Top Ten Books When You Need Something Light and Fun

Top Ten Tuesday2

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is such a good one. I love light and fun reads because I feel like they come in handy whenever I feel like a book slump is about to occur. Or when I want to cleanse my reading palate after reading a dense fantasy novel or an emotionally heavy book. I don’t have to be in a certain mood to read books like the ones I’ve included here, I can just pick them up whenever I want to read something that’s easy to get into. In no particular order, here are my top ten light reads:

I Do and At First Sight by Elizabeth Chandler – Bantam’s Love Stories series was the YA series to follow back when I was a teen. These two by Elizabeth Chandler are my favorites. I can’t even remember the number of times I’ve reread these.

Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra – I feel like I’m a broken record because I keep saying this but Mina is my favorite Filipino chick lit author. I could relate to her novels because they’re about young Filipino women and her books are set in the Philippines.

Something About You by Julie James – All of Julie James’ romances are filled with a healthy dose of humor, which is why I enjoy reading them. Something About You is the first in her FBI/US Attorney series and my favorite so far. There’s just something about main characters who keep bickering to hide their attraction.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins – Such a swoon-worthy novel set in one of the most romantic cities in the world. Really enjoyed the tension between Anna and Etienne.

The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand – Another novel set in Paris! But adult contemporary romance instead of YA. Couldn’t help but feel good whenever I read Laura Florand’s novels – I’m a fan of how she combines romance with delicious food.

Laduree macarons

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen – This one might not be considered light because the main characters have to deal with some pretty serious issues but there’s something magical about the writing that makes it so much fun to read.

A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson – The first Eva Ibbotson novel that I ever read and it’s still one of my favorites. I love the fairy tale feel of this historical fiction novel.

Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews – I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this since I’m not a sci-fi girl. I didn’t get confused by the details of the sci-fi setting and I really liked the romance

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley – I could relate to Harry’s thirst for adventure and I loved living vicariously through her (and all other strong female characters I admire).

The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner – I know, I know. A book riddled with political intrigue isn’t usually considered light fare but I’ve reread this book so many times that it has just become a comfort read. Plus, Gen is always good for some laughs.

I’ve noticed that most of my picks for light reads are contemporary novels and that ALL of them have some kind of romance in them. It sure looks like I enjoy a well-written love story in my feel good reads. Do you agree with some of my choices? What are some of your own favorite light reads?

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books I Read Before I Was A Blogger

Top Ten Tuesday2

I’ve been wanting to participate in Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) for a while now but I keep forgetting about it. I only remember when I see tweets from other bloggers and by that time, it’s already Wednesday in my side of the world. Fortunately, I looked up the topic ahead of this week so now I get to put up my first ever Top Ten Tuesday post! Most of the books that I read nowadays are recommendations from trusted book bloggers and friends. Because there are so many reading choices out there, I rarely read books just based on the cover and synopsis. Back before I started blogging, that’s how I found out about books though. In no particular order, here are some of my favorites before I started my blog in 2010:

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale – I can still remember seeing the pretty cover, illustrated by Alison Jay, and thinking that the book looks like something that I’d enjoy reading even if I wasn’t that familiar with the original Goose Girl story. My instincts were right, I fell in love with The Goose Girl and it’s still one of my favorite fairy tale retellings. It was an added bonus that I discovered other favorite titles through Shannon Hale’s recommendations in her blog.

Goose Girl_Alison Jay

The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner – My love for MWT’s books knows no bounds, I even organized a Queen’s Thief Week to celebrate her work. I’m always curious whenever a review mentions writing or characters similar to MWT’s (although more often than not, I get disappointed because my expectations are so high). I’m so glad Shannon Hale featured MWT on her blog because that’s how I discovered this amazing series. Before my blog, I usually got ideas of what to read from Sounis, the LiveJournal community for MWT fans. I was pretty active there back when I was still using LiveJournal.

Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith – Another title that I discovered through Shannon Hale’s blog! During the time I discovered Crown Duel, I was starting to realize that I have a thing for fantasy novels and it definitely fit the bill. I also loved how nice and friendly Sherwood is to her fans, she’s quite active in the Athanarel LiveJournal community (another source of excellent recommendations before I started my blog). I was lucky enough to meet her in person when we had a Sounis/Athanarel meet up back in 2009:

Sounis Athanarel Meet Up

I Do and At First Sight by Elizabeth Chandler – I’ve talked about the Love Stories series several times here on the blog. That was the series that I closely followed as a teenage girl and Elizabeth Chandler’s I Do and At First Sight are my favorites. I can even remember the number of times I’ve reread these books. They’re out of print titles, otherwise I’d probably get duplicates because my copies are so battered.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman – I remember borrowing a copy of this from a college friend and I knew after finishing that I had to get my own copy. I got a paperback that I let my friends borrow and also a graphic novel edition because the artwork by Charles Vess is just lovely.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman – I read this trilogy back in college, based on the recommendation of a classmate. It was during finals week and I was supposed to be studying instead of reading for pleasure but I couldn’t help it, the series was just too good to put down.

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – I found out about this series in high school. It was my mom who got me started on Harry Potter, she got me copies of the first four books that were out then. After that, I eagerly waited for the release date of books five to seven. I had to watch the movies in cinemas as soon as they were shown too. I followed this series from high school to college up until I started working. I really am part of the Harry Potter generation, it was a part of my life for so many years.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis – This series is one of my childhood favorites. I discovered it because some of the titles were available in my grade school library. Unfortunately, they didn’t have all of the books in the series. I only got to read the entire series when I ordered copies online when I was in high school (bookstores in Manila didn’t have such great stocks back then). I get the feeling that I can read the Narnia books as an adult and I would love them just as much as I did when I was a kid.

A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson – Here’s another title that I found interesting because of the cover and title. I checked the premise at the back and thought that the book looked like something I’d enjoy reading. I was right. This was my first taste of Eva Ibbotson’s writing and she quickly became a favorite author after I finished reading this.

A Countess Below Stairs

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley – I love kick ass heroines in fantasy novels and Harry is one of my favorites. I’m a fan of girls who take matters into their own hands, instead of waiting to be saved or rescued by someone else. Each of Robin McKinley’s novels has a heroine like that, which is why she’s an auto-read author for me.

I guess I cheated because I included trilogies and series in my list but I couldn’t really help it, there are just way too many good books out there. I had a hard enough time narrowing down my list. What about you, what are some of your favorite books that you read before you started your blog? How did you discover them?

Retro Friday: A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

One of my blogging goals this year was to write more Retro Friday reviews but I haven’t been able to do that lately. Sigh, you know what happens when real life gets in the way of things. Anyway, I thought I’d get back on track by reviewing one of my favorite books.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

A Countess Below StairsAfter the Russian revolution turns her world topsy-turvy, Anna, a young Russian Countess, has no choice but to flee to England. Penniless, Anna hides her aristocratic background and takes a job as servant in the household of the esteemed Westerholme family, armed only with an outdated housekeeping manual and sheer determination.

Desperate to keep her past a secret, Anna is nearly overwhelmed by her new duties – not to mention her instant attraction to Rupert, the handsome Earl of Westerholme. To make matters worse, Rupert appears to be falling for her as well. As their attraction grows stronger, Anna finds it more and more difficult to keep her most dearly held secrets from unraveling. And then there’s the small matter of Rupert’s beautiful and nasty fiancée…

I can’t believe I’ve never written a review for A Countess Below Stairs (also published as Secret Countess). This and The Reluctant Heiress (also published as Magic Flutes) are my two favorite Eva Ibbotson novels. I’ve recommended both of them to so many friends. There is just something about Eva Ibbotson’s writing that makes her books feel good reads. A Countess Below Stairs is historical fiction but it has a fairy tale feel to it, with a Cinderella kind of vibe going on. I think it’s quite obvious from the premise where the story will go but how it gets there is what really matters.

The Secret CountessThe main character, Anna, is one of those people who always sees something good in any situation. Anna was pampered by doting parents and because they were members of the Russian aristocracy, she pretty much got whatever she wanted. Surprisingly, she grew up to be down-to-earth instead of being a snob. Can I just say that I love how Anna’s family – her parents and her brother – is such an important part of her life? Anna is the kind of person that manages to brighten up everyone else’s day just by being so warm and pleasant. She keeps that sunny disposition even when her life changes drastically from living in luxury to having to work as a downstairs servant. Nope, poverty doesn’t affect Anna’s outlook in life. It’s not surprising that she easily develops a friendship with Rupert in spite of the difference in their social classes. Rupert is a dependable type of person and he feels that it’s his duty to marry well to keep Westerholme running. And there lies the problem. What I found interesting is that the story doesn’t just focus on Anna and Rupert but also includes a whole cast of secondary characters to liven things up. It may get a little confusing to keep track of everyone but I think part of the fun is seeing how Anna interacts with everyone around her.

Writing this review is making me want to reread the novel. I wish I had my copy here with me but sadly, it’s back in Manila. I’ve gone through Eva Ibbotson’s adult (now marketed as young adult) titles and would love to get more recommendations similar to her writing. If you’re interested in historical fiction or if you just want a feel good book, then you should definitely pick this up. A Countess Below Stairs also provides an interesting glimpse of what life is like for servants back in the day, which is why I think this would be a good read for any Downton Abbey fan.

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers
The Captive Reader
Things Mean a Lot
Random Musings of a Bibliophile

Shoot That Book: Eva Ibbotson

Shoot That Book combines my passion for books and my tendency to become trigger happy with a camera. My lack of photography skills is compensated by my enthusiasm. Basically, I like taking pictures of books.

I love Eva Ibbotson’s romantic historical fiction novels and I realized that I don’t get to feature them that often here on the blog so I thought I’d post pictures of my copies for this week’s Shoot That Book:

Eva Ibbotson's books

I can’t remember where I heard it but I believe these titles weren’t originally published as young adult and were only repackaged as such when the genre started to become popular. I guess that’s a good thing because I discovered her work when A Countess Below Stairs caught my eye in the YA section of a local bookstore. I thought the premise looked interesting so I went ahead and grabbed a copy. Even though I don’t picture the girls in the covers as the characters in the books, I still think these editions look pretty. They sort of have a fairy tale feel to them, right?

Eva Ibbotson's novels

Have you read Eva Ibbotson’s novels? What’s your favorite? My favorites are A Countess Below Stairs and The Reluctant Heiress. If you have recommendations similar to her work, I’d love to hear them.

A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson

Eva Ibbotson is one of my favorite YA authors. She writes historical fiction novels with romance in them. I’ve read all of her YA novels except for A Song for Summer and I’ve been saving it up for when I feel like getting cozy with a good book. That time came up last week and I finally got to read this.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Eighteen-year-old Ellen never expected the Hallendorf school to be, well, quite so unusual. After all, her life back in England with her suffragette mother and liberated aunts certainly couldn’t be called normal. But buried deep in the beautiful Austrian countryside, Ellen discovers an eccentric world occupied by wild children and even wilder teachers, experimental dancers and a tortoise on wheels. And then there is the particularly intriguing, enigmatic, and very handsome Marek, part-time gardener and fencing teacher. Ellen is instantly attracted to the mysterious gardener, but Hitler’s reich is already threatening their peaceful world. Only when she discovers Marek’s true identity and his dangerous mission does Ellen realize the depth of her feelings for him—and the danger their newfound love faces in the shadow of war.

I mentioned this in my review of A Company of Swans last year but I want to say it again: there’s something about Eva Ibbotson’s writing that makes her novels comfort reads even when you’re reading them for the first time. Maybe because she usually writes about bright, happy, young women – all of them intriguing in their own way. They’re the kind of girls that everyone loves and Ellen is no exception. She’s young but has very motherly traits because her passion lies in taking care of the household and everything involved in that – cooking, baking, cleaning, doing the laundry and making everyone else more comfortable. At first, her liberated mother and aunts were disappointed because they wanted bigger things for her but they eventually accepted that Ellen is bound to excel in whatever she does. I love that Ellen was brave enough to go after what she really wanted even when it meant that she can’t be a doctor, lawyer or professor like her relatives wanted. She’s such a sweet person but with a backbone of steel that becomes evident when the need arises. It’s not surprising that all of the characters in book are drawn to her.

A Song for Summer is a charming novel but the latter part of the book was a bit frustrating. I wanted Ellen to get her happy ending, she deserved that and more for being the kind of person she is. I felt like she had to go through so much for it to happen. There were several bumps in the road when it comes to the romance in this novel and I think I would have loved the book more if there was less conflict. There were times when I wanted to knock some sense into the guy and tell him that he shouldn’t be hurting her feelings. But I guess that’s what happens when romance gets complicated because of war, everyone suffers although you can’t help but hope that things would eventually work out. Overall, an enjoyable read that I would probably pick up again but A Countess Below Stairs and The Reluctant Heiress are still my favorite Ibbotsons. I feel kind of bad that I’ve finished reading all of her YA novels because I want more of them! Oh well, I still have to go through her children’s novels and I have a feeling they’re good too. If you’re a YA fan and you’ve never heard of Eva Ibbotson, you should definitely remedy that situation. Her novels are lovely and something that can be enjoyed by any reader. Oh and if you have recommendations similar to her work, feel free to let me know. I would love to discover more authors like her.

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger
Bookshelves of Doom
The Compulsive Reader

A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson

One of my bookish blogger friends, Michelle of See Michelle Read recently mentioned Eva Ibbotson in one of her posts and I was reminded that I haven’t read all of the books of this wonderful author. Both A Countess Below Stairs (also published as The Secret Countess) and The Reluctant Heiress (also published as Magic Flutes) are in my list of Favorite Books so I knew I was in for a treat when it comes to any of Eva Ibbotson’s books. I was with my friend the other day when we went inside a bookstore to look for a gift for my mom for Mother’s Day. My friend told me that she hasn’t given me a gift for my birthday and that I should pick a book and she’ll pay for it. I saw A Company of Swans and decided to give that a try.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

For nineteen-year-old Harriet Morton, life in 1912 Cambridge is as dry and dull as a biscuit. Her stuffy father and her oppressive aunt Louisa allow her only one outlet: ballet. When a Russian ballet master comes to class searching for dancers to fill the corps of his ballet company before their South American tour, Harriet’s world changes. Defying her father’s wishes and narrowly escaping the clutches of the man who wishes to marry her, Harriet sneaks off to join the ballet on their journey to the Amazon. There, in the wild, lush jungle, they perform Swan Lake in grand opera houses for the wealthy and culture-deprived rubber barons, and Harriet meets Rom Verney, the handsome and mysterious British exile who owns the most ornate opera house. Utterly enchanted by both the exotic surroundings and by Rom’s affections, Harriet is swept away by her new life, completely unaware that her father and would-be finacé have begun to track her down…

I was thinking of how best to describe the experience of reading an
Eva Ibbotson book and I came up with this: it feels like reading an old favorite even if you’re reading the book for the first time. Does that make sense? I guess it’s because the writing is so lovely that you know you can never go wrong with reading one of her books. The premise of A Company of Swans is similar to The Reluctant Heiress – an older self-made millionaire as the male protagonist and a heroine who’s not particularly beautiful but is so vibrant that she glows from within and their story is set in a historical setting full of quirky characters. Another similarity that I noticed in her writing is that her characters usually love one form of art. In A Company of Swans, it’s ballet and in The Reluctant Heiress, it’s music and theater and in A Countess Below Stairs, it’s all of these.

I really enjoyed reading A Company of Swans. You can’t help but feel sorry for Harriet and the life that she’s led because of her father and her aunt. You’ll root for her from start to finish. As with all of Eva Ibbotson’s other villains, Harriet’s father and aunt aren’t evil exactly. They don’t mean to treat her badly, it’s just that they believe strongly in certain things and can’t be swayed to accept that Harriet deserves to make her own life choices. I was glad for Harriet when she went away with the tour group to perform ballet in the Amazon. The South American is so lush and beautiful, it makes you want to go that jungle and see for yourself what it looks like. I love how the point of view changes to show us flashbacks of Rom as he was growing up and what he thinks whet he sees and meets Harriet for the first time. It made me feel like I was getting to know both main characters from the inside out. The rest of the story unfolds in the same way.

If you’ve never read an Eva Ibbotson book, I suggest that you remedy that situation right away. I’ve been recommending A Countess Below Stairs and The Reluctant Heiress to a lot of my friends and most of them liked it. If you’re into love stories and descriptive historical settings, then her books are right up your alley. I’m going to be on the lookout for A Song for Summer because I haven’t read that. If you’ve read Eva Ibbotson’s books, I’d love to know what’s your favorite.