still can’t think of any book that I would prefer to reread.  I’ve already probably read this particular book 3 or 4 times (which is almost unheard of for me — I rarely reread anything).

Another thing that The Little White Horse did for me was introduce me to other books that Elizabeth Goudge had written.  Although I haven’t read anything of hers in quite awhile, she’s still at the top of my “authors I love” list.  This book is also one that really introduced me to the magic that words can be — the world that Goudge created in this book is one that I miss when I’m not a part of it.

2.) The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – Joan Aiken.

Similar to The Little White Horse, this book by the esteemed Joan Aiken is also a children’s book, but again, to me, it seems ageless.  It’s a magical book, albeit in a slightly more frightening way (not to a “horror” lewowc illustration1vel of frightening — it’s just more Gothic in terms of the storyline than The Little White Horse is).  I remember the day I first found this book, in the children’s section of the university library where my dad teaches.  I was probably around 8 or so, and I was so excited to read this book.

Another thing that makes me long for the world wherein The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (and subsequent novels) are the wonderful illustrations contained within the novel.  Some more information about Pat Marriott and other illustrators that collaborated with Joan Aiken can be found here.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was also published awhile ago; in fact, its first publication was in 1962; only 15 years after the publication of The Little White Horse.  It’s the first in a series of what Aiken called “the Wolves Chronicles,” and although I’ve read most (if not all) of the other books in the series, this one remains my favorite.  I loved the world of Bonnie, her cousin Sylvia, and their friend Simon, “the goose-boy,” and this is another book that I’ve reread many times.

3.) Ballet Shoes – Noel Streatfeild.

Apparently, todayballet shoes cover I am in a mood to write just about children’s books that I found mesmerizing and tantalizing.  Ballet Shoes was published first in 1936; again, this was a book that I read when I was pretty young (I think I was probably 7 or so when I first read it, and like the first two books in this list, it’s one I’ve reread).

Like The Wolves of Willoughby ChaseBallet Shoes is part of Noel Streatfeild’s “Shoes series.”  Unlike “The Wolves Chronicles,” though, I loved the other books in the “Shoes series.”  For some reason, etched in my memory is how comforting this series is to read when you don’t feel very good.

Ballet Shoes is about three sisters — Pauline, Petrova, and Posy Fossil — who are adopted by an absent-minded paleontologist that they call Great-Uncle Matthew (affectionately called “Gum”). When Gum goes off on a dig, he doesn’t return in the time he was supposed to, and so the three girls, under the care of Gum’s great-niece, Sylvia, begin to feel the financial strain of not having Gum available to provide for them.  Then, due to a strange turn of events, all three sisters become involved in dancing and acting to help support the family (hence the title), although Petrova doesn’t enjoy it.  Posy shines at ballet, and Pauline at acting, and Petrova just continues dancing and acting in order to help out her family financially.

~

There.  I have introduced you to three of my absolute top favorite authors from childhood.  I don’t think I’ll ever be tired of reading their books, and I dearly wish that I had been able to meet one or all of them, somehow.  They are some of the authors who were of paramount importance in helping me see the power, the magic, the beauty of the written word.

What are some of your “tantalizing” books?  Please feel free to share!!

Advertisements

Playing with Fire – Tess Gerritsen

Many thanks to Random House Publishing and Ballantine Books, via NetGalley, for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

5/5 stars.

I was so excited to read Playing with Fire. Seriously, over-the-top excited. And it did not disappoint. This book combines two of my favorite topics — music (specifically violin, which is near and dear to my heart since I am a violinist myself) and WWII.

I’ve read a few of the other reviews. Some say that the ending was too rushed for them to really rate this book super well. Some say that the alternating timelines, between Julia’s present-day story and Lorenzo’s life in 1944 — didn’t work that well for them.

I can see how some people may not like the ending. It did feel a bit rushed to me as well — still well-done, but it brought a lot of elements into the story rather suddenly that hadn’t been mentioned prior to the last 20% of the book or so. That being said, it worked well enough for me.

The actual story behind the piece of music that Julia found — Incendio — was chilling. Not in the way I had thought it would be, since from the beginning of the book the readers are almost tuned to be looking for supernatural stuff going on. I’ve read other books by Gerritsen, though, and was pretty sure that she probably wasn’t going to take that route. However, the explanation given at the end for what happened at the start of the book is a little unsatisfying, given how much of a build up there was to Incendio‘s story.

But even that can’t detract from my 5 star rating. I don’t know what it was, precisely, about Playing with Fire that I loved so much. But I loved it. It’s one of those books that I will happily rave about to anyone who is listening. Yes, be aware of the ending, it’s a bit rushed, but if you love music and love WWII history, then please read this!

Awake – Natasha Preston.

Many thanks to Sourcebooks Fire, via NetGalley, for an opportunity to read this book in return for an honest review!

2.5

Okay. So this book has a couple of major plot holes.

The biggest one is that the plot hinges on the fact that Scarlett doesn’t remember any of her life prior to age four. Um, okay. Who does…? I mean, seriously. I’m a really bad example because I don’t remember probably 95% of my life prior to age 19 or so, and most of what I do remember happened age 16 and up… but before then? Not enough to piece together a timeline of my childhood. But even a “normal” person doesn’t remember life prior to age four. Really. What is there to remember? Potty training?…

So to remedy this, I read the book pretending the entire time that Scarlett didn’t remember life prior to age 8 or 10, since that’s much more reasonable.

Another problem is that Scarlett’s age doesn’t stay the same. At the beginning of the book, she’s 16. Then halfway through the book, she’s fourteen (well, it doesn’t say that explicitly but she refers to the loss of memory as having happened 10 years ago — so 4+10=14, yes?). Then at about 80% she is referred to as being 15 years old (actually references her age — no making the reader do the math). So… what age is she?!

And yet another problem is that of Evelyn, Scarlett’s sister. There was never ANY clarity about whether Evelyn was older or younger than Scarlett. Apparently she was born as a “replacement” for Scarlett, but not in the sense that that would normally be meant. No, when she was [an undisclosed age], she was turned loose into the woods surrounding the cult’s commune, because apparently in their warped minds, her “disappearing” would somehow bring about Scarlett’s return. Scarlett refers to Evie as her older sister once, though, and another time she calls her her younger sister… and I’m just like, she has to be younger than you, BUT if she is younger than you, and you were kidnapped from the cult on your 4th birthday, before you were sacrificed, then how was she born to replace you if you knew her??!….

Alright, now the pros.

1) The insta-love that many of the other reviewers complained about was… well, dumb. But the thing is, I know how a young teen girl thinks, ’cause I was that age once. (Presumably. Lol.) And I know that if you’re the type of girl who wants to get married, well, a crush instantly turns into “he’s the guy I’m gonna marry” whether or not the guy in question even knows you exist. Noah did know that Scarlett existed and there was mutual attraction and both of them were thinking that they were gonna get married. The speed of that seemed a bit off… but then again, they’re teenagers, and Noah was not brought up like a “typical” guy in this day and age — he had no exposure to pop culture, and I am assuming probably no exposure to rape culture or multigenerational disrespect for women/girls (that women/girls are there to be used, basically). So it’s entirely possible for someone brought up in a religious cult to view attraction to one girl as leading to marriage. Not saying it’s common, but it is at least possible.

2) One of the things that pulled me in and kept me reading (for awhile anyway), was trying to figure out if Noah was a good guy or a bad guy. And when I found out that initially he was a bad guy, I had to keep reading. I’m glad that he did end up changing, though, although I would’ve preferred it had he and Scarlett not stayed together, because even though he rescued her, it just seems a bit cliche that she would forgive him so completely. Yes, he was brainwashed, but… but… still.

3) I think that if the plot holes were fixed, this would be an interesting and captivating look at brainwashing, how it works, and to what extent it works. Human sacrifice? Yes. I’ve met people who have escaped from religious cults, similar to Eternal Light, and those cults did participate in human sacrifice and other gruesome, graphic, horrific things that are locked in my brain and probably won’t ever be shared. (And since I know there’s a lot of doubt about cults like that existing, and a lot of belief placed in “False Memory Syndrome” — the people of which I speak had absolutely no reason to make this shit up. And the details that were given were in no way something that someone could just… make up.)

So yeah. There were a lot of problems with this particular book, but I see that Preston’s other books have much better ratings, so I am not going to say that I’m never going to read another book of hers again. And yes, while this book was a struggle to get through at times, it did keep me interested enough to want to finish it. I think had I DNF’d at 15-20% like a lot of other reviewers, I would’ve felt as though I were abandoning Scarlett and Noah and their story. (I know that sounds silly, but… well, yeah.)

The Choice – Allison Kennedy.

Many thanks to Booktrope, via NetGalley, for an opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

3.5/5 stars.

This book was a hard one for me to read — and probably a hard one for Kennedy to write — because rape is a tough topic to write about. Although it reads fairly quickly, due to the subject matter, I found that I had to read only small bits at a time.

As aforementioned, I know that rape is a tough topic to write about — but it’s even more difficult to write about it in a sensitive, non-judgmental way. I admire Kennedy for being able to accomplish this. I also admire her for two other reasons — first, because this novel was based partially on her personal experiences, and she explains this in the author Q&A at the end of the novel. That’s a hard thing to put out there. And the second is that she makes it clear, at both the beginning of the novel and in the Q&A section at the end, that in writing this book in the way she did, she is not trying to sway her readers in one direction or the other, regarding such questions as “should I stay silent if I get raped? should I tell? if I get pregnant, should I abort? should I not?” that are raised throughout the book.

I did enjoy this book. However, the reason that I am giving this book a slightly lower rating that I would otherwise is because yes, although it was a realistic story of a girl getting raped, and having to make decisions that she wouldn’t have had to otherwise — it was not an empowering story.

One thing I really liked about the relationship between May and Alex is how utterly honest with herself that May was. She realized that she was looking to Alex to be her savior — to fix her, to put her back together after the rape. And she knew that that was what she was doing, and she had the wisdom to let Alex know. Granted, that does seem a little wise beyond her years, since May is 17 for most of The Choice, but far be it from me to say that 17 year olds can’t be wise beyond their years at times. 🙂

Definitely would recommend, but I would want the readers to be aware of the things I’ve pointed out in this review. This is not a cheerful book. It’s a book about surviving a horrific event that really never should happen to anyone — in a perfect world. There are probably a lot of people who can relate to May’s situation, who are her age and/or younger (and also older). Well done, Ms. Kennedy, for being willing to write about such a harsh topic in an honest, yet gentle, manner.

Dirt Daughter – Michelle Shaw

Many thanks to MuseItUp Publishing and MuseItUp YA, via NetGalley, for an opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

3.5/5 stars.

I liked this book. Honestly — like many other reviewers — I guessed the “whodunnit” part of the mystery by probably 30% through the book. But the most interesting aspect of the book, to me, was what knowing that she had lied to the police, repeatedly, regarding her friend’s murder, was doing to Laney psychologically.

I also appreciated the very realistic look at Laney’s family. Her mom is on drugs that her stepdad (who is also her uncle) sells; Laney states several times through the book that she knows her stepdad/uncle really only wants to control her mom, which is why she’s kept doped up for so much of the time.

And honestly, although Laney’s family is so messed up, I loved the interactions between her and her younger brother, Cal — and eventually, even her interactions with her and her half-sister Angie. Although the mystery was easily guessable, I am assuming that Shaw didn’t intend for it to be super duper hard to figure out — because (for me at least) more of the gripping parts of the book came from the psychological stress that Laney was under.

(Also, how the hell do you pronounce “Chayton”? Is the “Ch” a hard “K” noise, or is it softer, more like “chair” is pronounced? I’ve never heard that name before, and it was bugging me through the entire book, because I’m one of those readers who has to be able to pronounce the characters’ names. If they’re foreign names, then that’s a little different [i.e., Hungarian names if I can’t speak Hungarian, I settle for a close approximation]. But Chayton is a very Anglicized name and not knowing for sure how to pronounce it is a little irritating.)

Anyway, aside from the Ch/K issue on Laney’s boyfriend’s name and the lack of “mystery” around the murder (I’ll give you a hint — it was more the latter that dropped my rating! haha), I really enjoyed Dirt Daughter. Laney was pretty likable, and when she wasn’t, her behaviors were understandable at least. I liked the twist about who Chayton was, and I felt so bad for Laney regarding her wanting to escape where she lived so she could have an entirely new start.

One other problem with the book that was never resolved (I don’t think?) — Cal stated that their mom was sick (and not just with the flu), because he heard her throwing up a lot (multiple times a day, for weeks on end). We never found out what was the matter with her, unless it was due to the drugs…? But even that is just a guess on my part. I was wondering if maybe she was pregnant…? but it wasn’t resolved either. And near the end of the book, the descriptions of her sounded absolutely awful (something along the lines of her being so pale that she was almost grey).

Anyway. Do recommend, but when you go into it, be aware that the main pull of the book (in my opinion) isn’t to do with trying to solve the mystery. 🙂