Category: Lists


So You Want to Read… (Russian Authors)

Posted 7 December, 2015 by Lianne in Lists / 0 Comments

So You Want to Read… is a new monthly feature here on eclectictales.com in which I recommend books by particular authors to readers who have never read a book from certain authors and would like to start. I’m always happy to recommend books and certain authors to my fellow readers and bloggers! πŸ™‚

For this month’s So You Want to Read… I decided to go with Russian authors (seemed fitting as we enter the winter months here πŸ˜‰ ). Regular readers of my blog know that I do read quite a bit of Russian classic literature: I find it to be rather unique in terms of the themes they tackle with in their stories, the overall stories told, and the general atmosphere of their stories. They tend to be pretty gloomy and I’d often note that you have to be in a particular mood to read their books (especially Doestoevsky–who is not featured here πŸ˜› ). But okay, so you are in the mood to read some Russian classic literature but you don’t know where to start! Well, I’ve got you covered:

(Oh, please note: I’m covering classic Russian literature. No Soviet Russian authors here (and before you ask, yes, there is a difference! πŸ˜› ))

  • Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers & Sons (review) — I had a conversation with a friend and classmate back in uni about this book as a good introduction point for Russian lit. This book is the best showcase of the ideas that were circulating in the Russian intellientsia during in the early to mid-19th century, which may go over the heads of some if you’re not familiar with the period or not as interested in the debates that were happening in society at the time. However, in my opinion, as a story this book is quite the page-turner, the characterisations and their thoughts astute. The commentaries are also not heavy-handed, which is a bonus (cf. Dostoevsky–again, sorry Fyodor!).
  • Anton Chekhov’s The Duelist — All of Chekhov’s stories are pretty fantastic in how all-encompassing and, well, human they are in thought and feeling. The Duelist was the first Chekhov short story I read (and probably one of the most familiar) and to date it still holds up as one of the best I’ve read just with all of the themes and characterisations present in the story.
  • Aleksandr Pushkin’s Yevgeny Onegin (review) — Okay, everyone knows about this play, surely, with the opera and the stage productions made. It’s a crowning feat in Russian because, like Dante’s The Divine Comedy or Shakespeare’s works, it sets down the tenants of the Russian language for the first time. As a story, it’s quite the epitome of gloomy and introspective and tragic reading.
  • Ivan Goncherov’s Oblomov (review) — I was plugging this book a bit last year because this book was such a pleasant surprise. There’s so much more to this story than the blurb says: it’s funny but it’s also heartbreaking as the reader reads and witnesses the decline of this character who has such potential. Regardless of whether you read it allegorically or an event happening to the individual, it does leave you thinking and wondering.

I hope this list helps if you’re interested in reading Russian classic literature for the first time! Notice that I didn’t mention Leo Tolstoy in the mix; I would recommend him, but not for first-time readers of Russian lit, especially if you’re daunted by their size (his shorter works are all right, but not as amazing as Anna Karenina (review) or War and Peace). Who are your favourite classic Russian authors? Which would you recommend for first-time readers? Or which books have you been meaning to check out?

So You Want to Read… (Elizabeth Gaskell)

Posted 4 November, 2015 by Lianne in Lists / 10 Comments

So You Want to Read… is a new monthly feature here on eclectictales.com in which I recommend books by particular authors to readers who have never read a book from certain authors and would like to start. I’m always happy to recommend books and certain authors to my fellow readers and bloggers! πŸ™‚

For this month’s So You Want to Read… I decided to go with Elizabeth Gaskell (author tag). Not entirely sure why but it seemed fitting to place this list for the month of November; there’s something about some of her books that seem perfect in the autumn season πŸ™‚ Anyway, I first picked up Elizabeth Gaskell’s books around…2007/2008 after someone recommended the ever-wonderful 2004 television adaptation of North and South; if you haven’t seen it, this is an absolute must. It was also the first time I encountered the wonderful actor Richard Armitage grace my screen πŸ˜› —


(gif source)

*ahem* Anyway, I read the book and absolutely fell in love with it. I picked up a number of her books since, though sadly I don’t have reviews for some of them. Nonetheless, here we are, here’s my recommendations of which of her books to check out if you’re interested in reading her books πŸ™‚

  • North and South (review) — An absolute given πŸ˜› It’s kind of like Pride and Prejudice (review) except it’s set in northern England and really there’s a whole lot more to the novel than the growing relationship between Margaret Hale and Mr. Thornton. This book immediately solidified my love for Ms. Gaskell’s writing, the way she’s able to interweave social commentary to a very engaging and interesting story populated with well-rounded characters. It’s a gem of a read, definitely and highly recommended!
  • Wives and Daughters — Elizabeth Gaskell did not finish this novel due to her death, but the book more or less hints to how the story was going to end (she also told a friend, I believe…and then of course there’s the BBC adaptation starring Justine Waddall and Keeley Hawes; definitely worth checking out, by the way, it’s an excellent series!). Molly and Roger’s budding romance is far more quieter, and punctured with obstacles from Molly’s stepsister Cynthia to family drama on Roger’s side, but it’s quite an interesting read in character and social dynamics and interactions.
  • Cranford — BBC also made two delightful series based on the stories set in the sleepy town of Cranford. It’s a far different read than the first two but just as enjoyable as the town is populated mostly by elderly women facing the modernisations that England was embarking in at the time. There’s of course the social element ever present in these stories, but it’s nonetheless a fun read and quite different (I think) from many of her other works.
  • Ruth (review) — I read this book more recently and omg, the feels. Definitely on the bleaker side of life with everything that Ruth has to deal with and suffer, but it’s an eye-opening read on both a major social stigma at the time as well as the different reactions and perspectives on the subject. But don’t despair too much on the bleakness, there are moments of hope, not to mention it’s just such a read–I personally couldn’t put it down, I was wholly engrossed in Ruth’s journey.

I hope this list helps if you’re interested in reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s books for the first time! What’s your favourite Elizabeth Gaskell novel? Which would you recommend for first-time readers? Or which books have you been meaning to check out?

So You Want to Read… (Edith Wharton)

Posted 7 October, 2015 by Lianne in Lists / 6 Comments

So You Want to Read… is a new monthly feature here on eclectictales.com in which I recommend books by particular authors to readers who have never read a book from certain authors and would like to start. I’m always happy to recommend books and certain authors to my fellow readers and bloggers! πŸ™‚

For this month’s So You Want to Read… I decided to go with Edith Wharton. I got around to reading her books a few years ago after hearing so much about her works. Since then she’s quickly become one of my favourite classic authors and while I recently came across a few titles of hers that I didn’t love as much as others, I still find her to be a stellar writer with such a wonderful grasp of language and understanding of human motivation and feeling. I understand that people can be a little ambivalent towards her as many had to study her novel Ethan Frome in high school; I read it earlier this year and I can see why people might be apprehensive to try her other works as omg that book was especially depressing.

So without further ado, here are some of her books that I’d recommend if you’re planning on checking out her books for the first time:

  • The Age of Innocence (review) — This and The House of Mirth tackle some rather hefty issues and the relationships overlap and connect in complex ways, but I still find this novel to be of lighter fare compared to the latter. There’s also the love story, but I thought the social commentary and the representation and status of women were the far more interesting elements.
  • The House of Mirth (review) — This is my favourite novel by Edith Wharton and normally I recommend it first, but you honestly have to be in a particular mood to read it as it can be depressing. You can’t help but feel for Lily as things go from bad to worse, and it’s just heartbreaking, but Wharton’s prose is magnificent and her observation so astute, I found myself identifying with some of the deeper themes that the novel presents.
  • The Bunner Sisters (review) — It’s shorter and thus it’s not as fleshed out as the first two titles but it’s still much more accessible than some of her other stories. Plus, the premise was interesting in that the two main characters featured are sisters; one sister more than the other, but it still has different features compared to some of her shorter works. It also has some similar running themes you’d find in her other novels, but if you’re looking for one of her shorter works to check out first, then either this or the following will work.
  • Summer (review) — Rumour has it they’re planning on adapting this novella into a movie? Anyway, I can sort of see it happening as compared to The Bunner Sisters the characters and motivations are much more fleshed out. It can still be a dark novel as it deals with the subject of a fallen woman, as well as borderline taboo issues, but again Wharton writes with such clarity as readers gain a glimpse into what the main character Charity is going through.

I hope this list helps if you’re interested in reading Edith Wharton’s books! What’s your favourite novel by Edith Wharton? Which would you recommend for first-time readers? Or which books have you been meaning to check out?

So You Want to Read… (William Shakespeare)

Posted 7 September, 2015 by Lianne in Lists / 12 Comments

So You Want to Read… is a new monthly feature here on eclectictales.com in which I recommend books by particular authors to readers who have never read a book from certain authors and would like to start. I’m always happy to recommend books and certain authors to my fellow readers and bloggers! πŸ™‚

It’s September! Back to school for everyone who’s still in school…and keeping with the theme, for this month’s So You Want to Read, I will be featuring William Shakespeare (see tag) *cackles gleefully* Regular readers of my blog probably noticed that other than the Shakespeare Reading Challenge I hosted last year, I really got into reading dramatic plays this year, including more Shakespeare. The stories and the characters can be so exciting, the dialogue and soliloques thought-provoking, and I’ve seen some excellent filmed productions to date.

Maybe you want to get back to checking out some of Shakespeare’s works on your own, or maybe you want to read one for the first time. Here are 5 plays I’d recommend checking out (barring Romeo & Juliet because by now everyone must know something of it):

  • Twelfth Night (review) — My favourite comedy from Shakespeare <3 I studied this play in Grade 10 English (which really enjoyed; plenty of good memories there) and re-reading it earlier year, was just hilarious. Cross-dressing, mistaken identities, lovelorn individuals doing crazy things, yellow stockings. Oh, also recommend the 2012 Globe production (review) πŸ˜‰
  • Much Ado About Nothing (review) — The first time I read this play last year I liked it enough but I had some issues with the main storyline. So why am I recommending it here? Because it does fare well in memory/gets better the more I remember it (hence the re-read; review), and I love Beatrice and Benedick’s story. I could read a whole play of the two of them bantering back and forth. My personal favourite production of this play has to be the 2011 Globe production (review).
  • Macbeth (review) — For the tragedies, Macbeth certainly comes to mind as one of the most accessible. I studied this play in Grade 12 English and it’s just a fascinating psychological study of how a crime can weigh heavily on the conscience and tear relationships apart. Plus, there are witches and it’s set in Scotland.
  • Othello (review) — Another familiar tragedy that many probably studied in school. I didn’t, so it was interesting to check out this play on my own. Again, it’s a very accessible play, and pretty suspenseful: you know things are going to go down poorly and yet you can’t quite turn away.
  • Richard III (review) — From the histories, I was sort of 50/50 recommending Richard III for first time readers at first as I normally recommend reading everything in order starting from Richard II (review; commentary) right through the Henriad to get a sense of why things were the way they were by events of Richard III. But as a standalone it’s excellent, with lots of well-known dialogue, intriguing characters, and plenty of action. So yes, I highly recommend this play, it’s one of the best that I’ve read this year.



I hope this list of books helps if you’re interested in revisiting or reading Shakespeare for the first time! What are your favourite Shakespeare plays? Which would you recommend for first-time readers? Or which plays have you been meaning to check out?

Also, what’s your favourite edition of Shakespeare’s plays? I enjoy the editions published by Modern Library in conjunction with the RSC. They’re so informative and very pretty πŸ™‚

Books: Summer Wrap-Up [2015 edition]

Posted 5 September, 2015 by Lianne in Lists / 2 Comments

Wow, how is it September already? Seems like yesterday that summer was just starting…As some of you know, the end of summer usually means my seasonal wrap-up reading-wise, something I started doing a few years ago, where I list out my top six favourite reads from the first week of June to the first weekend of September (why this time frame and why six, I don’t know, it was an arbitrary choice that stuck over the years). Now, granted, this summer’s a little strange because a) I read a lot in the preceding months so all my reviews are scheduled and backed up…so some of my favourite reads below may not have reviews up yet (not that this is an issue or anything, but it hasn’t happened before and I find it a bit strange tbh) πŸ˜‰ and b) my reading schedule went out of whack because of my consoliation over the summer πŸ˜› I was reading more textbooks and course notes than actual books T___T

But anyway, without further ado, six books I read over the summer that I loved:

  • Rachel Bach’s Paradox trilogy (see author tag) — I read the first book, Fortune’s Pawn (review) last year and was absolutely itching to read the next two books in the trilogy. I normally take forever getting around completing trilogies but this has to be one the fastest I’ve ever gotten around to reading πŸ˜› Love love love this trilogy; readers of bad-ass female protagonists and space opera will want to check this out.
  • Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins (review) — Guys, this book has been on my want-to-read list for years, why the hell did I take so long getting around to it? The writing was absolutely gorgeous and the story totally drew me in. I’ve never been anywhere near the Cinque Terre region but makes me want to go there so very much πŸ˜€
  • Julie Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members (review) — Another book I had been eyeing for a while (though not at long as Beautiful Ruins!) but I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and the lead character’s unapologetic, passive aggressive letters to staff, ex-wives, colleagues, friends, students, etc.
  • Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan books (review #1; the rest will be posted next week) — Guys, #FerranteFever is real. I read these books in one weekend, I was just absolutely absorbed into Lila and Elena’s lives and world. My review cannot do it justice how amazing this book is. Go check it out now πŸ˜›
  • Lindsey Kelk’s Always the Bridesmaid — My review of this novel won’t be live until sometime in October (*gulp* That’s how far in my scheduled review posts are at) but omg this book was such a delight, it was the perfect summer read. It reminded me of Bridget Jones’ Diary, Pride and Prejudice, and Miranda but set now (as opposed to Bridget Jones set in the 1990s). The references are very much current; it was hilarious and aww and cringeworthy (at times) but I totally emphathised with Maddie the whole way. Definitely worth checking out!
  • Max Wirestone’s The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss — My review of this book won’t be going live here on my blog until October/closer to the publication date, but suffice to say I loved this book. It was funny, the mystery was intriguing, the characters were interesting, the gamer/geek culture references πŸ˜€ Definitely a book to keep an eye out this autumn (especially if you’re a fan of Veronica Mars and Ernest Clive’s Ready Player One (review)).



And of course, some honourable mentions that didn’t make the above list but where nonetheless fantastic:

  • L. Frank Baum’s The Wondrous Wizard of Oz (review to follow later this month)
  • Sigal Samuel’s The Mystics of Mile End (review)
  • Dean Palmer’s The Queen and Mrs. Thatcher (review)
  • Philip Slayton’s Mayors Gone Bad (review)
  • Susanna Kearsley’s Season of Storms (review)
  • Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings (review)
  • Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians (review)
  • Susanna Kearsley’s The Winter Sea (review forthcoming)
  • N.K. Jemisin’s Dreamblood duology (reviews forthcoming)



And that’s my list for summer this 2015! What were some of your favourite reads this summer (or winter, depending on where you are in the world)? Have you read any of the books I mentioned above? Interested in any of them?