Friday, May 15, 2015

Jenny's Top Ten Favorite Retellings

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week was a freebie and, as Lesley Anne is currently unavailable, I decided to chose one of my all-time favorite genres: retellings. I will read practically anything (except erotica) if it is a retelling of a myth or fairytale. The dichotomy of beauty and suffering is so much clearer in these stories than in 99% of what is written today. J.R.R. Tolkien's essay, "On Fairy-Stories", sums up the necessity of these stories. This quote, though long, hits right at the heart of these stories:

"The consolation of fairy stories, the joy of the happy ending; or more correctly, the good catastrophe, the sudden, joyous "turn" (for there is no true end to a fairy tale); this joy, which is one of the things that fairy stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially escapist or fugitive. In it's fairy tale or other world setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace, never to be counted on to reoccur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, or sorrow and failure, the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance. It denies, (in the face of much evidence if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief."

Bet you didn't realize how incredible fairytales were, did you?

1. Till We Have Faces | C.S. Lewis

{A retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche}
This is, hands down, my favorite book. I think it might be because I see so much of myself in Orual. It is a beautiful retelling of the myth in Lewis's inimitable style.

2. The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series | Rick Riordan
{A retelling of Greek mythology}
I never tire of talking about how much I love this series. Riordan's attention to detail and the amount of research that went into these books is second to none. Percy and Annabeth are on my all-time favorite characters list.

3. Black Ships | Jo Graham

{A retelling of the Aeneid}
I ran across this book while browsing Amazon one day and I am so glad I did. I read this book before I actually read the Aeneid so I did not appreciate, fully, how wonderful it was until I was familiar with Virgil's epic. This story is told from the POV of the priestess who goes along with them once Troy is destroyed. It is fantastic. Please, put this on your TBR list.

4. Deerskin | Robin McKinley
{A retelling of the fairytale "Donkeyskin"}
This is a hard retelling because the subject matter is not for the faint of heart. It deals with the ugliness of human nature (stress ugliness), and it can be hard to read at times. There is so much beauty to be found there, though, that it is well-worth the read. Don't expect to feel warm and fuzzy at the end, but expect to be humbled by the resilience of the human spirit.

5. The Scorpio Races | Maggie Stiefvater
 {A retelling of the myth of the water horse}
This is, so far, my favorite book I have read this year. Hannah, a fellow blogger, reviewed it here and it caught my eye. The premise is unique and it is about horses. What more could you want? This, to me, is YA at its absolute best.

6. Ella Enchanted | Gail Carson Levine
{A retlling of Cinderella}
I believe this book is why I love retellings so much. Levine does such wonderful job with this heroine. She is believable. For further gushing over this book, see the blog post here.

7. Daughter of the Forest | Juliet Marillier
{A retelling of "The Six Swans"}
This is book was another one that was hard to read in spots but was so, so good. It makes you want to live at SevenWaters and be a part of the magical world that Marillier has created. Again, as with Deerskin, the beauty of the human spirit is showcased by the difficulties Sorcha must endure.

8. The Once and Future King | T.H. White
{A retelling of King Arthur}
This is one of my top ten favorite books of all time. It is a fleshing-out of the the Arthurian legend and its surrounding stories while, at the same time, managing to be a social commentary on the 20th century. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

9. A Court of Thorns and Roses | Sarah J. Maas
 {A retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Tamlin, "East of the Sun, West of the Moon"}
There will be a longer blog post on this book, so I won't say much other than I liked this book so much more than I was expecting.

10. The Princess Bride | William Goldman
{A retelling — satire — of fairytales}
This is satire at its finest. Goldman is making fun of all sorts of tropes in fairytales and does it well. You will be laughing out loud at parts, so make sure you are not reading it somewhere where it would be embarrassing to draw attention to yourself.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Top Ten Authors Jenny Would Like to Meet

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is top ten authors you would like to meet. The timing of this topic is funny because Lesley Anne and I just went to a book signing/author interview with Sarah J. Maas. It was the first time I have done something like that and it was really enjoyable (of course there is a blog post to come). I will not get into literary theory and the postmodern view of the "author" - I can see all the relieved looks on your faces now - but suffice to say that I believe learning about an author is beneficial for a reader. (Which is why I am not a postmodern scholar!) As the lovely ladies at the Broke and the Bookish did not say whether the author had to be alive or not, my list is full of dead people. They are even more intriguing, to me, because of all the stuff we will never have the opportunity to know/ask.

P.S. - I will probably start asking everyone I see this question from now on. I really like it. Get ready if you have the dubious pleasure of being in my presence for more than 5 minutes.

1. The Beowulf scribes/poets. Like y'all didn't see that one coming. I have SO MANY QUESTIONS. My thesis ended up being 75 pages of me trying to answer one question I have. As they were most likely monks, I am hoping to corner them in Heaven one day.

2. J.R.R. Tolkien. I would love to sit down and just listen to him talk about Old English and Old Norse literature. The essays he has written on different pieces of literature are so insightful it is as if he were able to become part of whatever culture he was writing about for a short while, so well did he understand the mindset.

3. C.S. Lewis. I do not know if I would actually be able to form coherent sentences if I were able to meet him, but just to get a peak into his mind, in person, would be amazing.

4. Marie de France. No one is exactly sure who she is, but she wrote some of the most clever fables of the Middle Ages. Every time I read them I am struck by something new I had not noticed before. If I were an author I would want a style like hers.

5. Neil Gaiman. The way this man's mind works is fascinating. I feel that any conversation with him, be it about books or not, would be enlightening, entertaining, mind-blowing, and enjoyable. (Wow, that is a lot of pressure I just put on him. I firmly believe he is up to the task, though.)

6. Deborah Harkness. She is a scholar and an author and I so admire how she is able to make her books smart and readable. She does not sacrifice realities of history for the sake of plot. I am dying to know what she is going to write next, now that she is done with her All Souls Trilogy.

7. Desiderius Erasmus. If you do not know who this is, google him. He was one of those people that the made the world a poor place when he died. His work, The Praise of Folly, is what every modern satire aspires to.

8. Ovid. This one is weird, I know, but he was such an interesting character. All we have of him, really, is his own works. I would love to know the man behind the pen... quill... whatever.

9. G. K. Chesterton. Talk about some astute social commentary. He saw the world in such a clear way, much clearer than most of us. Check out his thoughts on Jesus's mirth and then think on that for a while.

10. Elizabeth Kostova. She has only written two books and I want to know WHY. Her stories and her way with words are the best. The creativity, depth, and settings of her books draw you in and do not let you go. I want to talk to her about travel and why she needs to write at least one book every two years.