Category: Lists


So You Want to Read… (Jane Austen)

Posted 12 August, 2015 by Lianne in Lists / 13 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™‚

Happy August! I hope your summer (or winter, depending) has been fun and wonderful. For this month’s So You Want to Read… I decided to go with Jane Austen (author tag). Thought it was a good time, especially as there is the event Austen in August happening right now πŸ˜‰ Many of you know that I’m a big fan and reader of Jane Austen’s novels; I first encountered Jane Austen in high school, where we studied Pride & Prejudice for grade 11 English. But it wasn’t until university when I went back to her books and absolutely fell in love with them (and from there braching out to the other classic authors).

So without further ado, here’s my recommendation of what order you should read her books in. There’s no right way to do it, of course, and it really depends on what interests you as a reader, but for new readers, maybe you want to try it this way?

  • Pride & Prejudice (review) — Surprised? There’s a good reason why Jane Austen’s most famous novel gets first billing on my recommended order list. The main protagonist, Elizabeth Bennett, is witty and vivacious and headstrong, and the dialogue is quite electric (as is the narration, now that I think about it). It’s quite the story of mannerisms and characterisations and class and family so yeah, it’s a good place to start.
  • Northanger Abbey (review) — Jane Austen’s earliest novel that was published posthumously. It’s certainly not as complex as her later novels, so why did I rank it so high up my recommended order list lol? Simply put, it’s because of it’s simplistic storyline and just the fun of it all that I ranked it pretty high for new Austen readers to check out. Yes, some of the late 18th century pop culture references might fly over your head, but it’s the characterisations and reactions are relatable and it’s just all around fun. Not to mention the lead character is a reader with quite the active imagination πŸ™‚
  • Persuasion (review) — This was the last novel Jane Austen more or less completed before she passed away and certainly the most mature of her body of work. It’s also my personal favourite from the six because of everything about it–from the characters to the themes to the contemplative nature of the story to the letter at the end (you’ll know what I speak of when you get to it) πŸ˜‰ I’m surprised more people haven’t read this book, it’s absolutely amazing (and the first time around I couldn’t put it down because I just had to know how things would turn out).
  • Emma (review) — Personally not my favourite Austen novel of the six but I can see why people love it (I’ve only come to appreciate the book only more recently). Emma Woodhouse playing matchmaker with the people in her community, resulting in misunderstandings and hijinks all around. I ranked it where it is because it’s still more accessible than the remaining books I will be listing (plus, Mr. Knightley is such a hoot πŸ˜› ).
  • Sense & Sensibility (review) — I love S&S but I learned the hard way that it’s not quite an easy book to recommend to readers, even if they loved P&P. I remember the first time I read it that the language used is and felt a little older than P&P and later novels, and I admit, it can be a little dry. But the story is fantastic, the characters are great, and if you get to this book I encourage you to try to stick through it because it’s such an amazing story with a lot to think about and great character dynamics and the nature of human emotions and passions.
  • Mansfield Park (review) — I love Mansfield Park and like S&S it pains me to rank it rather low on the list of which order to read her books in but this book is pretty different from the others in that it’s much more inclined towards social commentary and character study. It’s also a lot longer (I think–not that this should be a deterrent πŸ˜› ). Many Austen readers do not find Fanny as sparkling or as witty as Elizabeth Bennet or Emma Woodhouse or as passionate as Marianne Dashwood but I urge you to stick through this book. The family dynamics are absolutely intriguing and Fanny is a very strong character in her own way.
  • Her other works (Lady Susan, Sandition, etc.) — And when you’ve run out of her books to read and want to read more of her books, there are her incomplete works (which Penguin Classics does have compiled–at least the larger works). Lady Susan is complete and is a very interesting story as it’s all told in letters. Sandition and The Watsons were pretty promising but alas, she died before she could write any further. They may be incomplete and leave you wanting but they are nonetheless worth checking out because they’re quite different from the above, completed novels.

I hope this recommended order list of books helps if you’re interested in revisiting or reading Jane Austen for the first time! What’s your favourite Jane Austen novels? Which would you recommend for first-time readers (or in which order)? Or which books have you been meaning to check out?

Shakespeare: Listing the Favourites

Posted 30 July, 2015 by Lianne in Lists / 12 Comments

So, as of 10 May 2015, I could proudly say that I read all of William Shakespeare’s plays. It’s pretty intense, the bulk of his works having been read in the last two years starting with the reading challenge I hosted in 2014 and wrapping up this year with the rest of his plays. You can read all of my reviews in the author tag. I just wanted to reflect a little bit on reading all of his plays, note my favourites from the batch (because there were so I loved, some I liked, and some I didn’t like (and some perhaps I need to re-read at some point)) πŸ™‚

The Comedies

  • Twelfth Night (review) — Always and forever, my number one favourite comedy from Shakespeare. Twins lost at sea, mistaken identities, love triangles and squares, yellow stockings…What’s not to love? πŸ˜€
  • Much Ado About Nothing (review) — It took a second read for me to really enjoy the play (in my first read, I found the main storyline with Claudio and Hero extremely problematic and not terribly satisfying), but it’s really all because of Beatrice and Benedick πŸ˜€
  • As You Like It (review) — Such a sweet, lovely play. A little weird at times with things being decided upon out of th blue but whatever, it works. Rosalind and Orlando are so cute too xP
  • The Merchant of Venice (review) — I have a soft spot for this play because it was the first play I studied in school. It’s still an interesting play to read, and Shylock’s storyline continues to compel me more so than the main storyline with Bassiano, Portia, et al.

The Tragedies

  • Hamlet (review) — I always liked this play but it took a re-read earlier this year to truly appreciate the finer aspects of this play and the themes and elements that were running through Hamlet over the course of the play. It’s dark and introspective and just fascinating.
  • Titus Andronicus (review) — Definitely one of those plays that prompted a more physical response as I was reading it (“Should I be weeping or screaming right about now?”), I couldn’t quite tear away from it even when it went bad to worse D= It had some great lines, not to mention an interesting take on, err, revenge
  • Othello (review) — Another one of those plays that left me all flailing and reacting a bt more out loud (“OMG, Othello, don’t trust him!”), it was quite the page turner.
  • Macbeth (review) — In retrospect, I do wish this play was a bit longer, but it’s pretty intriguing and tragic and thought-provoking all the same.

The Histories

  • Richard II (review) — It took a second read for me to love and really appreciate this play, both story-wise, characterisation-wise, and structurally as a play. It’s just so finely written, and there’s so much going thematically and these characters…
  • Richard III (review) — Fell in love with this play the first time I read it. Richard III is such a bastard in this play and yet it’s quite a page-turner, it’s compelling, you’re left wondering how things will ultimately turn out for him (hint: not so well).
  • Julius Caesar (review) — Friends! Romans! Countrymen! Lend me your ear…I enjoyed reading this play, but Mark Antony’s speech at Caesar’s funeral bumped it up to a favourite πŸ˜›

The Honourable Mentions

Because they stayed with me even though I may not have loved them completely (so that means I liked it…right?)…

  • All’s Well That Ends Well (review) — Everything problematic about this play stems from Bertram, but I can’t help but like the play anyhow.
  • Measure For Measure (review) — Again, problematic with the two leads here and Angelo’s actions later in the play are like WTF, NO!, but it’s a very interesting play with some contrasts and mirror issues similar to Richard II (at least in my mind πŸ˜› ).
  • The Tempest (review) — For the sheer amount of quotables in this play, yeah, it gets an honourable mention πŸ˜‰

+++

And those are my favourites! I suppose I’ll be moving along to Shakespeare’s other contemporaries now that I finished his works and Christopher Marlowe’s (see tag) and maybe a few of the more modern playwrights (been meaning to re-visit Arthur Miller). What do you think of the list? Which plays by Shakespeare are your favourites? That you want to read? Favourite playwrights/plays in general?

So You Want to Read… (Alice Munro)

Posted 1 July, 2015 by Lianne in Lists / 2 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™‚

Firstly:

So for this month’s So You Want to Read…, I thought it would be appropriate to feature Canadian author Alice Munro. She’s well-known for writing short stories, and received even more acclaim a few years ago when she won the Nobel Prize for Literature. I admit, I didn’t get around to reading her books until last year, but since then I’ve been trying to read more. She has such a way of crafting stories out of everyday life and activities, they’re quite introspective and filled with character and thoughts.

So, never read any of Alice Munro’s stories and want to try them out? Or maybe you want to expand your literary horizons to include short stories? Look no further, here’s my 3 recommendations on where to start:

  • Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (review) — I cannot recommend this book enough, it is a solid collection from start to finish (there was not a single story in this collection I didn’t like) exploring themes of friendship, bonds of family, love between couples, etc. Two movies also sprang from two stories in this collection, which is pretty cool (Hateship Courtship and Away from Her).
  • Runaway (review) — I read this collection earlier this year and again, a solid book from start to finish and OMG all them feels. This book features stories of women facing dilemmas and inner crises of all sorts, searching for happiness, for relief, longing for self-actualisation, etc. Another book I would whole-heartedly recommend.
  • Selected Stories (1968 – 1994) (review) — Okay, I would recommend checking out the above two titles first before checking out this book. While this book features Alice Munro’s earlier works, I find it to be rather different compared to her later works, sometimes not as compelling, but they paint a very interesting picture of life in rural Canada in the early half of the 20th century. Still worth checking out, but read the above two first.
  • Bonus: Family Furnishings (1995 – 2014) — I haven’t picked up a copy of this collection yet (am waiting for the paperback to be released later this year) but it looks like an excellent collection of her later stories (you can see the list of stories included in this collection over here).

I hope this list of books helps if you’re interested in reading any of her works! Have you read any of Alice Munro’s stories? If so, which collections or stories would you recommend to new readers?

So You Want to Read… (Brandon Sanderson)

Posted 15 June, 2015 by Lianne in Lists / 8 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, I will be featuring Brandon Sanderson. He’s pretty well-known in the fantasy genre, both in adult fantasy and YA fantasy. I first encountered his novels sometime in the mid-2000s but I didn’t really get around to his books until a few years after that. He’s written a ton of novels, both full-length and shorter novellas, not to mention he finished Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. The scope of his novels are astounding, imaginative, and the stories are just entertaining with great characters and dialogue. And I wish I wrote as fast as him πŸ˜›

So without further ado, here’s 5 titles I’d recommend by Brandon Sanderson if you haven’t read of his stories yet (which you should πŸ˜› ):

  • Mistborn (review) — Naturalmente πŸ˜› Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn books (especially the first trilogy) is absolutely amazing and engrossing: it’s funny, it’s epic, it’s fascinating, just all the feels. I cannot recommend this book enough, go read it now!
  • Elantris — This was Brandon Sanderson’s first novel (incidentally also the first novel by him that I read). People say it’s his weakest novel of his bibliography, but I find it just as fantastic as his other novels. That he was able to tell such a tale in one novel was very impressive (normally you’d see such stories stretched into a trilogy or more) and the worldbuilding was absolutely vivid. This book still holds a special place for me, I recommend it πŸ™‚
  • Warbreaker (review) — Another standalone (for now, at least) that tells quite a story on an epic scale. Brandon Sanderson’s pretty good at writing antiheroes and this book epitomises this quite nicely. The main character is so totally not meant to carry out anything resembling “the right thing” or “for the good of everyone” and just wants to be left alone but gets sucked into events. Oh, and like every other Brandon Sanderson book, the magic system here is pretty awesome.
  • Legion — For a change of pace, Legion is a start of a sci-fi series of novellas about a guy who has the ability to converse with other avatars within one person and whom you can gather skills and information from (like Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse). I haven’t read the second novella yet but I really enjoyed the first one. And it’s shorter than the other books listed if you’re looking for something a little on the short side to start with.
  • The Rithmatist (review) — I’ve only recently gotten around to checking out some of Brandon Sanderson’s YA titles, starting with this book. Again, the magic system is intriguing, along with a rather interesting alternative history look for the setting. The tone’s different from his other books but younger readers and YA readers will have a lot of fun with this book.

And that’s about it! I hope this list of books helps if you’re interested in reading any of Brandon Sanderson’s books πŸ™‚ Which books of Brandon Sanderson have you read? Which were your favourites? Which would you recommend for first-time readers?

So You Want to Read… (Sir Terry Pratchett)

Posted 11 May, 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 edition of So You Want to Read…, I will be featuring Sir Terry Pratchett. He sadly passed away on 12 March 2015 from a rare for of Alzheimer’s that he was diagnosed with back in 2007. He was known for his Discworld novels, which are fantastical, thoughtful, and satirical, though he’s also written a number of non-Discworld novels as well.

Because there are plenty of Discworld novels with one forthcoming (I think we’re sitting at 40 right now, but that could’ve been the count a few years ago), it can be a bit overwhelming to start. Luckily you don’t necessarily have to start with the first novel, The Colour of Magic; Discworld is divided into a number of “series” featuring/following a particular character or theme/storyline. You can check out this guide to know what the reading order is for those storylines and work your way through there. Or you can check out the following recommendations I have on which Discworld novels to check out πŸ˜‰

  • Mort — This is the first of a number of books featuring the character of Death. Death is my favourite charcter from the Discworld novels (and Death of Rats…and the talking raven Quoth…and Death’s manservant, Albert); indeed he is the personification of death and he does start off rather cold and impersonal as you would imagine, but he’s my favourite character because he’s always seeking to understand humanity and what it means to be alive. This can lead to some rather hilarious moments and situations, but he also has some really profound thoughts on a wide range of subjects. Oh, and the premise of this book? Death gets an (human) apprentice πŸ˜›
  • Guards! Guards! (review) — This is the first of a number of books featuring Sam Vines and the City Guard of Ankh-Morpork, which is the city’s police force. The novel itself follows a plot from a secret brotherhood that wants to overthrow the current government of Ankh-Morpork and sets a dragon out to cause some chaos. It’s down to the City Guard, which is pretty much in shambles at the start of the novel, to uncover the plot and stop the dragon, leading to hilarity all the way. So yeah, hilarious and it features another favourite character, the Patrician Vetinari, the leader of the city πŸ™‚
  • Hogfather — This book features Death quite a bit again (Death as…the Hogfather? What in the world?) but also the University of Wizards and an assortment of other characters including the Auditors, who wrecks havoc in Discworld by constantly fidgeting around with reality and eliminating figures and elements because it doesn’t fit into their view of order (I imagine them as Dementors from HP…only these guys talk…). It’s an interesting novel, and feels quite seasonal if you’re looking for something like that.
  • Going Postal — A more recent title, this book is the first featuring Moist von Lipwig (yeah, his name, anyway!), a con artist who narrowly avoids hanging when the Patrician (yup, he’s back! And played by Charles Dance in the television adaptation so I can never read anything about the Patrician without conjuring an image of Charles Dance speaking the lines, haha) who presents an offer to him to become the Postmaster of the city. Hijinks ensue as the task is larger than it seems, not to mention some dangers along the way. It’s fun, and the underlying satire and commentary very amusing.
  • Good Omens (with Neil Gaiman) — For something outside of Discworld, Sir Terry Pratchett was also known for this novel, co-written with Neil Gaiman, which covers the Apocalypse, the coming of the Four Horsemen, and the attempts of an angel and a demon to stop the end of the world. It’s been a long time since I read the book but I remember finding it rather amusing, albeit a wee bit complicated at times re: Adam’s storyline. Nonetheless, Sir Terry Pratchett’s wit is out in full force in this novel.

I hope this list of books helps if you’re interested in reading some of Sir Terry Pratchett’s novels! What do you think? Have you read any of his books? Which were your favourites and/or ones you’d recommend to first-time readers? He will be greatly missed.