Top Ten Tuesday: Books that make me smile

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 That Make Me Smile.

Awwww. Such a happy topic. I’m smiling already, just thinking about creating this list!

Here are ten of my favorite smile-worthy books:

Are you doubting my ability to count to 10? Yes, there are actually 13 books shown, because I’m including an entire series as one choice.

  1. The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger (4 books)
  2. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  3. The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi
  4. Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
  5. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  6. Emma by Jane Austen
  7. Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
  8. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
  9. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  10. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

Which books make you smile? Do we have any in common?

Please share your links!





Shelf Control #130: Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!


Title: Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot
Author: Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
Published: 1988
Length: 326 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Two girls contend with sorcery in England’s Regency age.

Since they were children, cousins Kate and Cecelia have been inseparable. But in 1817, as they approach adulthood, their families force them to spend a summer apart. As Cecelia fights boredom in her small country town, Kate visits London to mingle with the brightest lights of English society.

At the initiation of a powerful magician into the Royal College of Wizards, Kate finds herself alone with a mysterious witch who offers her a sip from a chocolate pot. When Kate refuses the drink, the chocolate burns through her dress and the witch disappears. It seems that strange forces are convening to destroy a beloved wizard, and only Kate and Cecelia can stop the plot. But for two girls who have to contend with the pressures of choosing dresses and beaux for their debuts, deadly magic is only one of their concerns.

How and when I got it:

I ordered myself a copy several years ago after reading a recommendation from one of my favorite authors…

Why I want to read it:

This book first came to my attention thanks to Gail Carriger — and when she recommends a book, I listen! Meanwhile, since picking up Sorcery & Cecelia, I’ve read two other series by Patricia C. Wrede (Frontier Magic and Enchanted Forest Chronicles), and I think she’s just so clever and creative. And hey, a sorcery story set in Regency England — how could it not be fun?


Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!














At A Glance: Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede

Book Review: Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede

Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic, #1)

Synopsis (via Goodreads):

Eff was born a thirteenth child. Her twin brother, Lan, is the seventh son of a seventh son. This means he’s supposed to possess amazing talent — and she’s supposed to bring only bad things to her family and her town. Undeterred, her family moves to the frontier, where her father will be a professor of magic at a school perilously close to the magical divide that separates settlers from the beasts of the wild.

I recently finished reading Thirteenth Child with my son, and while we both enjoyed it, I hesitate to declare this book an unmitigated success.

First, the good: In the world of Thirteenth Child, the American frontier is redefined as a place in which magic is the only thing standing between people and all sorts of deadly beasts. In the country of Columbia, the Mammoth River marks the barrier between civilization and the wild, and as settlers venture west, they rely on magicians to provide the protective spells needed to keep out the wild. The world-building here is quite imaginative — a world in which magic is commonplace, used on a basic level to manage household chores and day-to-day tasks, and on a more complex level, to provide the means of human survival.

Main character Eff is a girl whose powers are just beginning to emerge by the end of this book. Brought up believing herself to harbor some inner evil, thanks to being a thirteenth child, Eff is hesitant and uncomfortable when it comes to using magic, until a gifted teacher introduces her to non-Avrupan (read non-European) approaches to magic. Eff’s worldview is expanded, and she starts to tap into non-traditional approaches to magic, realizing that her talents may be positive after all.

The not-quite-as-good: Thirteenth Child is the first book in the Frontier Magic trilogy, and as such, has to cover a lot of ground in terms of exposition and explanation. Likewise, quite a lot of time is covered, as we follow Eff from age five to age eighteen. Because of the length of time covered in a relatively short book, many of the chapters feel more like summaries than actual events — basically, well, that year, not much happened except Eff’s brother went away to school, or, that year, Eff was sick for a while, missed a lot of classes, and ended up having to repeat a grade.

The author is building a world system from scratch, and at times the jargon threatens to overwhelm the plot. We have Avrupan magic, Hijero-Cathayan magic, and Aphrikan magic, as well as Rationalists, the North Plains Territory Homestead Claim and Settlement Office, and circuit magicians.

The climax of this volume involves a plague of grubs that threaten the western settlements, and Eff’s role in fighting the bug invasion. The solution to the problem comes across like convoluted mumbo-jumbo, not that it’s not exciting to read.

Finally, on the negative side, I’d be remiss in not mentioning the to-do over this book from when it first came out concerning the lack of a Native American population. The only people in the book are the (presumably) white settlers, with a couple of people of color mixed in among the townsfolk and school magicians. There isn’t a native culture, at least not one that’s mentioned at all in this book. Apparently, there was quite a bit of criticism over this when the book came out. As a work of fantasy fiction, I suppose it’s the author’s right to create whatever world she sees fit… but I leave it to potential readers to decide whether or not this is a deal-breaker for them.

Bottom line: My son and I enjoyed Thirteenth Child enough to continue with the series. Despite uneven pacing, the story itself is fresh and intriguing — so that the duller parts are easily outweighed by chapters and sequences that are suspenseful and highly engaging.


The details:

Title: Thirteenth Child
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication date: 2009
Length: 344 pages
Genre: Children’s fantasy fiction
Source: Purchased