Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Loved So Much I Had to Get a Copy for My Personal Library

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Books I Loved So Much I Had to Get a Copy for My Personal Library.

This does happen for me quite a bit! Sometimes it’ll be an audiobook I’ve listened to that I need to own in print, or maybe I’ll have read either an ARC or e-book or library book and fallen for it so hard that I needed my own copy!

Here are my top ten:

1 . The Emily Starr trilogy by L. M. Montgomery

2. The Good Neighbors (graphic novel trilogy) by Holly Black

3. If It Bleeds by Stephen King

4. Newsflesh trilogy (boxed set) by Mira Grant

5. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

6. The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

7. Wonderstruck, The Marvels, and The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

8. Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour

9. Plain Bad Heroines by emily m. danforth

10. Mythos by Stephen Fry


What books made your list this week?

If you wrote a TTT post this week, please share your link!

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Book Review: The Marvels by Brian Selznick

The MarvelsCan a book review consist of just one word? Because if the answer is yes, then my job here is simple. My one-word review of The Marvels:

Beautiful.

Want two words?

Absolutely beautiful.

In The Marvels, author (and artist) Brian Selznick applies the technique he’s used previously (and so effectively) in The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck. In these books, the drawings aren’t illustrating the story — they’re telling the story.

Over 600 pages in length, The Marvels is told purely through illustration for the first 390 pages. And such gorgeous illustrations! Each set of double-facing pages contains a black and white pencil drawing, magnificently detailed, that serves to tell a piece of the story. From page to page, the tale unfolds, and the pictorial story is full of drama and emotion.

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The story of The Marvels begins in 1766, with two brothers, Billy and Marcus, shipwrecked during a storm at sea. Rescued from the island where he washes up, Billy and his dog Tar find their way to London, where they’re adopted by the crew building the Royal Theater. Billy’s story of his brother’s love inspires the theater’s designers so much that Marcus is immortalized as an angel painted on the theater’s ceiling.

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From there, the generations follow: Billy grows up and adopts an abandoned baby, who in turn grows up to become a star of the theater, and onward for several more generations. The Marvel family is the world’s most revered family of actors, acquiring world renown, while at the same time dealing with madness and the final disappointment of a descendant who only wants to escape from the family business. The story ends abruptly with a fire in the theater… and we turn the pages to blank whiteness, and then to the story’s continuation, in printed form, in 1990.

The next several hundred pages are told via the narrative of a 12-year-old boy named Joseph, who runs away from his repressive boarding school and seeks shelter with his eccentric uncle Albert, a man whom he’s never met before. Albert lives in a house that seems more like a museum, employing gas lights and candles to illuminate a mansion full of old-world treasures. Joseph is intrigued by the mystery of Albert’s home, and tries to get his uncle to open up about his secrets and share the truth about their family’s past.

How does this connect to the story of the Marvel family? I’m not telling. You’ll want to find out for yourselves. What I will say is that it wasn’t what I expected, but I was enthralled none the less.

At first, I felt impatient with the written part of the story. The illustrations are so beautiful (that word again!) and pulled me into their world so completely that I hated leaving it behind. But, bit by bit, the story of Joseph and Albert pulled me in as well, and teasing apart the hints to try to unravel the secrets was equally engrossing.

The book itself is hefty and magical to hold:

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Several inches thick, with gilted edges and a gorgeous cover that feels like a throwback to an old-fashioned library edition, The Marvels is just so lovely to look at. This is one book you’ll want in a physical copy for sure — an e-book just won’t be the same.

The story is powerful in both its parts, with themes of love, devotion, and continuity, family commitment and inheritance, and a sense of wonder that is hard to describe. I found myself so absorbed in the mood created by this book that it was hard to re-enter the real world after finishing.

Wonderstruck may still be my favorite Brian Selznick book, but The Marvels is either a tremendously close second or perhaps right on par with Wonderstruck. For sure, both deserve a permanent place on my shelves, and are books that I’ll return to over the years. Reading these books is an immersive experience, and the power of the illustrations cannot be overstated.

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So yes, one more time, I’ll return to my one-word review:

Beautiful.

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The details:

Title: The Marvels
Author: Brian Selznick
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication date: September 15, 2015
Length: 665 pages
Genre: Children’s fiction (middle grade/young adult); illustrated
Source: Purchased

Book Review: Marly’s Ghost by David Levithan

Marly's GhostIf you ask me, David Levithan can pretty much do no wrong. I’ve now read at least a handful of books either written or co-written by this author, and I’ve love just about all of them.

I recently came across a review of Marly’s Ghost over at Chrissi Reads, and my curiosity was immediately piqued.

Marly’s Ghost was originally published in 2005, but it looks like a new edition is being published in the UK by Egmont Publishing.

This slim novel is a retelling of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and it’s a retelling in the truest sense of the word. The original story doesn’t just provide a launching pad for a new idea; instead, Marly’s Ghost faithfully follows the original, practically scene by scene, but transposes it into a modern love story that’s both incredibly sad and unexpectedly uplifting.

In Marly’s Ghost, Ben is bitterly mourning the death of his beloved girlfriend Marly, who died four months earlier after a long and painful battle with cancer. Marly was the center of Ben’s world, and without her, he sees no point in anything. He pushes away his friends, sees only bleakness in everything around him, and has a special sort of derision for Valentine’s Day. Marly’s death, to Ben, is proof that love is a crock. It can’t last, it only breaks you when it’s gone, and it can’t be worth pursuing if it only leads to pain.

On the eve of Valentine’s Day, when Ben has once again cruelly rebuffed his best friend’s attempts to connect and has needlessly lashed out at a couple in the early stages of love, he retreats to his room to surround himself with his loss and seek isolation. But his isolation is shattered when Marly’s ghost appears, weighed down by chains forged from a charm bracelet containing every memento of their time together. Ben’s grief is holding her and not letting her find peace. Marly warns Ben that he will be visited by three spirits… and, well, if you’ve ever read or seen a production of A Christmas Carol, you have a pretty good idea of what’s to come.

Ben is visited by the spirits of Valentine’s Day past, present, and future, and each shows Ben a piece of himself and illuminates his effect on those around him. Above all else, Marly wanted Ben to promise not to give up, and the spirits have come to hold him to his promise.

This slim novel brought me to tears at various points. It’s a terribly sad story of loss and suffering, made worse by the characters’ young ages, and yet it’s a pleasure to read as well. David Levithan refers to this book as a “remix” of A Christmas Carol, and that’s an apt description. He sticks to the basics of the original story, but turns it into something new and emotionally rich. The modern-day characters fit easily into the framework of the classic story, and Ben’s transformation from bitterness to hope is believable and lovely.

The book is further enhanced by black and white illustrations by the masterful Brian Selznick, who models his drawings on the illustrations found in the original edition of A Christmas Carol.

I recommend this book highly, for fans of the author and illustrator, for those who love A Christmas Carol, or for anyone who enjoys a well-written, honest look at love and loss. I borrowed this book from the library, but I think I need to own a copy for myself! Marly’s Ghost, along with David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary, proves that in the hands of a gifted author, good things really do come in small packages.

With thanks to Chrissi for inspiring me to track down a copy of this book!

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The details:

Title: Marly’s Ghost
Author: David Levithan
Publisher: Penguin
Publication date: Originally published 2005
Length: 208 pages
Genre: Young adult fiction
Source: Library