Thursday, June 26, 2008

Old favourites revisited

As I was lazing about on the couch today, erm, as I was sitting on the couch, studying earlier on today, my eye wandered over my bulging bookshelves and I luxuriated in how many of them are all time favourites which I will never pass on.

Like this site, the shelves and favourites are eclectic.

I highlight some of them here with reasons as to why they are favourites that will be packed into my case and taken with me to onto a desert island.

This is one of Charles De Lint's books which I came to quite late, after reading his other larger better known books like Moonheart, Yarrow, Forests of the Heart etc.

The thing about Wolf Moon is that it packs a helluva punch. It is a slender offering but it is hugely epic in scale and it rips along at a strong pace. It tells the story of a young werewolf (it is set in quasi-medieval times) who fights against prejudice in a tale of redemption.

There is a very cleverly thought out villain in the form of a bard - and of course, there is a girl in the picture.
The sheer scale of the story is huge, but in size it is tiny, proving again that CDL is a wordweaver of great renown and that not every epic has to be a paperweight.

I fell in love with Alice Hoffman's work through the movie - don't you dare shake your head and cry out "shame on you!" - Practical Magic. I bought the book and loved it even more than the movie.

Green Angel has to be one of my favourite examples of Ms Hoffman's writing. Her style is uniquely her own, with a strong voice and a dreamlike quality to it.
We follow Green - always a bit of an outsider, even in her own family - as she struggles to cope with living on her own, after her family gets tragically caught up in an awful Event that happens in the town/city a few miles away.

Society breaks down and things become really bad. Green adapts and learns and finds an inner strength to survive all of it.

Throughout the book you sit with this lump in your throat, not because of the situation the main character finds herself in, but because of the way it is written. Like Carhullan Army or even How I Live now, Green Angel is written by someone who loves what they do and their words have power.
An astonishing and powerful book and in my opinion, one of her best. Like a review said on Amazon about this, which I read a while ago: this can be read by anyone with a soul. And it fits.
I became familiar with Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's work through their amazing site over at Endicott Studios so when I accidentally stumbled across a copy of The Wood Wife in Forbidden Planet here in London, I had to have it.

Terri is well known for her editing skills and for running Endicott Studios but to be honest, her writing is up there with the best of the lot.
In The Wood Wife she tackles something that lies very close to my heart - mythic storytelling, weaving myths and legends into a dense vibrant story that shivers with magic and the possibility of the unknown.

Maggie Black, a writer, inherits a house outside Tucson, Arizona, from a famous poet with whom she had corresponded, and who met a mysterious death.

As she meets the local inhabitants, Maggie becomes aware of undercurrents of magic and fantasy, and that all is not as it seems.
Again, one of those very small, very misleading books. The artwork is by Brian Froud himself and he in turn has created works to compliment this story.

Don't let the cover fool you. Here we deal with the elemental powers of good v bad, summer and winter and well, you get the idea.

Midori Snyder is famous for her riveting YA novels over in the States and she has a very light touch when writing. I've not had a chance to read many of her books, but Hannah's Garden is up there with being one of my favourites because the characters seem real. It is an intricately woven story about a young girl- Cassie - who accompanies her mother back to the farm she grew up on. Her father (Cassie's grandfather) is gravely ill in hospital and as the story progresses it delves deeply into relationships and how fragile we are as human beings and how alone in the world without companionship and what we would do for fame or perceived fame. Cassie loves the farm with all her heart, seeing it as somewhere she'd always been happy. Her mother on the other hand hates it with all her soul and sees it as a place which had somehow cursed her family.
But things are not was they seem and we find vibrant magic and music go hand in hand with this amazing story. A definite must - yet more mythic story telling!

Och now, this is, thanks to my dad, here is one of my favourite books. I grew up reading cowboy books, because that is the only thing my dad ever bought. Louis L'Amour was a favourite so when this came out, my dad bought it and I read it and have had a copy of it ever since. In fact, I think my copy dates back to 1985. Because my hands are seizing up on me, I've copied this across from the Louis L'Amour website:
At the center of The Walking Drum is Kerbouchard, one of L'Amour's greatest heroes. Warrior, lover, scholar, Kerbouchard is a daring seeker of knowledge and fortune bound on a journey of enormous challenge, danger and revenge. Across the Europe, the Russian steppes and through the Byzantine wonder of Constantinople, gateway to Asia, Kerbouchard is thrust into the heart of the treacheries, passions, violence and dazzling wonders of a magnificent time. From castle to slave gallery, from sword-racked battlefields to a princess's secret chamber, and ultimately, to the impregnable fortress of the Valley of Assassins, The Walking Drum is a powerful adventure of an ancient world you will find every bit as riveting as Louis L'Amour's stories of the American West.

Other books of his that are favourites are: The Haunted Mesa which deals with the mysterious Anasazi and The Lonesome Gods which exults in the power of nature. It was through L'Amour's books that I learned about the Iliad and Homer and The Odyssey and the wider world. Who knew that cowboys and adventurers read Shakespeare whilst herding cattle? I think the most valuable lesson I've learned from Mr. L'Amour is to never ever pigeonhole a book or a genre, because you'll come short and look the fool.

Naturally, I can sit here and type this massive post of other favourites, but it will just become boring, so I'll leave that to the next time.

Thank you for reminiscing with me.

Happy Trails!

1 comment:

Karen Mahoney said...

Wow, great post! I like what I've read of CDL so far, but I've not tried that one. Sounds amazing.