Spring Fever: Top Ten Books to Play Hooky With

Top 10 Spring Books To Play Hooky With

First, the acknowledgments. I got the idea for this post from The Broke and the Bookish, who hosts the Top Ten Tuesday meme, and really, I recommend everyone to try it out; it really gets the creative juices flowing.

To be honest, I would not play hooky at work for a book. The last book I shirked school for was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I can stay up all night if I have to, though. Making this list was exceptionally difficult, because lately I have also been going through a reading slump. I am hoping that if I play hooky at work with these books, I might just be able to overcome that slump:

1. The Wind through the Keyhole by Stephen King

I am not a great follower of Stephen King, I admit. This book was completely unknown to me, till the Book Smugglers put it up on their radar, and since I am a massive fan of theirs, I googled it up. I simply lurve the cover, and for that alone, I will go buy this book. (The cover also has a tiger on it, my favourite animal.)

In The Wind Through the Keyhole, Stephen King returns to the rich landscape of Mid-World, the spectacular territory of the Dark Tower fantasy saga that stands as his most beguiling achievement.
Roland Deschain and his ka-tet—Jake, Susannah, Eddie, and Oy, the billy-bumbler—encounter a ferocious storm just after crossing the River Whye on their way to the Outer Baronies. As they shelter from the howling gale, Roland tells his friends not just one strange story but two . . . and in so doing, casts new light on his own troubled past.
In his early days as a gunslinger, in the guilt-ridden year following his mother’s death, Roland is sent by his father to investigate evidence of a murderous shape-shifter, a “skin-man” preying upon the population around Debaria. Roland takes charge of Bill Streeter, the brave but terrified boy who is the sole surviving witness to the beast’s most recent slaughter. Only a teenager himself, Roland calms the boy and prepares him for the following day’s trials by reciting a story from the Magic Tales of the Eld that his mother often read to him at bedtime. “A person’s never too old for stories,” Roland says to Bill. “Man and boy, girl and woman, never too old. We live for them.” And indeed, the tale that Roland unfolds, the legend of Tim Stoutheart, is a timeless treasure for all ages, a story that lives for us.

2. The Shape of Desire by Sharon Shinn

Sharon Shinn has been one of my favourite authors ever since I read her Archangels of Samaria series. She is a master at worldbuilding, especially bringing to life whole new cultures through simple little rituals, and even the mundane daily life in an alien world feels like a human one through her words. I am interested in seeing what she does with a werewolf world.

For fifteen years Maria Devane has been desperately, passionately in love with Dante Romano. But despite loving him with all of her heart and soul, Maria knows that Dante can never give all of himself back-at least not all the time. Every month, Dante shifts shape, becoming a wild animal. During those times, he wanders far and wide, leaving Maria alone. He can't choose when he shifts, the transition is often abrupt and, as he gets older, the time he spends in human form is gradually decreasing. But Maria, who loves him without hesitation, wouldn't trade their unusual relationship for anything.
Since the beginning, she has kept his secret, knowing that their love is worth the danger. But when a string of brutal attacks occur in local parks during the times when Dante is in animal form, Maria is forced to consider whether the lies she's been telling about her life have turned into lies she's telling herself...

3. Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear

This author writes about post-apocalyptic worlds to perfection through her sci-fi works. The Range of Ghosts, however, seems more about historical fiction and political/royal intrigue. Hello, Timur, Genghis Khan, Hind Kush? A Central Asian saga that I am eager to get my paws on.

Temur, grandson of the Great Khan, is walking away from a battlefield where he was left for dead. All around lie the fallen armies of his cousin and his brother, who made war to rule the Khaganate. Temur is now the legitimate heir by blood to his grandfather’s throne, but he is not the strongest. Going into exile is the only way to survive his ruthless cousin.

Once-Princess Samarkar is climbing the thousand steps of the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth. She was heir to the Rasan Empire until her father got a son on a new wife. Then she was sent to be the wife of a Prince in Song, but that marriage ended in battle and blood. Now she has renounced her worldly power to seek the magical power of the wizards. These two will come together to stand against the hidden cult that has so carefully brought all the empires of the Celadon Highway to strife and civil war through guile and deceit and sorcerous power.

4. Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin

I fell in love with Jemisin’s work after reading A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. If you haven’t read her work, you are missing out. She mixes mystery, mythology and fantasy in one amazing package. I am eager to see what she does with the Dreamblood series.

In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers - the keepers of this peace. Priests of the dream-goddess, their duty is to harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal, soothe . . . and kill those judged corrupt.

But when a conspiracy blooms within Gujaareh's great temple, Ehiru - the most famous of the city's Gatherers - must question everything he knows. Someone, or something, is murdering dreamers in the goddess' name, stalking its prey both in Gujaareh's alleys and the realm of dreams. Ehiru must now protect the woman he was sent to kill - or watch the city be devoured by war and forbidden magic.

5. Warriors: An Anthology

An anthology about heroes by my favourite fantasy authors-- George R. R. Martin, Diana Gabaldon, Peter S. Beagle, Naomi Novik, Carrie Vaughn— what’s not to love?  Alright, so this book does not come out in the spring of 2012; it came out in the spring of 2010. Not relevant, mates, it sound good enough to buy in the coming months.

People have been telling stories about warriors for as long as they have been telling stories. Since Homer first sang the wrath of Achilles and the ancient Sumerians set down their tales of Gilgamesh, warriors, soldiers, and fighters have fascinated us; they are a part of every culture, every literary tradition, every genre. All Quiet on the Western Front, From Here to Eternity, and The Red Badge of Courage have become part of our literary canon, taught in classrooms all around the country and the world. Our contributors make up an all-star lineup of award-winning and bestselling writers, representing a dozen different publishers and as many genres. We asked each of them for the same thing—a story about a warrior. Some chose to write in the genre they’re best known for. Some decided to try something different. You will find warriors of every shape, size, and color in these pages, warriors from every epoch of human history, from yesterday and today and tomorrow, and from worlds that never were. Some of the stories will make you sad, some will make you laugh, and many will keep you on the edge of your seat.

6. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The movie John Carter recently came out, but before that came Tarzan, the original creation of Burroughs. A story about a human being lost to civilization and reared by apes was something quite extraordinary because it came out in 1912, an age when werewolves and vampires were not creatures of teenage love. A Princess of Mars comes out in hardcover in April 2012, and is extremely important to me, because I want to read more from this amazing novelist’s imaginative world.

In the spring of 1866, John Carter, a former Confederate captain prospecting for gold in the Arizona hills, slips into a cave and is overcome by mysterious vapors. He awakes to find himself naked, alone, and forty-eight million miles from Earth—a castaway on the dying planet Mars.

Taken prisoner by the Tharks, a fierce nomadic tribe of sixlimbed, olive-green giants, he wins respect as a cunning and able warrior, who by grace of Mars’s weak gravity possesses the agility of a superman. He also wins the heart of fellow-prisoner Dejah Thoris, the alluring, red-skinned Princess of Helium, whose people he swears to defend against their grasping and ancient enemy, the city-state of Zodanga

7. Anno Dracula by Kim Newman

Dracula by Bram Stoker was my first horror novel, and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is one of my favourites, and they both deal with the more grisly and gruesome aspects of the Vampire phenomenon during Victorian times. This is no Twilight-like book we are talking about here, this is a ‘pure terror’ book, and sometimes, the macabre is required to be read to shake things up a bit. Plus, the name of the book is a pun on Anno Domini (A.D., i.e. the era after Christ), and I love clever book names.

As Nina Auerbach writes in the New York Times, Stephen King assumes we hate vampires; Anne Rice makes it safe to love them, because they hate themselves. Kim Newman suspects that most of us live with them . . . . Anno Dracula is the definitive account of that post-modern species, the self-obsessed undead."
In this first of what looks to be an excellent series, Victorian England has vampires at every level of society, especially the higher ones, and they engage in incessant intrigue, power games, and casual oppression of the weak--activities, as we know, that are all too human. Numerous characters from literature and from history appear in both major and cameo roles. Spectacular fight scenes, stormy politics, and a serial vampire killer keep the action lively.

8. Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt

I first read about Ragnarok, or the Armageddon in Norse mythology, when I read Elizabeth Bear’s Edda books. Byatt has been on my radar since I read Possession by her; her work is both lyrical and well-researched, each sentence cleverly crafted to reveal/ conceal a wealth of meaning. Couple the two together, and you get Ragnarok, and I am saving enough money to buy this and read it this springtime.

Booker Prize winner Dame Antonia Byatt breathes life into the Ragnorak myth, the story of the end of the gods in Norse mythology.
Ragnarok retells the finale of Norse mythology. A story of the destruction of life on this planet and the end of the gods themselves: what more relevant myth could any modern writer choose? Just as Wagner used this dramatic and catastrophic struggle for the climax of his Ring Cycle, so AS Byatt now reinvents it in all its intensity and glory. As the bombs of the Blitz rain down on Britain, one young girl is evacuated to the countryside. She is struggling to make sense of her new wartime life. Then she is given a copy of Asgard and the Gods - a book of ancient Norse myths - and her inner and outer worlds are transformed.
War, natural disaster, reckless gods and the recognition of impermanence in the world are just some of the threads that AS Byatt weaves into this most timely of books. Linguistically stunning and imaginatively abundant, this is a landmark.

9. Hereville: How Mirka Got her Sword Back by Barry Deutsch

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I am cheating again. This came out in November 2010, but I only recently read about it this March. I hang my head in shame; a graphic novel about a brave Jewish girl barely out of kindergarten battling demons? I love spunky kids (for example, Anya from The Game of Thrones); I should have heard of it, bought it, read it much earlier!

Spunky, strong-willed eleven-year-old Mirka Herschberg isn’t interested in knitting lessons from her stepmother, or how-to-find-a-husband advice from her sister, or you-better-not warnings from her brother. There’s only one thing she does want: to fight dragons!
Granted, no dragons have been breathing fire around Hereville, the Orthodox Jewish community where Mirka lives, but that doesn’t stop the plucky girl from honing her skills. She fearlessly stands up to local bullies. She battles a very large, very menacing pig. And she boldly accepts a challenge from a mysterious witch, a challenge that could bring Mirka her heart’s desire: a dragon-slaying sword! All she has to do is find—and outwit—the giant troll who’s got it!
A delightful mix of fantasy, adventure, cultural traditions, and preteen commotion, Hereville will captivate readers with its exciting visuals and entertaining new heroine.

10. The Best of Charles de Lint

Charles de Lint is about to be kidnapped by me, as I have warned him several times before. He is not to share his works with anyone else. This compilation came out in July 2010, but it too was recently unearthed by me. Go on, say it, I am cheating with my springtime list. I can’t help it, folks, I save the best to let it last (*grimaces at the really bad joke, but what the hell*).

At turns whimsical, dark, and mystical, this extraordinary collection of retold fairy tales and new, modern myths redefine the boundaries of magic. Compiling favored stories suggested by the author and his fans, this delightful treasury contains the most esteemed and beloved selections that de Lint has to offer.
Innovative characters in unexpected places are the key to each plot: playful Crow Girls who sneak into the homes of their sleeping neighbors; a graffiti artist who risks everything to expose a long-standing conspiracy; a half-human girl who must choose between her village and her strange birthright; and an unrepentant trickster who throws one last party to reveal a folkloric tradition. Showcasing some of the finest offerings within the realms of urban fantasy and magical realism, this essential compendium of timeless tales will charm and inspire.

So, what are your spring fever books?