Thursday, February 6, 2014

SM Johnson ~ Overlooked Books ~

bleak depressing winter cup
Good morning, darlings! Welcome to Thursday. We're almost to the weekend, because time marches on like that. It's a good thing, I suppose, especially if we can hang on and march out of this bitter winter. I wish it would happen sooner, although where I live in northern Wisconsin, one never knows. Last year schools were closed because of SNOW every Friday in May except the very last one. It genuinely felt like it was never going to end. It would be lovely if we could manage not to repeat that.

My topic today is overlooked books. A lot of my favorite-favorite books are old stories that few people have heard of and I want you all to have a chance to enjoy them. Hopefully they won't be hard to find. I'll link them to Goodreads and Amazon, but some of them I suspect you can probably find at your local library.

One really cool thing - last year I met someone who's read and loved quite a few of my favorite books (this NEVER happens), and a lot of his recommends have become favorites of mine as well. This just blows me away. It's like having a book filter or a personal shopper who knows exactly my taste making suggestions for what to read next. I recommend a friend like this for everyone (grin).

Wreaththu by Storm Constantine circa 1987.

I read a really big fat paperback edition that contained the first three books of the Wreaththu world. It was a little intimidating to dive into, considering its length, but this is a very easy to read. The concept of Wreaththu seems complicated, but I assure you, the storytelling is not.

From Goodreads: In this powerful and elegant story set in a future Earth very different from our own, a new kind of human has evolved to challenge the dominion of Homo sapiens. This new breed is stronger, smarter, and far more beautiful than their parent race, and are endowed with psychic as well as physical gifts. They are destined to supplant humanity as we know it, but humanity won't die without a struggle.

Here at last in a single volume are all three of Constantine's Wraeththu trilogy: The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, The Bewitchments of Love and Hate, and The Fulfillments of Fate and Desire.

These aren't just books and stories, but the creation of a whole world. Wikipedia can give you the dry sense of things, but let me just suggest these are coming of age novels, tragedies, and love stories, all rolled into novel form, each written from a single point of view, (but each of the three points of view characters have important relationships to one another, so don't be fooled that any of these first three tales could stand alone).

There are five more Wreaththu books by Storm Constantine for me to read yet, and apparently a slew of author-sanctioned fan fiction.

What? Did I just say author-sanctioned fan fiction? Oh yes, I did.

Wreaththu is available as a bargain book from Amazon.

Night Magic by Charlotte Vale Allen circa 1989.

This is a charming re-telling of the Phantom of the Opera (and a lot more accessible, as far as ease of reading goes).

Amazon has a kindle edition for 9.99, and yeah, that's expensive. Mine is a hardcover I got from somewhere in my earthly travels. I still recommend. Try your library.

It's just a sweet, sweet depiction of a compelling love story between a young girl and a damaged musician. Mmmm.... I love love love this book, every time I pick it up and read it again.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley circa 1983.

Harry Crewe is an orphan girl who comes to live in Damar, the desert country shared by the Homelanders and the secretive, magical Hillfolk. Her life is quiet and ordinary-until the night she is kidnapped by Corlath, the Hillfolk King, who takes her deep into the desert. She does not know the Hillfolk language; she does not know why she has been chosen. But Corlath does. Harry is to be trained in the arts of war until she is a match for any of his men. Does she have the courage to accept her true fate?

I first experienced this as an audio book, and I gotta tell you - whenever I read it, I can hear the wonderful and delicate British accent of the narrator, which somehow makes the story even more perfect. It's a love story (aren't they all?), but it's also so much more than that. The mass market paperback is available for a reasonable price at Amazon

The sequel/prequel The Hero and The Crown is also good, but doesn't rock my world the way The Blue Sword does. 

Okay, so do you remember Sesame Street and the whole "One of these things is not like the other" bit? Here's the one that's not like the others.

Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg circa 1993.

"Until that moment, I hadn't realized how much I'd been needing to meet someone I might be able to say everything to."

They met at a party. It was hate at first sight. Ruth was far too beautiful, too flamboyant. Not at all Ann's kind of person. Until a chance encounter in the bathroom led to an alliance of souls. Soon they were sharing hankies during the late showing of "Sophie's Choice," wolfing down sundaes sodden with whipped cream, telling truths of marriage, mortality, and love, secure in a kind of intimacy no man could ever know. Only best friends understand devil's food cake for breakfast when nothing else will do. After years of shared secrets, guilty pleasures, family life and divorce, they face a crisis that redefines the meaning of friendship and unconditional love.

Honestly. THIS. BOOK. O.M.G.

You know when you have those days/weeks/maybe even a month when nothing feels quite right? You randomly cry while doing dishes or folding laundry, and wander around with a frozen knot of grief for absolutely no reason whatsoever?

This is one of my two go-to books for unlocking that feeling. Read it and cry. And then feel fixed.

Talk Before Sleep is available at Amazon in kindle and paperback. It's probably available elsewhere, too. Like your local bookstore. Or your library.

The other, just in case you want to know is Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott circa 1993.

The most honest, wildly enjoyable book written about motherhood is surely Anne Lamott's account of her son Sam's first year. A gifted writer and teacher, Lamott (Crooked Little Heart) is a single mother and ex-alcoholic with a pleasingly warped social circle and a remarkably tolerant religion to lean on. She responds to the changes, exhaustion, and love Sam brings with aplomb or outright insanity. The book rocks from hilarious to unbearably poignant when Sam's burgeoning life is played out against a very close friend's illness. No saccharine paean to becoming a parent, this touches on the rage and befuddlement that dog sweeter emotions during this sea change in one's life.

Always the book for a heartfelt and cathartic cry. And also available at Amazon in kindle, paperback, and hardcover editions. Or probably the library. Or your favorite bookstore.

That's all I've got for today. I would love for you, my darlings, to leave a comment telling me one or two or five of your favorite-favorite books. Maybe I'll find some new things to love.

Peace out. Have a wonderful and safe weekend!



  1. Oooh. Another fan of Storm Constantine. Actually, I don't know why that surprises me as we do have very similar tastes and I can see her influence in your writing. I read Wraeththu donkey's years ago in its original form. Storm's lovely too - drunk with her on many occasions at conventions!

  2. I'm so jealous, I want to go to those particular conventions!