Good morning and happy Friday readers! We have made it to the end of another week in 2020. I hope you are taking care of yourself and your mental well being! Today on the blog, we are kicking off a fun little series called Sword & Silk Staff Recs, because we are also mad about books and love reading. These posts will give a little insight into our reading choices and a little bit of our personality as we feature a group of books that we love and why we love them! These recs will give a glimpse into books that affected us throughout our lives and helped shaped us into the readers and writers we are today!
Five Book Recs From Blog Maven Kristin
Fire & Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
This book. I have a long standing love of Diana Wynne Jones, from Howl's Moving Castle to Dark Lord of Derkholm. Her wit, her story telling style, all had a huge influence on me as a reader and author, but this book. Fire & Hemlock was a library find in my youth, when I was hungry for more books by Jones. The central love story is somewhat strange and awkward and beautiful. Like Howl's Moving Castle and so many of Jones books, it had that moment, near the end where the various elements she's been planting throughout the whole book come together in one perfect knot and it stayed with me. Years later, I finally tracked down a physical copy of this book for my own collection, but it is probably my absolute favorite novel from Jones.
Alanna, the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
I chose this image as it reflects my own much loved and battered (and signed!) copy of this book. Tamora Pierce was my first beacon as a young adult, trying to find my place in the world. Her stories about girls and women who persevered in heavily male dominated settings. Alanna, in particular, is a quartet of books I read over and over for a character that defied the odds and fought her fate to become a knight champion of the realm. I also shared a personal connection with the character, as someone who lost a parent while very young. Pierce and her stories were another heavy inspiration of my youth and future as an author.
Dragon's Bait by Vivian Vande Velde
Listen, my entire love of monster boys is due to this book and others by Vivian Van Velde. This author was instrumental to introducing complicated monster boy love interests to my impressionable young mind. I unabashedly admit this love has matured as I grew up into a healthy love of paranormal romance, but it all started with Dragon's Bait and the lovely relationship between Alys and Selendrile. It's not straightforward romance, with quite a bit of themes about independence, coming of age, and a huge walloping dose of sweet sweet revenge. This read was short and sweet and had so many things I love. I would recommend it on the revenge storyline alone: Alys, accused of being a witch, is tied up as a sacrifice for a dragon. Instead they make a deal to work together and get revenge on the accusers who destroyed her life. HOW GREAT IS THAT?!
Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
The loss of Terry Pratchett in 2015 was a physical blow to me. I was twelve years old when I first picked up a Discworld novel and I've loved the wit, world, and whimsy of this fantastical world ever since. Pratchett is reflects a lot of what I find funny. I aspire to that sort of wit. Pratchett also held up a mirror to our society in this absurd wonderful world, exposing and poking fun at our flaws while also creating this awe inspiring note of hope in the human spirit. It takes an incredible talent to give Death such a loving, amazing personality. While I could recommend his collective works as a whole, I think a good jumping point is one of his loosely connected Discworld Novels, Monstrous Regiment, which in many ways connected back to my love of Alanna, with women disguising themselves as male soldiers in a never ending war, but with the deeper commentary and thoughtfulness of adult fiction.
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
I read Elsewhere roughly ten years ago. On a personal note, I experienced a great deal of loss at a young age that has effected me throughout my life. I often struggle with mortality, fear, and anxiety. I think perhaps, reading this book as an adult had an even greater impact than it might have had reading it as a teenager. The story of Elsewhere focuses on a young teen protagonist who has died and gone onto an afterlife where people age backwards until they are reborn. It is a painfully beautiful story about the stages of grief, acceptance of the inevitable, and finding hope after the end. For someone like me, who struggles on a deep personal level with issues surrounding mortality, this book affected my outlook in so many ways and I can't recommend it enough for the bittersweet ending. You will cry, but it will be a cathartic cry.