Tag: Books: Recommendations

Top Ten Tuesdays

Posted 12 April, 2016 by Lianne in Meme / 9 Comments

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We’d love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

This week’s topic: Ten Books Every X Should Read

I admit, I was initially excited by this week’s topic. Then I was scratching my head because I wanted to do something different but I wasn’t sure if I had done a topic similar to this in the past, and if so what topic did I choose πŸ˜› Unfortunately my results didn’t reveal much except the closest theme to this was books if you enjoy X television show or movie. Err, so okay, had to think long and hard on this and decided to split this week’s list into two.

So the first 5 books I’m going to go will be books every history nerd should read. I would’ve gone with 10 for this but stuck to 5 because us history nerds have our own niches, you know? Like any degree. In my case, Russian & Soviet history (with dashes of Ukranian and British history). I tried to mix it up, but I’m just straight-up recommending books as opposed to “all history readers MUST read this”, really (because then I’ll be recommending what some might consider as rather dry reading…unless it’s your forte too) πŸ˜›

Also, disclaimer: I’m aware that it’s a pretty Euro-centric list, it’s just where my interests and specialisations have fallen over the years. Unfortunately I haven’t anything outside of the European and Russian streams that I could recommend in this list (well, the last does fall under world history and there are plenty of examples used in it there).

In no particular order:

  1. Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture by Ross King (review) — I love this book because it talks about the stunning dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, how it came about, the socio-political conditions at the time, the architecture and the science that went into it, and of course the architect himself, in a very interesting way.
  2. Marie Antoinette’s Head: The Royal Hairdresser, The Queen, And The Revolution by Will Bashor (review) — I love the many different topics that history books and historians have been covering in the last twenty, thirty or so years, topics I would not have really given second thought to. Marie Antoinette’s various hairstyles comes to mind here; I knew she was really into fashion but the thought that went into the styling, the person behind the crazy styles, the trends and fashions of 18th century France on the whole…Definitely an interesting book to look into.
  3. The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia by Orlando Figes — You knew this was coming πŸ˜› But seriously, if there’s anyone in Russian history you should or want to read from, it’s Orlando Figes. He does a brilliant job in making Russian and Soviet history accessible and interesting. I chose this book in particular not just because it was the first book of his I read but also because it influenced my own studies (I could as far say it was what solidified my decision to pursue a graduate degree) and opened my mind to the possibilities that history can delve into, in this case the whole sub-culture and behaviour system that developed as a result of Stalin’s Great Terror of the late 1930s.
  4. Lancaster and York by Alison Weir — There are a ton of books out there about the War of the Roses, and I think with good reason: it is so difficutl to keep track of all the players involved, especially as it goes down the generations. I’ve read a few books to date, but found this one to date to be the most informative in keeping track of all the players and the events. No easy feat and still a bit of a read, but Alison Weir’s history nonfictions have been pretty good in general, I find so yeah, if you’re interested in this major English upheaval, or are interested in it because of Game of Thrones πŸ˜› , I recommend checking this book out.
  5. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism by Benedict Anderson — And now I come to the cornerstone, the book I swore by when I was in university and grad school (and still revisit on occasion). I decided to include this book in the list as I also did recommend it to another blogger recently, but it’s a fascinating look at why we band together, form groups, what makes a nation or a state or an ethnicity (there are differences) that we are a part of. Is it just language? Language and history? Is it solely a tool of the state or something more? How has it evolved over time? I believe it also touches on citizenship so it’s not just a history book or a sociology or political science book. If you’re into these topics and you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it, it was written decades ago but it’s stil currently THE book to turn to on the subject.


And for this second batch of 5 books, I chose to go with books every classic lit reader & lover should read. I went with the more obscure classic titles that perhaps aren’t as readily known but are nonetheless worth checking out if you enjoy reading the classics πŸ™‚

In no particular order:

  • Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov (review) — I will forever and ever be pushing this book πŸ˜› It’s delightful but heartbreaking and totally in keeping with the type of literature was emerged in Russia so yeah, if you’re into Russian classics and you haven’t read this yet, you should πŸ™‚
  • The Longest Journey by E.M. Forster (review) — Another classic I’m forever pushing πŸ˜› Definitely on the lesser-known side of the scale but thematically I find it fascinating as it looks at Ricky’s coming of age, of finding a place in the world and doing what he wants to do but falling into convention and struggling to make do with the realities set before him. It does come together a little oddly with a family drama sort of pegged on after the fact, but it’s still something worth checking out, I think.
  • The Kalevala (review) — For a Scandinavian epic, surprise, surprise (or was it?) I’ve gone with the Finnish epic. I was pleasantly surprised as I was reading this as I found it a lot more accessible and entertaining than I initially though, the characters–both legendary and epic and those mortal–are fascinating, flawed, and very human.
  • The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham (review) — Not an easy book to read thematically. The movie with Edward Norton and Naomi Watts of course was beautiful and heartbreaking and touched on many issues that the book delved into at great length, but the movie was also more optimistic than the book. Not to say the book didn’t have a spark of optimism towards the end but it is still a sombre read. But still worth checking out for the fascinating characterisations and themes that it tackles.
  • Stoner by John Edward Williams (review) — I often imagine this book hand-in-hand with Forster’s The Longest Journey in a sense of the protagonists and their inner lives. Again, it can perhaps be a bit of a tough read thematically in that it really makes a discussion about our own personal fulfillment as a person and the way life turns out sometimes, but it is beautiful amidst its quietness. I would strongly recommend checking this book out.

  • And those are my lists for this week! What topic did you choose for your list this week? Happy Tuesday!

    So You Want to Read… (Susanna Kearsley)

    Posted 16 March, 2016 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™‚

    For this month’s So You Want to Read… I’m going to be featuring books by Susanna Kearsley. I honestly never thought I’d be putting together a list like this by her if only because I never thought I’d get around to reading her backlist! However I finally got around to reading a good number of her books sitting on my TBR pile–including a re-read!–in the past year so I thought things were looking pretty good to put together a list like this πŸ˜‰

    If you’re a big fan of authors like Kate Morton, Lucinda Riley, and Diana Gabaldon, you’ll like Susanna Kearsley’s books that blend of mysteries from the past, fantastic locations, lots of history, great cast of characters, a good romance to boot, and a bit of time slip depending on the book. My personal experience has been that it took a few of her books for me to get into her novels, if only because I hadn’t read many books featuring time slip before. But I’ve read enough now to say that I really like her books and do keep a lookout for the other books I either haven’t read or are upcoming πŸ˜‰ So without further ado, here’s the titles by her that I’d recommend if you’re thinking of checking out her works:

    • The Winter Sea (review) — Definitely one of those books that left me sitting and thinking “Why didn’t I read this book sooner?!” lol. Sometimes books featuring a dual storyline–one set in the past and one set in the present–can feel a little uneven, usually with one storyline being far more interesting than the other, but with this book I thought the balance was perfect. All of the characters were all fantastic (I loved all of the interactions), the love stories were wonderful, and it really felt like you were at Slains overlooking the sea. I cannot recommend this book enough as a starting point for her works. And of course after reading this book you have to read the follow-up, The Firebird (review) πŸ™‚
    • Season of Storms (review) — I mentioned this in my review but I could not put this book down once I started reading it. It’s a bit different from her other books in that there isn’t a paranormal element involved really (no time slips or characters with some latent psychic ability to connect to the past with), but the dual storylines were nonetheless interesting and do intersect over the course of the narration. I loved the theatrical elements involved, the mystery behind Celia Sands, the characters in the present day storyline…It felt like it was more about the characters here than anything else. Oh, and it’s set in Italy, what’s not to love? πŸ˜€
    • Mariana (review) — This was my first Susanna Kearsley novel, and it honestly left me a little baffled the first time, in part because of the time slip element and partly because I felt the reveal at the end came totally out of the blue and…dare I say ruined my experience of the book as a whole (because I was so baffled)? However, after reading a number of her books since and going back to it more recently, I’ve come to appreciate why that ending came about and just really appreciated the overall story a lot more. It does have great characters, great character interaction, and doesn’t plod a bit when it comes to the seventeenth century storyline so yeah, it gets a mention on this list now. But I’d recommend reading the first two before this book (unless time slips are your thing or you’re curious to know more of what exactly it is I’m talking about, lol).
    • The Rose Garden (review) — I initially was just going to list three books but I decided to add this book for readers who enjoy Diana Gabaldon’s books.The time slip here is a lot different compared to Mariana or The Winter Sea in that the main character, Eva, actually can slip back to the past. Not my favourite of Kearsley’s novels but it was still interesting and there were some characters that I really liked.

    I hope this list helps if you’re interested in checking out Susanna Kearsley’s books for the first time! If you’ve read her books, which one is your favourite by her? Which would you recommend for first-time readers? Or which books have you been meaning to get around to reading? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you! πŸ™‚

    So You Want to Read… (Julia Quinn)

    Posted 3 February, 2016 by Lianne in Lists / 6 Comments

    So You Want to Read… is a 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 February! So, as it is Valentine’s Day later this month and because this month’s scheduled book reviews are predominantly–if not all–historical romance, I decided to feature Julia Quinn for this month’s So You Want to Read… πŸ™‚ I read my first book by her back in 2014 but last year revisited it again, resulting in purchasing a whole chunk of her backlist books, lol, as well as reading more books from the genre. Suffice to say she’s my favourite from the genre; the stories she tell are wonderful and the characters interesting and well-rounded. Her male leads especially are not so tortured and dark like in other historical romances–some are actually quite upbeat and absolute sweethearts from the get-go–and her female leads are unique, interesting, sometimes eccentric, sometimes just wanting a normal life for themselves. The romances are lovely, not overfraught with angst but fun to read. And did I mention the humour? πŸ˜€

    Anyways, figured I read enough by her at this point to put together a list like this πŸ˜‰ What’s really fantastic about her books is that for the most part they work as standalones even if they are part of a series, so you can almost start anywhere πŸ˜‰

    • The Duke and I* (review) — Still one of my favourite book by her, but it was also my first Julia Quinn novel. It’s been recommended time and again as a great starting point for her books, and with good reason. It’s of course the introduction to the Bridgerton family, comprised of eight children, and they are loud, rowdy, and hilarious (I found myself laughing out loud a bit at some of the things this family gets up to when together–very rare btw for me to laugh out loud whilst reading). Daphne is a wonderful heroine, Simon is lovely and needs and hug, and together they are electric. One minute you’re laughing over character dynamics and the next you’re a puddle over the ups and downs and miscommunication this couple faces and just wanting everything to work out. [* – please see the bottom of my book review linked for additional/disclaimer note]
    • An Offer from a Gentleman (review) — For those of you who love fairy tale retellings, this book is Julia Quinn’s approach on the familiar Cinderella tale. It’s a great starting point for this story, but of course Julia Quinn adds her own touch to it, not to mention really fleshes out the lead couple and their own respective storylines and character struggles (being invisible and often in the background of their families, not being themselves, etc.). Plus, I think Benedict is a sweetheart, and this book just solidifies my opinion of him (even when, like any man in a historical romance, he makes a boo or two).
    • Romancing Mister Bridgerton (review) — I suppose at this point I should just say read all of the Bridgerton books, right? πŸ˜› But this book gets a spot on this list because I finally got around to reading it late last year and omg it is so precious. Like, it’s the beloved title from the series, so there was a bit of apprehension on my part coming in to it in fear that it wouldn’t live up to everything I heard about it but I was wrong: it was amazing and so much more. You have to read the first three books to see how the leads ended up to where they are at this book but it is so worth it. The character journeys, the family mayhem, the communication that goes on between this couple (!!!). Yes, I <333 this book so much and recommend it whole-heartedly :)
    • Just Like Heaven (review) — The first book in the Smythe-Smith quartet, it was the premise of this book that really caught my attention (and thus became the second Julia Quinn book I ever read): childhood friends + shared love of desserts? Count me in! What’s also really wonderful about this book is that the romance is rather sweet (err, pun intended?); unlike other romances out there where the hero has this tortured part or a he or the heroine has a deep dark secret, these two are pretty normal (especially Marcus, the lead hero; yes, his childhood was as stiff as an aristocratic upbringing can get, but it doesn’t really define him or weigh him down like it would in another novel, you know?), they’re just a little lonely. I actually would recommend the first three books in this series, the lead men are actually quite sweethearts.
    • Ten Things I Love About You (review to be posted later this month) — I was debating whether to include this book in this list but in the end decided to just because I thought it was a hilarious read and the dialogue was fantastic (namely from Sebastian Grey). However, I would strongly recommend reading a few of the Bridgerton and Symthe-Smith novels before picking this novel up just because there’s one particular story thread that you will especially enjoy if you’ve read the other books–it definitely had me flailing and laughing when I found out! Anyway, Sebastian was awesome, Annabel is refreshingly straightforward; yes, the book can be a little meta but I thought that was pretty awesome/hilarious, and yes, the villain has to be the creepiest I’ve encountered in her books, but overall is was a great read.

    I hope this list helps if you’re interested in checking out Julia Quinn’s books for the first time! What do you think? What’s your favourite novel by Julia Quinn? Which would you recommend for first-time readers? Or which books by her have you been meaning to check out?

    So You Want to Read… (Sarah Addison Allen)

    Posted 22 January, 2016 by Lianne in Lists / 4 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 New Year! And with a new year comes a new post for So You Want to Read… πŸ™‚ For this month I decided to go with Sarah Addison Allen. I love her books, they’re like my comfort books whenever I’m feeling blah or I need a break from some heftier read or RL matters. To date I’ve read all of her books except her latest, First Frost, as I’m waiting for it to hit paperback πŸ˜‰

    • The Girl Who Chased the Moon (review) — Hands down my favourite book by her. I love everything about it–the small town feel, the magical realism elements, the characters, the family aspect, of following your dreams, of second chances at life and love–yeah, this is usually the first book by her that I recommend to other people πŸ™‚
    • The Sugar Queen (review) — Another wonderful read by her, I actually read this book a little later from the others. Definitely has a seasonal feel to it with the snow and everything, but I think readers can relate to the Josey’s plight in stepping out from her mother’s shadow and being comfortable with herself. But all the female characters felt very well-rounded and their respective stories were interesting.
    • The Lost Lake (review) — I consider this her most maturest book to date, probably because of the things that were happening in her personal life at the time before writing this book. But it still has all the hallmarks that make her books so wonderful: that of family, of friendships, of rediscovering yourself and what perhaps you thought you had lost or left behind.

    I hope this list helps if you’re interested in checking out Sarah Addison Allen’s books for the first time! What’s your favourite novel by Sarah Addison Allen? Which would you recommend for first-time readers? Or which of her books have you been meaning to check out?

    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?