In the interest of simplifying my online life, I have decided to close this blog and consolidate my writing on my main blog: shannonturlington.com. I will continue to post occasional book reviews there, especially for new releases and advance reviews. If you enjoy my writing, I hope you’ll stop by.

I continue to post reviews of all books I read on LibraryThing (see the feed to the right for the latest), and I have been writing more there about my reading and bookish musings.  If you’re a member, please look me up. (It just doesn’t make sense to copy everything over here too.) Or you can follow me on Twitter or Google+ for new review posts and other book-related shares.

Thanks for reading along with me over the years. I will leave up some of my “greatest hits,” but most other posts will be taken down.

PS I’ve disabled comments on this post so I don’t have to keep dealing with the spam. If you need to contact me, please use any of the links above.


July is vacation month for us. For me, the ideal vacation book is a suspenseful page-turner, something I don’t mind reading for hours on end by the pool or on the beach. Or it’s something light and romantic, preferably set in an exotic location or another time. I haven’t yet picked out my vacation reading for this year, although I have several candidates on the “to read” pile, including the latest Stephen King. But here are my top 5 picks for vacation reading culled from my past reads. What are yours?

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1. The Ruins by Scott Smith: This is the ideal vacation book. You won’t be able to put it down, it’s set in exotic Mexico among Mayan ruins, and the characters in it are also on vacation!

2. Bag of Bones by Stephen King: King’s big potboilers are tailor-made for beach reading. If you missed this one, it’s a steamy, spooky ghost story set at a summer home on a Maine lake.

3. Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore: It’s set on a South Pacific island, it’s funny, it’s got a lot of action, it’s a perfect vacation read.

4. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen: A historical setting, a romantic story, and lots of action make this a great candidate for reading by the pool.

5. Little Children by Tom Perrotta: A long, hot summer in suburbia.


This month, I concentrated on reading science fiction and fantasy written by women. My selections ran the gamut from historical fantasy to post-apocalyptic dystopia to feminist speculative fiction to near-future science fiction. I didn’t get to read all five of my selections (Ammonite was the one I didn’t get to), but I’m not going to stop reading SF/F written by women. There are so many more great books to discover, and new ones coming out all the time.

This was a group read over at LibraryThing, and everyone shared what they were reading. I’ve compiled all their selections into a reading list, for my future reading and to give you a starting place for your reading. I’ve linked to books that I’ve reviewed on this blog, and I’ve starred the books that I’ve already read. I hope you discover some great new authors, just as I have this month!

Books are listed in alphabetical order by author:

  • Katherine Addison: The Goblin Emperor
  • Emily Anthes: Frankenstein’s Cat
  • Catherine Asaro: Sunrise Alley
  • Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale*; The Penelopiad
  • Elizabeth Bear: Steles of the Sky
  • Carol Berg: The Daemon Prism
  • Lauren Beukes: The Shining Girls
  • Holly Black: Tithe; Zombies vs. Unicorns
  • Elizabeth Blackwell: While Beauty Slept
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley: The Forest House
  • Marie Brennan: The Tropic of Serpents
  • Lois McMaster Bujold: Borders of Infinity; Brothers in Arms; Cetaganda; Cordelia’s Honor; The Curse of Chalion; Ethan of Athos; The Hallowed Hunt; Mirror Dance; The Vor Game
  • Octavia Butler: Lilith’s Brood*; Parable of the Sower*; Parable of the Talents*
  • Elizabeth C. Bunce: A Curse as Dark as Gold
  • Gail Carriger: Soulless
  • Susan Cooper: Over Sea, Under Stone
  • Ariel Djanakian: The Office of Mercy*
  • Susan Ee: World After
  • Amy S. Foster: When Autumn Leaves
  • Kerstin Gier: Sapphire Blue
  • Elizabeth Goudge: Linnets and Valerians
  • Sally Green: Half Bad
  • Kate Griffin: The Minority Council
  • Nicola Griffith: Ammonite
  • Barbara Hambley: Dragonsbane
  • Laurell K. Hamilton: A Shiver of Light
  • Deborah Harkness: The Book of Life; A Discovery of Witches**; Shadow of Night **I started this one but didn’t finish it.**
  • Alice Hoffman: The Probable Future
  • Dianna Wynne Jones: Howl’s Moving Castle
  • Sherrilyn Kenyon: Born of Night
  • Katherine Kurtz: Childe Morgan; The Harrowing of Gwynedd
  • Madeleine L’Engle: A Ring of Endless Light
  • Mercedes Lackey: The Sleeping Beauty
  • Ursula K. Le Guin: The Dispossessed*; The Lathe of Heaven*; The Left Hand of Darkness*; The Other Wind; The Tombs of Atuan; A Wizard of Earthsea*; Worlds of Exile and Illusion*; The Word for World Is Forest*
  • Anne Leckie: Ancillary Justice
  • Ann Leonard: Moth and Spark
  • Kate Locke: The Queen Is Dead
  • Helen Lowe: Thornspell
  • Lois Lowry: Gathering Blue
  • Louise Marley: The Child Goddess; The Terrorists of Irustan
  • Maureen F. McHugh: China Mountain Zhang* (review forthcoming)
  • Vonda N. McIntyre: Enterprise: The First Adventure
  • Robin McKinley: The Blue Sword; Sunshine
  • Liane Merciel: The River Kings’ Road
  • Marissa Meyer: Cinder; Cress; Scarlet
  • Audrey Niffenegger: Raven Girl
  • Nnendi Okorafor: Who Fears Death
  • Danielle Paige: Dorothy Must Die; No Place Like Oz
  • Laline Paull: The Bees
  • Marge Piercy: Woman on the Edge of Time
  • Anne Rice: Prince Lestat; The Wolf Gift
  • Joanna Russ: The Female Man* (review forthcoming)
  • Karen Russell: Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories
  • Mary Doria Russell: The Sparrow*
  • Stephanie Saulter: Gemsigns
  • Gaie Sebold: Babylon Steel
  • Mary Shelley: Frankenstein* (arguably the first science fiction novel)
  • Dana Stabenow: Second Star
  • Mary Staton: From the Legend of Biel
  • Jodi Taylor: A Symphony of Echoes
  • Laini Taylor: Daughter of Smoke and Bone; Dreams of Gods & Monsters
  • Sheri S. Tepper: Beauty*; The Family Tree; The Gate to Women’s Country*; Grass*; Jinian Footseer; The True Game
  • Debbie Viguie: Midnight Pearls: A Retelling of “The Little Mermaid”
  • Helene Wecker: The Golem and the Jinni*
  • Connie Willis: Doomsday Book*
  • Jeannette Winterson: The Stone Gods
  • Jane Yolen: Briar Rose
  • Sarah Zettel: Dust Girl

I’m starting a new experiment, which I’m calling 5 books. Each month I pick a theme and then try to read up to 5 books that fit the theme.* (I’ve figured out that 5 books is about the most I can read in a month, unless I’m reading particularly short books or am on vacation that month.) For each theme, I’ll list 5 books I haven’t yet read but would like to plus 5 books I’ve already read that I recommend–for a total of 10 choices. If you like, you can play along. If you do, let me know what you’re reading.

My theme for June is: Science Fiction/Fantasy by Women Authors

5 Books to Read:

The Golem and the JinniChina Mountain ZhangAmmoniteThe Female ManThe Office of Mercy

 

5 Books I Recommend:

FrankensteinThe Handmaid's TaleThe Left Hand of DarknessParable of the SowerDoomsday Book

*I reserve the right to abandon any book I’ve started if it’s not grabbing me or to arbitrarily drop my theme for the month.

 



Detachment is a rare virtue, and very few people find it lovable, either in themselves or in others. If you ever find a person who likes you in spite of it–still more, because of it–that liking has very great value, because it is perfectly sincere, and because, with that person, you will never need to be anything but sincere yourself.

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Mystery writer Harriet Vane returns to her college at Oxford and is drawn into an investigation of a spate of poison pen letters, vandalism, and other pranks; she must call on Lord Peter Wimsey to help her solve the mystery.

I am sure I first read this, along with most of the Lord Peter Wimsey series, during my mystery-reading phase as a pre-teen and teenager, and I am amazed at myself. Fully 90% of the text must have gone right over my head at that point. Conversations about the purpose of women, detailed descriptions of college life in the 1930s (mingled with a bit of history), literary allusions, and quotes in French, Latin, even Greek (I think)–I must have cheerfully ignored it all and concentrated on the mystery. Even rereading it again so many years later, a lot of it still goes over my head, and my admiration of Dorothy L. Sayers as an educated woman, a gifted writer, and someone who was clearly much smarter than me grows. (I try not to resent her for it.) Perhaps I’ll read the annotated version next time.

During this read, I kept looking for things to criticize, but then I realized that I was only searching for nitpicks in what is almost a perfect novel. Yes, the women who are the senior dons do tend to blend together, but the important ones are fully realized, and each one has her moment, her purpose for being there that comes clear at the appropriate time. Yes, there is no murder, but it is an insidious (and probably more interesting) crime nonetheless, and it becomes more so at the final reveal. Yes, there are a lot of allusions, quotes, etc., but this is a book about academia and about educated people, particularly educated women; all the quoting is there for a reason.

And there are so many things to love about this book. First and foremost is Harriet and her constant internal (and sometimes external) monologues. Harriet’s process as she writes a detective novel inside a detective novel, working out her own feelings through her character. All the conversations, the wonderful dialogue, the rich discussion that ranges over the purpose of women, whether women can have both an intellectual life and an emotional life, the ethics of the academic, the role of women in academia–and isn’t it distressing that we are still arguing these things today, 80 years later? The exquisite, loving portrayal of Oxford, and along with that, capturing that sense of nostalgia for our college years that many of us have also felt, and the concurrent recognition that academia can be a retreat from the challenges of the “real world.”

And of course, the romance. A review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that. Harriet and Peter’s developing relationship is thrilling, maddening, and ultimately so rewarding. That final scene, with the final proposal–even though it’s in Latin, who wouldn’t feel their heart melt?

The title refers to a meeting, or reunion, of a college’s former members. The book opens with Harriet attending such a reunion. It also is an allusion to Shakespeare: “Let’s have one other gaudy night: call to me / All my sad captains; fill our bowls once more / Let’s mock the midnight bell.” (Antony and Cleopatra)


I love book lists. What reader doesn’t? Although who actually reads all the books on a book list before getting distracted and moving on to something else? Like perusing more book lists!

I have been thinking about my upcoming reading for the next year and looking at a lot of book lists. Some of my favorite discoveries have been on ABE’s site, a store that sells rare books. Their features archive has a ton of fascinating book lists, all showcasing the gorgeous first edition covers. Although I suspect that some of these books don’t actually exist, such as Kitty Lit – Cats on Classic Book Covers.

Next year I’m going to try some theme reading that will last all year long. One theme is to read around the world, sampling books either set in or by authors from countries not my own. Another will be a sample of different types of crime fiction, a genre I haven’t read in-depth in quite a while. I also might choose books based on the events of the day. Book lists are going to help me find the books.

Here are some more book-listing sites:


It’s the book list that keeps changing: all-time favorite books. I love to find out what people’s favorite books are because often, the favorites are ones that reach you on multiple levels. They make you think, they make you laugh or cry, and they linger with you long after you close the cover. They have a prominent place on the bookshelf, because you know that you will want to take them down and relive them again and again, or share them with your children.

Checking the LibraryThing list of favorite books, I see that the top 10 is dominated by those enduring classics that anyone would benefit from reading: The Lord of the Rings; Pride and Prejudice; Persuasion; To Kill a Mockingbird; 1984; Gaudy Night; Jane Eyre; The Count of Monte Cristo; The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I’ve read and enjoyed all of these except The Count of Monte Cristo, which is sitting on my “to read” shelf. I’m thinking of making it my holidays book this year.

Here are my top 20 favorite books of all time, in alphabetic order by author:

  • Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice
  • Ray Bradbury: Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • Octavia Butler: Parable of the Sower
  • Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: The Little Prince
  • E.M. Forster: A Room With a View
  • Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett: Good Omens
  • Joseph Heller: Catch-22
  • Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House
  • Stephen King: Different Seasons
  • Stephen King: The Gunslinger
  • Stephen King: It
  • Stephen King: The Shining
  • Stephen King: The Stand
  • Ursula K. Le Guin: The Left Hand of Darkness
  • Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Cormac McCarthy: The Road
  • David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas
  • Mary Doria Russell: The Sparrow

You can see my biases in this list. I enjoy women writers, Stephen King (my favorite author), and genre, speculative or experimental fiction.

It’s good to take stock of our favorites every now and then. These are the books that remind us why we love reading. What books would make your all-time favorites list?




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