Top Ten Tuesday: Disturbing Books

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a Halloween freebie. At first I wanted to do a list of eerie books. I’m not generally big on horror, but I love creepiness. Unfortunately, this topic was a little too close to my TTT from a few weeks ago when I did Best Fall Books, which included a few of my favorite eerie choices. So instead I’m going with the top ten books I found gross, unsettling, and altogether disturbing. This post is spoiler free, so you can be just as distressed as I was if you choose to read any of these books. I listed them from least favorite to favorite, so if you’re looking for recommendations, look towards the bottom of the list.

1. A Feast of Snakes by Harry Crews: I think this is the only book on the list that I actually hated. I read it for a class that I ended up dropping because the material was too disturbing. It focuses on a few days in a small southern town and the people that live there. It was incredibly hard to read. I think I’m still scarred.

2. The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel: As far as mysteries go, it was pretty mediocre, but the ending was disturbing in a way that earns it a place on this list. I did that thing where I read over a part about four times just because I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Does anyone else do that?

3. Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix: This was my first foray into horror and I didn’t find it scary. The presentation of the book is pretty awesome, though. It made it onto my list partially because the ending is fairly gross, but mostly because there’s this one moment where I turned the page expecting a normal page of text and what I saw made my blood run cold. Some books would be worth reading just for that one moment of perfect creepiness.

4. Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman: If you’re going to do a Gaiman short story anthology, go with the one further down the list. I was looking forward to reading this so I could finally read the story about Susan Pevensie that I had heard about. It was not what I was expecting and made me super uncomfortable. That was definitely the intention, but it still wasn’t my favorite story.

5. Room by Emma Donoghue: So fascinating, but so hard to read. Though Jack is too young and sheltered to know what’s going on, the realities of this situation were heartbreaking.

6. Swerve by Vicki Pettersson: Not the best book in terms of setting up a gratifying twist, but I have to give credit where credit is due. The description of what happens to Kristine over the course of the novel was some pretty impressive grossness.

7. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith: I really like Rowling’s new series, but one of the characters in this second book is an author whose work is really surreal and sexually charged. I found reading the plot descriptions of Quine’s work pretty disturbing.

8. Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman: My favorite of Gaiman’s short story anthologies. This makes it on the list because Snow, Glass, Apples was both disgusting and amazing. It’s a re-imagining of Snow White and as you’ll see further down the list, I love a really creepy fairy tale retelling.

9. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes: This is such a great book, and most of it is just at the right level of creepy. But there’s one reveal at the end so shocking and sad that I had to add this to the list.

10. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter: I first read The Company of Wolves for a fairy tale class in college and while I loved it, it was definitely unsettling. I read the rest of the book and the whole anthology toes the same line between fascinating and disturbing. I saved the best for last. I like the anthology as a whole, but loved specific stories within it.

Let me know what books you found disturbing. I like to think I have a thick skin, but I’m eager to know whether I’m being a baby about some of these.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Author Collaborations

Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday. This week’s topic from The Broke and the Bookish is “Top Ten Author Collaborations.” While I don’t have anything against collaborative works, I don’t think I’m particularly drawn to them. It’s probably the control freak in me; I love to work alone. So I only came up with three collaborations, but I tried to make them good ones. Read on to see my ideas.

Melina Marchetta and JK Rowling: They’re both absolute queens with absurd amounts of talent, but I mostly lumped them together because they’re genre jumpers. They both went from YA and/or fantasy to mystery and I would be keen to read their collaborations in any genre. I’d love to read something with Marchetta’s amazing character development and Rowling’s eye for detail.

Erin Morgenstern and Catherynne M. Valente: Both of these authors have such rich description, anything they write together would be unbelievably lush. Their book would have such great atmosphere. Add in a bit of Morgenstern’s darkness and Valente’s whimsy and you have my ideal book.

Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker: These two have a ton in common already, but if they were to collaborate, I think they would push each other to new levels of creepy and unsettling. A really eery and clever children’s book between Gaiman and Barker would be amazing.

What do you think of my picks? I wanted to squeeze Leigh Bardugo in there somewhere, since I just finished a bunch of her books and I adore her, but I don’t think I’m good at this author matchmaking game. Be sure to share your TTTs with me in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall Books

I’m the person who starts wearing sweaters on the first day of September. I live for cold breezes and cloudy skies, so I’m more than a little disappointed that we’re still going to have warm weather this week. To get excited for my favorite season, I decided to do Fall Books for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday freebie topic. It turned out to be harder than I anticipated (so many books take place around Christmas or in the summer?) so I used a loose definition of “fall.” Some of these books actually take place in the fall, some feature a bit about starting school in September, and some are just spooky-feeling.

9151. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente: The main character’s name is September and most of the book has a very autumnal feel, but there’s one part where they get to a forest that experiences eternal autumn. My eyes just about popped out of my head, those descriptions were so amazing.

2. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen: I felt like including Dessen on this list, even though her books are usually summer-y, just because her books remind me so much of being in high school. This was one of my favorite of her books and I’m pretty sure it starts out in the fall.

3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: This is one of the spooky ones. I adore this book and it’s such a good Halloween read.

4. Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman: This is one of the books that actually takes place in the fall. It’s got forests, fairy tales, boarding schools, lots of stuff that feels autumnal to me.

5. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray: I’ve already said that schools, especially boarding schools, remind me of the fall, but this book also has a richness that I associate with this season.

6. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett: My friends go on a yearly trip to Salem in October and last year, I read some chapters from Good Omens aloud while we drove. It felt appropriate.

7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: Circuses are super autumnal (I’m so sorry I’ve used this word about a hundred times, I have no good alternatives!), but this book also has a richness like I mentioned with A Great and Terrible Beauty.

8. Harry Potter by JK Rowling: So Halloween-y, but moreover, Harry Potter is always about starting school in September! Even in Deathly Hallows when the trio doesn’t go back to school, there are great quotes like “Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple.”

What did you do for your Top Ten Tuesday freebie? And let me know what books remind you of autumn, since I didn’t even make it to ten!

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Characters I Didn’t Click With

This Top Ten Tuesday (from The Broke and the Bookish) is about characters I didn’t connect with. I’m the type of person who can always find something to criticize (I try to use my powers for good, but it is what it is), so I was born for this TTT. Read on to see my least favorite fictional characters.

9011. Celaena from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas: I’ve talked about this before, but I find her characterization to be really weak. She’s too perfect.

2. Cath from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: I was hoping this book would be a better representation of what it’s like to be in the Internet/fandom generation, but Cath really annoyed me.

3. Cadence from We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: I couldn’t stand anyone in this book besides Gat, but I’m taking out my frustrations on Cadence.

4. Blue from The Raven Cycle Series by Maggie Stiefvater: It felt like we were supposed to like Blue because she’s “practical” and quirky, but she just felt really immature.

5. Ronan from The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater: I just didn’t connect with this series in general, I guess (Like I could see that I should love Gansey because he’s so my type, but I barely even liked him). But anyways, Ronan has always bugged me. I can’t get over how badly he treats people.

6. Bridget Jones from Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding: This is one of those books where the movie is 100% better. This book was so weird (the ending! So weird!) and Bridget was much less likable.

7. Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen: I said this, verbatim, last October: “It’s a truth universally acknowledged that no one likes Catherine Morland.”

8. Nick Dunne from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: I know Amy is a complete monster and that Nick is a victim, but I couldn’t bring myself to feel sorry for him. I like Amy, because at least she’s a smart and interesting character, but Nick was so mediocre and made such bad decisions. I couldn’t stand him.

9. Quintana of Charyn from the Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta: I went into the second Lumatere book all excited to meet Quintana’s character because my friend loves her. She wasn’t what I expected. Quite frankly, Quintana scares the bejeezus out of me. I’ve warmed up to her and she becomes an easier character to like about midway through the second book, but she’s still not my favorite. Still scares the bejeezus out of me.

10. Snape from the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling: Why did so many people become pro-Snape when they found out he loved Lily? He bullies kids and has been obsessed with the same woman his whole life. He’s the worst.

Did we have any in common? Do I dislike your favorite character? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Crossover Camaraderie: Part One

I’m sure that every book nerd has come across a character and tried to play matchmaker. I can’t help it. Some characters just seem really compatible with characters from other books!

This is my first attempt at starting a series here on Great Exhortations, which I am (for now) calling Crossover Camaraderie. In these posts, I will be matching two characters from different books who I think would be great friends if they were ever to meet. And my first example is the Bookish Girls Trifecta.

I’ve talked about these three as a unit before. I first mentioned them in My Favorite Heroines post, and then again in a recent Top Ten Tuesday.

Matilda from Roald Dahl’s Matilda, Hermione from the Harry Potter series, and Liesel Meminger from Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief

813Let’s look at what they have in common. The most obvious thing is their love for reading. All three girls are voracious readers. Matilda taught herself to read before kindergarten, Hermione has read pretty much the entire Hogwarts library, and Liesel likes books so much that she commits crimes just to get her hands on them. They all recognize that books and knowledge are powerful (and two of them even have actual powers). What book blogger hasn’t included this trio in a list of characters they love identify with?

But the biggest thing I think they have in common is their combination of compassion and edge. These girls are kind, but each has a vein of grit. Matilda gets along with the sweet Miss Honey, but she has no problem using her knowledge and psychic powers to scare the lights out of Trunchbull. The girl is blackmailing full-grown adults before her sixth birthday. Hermione cares about her friends and humane treatment for the house elves, but she literally keeps a woman in a jar for months. And Liesel has just as big a heart as Hans and Rosa, but she beat up a boy for calling her dumb and partakes in crimes ranging from stealing to hiding a fugitive.

While I already have a few ideas for future editions of Crossover Camaraderie, I would love to hear whether there are any characters you have wished could meet.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters Who Are Also Book Nerds

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted, as always, by The Broke and the Bookish) is about fictional book nerds. I had a surprisingly hard time piecing together a list of fellow bookworms, but I finally managed to make it to ten. Let’s start with the three obvious ones…

1. Matilda from Matilda by Roald Dahl: So book nerdy that she developed powers. She’s an inspiration to bookworms everywhere.

2. Hermione from Harry Potter by JK Rowling: She read Hogwarts, A History. Her inclusion on this list is a no-brainer.

3. Liesel from The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak: The last from my Bookish Girls Trifecta (First mentioned in this post). I adore Liesel, who finds such strength in words and knowledge.

4. Celaena Sardothien from Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas: She’s really only on this list because I read this book last month and this list was too Marchetta-heavy, as per usual. While I thought Celaena’s list of hobbies and interests was a little too long (she’s a trained killer and she reads and she loves clothes and she plays the piano), her love of books got her a place on this list.

5. The Queen of Lumatere from The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta: I almost put my baby Finnikin on this list, thanks to his Book of Lumatere, but I had to go with the Queen because of her defense of their language. There’s a part where the Queen says the Lumateran exiles will lose their identity if they stop speaking their mother tongue. Anyone who acknowledges the power of words like that deserves to be on a list of book lovers.

6. Mary Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Ah, the most awkward of the Bennet sisters. While she may love to read, Mary’s a bit of a parrot, always more comfortable quoting something than coming up with her own opinion (“Mary wished to say something very sensible, but did not know how”).

7 & 8. The Dashwood Sisters from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen: I would argue that they’re both bookish in their own way. I may be projecting when I say that Elinor probably liked to read, but everybody knows about Marianne’s love for romantic poetry.

9 & 10. Lirah of Serker and Gargarin of Abroi from The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta: The ultimate bookish couple. They fell in love when he taught her how to read. She recited poetry to seduce him. This is not a drill.

My suggestions for this week were a bit of a stretch at times. I thought this would be such an easy topic! Did I miss any book lovers that should have been on my list? I’m sure there are a couple obvious ones that have slipped my mind.

Introductory Book Meme

As another little get-to-know-me post before I dive into blogging, I thought I would answer a few questions about myself and my reading habits. These questions are all taken from Booking Through Thursday, which is an adorable little blog posting weekly meme questions. I’ve picked around seven questions to answer.

Do you have a favorite book? What do you say when people ask you? [x] I usually have a small list of titles I love such as Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations (obviously), and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Or I’ll say it’s probably something by Melina Marchetta or Neil Gaiman, since they’re probably my favorite authors. Also, my favorite book when I was little was Ella Enchanted. I called that my favorite book for years, so it’s still a contender.

What’s the furthest you’ve ever gone to get something to read? If your absolute favorite author was coming out with a brand new book tomorrow, what would you do to get a copy? [x] Order of the Phoenix was the first Harry Potter book to come out after I had started reading them. I happened to be in Colombia visiting my family and I was devastated that I wouldn’t be able to read it immediately. My uncle managed to find a bookstore that had it and drove us all to some mall to go pick it up. It was such a sweet gesture and it was definitely the furthest anyone’s gone to get me a book. That said, if Melina Marchetta published a book next week that was only being sold in Australia, I would pay some absurd shipping fees to get my hands on that.

Do other people in your family also like to read? [x] My sister isn’t much of a reader at all. My mother reads, but sticks to easy, fun books for the most part. My dad loves to read, but he reads the news a lot, especially news relating to his field (public health). He likes the occasional novel, but most of what he reads is nonfiction. He loves food, so he especially likes books about the anthropology or history of food. For Christmas, I gave him a book about the linguistics of food, which he promptly lost on a trip of Brussels a few months later.

Do you read books written for children or teens? Or do you stick to books for adults? [x] I love YA and children’s lit. I know there’s lots of talk about whether it’s “appropriate” for adults to read these genres, but I think it’s nonsense. I try to read a wide variety of genres and they all have their strengths and merits.

What was your favorite book from 2014? [x] The Lumatere Chronicles. Yes, it’s a trilogy and not a single book, but I read all three in 2014 and I say it counts. These books were heartbreaking and such an interesting take on classic fantasy. I can’t recommend these books enough.

In an ideal word, what kind of book cases would you have? What kind of book cases do you actually have? [x] Someday, I would like to have a room of bookcases, maybe in combination with a home office. I don’t like a ton of color or complicated decor, so I think I would just prefer that the bookcases are all white and that the room is simple. Currently, I’m living in an apartment, so most of my books are still at my parents’ house. I have one small white bookshelf that doubles as a TV stand.

Do you ever wonder who would be cast as your favorite characters? [x] Most of the time, I piece together what a character looks like as I get details of their appearance, but sometimes I just know what a character looks like. The best example is Taylor Markham from Jellicoe Road. She was Kaya Scodelario in my head within minutes.

Go check out Booking Through Thursday for some lovely questions about books and reading. It seems like a fun little project and I’m considering answering their questions as a weekly post.