Monday, March 11, 2013

Five Favorite Books - ONLY Five ?!

A game like this is like somebody asking you to pick your five favorite fingers, and cut off the rest. Only five? But Veronica Scott, who writes amazing romantic fiction set in ancient Egypt (and on spaceships), asked if I wanted to play.

Being a player, I couldn't say no.

Here's the top five that I keep going back to reread, discovering new nuggets every time.

Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell.
Rhett & Scarlett, two of the most fascinating characters of all time. Politically correct, no. Romanticized (and racist) look at slavery and the Civil War, absolutely. Still interesting to read as a reflection of that mindset. Not only that, but last time I reread it, I noticed Mitchell ended each chapter with a great cliffhanger.

The Lathe of Heaven - Ursula K. LeGuin 
One of the most thought-provoking works I've ever read. What if when you had a certain kind of super-intense dream, what you dreamed came true? Only with that weird, twisted way dreams have of shifting reality, like dreaming that someone who annoyed you was killed in an accident. Then you woke up, and she was dead, had been dead, for years, and no one remembered the alternate reality. What if the person you went to for help decided to use that ability to reshape the world for the better?

Time Enough for Love - Robert Heinlein
I would so marry Woodrow Wilson Smith, aka Lazarus Long, if I got the chance. (Or at least invite him mattress-dancing.) Love, adventure, sex, time-travel, talking space-yachts and computers with personalities. Heinlein's I Will Fear No Evil is a close second.

Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery 
Anne is the little girl we all once were, or wanted to be, an ugly orphan so lovable she won the heart of... pretty much everybody. In spite of (of because of) accidentally dying her hair green, her nose red, and other misadventures. I love the whole series down to Rilla of Ingleside. Looked at through older eyes, Montgomery does an amazing job creating characters and giving flavor to the interpersonal relationships - people are still the same, their wants, needs, and schemes don't change, regardless of era or setting.

The Mists of Avalon - Marion Zimmer Bradley
Morgaine le Fey, Arthur, Lancelet, Merlin, and Guinevere, with a heady swirling of magick and myth. The other legends are replayed as something of a battle between The Old Ways and Christianity, as well as between the civilized part of Britain vs. the Saxon invaders.

I'd grown up on tales that demonized Morgaine as an evil sorceress, and this gives a very different, heroic outlook to her part in the story. Love Morgaine, the Lady of the Lake, the priestesses of Avalon...

If I could keep the other five fingers...

Katherine - Anya Seton, with her Green Darkness a close second. A real life Cinderella story, the orphaned daughter of a poor knight becoming a Duchess, via a passionate love affair with a King's son. Lots of drama, heartbreak, and history (though the history part's more than a bit distorted, according to Alison Weir's non-fiction Mistress of the Monarchy).

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern - Anne McCaffery
I adore all the Pern books, the Crystal Singer books, the Rowan books, the Freedom books, and... know I'm forgetting something. But this book, with its powerful queen rider in the prime of her life, with grown offspring, entering into a forbidden fling with a Holder, on the cusp of an epidemic that could wipe out the population of the entire planet, really hooks me.

The Proud Breed - Celeste de Blasis
Long, sprawling historical work, akin to the Thornbirds but set in California (and IMO, better written). Sixteen year old Teresa Maria Julietta Margarita Macleod y Amarista, granddaughter of a proud Californio tradition, stabs, then nurses and falls in love with Gavin Ramsay, Yankee trader. (We don't see that kind of romantic introduction much!)

We see the unusual partnership with Gavin's half Indian, half Negro friend, "Indian," and travel with them through the days of the ranchos, to the gold mining camps, to the settlement of San Francisco and the Civil War and beyond. There's romance, rape, betrayal, babies, gambling, war, adultery, friendship, scandal, and through it all, Tessa and Gavin, two distinct and compelling characters, as well as two generations of their descendants, battling for love.

Epic, in every sense of the word.

Wine of the Dreamers - Susannah Leigh
Parallel stories of Meryt, Egyptian princess, forced to marry a man she doesn't love, for political purposes, and Aimee, the pampered daughter of a Parisian merchant, also forced into an arranged marriage. Aimee's greedy husband believes he can make another fortune in Egypt, so he hires an ethical but broke archaeologist hot on the trail of an undiscovered royal tomb. The archaeologist is hot in other ways, and the tomb they discover belongs to an Egyptian princess... named Meryt. And what is the secret of the chalice left on the Egyptian woman's tomb?

The Ugly Little Boy - Isaac Asimov
This is actually a short story, later expanded into a novel with the co-writing of Robert Silverberg, and there's oodles of Asimov to read and enjoy.  I loved the whole mind-bending of the story, of scientists who find a way to bring forward people from an earlier time, but only in a small enclosure, and for a limited period of time. They want to talk to them, take tissue samples, study how they move and behave. After scoring with a peasant from the Renaissance, they manage to bring forward a small Neanderthal boy. If this story doesn't make you cry you have no heart. And afterwards, it'll make you think.

There's more, of course, I love Isabel Allende and Anaïs Nin and Sylvia Plath, I'm a big Mercedes Lackey fan, plus Lisa Hendrix, Grace Burrowes, Norah Lofts, Piers Antony, Tessa Dare, Diana Paxson, Robert Silverberg, and anything about Tudor England or the Titanic. As favorite non-fiction writers, I like Antonia Fraser, Sharon Begley, Walter Isaacson and Daniel Pink..

And I must recommend Veronica Scott's Priestess of the Nile and Wreck of the Nebula Dream.  Both very different novellas - one set in ancient Egypt, the other aboard a Titanic-esque starliner of the future. Both quick, fun reads. I do review what I read on GoodReads (eventually), so feel free to Friend me there and lets talk books.

If you like my choices (or if you don't), check out these Fabulous Five writer/bloggers' picks (their posts will be up sometime soon):

Brenda Moguez of Passionate Pursuits
Babs at Zero to Sixty and Beyond
Kim Sisto Robinson of My Inner Chick posted hers on Skirt
Rebekah Weatherspoon of Let Us See, Shall We
Samanthe Beck

Have you read any of the books on my Favorites List?
Could you narrow your Favorites down to five?

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