Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time

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 Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time.

My top 10 are:

  1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: Of course! While I’ve read it many times since, there’s nothing quite like the first time reading about Jamie and Claire.
  2. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters: I know that I gasped out loud several times over the twists and turns of this amazing book. I’d love to read it again someday to delve back into the story, but there’s nothing to compare to the shocks of reading it for the first time.
  3. Replay by Ken Grimwood: I read this many years ago, but I was so captivated by this book! Just when I thought I’d seen it all when it comes to time travel, Replay fell into my lap with a whole new approach.
  4. Eagle in the Sky by Wilbur Smith: I read this in my youth and was swept away by the romanticism of the entire plot and the characters. I think a lot of my reaction had to do with where I was in my life at that time… so even though I could read it again, I don’t think it would be the same reading experience.
  5. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison: My first time was just last year, and I’ve re-read it since, and will probably re-read it again — but the first time was such an immersive experience that was truly unique and memorable.
  6. Knight’s Castle by Edward Eager: I read this book as a child, and spent years as an adult trying to figure out what that amazing book with all the knights was called! I finally found it again — but I think nothing can compare to reading this as a child and feeling so full of wonder and possibility.
  7. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling: Along those lines, even though I was an adult when I read Harry Potter, my first time reading the books was alongside my daughter, and experiencing it fresh and new together was amazing.
  8. The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi: This audiobook made me laugh so hard. I wonder if I’d find it as funny if I weren’t constantly being surprised by all the weirdness?
  9. The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal: I’ve read this book more than once, but the first time was a remarkable experience, where I was absolutely on the edge of my seat for so much of the story.
  10. Soulless by Gail Carriger: This introduction to the world of the Parasol Protectorate drew me right in to its world of supernatural beings in Victorian England. Reading it for the first time was so special!

What books do you wish you could read again for the first time? Please share your links!

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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!

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Book Review: The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison

Title: The Witness for the Dead
Author: Katherine Addison
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication date: June 22, 2021
Length: 240 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Katherine Addison returns to the glittering world she created for her beloved novel, The Goblin Emperor, in this stand-alone sequel.

When the young half-goblin emperor Maia sought to learn who had set the bombs that killed his father and half-brothers, he turned to an obscure resident of his father’s Court, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. Thara Celehar found the truth, though it did him no good to discover it. He lost his place as a retainer of his cousin the former Empress, and made far too many enemies among the many factions vying for power in the new Court. The favor of the Emperor is a dangerous coin.

Now Celehar lives in the city of Amalo, far from the Court though not exactly in exile. He has not escaped from politics, but his position gives him the ability to serve the common people of the city, which is his preference. He lives modestly, but his decency and fundamental honestly will not permit him to live quietly. As a Witness for the Dead, he can, sometimes, speak to the recently dead: see the last thing they saw, know the last thought they had, experience the last thing they felt. It is his duty use that ability to resolve disputes, to ascertain the intent of the dead, to find the killers of the murdered.

Now Celehar’s skills lead him out of the quiet and into a morass of treachery, murder, and injustice. No matter his own background with the imperial house, Celehar will stand with the commoners, and possibly find a light in the darkness.

Katherine Addison has created a fantastic world for these books – wide and deep and true.

Thara Celehar is the Witness for the Dead of this book’s title. He’s gifted with the ability to find out the truth of a death by making contact with the deceased’s body. He says a prayer of compassion, then asks the dead to answer questions. Sometimes, it’s too late, and there’s no one left in the body to answer the query. But sometimes, he’s able to get answers or at least an impression of the person’s last moments. He then bears witness for the dead person, testifying to what he’s learned in order to solve a mystery or resolve a dispute. His basic goodness allows him to carry out his duties with dignity.

However, despite being located in a smaller city far from the capitol, Thara is not completely shielded from the backbiting and political striving that characterizes the prelacy of Amalo. There are some who are jealous of Thara’s connection to the emperor; others fear that he might gain power and seek to tear him down. No matter how he tries to stay outside the fray, he’s drawn in repeatedly.

As the book opens, Thara becomes involved in several unsolved cases. In one, a family needs him to discover who their patriarch’s intended heir is, as the will is in dispute. In another, sadder case, a brother seeks his sister’s body, believing that the man she eloped with may have done her harm. And in the story that becomes the overarching plotline of the book, a beautiful young woman’s body is pulled from the canal — was her death an accident, or was she killed? And if it was murder, who did it?

As he investigates, he becomes drawn into the worlds of the opera, the rich patrons, the seedier bars and teahouses, the gambling establishments, and the law enforcement of Amalo. He persists in pursuing the truth, even when his own life and reputation are at stake. Despite his fears and doubts, Thara is always true to his calling, and his intelligence and bravery enable him to see his inquiries through until he can find the truth on behalf of the dead.

The world of The Witness for the Dead is the world of The Goblin Emperor… and I can’t even begin to describe or explain how much I love this world. Author Katherine Addison has meticulously crafted a world with a finely developed culture, religious underpinnings, class stratifications, nobility and commoners, courtiers and princes. There’s a strange beauty to the descriptions of the people and the society, and I am particularly head over heels in love with the language of The Goblin Emperor‘s world.

In her books, the author creates a vocabulary and grammar that is dizzyingly strange and difficult, making the books seem almost impenetrable at first — but if we stick with it (as I encourage everyone to do), the names of the people and places and institutions, as well as the forms of address and the contrasting formal and informal speech patterns, all create a sort of linguistic magic. As I re-read The Goblin Emperor via audiobook, I was enthralled all over again, not just by the story, but by the very sound of it all. Truly an incredible experience.

Back to The Witness for the Dead: I loved this story. It was fascinating seeing Thara Celehar about his work. We see him in action in The Goblin Emperor through his interactions with the Emperor, but here, we’re privy to more of his inner life and learn more about what sort of person he is and what drives him. It’s an engrossing character study, enhanced by clever mysteries for Thara to solve.

I suppose my only complaint about The Witness for the Dead isn’t really about this book at all: I just missed Maia (Emperor Edrehasivar VII) so, so much. I would gladly read a multiple-volume history covering the reign of the emperor… but I’d also happily settle for just one more novel!

I can’t imagine reading The Witness for the Dead without having read The Goblin Emperor. I do know at least one person who’s planning to do just that, and I’ll be interested to hear her thoughts. I don’t think this book would work as a stand-alone, since I can’t see how someone could truly make sense of the world (not to mention all those names!!) without having read the previous novel. But, I’d be happy to be proven wrong!

I highly recommend The Witness for the Dead, but please do yourself a favor and read The Goblin Emperor first. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do!

Note: As part of a preorder sales promotion, I also received a digital copy of a new short story called Lora Selezh. It’s a compact story about Thara witnessing on behalf of a petitioner, and I really liked it. I don’t know if it’s available elsewhere, but if so, don’t miss it.

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