It’s Top Ten Tuesday!

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme sponsored by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week’s top ten – in recognition of BBAW (that’s “Book Blogger Appreciation Week”) is:

” Top Ten Books I Read Because Of Another Blogger.”

I don’t always do these top ten lists, but they’re always fun and this one also is a good list to give a nod to some fellow book bloggers, so here goes…

9. Oh, yeah.  I forgot to say I only could come up with nine… This one (and the next few) are books that I don’t know where specifically I first heard of them, but I do know I read them because I learned of them within the blogging community.  So for number 9 I’ll go with Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games.  Yes, it’s intended for a little younger reader than me, and yes it’s a little out there, but it was a great story (actually a trilogy, along with the follow-ups Catching Fire and Mockingjay) and a fun, diverting read.

8. The Ubiquitous The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (book and series).  A towering best seller, I think driven by the great character of Lisbeth Salander.  I’d like to meet her.  I think.

7. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.  Another book outside of my usual genre, but an entertaining, diverting read for me.  Here’s what I had to say last year.

6. Beastly by Alex Flinn.  I can’t remember which blog I first heard about this modern retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story.  I did download it at about the same time as my blogging colleague, Jade, at Chasing Empty Pavements though, so I’ll give her a plug.  This book became a pick in my book club as well and we all enjoyed it.  My original post about the book may be found here.

5. Under the Skin by Michel Faber.  Learned about via The Literary Nomad.  An interesting concept for a book blog, where the blogger “visits” a country by reading a book about it or taking place in it.  This book was creepy but a real page turner.  A beautiful alien (reported to be portrayed by Scarlet Johansson in an upcoming movie adaptation) picking up hitchhikers in Scotland.  How could I resist? My original post is here.

4. Gullivers Travels by Jonathan Swift.  I read this one because Allie at A Literary Odyssey hosted a read along.  Like other read alongs I’ve participated in, I started off with great intentions only to fall behind the schedule.  I did finish it, though, and I’m so glad I did.  I took a lot out of it that I am ‘carrying around in my head.’  Truly a classic work, and I can’t believe I waited until I was so “old” to finally get around to reading it.

3. Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy. I learned of this previously ‘unknown’ Hardy book at Chris’s blog, “ProSe.”  A great, lesser known work by one of my favorite authors with a predictably intricate plot.  Great 19th century literature!  My original post about this book was written back in November 2010.

2. After Rain by William Trevor.   Heard about at one of my favorite blogs, Ana the Imp.  Not exclusively a book blog (lots of politics and history too), but I take her book and movie recommendations seriously.  This is a collection of short stories by an recognized master of the form.  I posted about several of them this year.  Lost Ground, After Rain, and Gilbert’s Mother.  The first two were my favorites.

1. The Warded Man by Peter Brett.  Heard of through Borough of Books. My friends and I have all enjoyed this book and its sequel, Desert Spear.  We are eagerly awaiting the third book…  My praise of the book was written this past May.

In Praise of Peter V. Brett’s “Demon Cycle” of Books

I recently completed the second book of this series, Desert Spear, and am looking forward to when the third book will be published. The first book, The Warded Man, was one of my great ‘discovery’ books last year. I’m not sure if I even would’ve learned of this series in my pre-blogging days, but I randomly happened upon a gushing review of it at Borough of Books last fall and figured I’d give The Warded Man a chance. I was not disappointed and have since recommended the books to several friends, and they were well received by them as well.

***very minor spoilers may follow***

This type of book (fantasy) is admittedly not my normal, preferred genre, but it comes alive for me because the main characters are so well conceived and heroic, and not necessarily heroic in the traditional sense. The basic setting is a (possibly) post-apocalyptic world which is plagued by demons on a nightly basis. These are not the “demons” of our familiar religious tradition, however. They’re not trying to possess humans (although the introduction of a “mind demon” in the second book may be a similar concept, I guess). They rise in a mist at nightfall, searching for prey, but they are destroyed in the presence of daylight. They come in different forms: wood, fire, rock, sand, wind, etc., to plague humanity on a nightly basis.

So how has humanity survived? Well, in this fantastical world, the demons are held at bay and helpless in the face of “wards” – magic symbols drawn or painted on the walls and doors of dwellings, drawn in the sand or dirt by those left out at night, and so on. “Warding” is naturally a much honored and valued skill in this world. Myths also abound of a prior time, where demons (often called “corelings” since they live at the world’s core, and return there nightly after their ravages) had been defeated by humans using “battle” wards and other mysterious technology only hinted at. Somehow, this knowledge has been lost to time though, and the nightly demon plague is once again upon the world.

This cycle of stories centers around the concept of a “deliverer,” who will lead humanity out of the plague and defeat the demons. The main character (and the title character of the first book) is Arlen, a young human who “has had enough” and is dedicated to fighting against the demon plague rather than cowering behind warded walls, as he disgustedly watches his father do. He becomes a “messenger,” one of a hearty breed who travels between the towns in spite of the obvious danger. Other great characters are Leesha, a “herb gatherer” who becomes a leader in her village, and Rojer, a “Jongleur” (a kind of traveling entertainer or jester) who is able to charm the demons by playing his violin and protects his fellow humans that way.

Add to the mix the “Krasians,” a warlike desert people who have always fought the demons in a nightly ritual of “alagai-sharak,” which is costly in lives but has led to a complex society where prowess in battle is revered to an amazing degree. Among these people we meet another of our main characters, Ahmann Jardir, ambitious and convinced that he is the “deliverer” of myth. Great minor characters also abound as author Brett has created a tidy, functioning fantastical world for which it is easy for the reader to become immersed.

What about you? Have you read – or even heard of – either of these books? You may want to check them out, even if on first blush you suspect they aren’t your cup of tea. I did and am glad…

(above: Author Peter V. Brett)

Sent from my iPad

May Reading: The Month Ahead

Well, April was not a stellar month for me as far as blogging frequency goes, but I got a decent amount of reading done.  In May I will try to do better about blogging, but here’s what I have on tap to read this month:

Desert Spear by Peter Brett

I feel like I’m kind of cheating here, since I had hoped to finish this in April, BUT… I have just over 100 pages to go, and the story is really picking up.  This is the second book of a trilogy (book three due out sometime this year? <fingers crossed>).  The first of the trilogy was The Warded Man (known as The Painted Man outside of America).  A fantastic (post-apocalyptic?) world populated by great characters and plenty of ‘demons’ to be killed.  A great adventure.

Life by Keith Richards

This is my book club’s May selection.  The biography of the iconic guitarist from The Rolling Stones promises to be entertaining reading, and I can’t wait to get started.  Our club has also read Eric Clapton’s autobiography, which was not surprisingly met with mixed reviews by my eclectic group…

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I’m participating in Allie’s read along over at A Literary Odyssey.  I actually cracked the book this afternoon, reading the introduction to my 1969 edition.  I’m supposed to have Part I (about 175 pages) read by the middle of May for the first of four scheduled posts in this read along (it encompasses both May and June).  Can’t wait to read this one either.  I’ve already read Crime and Punishment years ago and felt it was quite good.

We Make a Life by What We Give by Dr. Richard Gunderman

Late in March, I went to a lecture by the author (who also happens to be a former college roommate of mine!) and was quite impressed and moved  by his thoughts on philanthropy and ethics.  It was somewhat of a reunion for me as well, since I hadn’t seen my old friend in many years.  The book is actually a collection of essays, several of which I’ve read already, but I need to give it my full attention for a few days and finish it.  It is very thought-provoking and full of ‘deep thoughts’ – and I don’t mean the Jack Handy kind…

The Fear by Peter Godwin

I’m about a third of the way through this book already (somehow I got entangled in April, reading more books at one time that probably ever before; I’m trying to right my ship in May).  It’s the disturbing story of Zimbabwe under the despotic rule of Robert Mugabe.  I first heard of this book on NPR and “just had to read it…”  Oh, and I’ll also have a Vonnegut title for the KVML Book Club meeting on May 26th.  I’m not sure which book we’re reading this month though, as I had to leave the last meeting a little early.

That’s it.  (Isn’t that enough!?)  How about you?  What are you reading in May?  (You know I can only read about five books a month, so I need to live, er… read vicariously through others to get enough of a fix…)

December Reading- The Month Ahead

I have a lot of reading “obligations” this month. So many I’m not sure if I’ll get done with them all. I am currently working on a book called The Warded Man by Peter Brett. Yet another in a recent bent of “post-apocalyptic/dystopian” novels for me. I’m a little over halfway through this one and am enjoying it immensely. I heard of this book through a fellow blogger.

I also have a Project: Civil War book I’m just getting started with, The Class of 1846: From West Point to Appomattox. This is my eleventh Civil War book of the year, and I don’t see how I’ll get through it AND another one to make it to my goal of twelve for the year. Another incomplete project .

As far as book club books go, my main club, The Indy Reading Coalition, is reading Greg Iles’s The Quiet Game. This is “due” by 12/23 and rather long too. I really need to knuckle down and get reading if I hope to finish it. Then, on top of all that, the KVMLBC (Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Book Club) is meeting on 12/16 to discuss Player Piano. I had to miss last month’s meeting due to some training classes for work, and I may have to miss this one to as next week we are implementing the system that the training classes were for. A curse on system conversions and upgrades! :-). I plan to read the book nonetheless, as I did with Mother Night (the KVMLBC’s November selection).

Oh, and I also just bought an interesting, very short book titled The Bed of Procrustes by Nassem Nicholas Taleb. A great book of thought-provoking aphorisms. Only 68 pages, but very deep.

What about you? What are you reading this month? Do you find you get more reading in during the holiday season or less?