Continuing the discussion from my last post, here’s round 2 of my all-time favorite reads.
5. The Books of Elsewhere series by Jaqueline West – Olive Dunwoody’s new house is strange. Among the dust, antiques, and strange paintings on the walls there are some dark secrets. When Olive puts on an old pair of spectacles one day and stumbles inside one of the paintings, she discovers just how dark those secrets really are. The house previously belonged to the McMartins, a family of witches with the ability to paint new worlds and trap people inside them. Throughout the series Olive teams up with boy made of paint, 3 talking cats, and the strange boy next door to fight against the house’s sinister attempts to get rid of Olive’s family and to be reunited with its former owners. I adore this series. It has all the components of a fantasy story that I enjoy now and would have enjoyed as a child. I love the way the author found a way to combine classical elements of art and magic together to create such an original concept. My favorite characters are the talking cats (or witches familiars), particularly Harvey, who regularly assumes the aliases of his favorite literary/historical characters.
6. The Queen of Hearts series by Colleen Oakes – I am a huge fan of re-tellings of classic tales. This one in particular is about Dinah, the princess of Wonderland. Dinah is days away from her coronation when a series of traitorous events send her fleeing from the palace. She escapes to the Twisted Wood, the dark, dangerous forest that lies between her home and the Yurkei mountains. Alone, fighting for her own survival, she realizes that she will never truly be able to escape the past and is faced with a difficult decision: Should she stay an outlaw forever? Or should she enact her revenge on the king and gain back her place on the throne? Packed with adventure, deception, and a thirst for vengeance, the series is very different than the original that it is based on. It contains all the strangeness of Alice in Wonderland, but with far less whimsy. Definitely a must read for any Lewis Carroll fan.
7. A Rose for the Crown by Anne Easter Smith – I will admit that is has been a few years since I read this one, so I am a little hazy on some of the specific details. I do remember, however, how much this book moved me. It’s a historical fiction novel based on Kate Haute, the mistress of the Duke of Gloucester, Richard III. Kate and Richard have a long term love affair that is deeper than either of them could have possibly imagined. Due to their different social statuses, it is never easy for them to be together. The story follows Kate’s life from her first meeting with Richard as a young peasant woman, to her years serving in the royal courts, and her years spent mothering Richard’s illegitimate children. Her story is one filled with drama, heartache, and challenges, as she figures out how to do what’s right for her children and watch the man she adores go off into battle to protect his place in the kingdom. This is a long, but beautiful book, worth every turn of the page. (Spoiler alert: It’s also a real tear jerker. I’m pretty sure I bawled at least 3-4 times while reading it.)