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top ten sequel imageThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday asks us to name the Ten Best Book Sequels.

‘Anything Part Two’ can be tough, but great sequels can be even better than the original (Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight Rises).

Here, though, we are talking about the best sequels to books! What are your favorites?

 

1.) The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien
Tolkien fused his passion for medieval history and languages with mythic fantasy. LOTR broke ground as a book series and as a forerunner in the fantasy genre. The trilogy still ranks as the third best-selling novel worldwide. Note, you will enjoy it more if you read The Hobbit first.

2.) Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel
Just as Mantel elevated the historical novel to literary fiction, she has raised the bar on sequels. This book stands alone on its merit, winning the Man Booker Prize among other awards, but is a follow-up to Wolf Hall.

3.) Leaving Cold Sassy, by Olive Ann Burns
I don’t often like to see child heroes grow up, but in her sequel to Cold Sassy Tree Burns gives us a wonderful portrait of Will Tweedy as a young man. The book also serves as a swan song for the town of Cold Sassy and its colorful characters. Warning: this book is unfinished.

4. ) Eventide, Kent Haruf
Oh, how I loved this beautiful, wrenching book that revisits the characters and the town of Holt, Colorado, which Haruf introduced to us in Plainsong.

5.) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
One of the most influential books in the American canon and a darn good page-turner. I will say, however, that some of the language (in particular the N-word) is quite jarring. But I do read the character of Jim as wise and noble (and morally superior to many other characters), despite the stereotypical characterization.

6.) Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope
The Warden seems like just a teaser once you delve into Barchester Towers, which really kicks off the Barchester Chronicles—a saga about life in a Cathedral city inspired by Salisbury. This great read offers compelling characters and a fascinating look at small-town politics, the evolving Church of England, and daily life in 19th-century England.

7.) Right Ho, Jeeves, by P. G. Wodehouse
This is the second full novel about Jeeves and Wooster, and it features all the classics: a broken engagement between Tuppy and Angela, the temperamental French chef Anatole, droopy Madeline Bassett, newt-enthusiast Gussy Fink-Nottle, and bossy Aunt Dahlia at her best, “who is this Spink Bottle?”

8.) Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, by Sophie Kinsella
I still can’t decide whether I like this or Confessions of a Shopaholic best. Both are hilarious, laugh-out-loud books, which forever endeared us to the sweet, ditzy Becky Bloomwood. Kinsella is a comic genius and manages to create physical humor and whacky entanglements along the lines of I Love Lucy.

9.) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling
From the first read, this has always been my favorite of the Harry Potter books. I just love the dynamic between Harry and Sirius Black, and I love the ending. Expecto Patronum!

10.) To Let, by John Galsworthy
This is the finale to The Forsyte Saga, a long, deep, satisfying read about the powerful Forsyte family at the turn of the 20th century. Any one of those sequels could have made this list, but I must say Galsworthy ends his story perfectly, reflective but not overly sentimental. Note, there was a terrific British TV mini-series made in 2002.

Honorable Mention: Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys
Rhys gives a wonderful voice to the first Mrs. Rochester, the mad woman who taunted Jane Eyre, and shows us her life growing up in the Caribbean. Usually, I don’t like it when writers hijack another author’s characters, but this was one of the first and remains the very best example, imho. It would be top ten, but it’s technically a prequel and it’s not by Charlotte Bronte.

So, what are your favorite book sequels?

Top Ten Most Memorable Secondary Characters

Top Ten Best Books I’ve Read So Far in 2013

Top Ten Books in My TBR Pile

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top 10 books read so far 2013

Some of my Top 10–the others have been passed along.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book blogger’s meme organized by The Broke and The Bookish. This week this topic is the Top Ten Books Read So Far in 2013.

Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel
Technically I read this late last year, but I just loved it! It’s even better than Wolf Hall. I had to give it a shout-out as I’ve been meaning to blog about Mantel.

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (reread)
I have been rereading this in several iterations for the P&P Bicentenary Challenge. I was so excited to also discover a graphic novel version by Marvel.

Eventide, by Kent Haruf
Haruf returns to Holt, Colorado in his spare, inviting prose. This is a truly satisfying sequel to Plainsong, which I loved. I enjoyed but am not gushing over Benediction, his new book which takes place years later with a different cast.

My Ántonia, by Willa Cather (reread)
This achingly beautiful classic shows the hard life of early settlers in Nebraska. Cather paints a vivid and nostalgic picture of the last days of the red-grass prairies and that immense, untracked emptiness.

The Other Typist, by Suzanne Rindell
This is a twisty, pulpy, noir with a devious unreliable narrator. Rindell infuses her tale with the snazzy glamour of 1920’s New York: speakeasies, flappers, and lavish parties in the Hamptons.

Revolutionary Summer, by Joseph J Ellis
A fascinating and stirring read. Those who don’t normally read historical non-fiction will be quickly drawn in, and history buffs will find several new aspects to consider.

The Round House, by Louise Erdrich
I have long been entranced by the poetic, magical realism spun by Erdrich. This book also pulls readers along with a thread of suspense. This is not my favorite by Erdrich, but a very good book nonetheless.

Sinners and the Sea, by Rebecca Kanner
Kanner has given us a sharply drawn work of literary fiction that is also an addictive read. Narrated by Noah’s unnamed wife, this is a bit like Noah’s Ark meets The Red Tent meets the Titanic-in-reverse.

A Storm of Swords, by G.R.R. Martin
I cannot recommend these books enough! Martin has me totally wrapped up in this magical, mysterious realm. Be warned though—this series is unputdownable book crack.

Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella
Ah, another bubbly, chic-lit delight from Sophie Kinsella. This is one of her best and funniest, right up there with the first two Shopaholic books. Breezy, book candy. #BeachRead

Under the Dome, by Stephen King (almost done)
Ok, this makes 11, but I am surprised by how much I’m enjoying this! I haven’t read much King and was spurred to pick this up by the #DomeAlong group read. Suspense, psychological intrigue, and loaded with King’s trademark easter eggs.

What is the best book you have read so far this year? I’d really appreciate some book recommendations, please.

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silhouette cropI have a high back window that has played home to a succession of spiders. Jokingly, I have referred to each as Charlotte A. Cavatica, after Wilbur’s friend. Visiting kids always like to climb up and take a look at the arachnid in action—spinning or repairing the web and, yes, sometimes wrapping up struggling prey. It’s a bit like my own personal Nature Channel.

Now it turns out, I actually do have a Charlotte out there, complete with a very large egg sac that she is tending. Like most people, I have a natural fear of these eight-legged beasts, but I loved Charlotte’s Web so much (still do), that I cannot bring myself to kill them. I have somewhat perfected the art of spider catch-and-release.

Also, I was really moved by Life and Death in Shanghai, Nien Cheng’s wrenching memoir of her persecution during China’s Cultural Revolution. Cheng was imprisoned in solitary confinement for seven years, her only friend a spider in the upper corner of her cell. As she watched the spider swing about creating its intricate web, Cheng wrote, “I knew I had just witnessed something extraordinarily beautiful and uplifting … I felt a renewal of hope and confidence.” With the spider there, she felt less fearful of the guards who bullied her daily.

Alas like Charlotte, that spider passed away with the arrival of winter, and it is a truly heartbreaking moment in the book. [Aside, Cheng was a wonderful writer and I highly recommend this read!]

Radiant.

Radiant.

I confess, though, as I look out at the bulging egg sac dangling so close to my window … I am a bit (ok very) freaked. [Click on the pic to really see the eggs.] One day hundreds of spiders will burst out separated only by a pane of glass. I’m terrified of a spider invasion through the cracks of my house. But these two books have left such a mark that I cannot bring myself to sweep it all away.

Instead, I’m hoping that like Charlotte’s brood these mini critters will quickly spin tiny balloons and disperse, sailing off with the wind.

 

Perhaps the runt will be left behind to occupy my window, if so I would name her Aranea.

Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White

Life and Death in Shanghai, by Nien Cheng

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Files cover“Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place,
but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around.”
—E. L. Konigsburg

I stopped and caught myself when I heard that E.L. Konigsburg passed away last Friday. It hurt. But almost immediately, that gave way to the familiar, deep-in happiness I always feel when I think of her. Oh, I loved her books when I was growing up!

Like Elizabeth, I had a pet frog so I was thrilled by the schemes and magic in Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth. And, I have to point to Konigsburg’s tale of Eleanor of Acquitane, A Proud Taste for Scarlett and Miniver, for sparking my interest in biographies and historical fiction. (Cannot wait for the next Hilary Mantel!)

But most of all, I loved From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler—the story of Claudia and her little brother Jamie, who run away to the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Claudia is the reluctant adventurer. “Secrets are the kind of adventure she needs. Secrets are safe, and they do much to make you different. On the inside where it counts.”

Still, ‘the Mixed-Up Files’ had just enough adventure (and mystery) to keep me hooked, but there was also the research and library angle, which especially appealed to a bookworm like me. I’ve read the book countless times and have given it to almost every kid I know.  After they read it (and are in on the secret), it’s especially fun to take a child to the Metropolitan Museum to see the “Mixed-Up” haunts.

Claudia and Jamie spent a lot of time in the Egyptian galleries and the very bronze cat they admired is still in a case there. There are several period bedrooms on display, though the exact bed that the kids slept in has been dismantled. Likewise, the fountain they bathed in is gone, though there are several others in the Charles Engelhard Court. Finally, in a case of life imitating art—well, art imitating fiction—the Met recently put on display a small marble statue called the ‘Young Archer’ which may or may not have been carved by Michelangelo.

In fact, so many children ask about the book, that the museum has put out a special “Mixed-up Files” guide to their collection. (As opposed to the American Museum of Natural History, which pretty much has nothing from Night at the Museum. #disappointedkids)

In addition to being a great storyteller, Konigsburg wrote beautifully. When Elizabeth looks out at spring from her window she finds, “new green was all over … green so new that it was kissing yellow.” The author won two Newbery Medals and several other literary citations.

Konigsburg would often tell her readers, “before you can be anything, you have to be yourself. That’s the hardest thing to find.” Most of her novels were about self-discovery and that time in life when children start to define themselves with their actions and choices.

I like to think of E.L. Konigsburg starting off like the out-of-place, questioning Claudia and in her later years resembling the accomplished Mrs Frankweiler, smiling with her secret. I’m so grateful to Konigsburg, and I am sad that she is gone. But mostly, when I think of her, I feel that happiness and excitement which she so perfectly described, and I can still it flapping around a little.

Scholastic Book Clubs Tribute Page to E.L. Konigsburg

Washington Post: E. L. Konigsburg Obituary and Bio

New York Times Books: E. L. Konigsburg, Author, Dead at 83

WP Style Blog: To My Lawyer, Saxonberg, the Genius of E.L. Kongisburg

The Metropolitan Museum Kids Guide: the “Mixed-Up Files” Issue

The Metropolitan Museum Unveils a ‘Maybe’ Michelangelo

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