Monday, August 29, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: School Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
 This week's Top Ten Tuesday theme was a back to school freebie. It was a lot harder than it should have been, for some reason!
I chose books that I think college freshmen would love. I am 37 and I still enjoy these books, so I think anyone could find something they love from here. 
 In the tradition of Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot, Cirque Du Freak is the frightening saga of a young boy whose visit to a mysterious freak show leads him on a journey into a dark world of vampires. Filled with grotesque creatures, murderous vampires, and a petrifying ending, Cirque Du Freak will chill, thrill, and leave readers begging for more. 

Is he a girl? Is she a boy?

Matthew's American cousin, Sam, has come to London to live with the family. Sam is a charismatic, funny kid, but can he be trusted to be a reliable friend? Matthew and his "mates" decide that Sam must undertake a challenge in order to prove himself: he must start off his new year at their school posing as a girl. It turns out that Sam makes a great girl. He fools everyone and has an electrifying effect at Bradbury Hill School. And the longer the prank goes on, the more hilarious -- and serious -- the repercussions.

This brilliant novel shines a laser-sharp beam into the perilous territory of early-teen life, in an unforgettable story of chaos, confusion, and cross-dressing. 

Peter is quick, daring, and full of mischief—and like all boys, he loves to play, though his games often end in blood. His eyes are sparkling gold, and when he graces you with his smile you are his friend for life, but his promised land is not Neverland.
Fourteen-year-old Nick would have been murdered by the drug dealers preying on his family had Peter not saved him. Now the irresistibly charismatic wild boy wants Nick to follow him to a secret place of great adventure, where magic is alive and you never grow old. Even though he is wary of Peter's crazy talk of faeries and monsters, Nick agrees. After all, New York City is no longer safe for him, and what more could he possibly lose?

There is always more to lose.

Accompanying Peter to a gray and ravished island that was once a lush, enchanted paradise, Nick finds himself unwittingly recruited for a war that has raged for centuries—one where he must learn to fight or die among the "Devils," Peter's savage tribe of lost and stolen children.

There, Peter's dark past is revealed: left to wolves as an infant, despised and hunted, Peter moves restlessly between the worlds of faerie and man. The Child Thief is a leader of bloodthirsty children, a brave friend, and a creature driven to do whatever he must to stop the "Flesh-eaters" and save the last, wild magic in this dying land.  

 The Sanctuary of the Redeemers is a vast and desolate place—a place without joy or hope. Most of its occupants were taken there as boys and for years have endured the brutal regime of the Lord Redeemers whose cruelty and violence have one singular purpose—to serve in the name of the One True Faith.

In one of the Sanctuary’s vast and twisting maze of corridors stands a boy. He is perhaps fourteen or fifteen years old—he is not sure and neither is anyone else. He has long-forgotten his real name, but now they call him Thomas Cale. He is strange and secretive, witty and charming, violent and profoundly bloody-minded. He is so used to the cruelty that he seems immune, but soon he will open the wrong door at the wrong time and witness an act so terrible that he will have to leave this place, or die.

His only hope of survival is to escape across the arid Scablands to Memphis, a city the opposite of the Sanctuary in every way: breathtakingly beautiful, infinitely Godless, and deeply corrupt. 

But the Redeemers want Cale back at any price... not because of the secret he now knows but because of a much more terrifying secret he does not.

 There is a cancer at the heart of the mighty Cerani Empire: a plague that attacks young and old, rich and poor alike. Geometric patterns spread across the skin, until you die in agony, or become a Carrier, doing the bidding of an evil intelligence, the Pattern Master. Anyone showing the tell-tale marks is put to death; that is Emperor Beyon's law...but now the pattern is running over the Emperor's own arms. His body servants have been executed, he ignores his wives, but he is doomed, for soon the pattern will reach his face. While Beyon's agents scour the land for a cure, Sarmin, the Emperor's only surviving brother, awaits his bride, Mesema, a windreader from the northern plains. Unused to the Imperial Court's stifling protocols and deadly intrigues, Mesema has no one to turn to but an aging imperial assassin, the Emperor's Knife. 
As long-planned conspiracies boil over into open violence, the invincible Pattern Master appears from the deep desert. Only three people stand in his way: a lost prince, a world-weary killer, and a young girl from the steppes who once saw a path in a pattern -- a path that might save them all. 

I went in a little different direction this week, because thinking of books that college freshmen might like was giving me a headache! So instead, I chose to list my favorite books that I read while I was in high school. I have omitted Tamora Pierce books and Harry Potter books, because I talk about them all of the time and have used them in several TTTs before. 

I am prone to starting these lists with a little bit of cheating. This one is minor, though. I read this book in 8th grade, so it doesn't really count as high school like the rest of the books. My 8th grade English teacher let us use a book of our own choosing each 6 week term period to do a book report on. While I was browsing in the library for a book, I came across this Piers Anthony gem. I had no idea that it was the 5th book in the series (paying attention to fine print on covers wasn't my strong suit) and the title absolutely cracked me up. So I decided I would give it a go! And I am glad that I did. It's an excellent book, and it's hard not to fall in love with all of the characters. And I can still remember cracking the heck up when I got to the Ah, Satan bit.

Orb had a rare gift--the magic which manifested whenever she sang or played her harp. No one could resist her music. But she knew that greater magic lay in the Llano, the mystic music that controlled all things. The quest for the Llano occupied Orb's life. Until she met Natasha, handsome and charming, and an even finer musician. But her mother Niobe came as an Aspect of Fire, with the news that Orb had been chosen for the role of Incarnation of Nature--The Green Mother. But she also warned of a prophecy that Orb was to marry Evil. Could she be sure that Natasha was not really Satan, the Master of Illusion, laying a trap for her...?
 Much like just about everything from my teen years, I have Holly to thank for having read this one. And like most of the things that Holly gave me to read and/or watch, The Spirit Ring features a feisty lead girl character who isn't content to just sit and accept the fate that her gender would put upon her. And really, who doesn't love a strong female character?

Fiametta Beneforte dreamed of making beautiful and enchanted "objets d'art, " but alas her magician-goldsmith father was more likely to have her scrub the kiln than study magic. After all, it was a waste to train a mere daughter beyond the needs of the moment.Thur Ochs dreamed of escaping the icy mines of Bruinwald. But the letter from his brother Uri arranging his apprenticeship to Master Beneforte was not the only force that drew him over the mountains to the Duchy of Montefoglia...

A betrayal at a banquet plunges Thur and Fiametta into a struggle against men who would use vile magic for vile ends. Needs of this desperate moment will require all their wits, all their talents, and all their courage, if they are to rescue both Montefoglia and the souls of those they most love.

This one is really strange to have made my list, because while I still don't care for science fiction that much, I sincerely loathed it growing up. I honestly can't remember how I came across this book, or what might have made me read it even though space and spaceships were a prominent part of the story line. It probably had nothing to do with a half-unicorn creature as the main lead. Nope, not at all! 

"Something's Alive In There!"
She was just a little girl, with a tiny horn in the center of her forehead, funny-looking feet, beautiful silver hair, and several curious powers: the ability to purify air and water, make plants grow, and heal scars and broken bones. A trio of grizzled prospectors found her drifting in an escape pod amid the asteroids, adopted her, and took her to the bandit planet Kezdet, a place where no questions are asked and the girl might grow up free.

But Kezdet has its own dark secret. The prosperity of the planet is based on a hideous trade in child slave labor, administered by "The Piper" -- a mystery man with special plans for Acorna and her powers. But free little girls have a way of growing into freedom-loving young women, and Acorna has special plans all her own. . .

 While Holly usually gets credit for a lot of my fantasy love, this one actually goes out to my brother, who has always been a fantasy nerd when it comes to movies and video games, but didn't read very much growing up. But he fell in love with this book, and made me get the series to read it as well. And I am glad he did! Pawn of Prophecy and the whole Belgariad is just amazing. It's everything you want from a fantasy. 

Long ago, the Storyteller claimed, in this first book of THE BELGARIAD, the evil god Torak drove men and Gods to war. But Belgarath the Sorcerer led men to reclaim the Orb that protected men of the West. So long as it lay at Riva, the prophecy went, men would be safe. 
But Garion did not believe in such stories. Brought up on a quiet farm by his Aunt Pol, how could he know that the Apostate planned to wake dread Torak, or that he would be led on a quest of unparalleled magic and danger by those he loved--but did not know...? 

What I remember most about this book involves a scene with a rat that I really wish that I could scrub from my memory. I think it's high time that I give this one a re-read. I remember absolutely falling for this book in high school and being so bummed that it was impossible to find anything else written by her in the time before ordering from Amazon was a thing for me.
Thrust into a strange land, Lisane possessed extraordinary magic. But could she carve out a place for herself in the beautiful barbaric realm that was her new home--a place where dark secrets held the promise of life--and death . . . ?
In her homeland, mages conversed with the magical forces of ller, reverently seeking permission for the spells they cast. Then came a terrible scourge, draining the world of ller, killing the mages, and enslaving the survivors. But this clever young girl fled the onslaught.
Raised to be Queen of her people, to wield the magic born from ller, Lisane found precarious refuge in a distant land where only men wielded power. Still able to call up the mystic currents of ller, she was saved from summary execution by the maddeningly handsome Kaihan, King and Wizard. Thus Lisane was placed with the other young adepts--the only female among them--and the only true mage that could save them.
If they didn't kill her first . . .

I tried to pick books for this list that I haven't talked too much about, and I know that I have mentioned this book a lot in past TTTs. But I re-read this book at least once a year, sometimes more, and my most recent re-read just happened to fall a few weeks ago, so it was hard to avoid putting it on here! I have read this book at least 15 times, almost certainly more, and it still can make cry and make my pulse race and fall in love all over again. Such is the power of Marillier's writing! It's hard not to fall for Red, and to not root for Sorcha in her mad quest to save her brothers. It is equally as hard not to loathe Red's Uncle Richard and to not weep for the injustices Sorcha faces. It's a roller coaster of emotion, and so beautifully rendered, I really wish everyone would give it a shot!
Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, they are determined that she know only contentment.

But Sorcha's joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift-by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever. 

When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all...


  1. The Saga of Darren Shan is one of my favourite series - I love those books so much! I haven't read any of the others, but the Child Thief looks really good, I will need to check that out :)

    1. The Child Thief is amazing! I loved it!
      Thanks for stopping!

  2. I loved loved loved Cirque Du Freak. And my dad did too, so it's perfect for all ages.

  3. Ooh Cirque Du Freak looks good (and scary too- yay). That cover alone is kind of freaky. And I've enjoyed some of Brom's artwork in the past so neat to see that one.

    I think I read the Belgariad several times growing up, and still have PAwn of Prophecy. Good times. :)

  4. Oh! I haven't read any of these but they all look so good. Need to go book shopping. :D

  5. Wow. These books look amazing! :-)

  6. Whoa! I have never seen any of these but several caught my eye! Nice list!

  7. Love this list Mariela and Allyson! Most of these are on my TBR. I really want to read Child Thief, Left Hand of God, Pawn of Prophecy and Daughter of the Forest. I don't know what it is about Autumn but every year, just a whiff of it, has me craving Epic Fantasy Novels and your list is full of them! I think I may have to re-arrange my reading list so I can fit some of these in.

    Happy Reading!
    Rachel @ Paein-and-Ms4Tune

  8. Crazily, these are all unfamiliar and new books to me. Which is always fun since that's part of the joy of Top Ten Tuesday; discovering new reads. :)

    Thanks so much for the recent blog follow, Mariela. :)

  9. Great list! I haven't read any of these. Even though The Child Thief has been on my list to check out for a while.