Top Ten Tuesday: Book Recommendations

As I continue my recent discovery of what this blog is all about, I’m also exploring what other writers are doing out in the blogoshpere. Inspiration is everywhere. One of my goals for bubblewrappedblog is to talk about my major passions, and books happen to be one of those undying loves. I found this fun little blog called The Broke and the Bookish that does a weekly list feature that any blogger can join.  Hopefully this will keep me posting regularly. This week’s challenge is to pick a book and then give ten recommendations based on the original choice.

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Phillipa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl is one of my favorite books from an indulgence standpoint. It’s well written and also happens to feature a time period I’ve been obsessed with since childhood–Tudor era England. The Other Boleyn Girl tells the story of Mary Boleyn, the infamous Anne’s sister and Henry VIII’s lover. Gregory brings life to Mary’s perspective with a blend of romance and intrigue without loosing its historical moorings. So if you liked The Other Boleyn Girl, you should read…

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1. Susan Carroll’s The Dark Queen is the first in a series of the same name. The series follows the lives of the Cheney sisters during Catherine de Medici’s reign. I’m only two books into the series myself, but Carroll’s writing is a pleasant bit of historical fluff. The Dark Queen follows the eldest sister, Ariane–Lady of the Faire Isle and budding mystical power. When a wounded soldier disturbs the peace of the Faire Isle, he brings witch hunters and the Dark Queen’s wrath upon the island.    The Dark Queen Saga brings together the romance and history I was attracted to in Gregory’s book.

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2. Franklin’s Daughter of Troy is another favorite novel from a far-gone era. It’s a thick book packed with details, almost an Iliad told through the feminine perspective. The heroine, Briseis, was born to be Queen of Lyrnessos but is made a slave as Agamemnon’s army sweeps across her land. Briseis becomes the property of Achilles and the pair fall in love under the doomed walls of Troy. Just writing this mini-summary, I want to pick this book up again! Franklin gave a new depiction of Troy that was fascinating and endearing while not over romanticizing the ills of war.

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3. I discovered E.M. Hull’s The Sheik in a quirky little bookstore called Pudd’nhead Books in my hometown of Webster Groves. They carry mainstream books but also feature little read wonders like The Sheik. You may also recognize the title as being one of Rudolph Valentino’s more sultry roles, based off the book. Set in the 1920’s Algerian desert the novel follows young socialite Diana Mayo as she is captured by Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan, who demands her submission and her love. What grabbed my attention was the jacket’s assertion that this novel was the precursor to the modern romance novel. But the glimpse in to 1920’s era perceptions of race and gender make it worth the read for those interested in history.

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4. I read Sara Gruen’s Water For Elephants after seeing the movie with Reese Witherspoon (I know, bad reader, bad!). The book was, as expected, better than the movie. Jacob Jankowski hops a ride on a circus train during the Depression and becomes the veterinarian to the circus’ menagerie. Amidst the chaos of the tents, Jacob meets Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star, and he falls in love. Unfortunately, Marlena is married to the violate, animal trainer August. Things come to a head when an un-trainable elephant enters the circus as she becomes a symbol for hope, love, and survival. The backdrop of the circus is lush and darkly hypnotic. Gregory fans will be attracted to the love triangle and the character details.

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5. If you’re a reader that enjoys a series, then track down Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. You cannot skip a book in this series or else you’ll get lost. Outlander, the first in the series, is another richly detailed historical piece. In 1945, Claire Randall is honeymooning in Scotland but when she steps through an ancient stone circle, Claire is transported back to 1743 in the middle of the war between the Scots and the English. Stuck in the past, Claire begins to accept her new life and finds love again with Jaime Fraser, only to realize there is a way back to 1945. Well-researched doesn’t even begin to describe this novel. If you enjoyed the history, and romance of The Other Boleyn Girl, imagine how much you’ll love it when you mix  in some time travel.

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6. Oh look, another series! Gaelen Foley writes several historical romance series that I adore, but my favorite is the Knight Miscellany series. Lord of Fire is the second in the series and is probably my favorite in the set. This is a series you can get away with skipping around without feeling like you’re missing important details.  Lord Lucien Knight is trying to infiltrate an underground society in London, until he stumbles across Alice Montague. I have no pretensions about this book. Lord of Fire is a straight forward romance novel that you can read in a night or two. But those who were drawn to Gregory’s characters will be Charmed by Lord Lucien and Alice.

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7. Atonement is another one of those books that I read after seeing the movie (guilty, again). But Lord Almighty is it one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen. Ian McEwan creates a beautiful story of love and guilt in war-torn England. In 1935, young Biriony Tallis witnesses a forbidden moment between her elder sister, Cecilia, and the gardener, Robbie. That one moment changes all three lives for decades to come, throwing all three into the heart of WWII. I think Atonement is so masterful that a few sentences cannot possibly do it justice. I just beg you to have faith and read.

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8. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is nearly seamless blend of past and present. Grad student Connie Goodwin is pouring over research for her dissertation when she is asked to clean out her grandmother’s dilapidated house in Salem, Massachusetts. Buried under layers of history in the house may be the key (literally) to Connie’s success as she begins to chase down the history of Deliverance Dane, an accused witch in the 1690’s. Katherine Howe intersperses Connie’s chapters with Deliverance’s perspective during the Salem witch trials. Anyone who is interested in this time period will feel as if they’re getting a sneak peek into the past. It’s that same feeling of being invited into another era that I loved in The Other Boleyn Girl.

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9. Let’s be honest, even if this were a list about science fiction I would probably recommend Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I just think it’s one of those books you ought to read at least once. Goodreads describes it as, “a comedy of manners between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet.” I’d call that a fair representation of the novel I adore. I might add that it’s heartbreakingly romantic and joyfully dramatic. You’ll probably see Pride and Prejudice on more of my Top Ten Tuesday lists as I can’t resist Mr. Darcy.

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10. Much like my number eight choice, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation is a novel that has characters in the past and the present. Eloise Kelly is a grad student  living in England, hoping to finish her dissertation on spies like the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. She finds a cache of documents leading to a previously unknown spy that changed the course of history–the Pink Carnation. Eloise’s story acts as a frame for the historical drama that unfolds around the spy’s identity. Lauren Willig has a whole series of these historical spy pieces that will attract fans of The Other Boleyn Girl.

Phew! That was a long list. But each of these books is worth the read. I hope you enjoy them all! And if you have any recommendations for me, I’d love to hear them.

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