Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d Want With Me While Stranded On a Deserted Island

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’d Want With Me While Stranded On a Deserted Island. I love this! This topic is really making me think… or over-think? If I was stranded… which means reading the same 10 books over and over again… potentially forever…

Hmmm, what to pick, what to pick? Here are my ten:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Not a surprise for anyone who knows me… I’ve already read this book (and series) multiple times, but if I’m going to be stuck on a deserted island indefinitely, I think I need Jamie and Claire for company.

The Lord of the Rings (one-volume edition) by J. R. R. Tolkien

Is it cheating to pick an all-in-one edition of three books? I’m declaring that this counts! I’ve been wanting to go back and reread LOTR, and with endless reading time to fill, it seems like a perfect opportunity to really dig in and enjoy.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I’m tempted to just fill my list with all-in-one editions of all my favorite authors, such as a complete-works-of-Jane-Austen volume, if I had one… but I’ll hold back and stick to actual individual books…

In which case, I’d have to pick just one Jane Austen, although it’s a tough choice and I might want to swap for Persuasion. But really, can’t go wrong with any Jane Austen books!

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

I’ve been obsessed with this book since reading it last year and then re-reading it this year. I can’t imagine ever getting tired of re-reading it!

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

I’ve read this book several times already, but each time, it affects me in new and different ways.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

I still have my edition of The Riverside Shakespeare from my college days, and it’s not exactly a light, portable volume. Still, if I were stranded on a deserted island, at least I’d finally have time to get to all the plays I haven’t read yet! (I know I said I wouldn’t do any more all-in-one books, but I had to make an exception for Shakespeare.)

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I think this is a book that I haven’t spent enough time with yet in my life. I’ve read it only once, and I’ve always meant to go back to it again, at least once. And if not while stranded, then when?

The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye

Yet another book that I’ve sworn to re-read at some point. Since it’s over 900 pages, this will last a good long while!

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Such a beautifully written book! I listened to the audiobook my first time around, and I think lying on the beach of my deserted island with this book in hand would give me a whole new opportunity to enjoy it all over again.

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht

This just seems like a really practical choice for a deserted island situation. Although if I were truly being practical, then this list should include a medical book, something on identifying edible plants, and perhaps a book on sending smoke signals?

What books would you want along on a deserted island? Please share your TTT links!





Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2019

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 Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2019.

I’m so excited for all of these… as you could probably tell if you took a peek at my pre-order list. A lot of these books are sequels or parts of series, and that’s just fine with me. Here are my top ten anticipated books — see the list below for release dates.

  1. The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell (release date 8/6/2019)
  2. Reticence (The Custard Protocol, #4) by Gail Carriger (release date 8/6/2019)
  3. Snow, Glass, Apple by Neil Gaiman (release date 8/20/2019)
  4. The Institute by Stephen King (release date 9/10/2019)
  5. The Testaments (The Handmaid’s Tale, #2) by Margaret Atwood (release date 9/10/2019)
  6. Wayward Son (Carry On, #2) by Rainbow Rowell (release date 9/24/2019)
  7. The Unkindest Tide (October Daye, #13) by Seanan McGuire (release date 9/3/2019)
  8. The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust, #2) by Philip Pullman (release date 10/3/2019)
  9. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (illustrated edition) by J. K. Rowling (release date 10/8/2019)
  10. Malorie (Bird Box, #2) by Josh Malerman (release date 12/3/2019)

Are you planning to read any of these? What books are you dying to read in the 2nd half of 2019? Please share your links!





Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books By My Favorite Authors (that I still haven’t read)

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 By My Favorite Authors That I Still Haven’t Read. Usually, when I love an author, I read everything he or she has written… but there are always some books that fall off the bookpile or get otherwise overlooked. My selection of books by favorite authors that I still need to read :

1. Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell: This is the sequel to Doc, which I truly loved. Mary Doria Russell is a brilliant writer (The Sparrow will always be near and dear to my heart), and I bought Epitaph as soon as it came out. Why haven’t I read it yet? No idea… other than me just being lame.

2. The Sumage Solution by G. L. Carriger: Gail Carriger is an absolute favorite of mine, and I’ve read every bit of her published work… except The Sumage Solution. Maybe it’s because of the contemporary setting, since I love Carriger’s steampunk Parasol-verse so very much… but I haven’t quite brought myself around to starting Sumage. And there’s a sequel on the way, so I’d better get to it.

3. The Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi: I haven’t read a single book by John Scalzi that I haven’t enjoyed… but so far, I’ve only read his stand-alone books. I keep swearing that THIS will finally be the year when I read Old Man’s War… but it just hasn’t happened yet, and we’re getting frighteningly close to the end of 2018.

4. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik: I bought this the day it was released, and I’ve just gotten too overwhelmed by ARCs and library books to ever get around to starting. I loved Uprooted, so I’m really excited to start this one.

5. SO MANY  BOOKS by Stephen King: I always think of myself as a Stephen King fan, but it’s scary to think how many I’ve missed! Just looking at the unread King books on my shelves, I have Duma Key, Lisey’s Story, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, books 4 – 7 of The Dark Tower series, The Green Mile, a few short story collections… ugh, it never ends! I guess on the flip side, I’ll never run out of good options for when I want to be scared silly by a book.

6. Earlier works by Patricia Briggs: I adore the Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series, and could read those books over and over again (and yes, I’ve gone back for re-reads already). I really should make a point of reading some of her other works too, although I think I’m resistant to leaving those familiar worlds and going more into straight-up fantasy rather than urban fantasy.

7. More Jojo Moyes! I’ve loved so many of her books, and I actually own copies of these… so why haven’t I read them?

8. The Silk and Song trilogy by Dana Stabenow. I adore the Kate Shugak books — the characters, the crime drama, and the amazing Alaska setting. I really admire Stabenow’s writing and I enjoy historical fiction, so this trilogy (about the granddaughter of Marco Polo) should be right up my alley, despite the lack of Alaska! Seriously, the story sounds great — maybe a reading priority for 2019?

9. The Parasitology trilogy by Mira Grant: I loved the Newsflesh books SO much, and love everything she writes under her other (real) name (Seanan McGuire). I did actually read the first book in this trilogy, and thought it was really, really icky but also amazing… so I just need to return to the world of tapeworms and medical experiments gone haywire!

10. Yesternight by Cat Winters: I’ve read everything else by this author, and I think she’s so incredibly talented! I own a copy of Yesternight (I bought it as soon as it came out), and have every intention of reading it… so this is yet another book that I have no good reason for not having read yet, other than the good old “so many books, so little time” excuse.

What books are on your list this week? Please share your TTT link!







Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 All-Time Favorite Authors


Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Top Ten All-Time Favorite Authors. I had a really hard time narrowing it down, and changed my mind about half a dozen times, but finally decided to focus on living writers whose works I continue to read (and hope to keep reading for a long time to come).

Here we go:

1. Diana Gabaldon (like there was any doubt about this one!)


2. Mary Doria Russell


3. Stephen King


4. Patricia Briggs


5. Jim Butcher


6. Susanna Kearsley


7. Christopher Moore


8. Neil Gaiman


9. Bill Willingham


10. J. K. Rowling

Rowling[Note on images: Author photos scavenged from the interwebs; book photos taken by moi!]

I hate having to stop at just 10. This is just scratching the surface — and doesn’t even include some of the late greats, such as Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, and J. R. R. Tolkien. Ah well, I suppose that’s a list for another day!

Looking forward to seeing everyone else’s lists this week.

Share your links, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider following Bookshelf Fantasies! And don’t forget to check out my regular weekly feature, Thursday Quotables. Happy reading!


Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!


Flashback Friday REWIND: The Sparrow

ffbutton2Flashback Friday is a weekly tradition started here at Bookshelf Fantasies, focusing on showing some love for the older books in our lives and on our shelves. If you’d like to join in, just pick a book published at least five years ago, post your Flashback Friday pick on your blog, and let us all know about that special book from your reading past and why it matters to you. Don’t forget to link up!

I’ll be traveling for a few weeks during the month of June, so rather than skipping Flashback Friday,  I thought I’d dig back into my FF archives and revisit some of my very first flashback books.

My premiere Flashback Friday post focused on  one of my all-time favorite books, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Here’s what I wrote about it at the time:


The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
(published 1996)


From Amazon:

In 2019, humanity finally finds proof of extraterrestrial life when a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up exquisite singing from a planet which will come to be known as Rakhat. While United Nations diplomats endlessly debate a possible first contact mission, the Society of Jesus quietly organizes an eight-person scientific expedition of its own. What the Jesuits find is a world so beyond comprehension that it will lead them to question the meaning of being “human.” When the lone survivor of the expedition, Emilio Sandoz, returns to Earth in 2059, he will try to explain what went wrong… Words like “provocative” and “compelling” will come to mind as you read this shocking novel about first contact with a race that creates music akin to both poetry and prayer.

I can’t overstate just how very much I love this book. It has it all: compelling characters, a science fiction slant, discovery of new worlds, fascinating interpersonal dynamics, and a confounding mystery at its core.

Lead character Emilio is so magnetic, so fascinating, and so wounded that I wanted to jump into the story to protect and defend him. Author Mary Doria Russell, an anthropologist by training, creates a world unto itself, with culture, mores, and languages that are unique and yet fully formed.

Whenever I’m asked to name my favorite books, The Sparrow is right there in the top 5. Over the years, I’ve given copies to friends and family members, and I’ve recommended it to dozens more. If you’ve never read The Sparrow, give it a try! You’ll thank me for it — I promise.

For the next two weeks, I’ll feature other “rewind” Flashback Friday posts. Stay tuned!

What flashback book is on your mind this week?

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join in the Flashback Friday fun:

  • Grab the Flashback Friday button
  • Post your own Flashback Friday entry on your blog (and mention Bookshelf Fantasies as the host of the meme, if you please!)
  • Leave your link in the comments below
  • Check out other FF posts… and discover some terrific hidden gems to add to your TBR piles!


Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

Armchair BEA: Literary Fiction

And for today’s Armchair BEA topic: Literary Fiction — how do you define it? What are some great examples?

While I’m tempted to give the same answer as I did for definining classics — “I know it when I see it” — I’ll try to actually say a bit more. For me, when I think of literary fiction, I think of books in which the language itself is a key piece of the reading experience. Interesting or unusual word choices, lyrical phrasing, thoughtful use of symbolism, a unique approach to sentence structure — these are all elements that elevate a book for me into the realm of literature. On top of the language itself is the subject matter and how it’s presented. Literary fiction can have any topic, any setting, any type of character — but should have more going on in it than heavy action or a pulse-pounding plot. Literary fiction makes me think about what I’m reading — not just in terms of “what will happen next?” — but really think about the deeper meaning of events and choices, the way the characters express themselves, the signs and symbols that might add another layer to the plot itself. Finally, I tend to equate literary fiction with beauty, especially in terms of beautiful writing and beautiful descriptions.

Some of the best books I’ve read in the past couple of years that I would consider literary fiction are:

  • The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
  • Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
  • Doc by Mary Doria Russell
  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich
  • The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan
  • The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Another part of today’s prompt from the Armchair BEA organizers is:

Name a novel that hasn’t received a lot of buzz that definitely deserves it.

I think I’ll switch that up a bit and mention an author who deserves much more attention than I think she gets, and that’s Mary Doria Russell, author of five amazing novels (so far!), on topics ranging from space exploration to WWII to the old West to Lawrence of Arabia. What makes each and every one of her novels a literary masterpiece, in my mind, is her incredible talent for choosing just the right words to express a feeling, a mood, a setting, an emotion. Her writing is beautiful and never fails to just slay me; in fact, I wrote a post about the emotional impact her book The Sparrow had on me when I reread it last year.

So, literary fiction. How do you define it? Are you a fan? And what are your favorites?

Thanks for stopping by! Don’t miss my giveaway today, ending soon!


Book Review: Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell

Book Review: Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell

Dreamers of the Day

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did. – T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom

In Mary Doria Russell’s superb Dreamers of the Day, we meet T. E. Lawrence (that would be Lawrence of Arabia — yes, think Peter O’Toole in swirling white robes) and Winston Churchill in Cairo of 1921, as they and other movers and shakers carve up the post-Ottoman Empire Middle East into the geography we know today. But these luminaries are not the protagonists of Dreamers of the Day. Instead, this quiet and lovely novel centers on plain-Jane Agnes Shanklin, a 40-ish spinster from Cleveland who sets out on her life’s one grand adventure and meets the the men who changed — and made — history.

Agnes is quite alone in the world following the loss of her entire family — including her beloved sister Lily —  to a deadly influenza epidemic. Finding herself an heiress and finally free from her mother’s criticisms and repressive expectations, Agnes decides to set sail for the lands in which her sister Lily had worked as a missionary. Accompanied only by her beloved dachshund Rosie, and bedecked in brand-new finery courtesy of a hip young shopgirl, Agnes embarks on a first-class vacation to Cairo.

After reading this book, I have an uncontrollable urge to watch this movie. Now.

After reading this book, I have an uncontrollable urge to watch this movie. Now.

By happenstance, she is booked at the luxury hotel where Lawrence, Churchill, and the rest of the 1921 Cairo Conference are meeting, and is soon drawn into their circle of dinner guests and acquaintances, her path eased by Lawrence’s high regard for the deceased Lily. At the same time, Agnes is wooed by the enigmatic but attractive Karl, an attentive German man who showers Agnes with attention — but is he really interested in Agnes’s charms, or is there something else he’s after?

In a way, Dreamers of the Day is two intriguing stories in one. First, it’s a history lesson wrapped up in fiction. I learned so much from this book about how the modern Middle East came into being and how so many problems can be traced back to decisions made by men with very particular agendas. Second, it’s the story of a woman who goes from wallflower to a woman of strength and purpose. Agnes is a marvelous lead character. She has a refreshingly honest view of the world around her and her place in it, and as she gains the courage to take charge of her own life and start ignoring the forces keeping her down, it’s lovely to see her blossom.

I should know by now to trust Mary Doria Russell, author of the incomparable The Sparrow and the devastating A Thread of Grace. When her most recent novel, Doc, was released, I thought I’d pass it by. After all, what interest do I have in Westerns? I finally read it, a year after its publication, and was blown away by the beauty of the writing, the honor and nobility of the main character, and the clarity and vividness of this window into a world that I really knew next to nothing about. Likewise for Dreamers of the Day: I initially held off on reading this, not feeling all that compelled by a book that I’d heard was about a dusty old meeting in Cairo. And here I am, having read the book, feeling inspired, uplifted, and educated by it. Dreamers of the Day has a subtle, peaceful aura; the storyline is not filled with pulse-pounding chase scenes or explosions; lives are not immediately at risk. And yet, Agnes’s growing confidence as she interacts with that era’s political rock stars is fascinating reading, and I never once grew bored or impatient.

I’m so pleased to have finally read Dreamers of the Day. First of all, I can now say that I’m a Mary Doria Russell “completist”, having read all of her published works (and eagerly awaiting the next)! But most of all, I’m happy to have experienced Dreamers of the Day in its own right. This fascinating look at history and the people who shape it is well worth reading, and I absolutely recommend it.

Finally, I can’t help but include a couple of choice quotes from Dreamers of the Day:

Maybe that’s the way to tell the dangerous men from the good ones. A dreamer of the day is dangerous when he believes that others are less: less than their own best selves and certainly less than he is. They exist to follow and flatter him, and to serve his purposes.

A true prophet, I suppose, is like a good parent. A true prophet see others, not himself. He helps them define their own half-formed dreams, and puts himself at their service. He is not diminished as they become more. He offers courage in one hand and generosity in the other.

And some words of wisdom that I just adore:

When it comes down to it, I don’t have much in the way of advice to offer you, but here it is:

Read to children.


And never buy anything from a man who’s selling fear.


Great (But Wrong) Expectations had the very weird experience this past week of reading a book and realizing, close to the end, that this book was not about what I thought it was about after all.

The fault is my own. While I’m an avid reader of book reviews, I do tend to shy away from reviews of books that I know I plan to read. I’m a spoiler-phobe, you see. I’ve often started reading a review, only to get a few paragraphs in and realize, “ooh, this sounds like a book for me!” and immediately stop reading the review. I just don’t want to know anything in advance, thank you very much.

And so, after inexplicably waiting a year past the publication date, I finally read Doc by Mary Doria Russell this past week – and while I loved it and thought it was fascinating (and will write a review in the next couple of days), it wasn’t the book I expected it to be.

Mary Doria Russell is the author of The Sparrow, a book I love passionately. She’s basically one of my “free pass” authors – so good, and with such a winning streak with me, that I’ll automatically read anything she writes, whether or not the subject matter is in one of my usual areas of interest.

Such was the case with Doc. A Western, for me? Written by any other author, the answer would be no. But in this case, I just had to read it.

I admit to being rather ignorant of the Western genre, and my knowledge of historical figures from the “Wild West” era is woefully shallow. So yes, I’d heard of Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, and the OK Corral, but couldn’t tell you much of anything about them. Doc Holliday – some sort of gunslinger? An outlaw, maybe? Good on a horse? I’ve never even watched “Tombstone”. Shows you how much I knew about the historical events and people in Doc before I picked up the book.

And of course, being this unprepared, I expected to read more or less a biography of Doc Holliday, culminating in the big gunfight at the OK Corral. It wasn’t until I was about 50 or 60 pages from the end that I realized, “Wait a minute! There’s no way she can fit that in! Whaaaaaaaaaat is going on?”

Silly me. Had I read reviews – or really paid attention to the opening paragraph of the book – I would have known what to expect. Here’s how the book opens:

He began to die when he was twenty-one, but tuberculosis is slow and sly and subtle. The disease took fifteen years to hollow out his lungs so completely they could no longer keep him alive. In all that time, he was allowed a single season of something like happiness.

See? She says it right there: “a single season of something like happiness”! But somehow or another, I didn’t really process this information up front, and so ended up expecting something much different than what I got.

The book was excellent, and I’m thrilled to have finally read it. But, I’m quite certain that my reading experience would have been much different if my expectations had been set properly from the start. Instead of viewing many of the incidents in the plot as prelude to a big, gun-slinging climax, I would have realized that what I was reading was, in fact, a beautiful snapshot of a year in the life of an extremely interesting man and the people around him. The incidents I viewed as preludes were really what mattered – the personal exchanges, the small and big moments that made Doc who he was. It was only when I realized where the book was going and what its scope was, and recalibrated my expectations, that I was able to do a course correction for myself. I can only imagine how frustrated I might have been otherwise, expecting an ending that was never intended to be a part of this particular story.  As is, I wish I had read the entire book with this new knowledge, as I believe I would have appreciated it in a much different – and richer – way.

Has this ever happened to you? How do your expectations of a book affect your reading experience? Is it better to know nothing at all before starting a new book or to have some idea of the overall plot before you begin?

Please share your thoughts!

The Monday agenda

Not a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

And a very happy Monday morning to one and all! So what’s cooking, reading-wise?

From last week:

Doc by Mary Doria Russell: Just finished last night. I’ll probably need a day or two to digest a bit before writing a review. The short version is: LOVED it. I’m really looking forward to our book group discussion of Doc at the end of this week.

And that’s it! I didn’t have nearly as much time for reading this week as I would have liked (isn’t that always the case?). Here’s hoping the coming week contains extra minutes each day, by some magical stretch of the time-space continuum.

In ongoing reading, my son and I continued with Magic By The Lake by Edward Eager, and may even be ready for something new before this week is done..

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (group re-read): Back on track!

And this week’s new agenda:

Whew! I just finished Doc, and it’s hard to think about moving on to a different world and a different book. Maybe I should just spend the week watching DVDs of Tombstone and Wyatt Earp?

No? Okay, I’ll admit that it’s impossible that I won’t start a new book today.

I’ve still got a big stack of library books to get through before the library starts sending collection agents after me. I’ll probably start with Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin and then move on to The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin or Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin.

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon: Chapters 68 and 69 this week. Another couple of weeks and we’ll be done.

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

The Monday agenda

Not a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

What do you mean it’s Monday? Already? These long holiday weekends make it so hard to return to reality.  Although, when your reality centers around reading, I suppose any day of the week is a good one.

Onward! What’s on the agenda this week?

From last week:

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead: Done! My review is here.

Dare Me by Megan Abbott: Just finished this one over the weekend. See my thoughts here.

My son and I are enjoying Magic By The Lake by Edward Eager, although based on the first few chapters, it’s not quite as captivating as Half Magic.

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (group re-read): No chapters this week — the group took time off from the re-read to focus on family time and Thanksgiving celebrations. No, not for shopping (although I’m sure a bit of that happened too).

And this week’s new agenda:

Last week I swore that I’d start reading Doc by Mary Doria Russell by the end of Thanksgiving weekend, and I made it in under the wire! Doc will be my focus all week — it’s a finely detailed, meticulously researched piece of historical fiction, with a huge cast of characters. I think this one will take a lot of concentration, but seeing as it’s written by one of my very favorite authors, I’m sure it’ll be well worth the time and effort.

And if, by some chance, I finish Doc this week, then I’ll resubmerge myself in the big pile of YA novels borrowed from the library. I have a mix of sequels and stand-alones waiting to be read, so I should be able to find something that strikes my fancy. Most likely, I’ll start with Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin and then see which way the winds blow. Very unlikely that I’ll read much besides Doc this week, however.

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon: Diving back in with chapters 66 and 67 this week.

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.