Seasonal Reads: Dead Beat

Do you ever find yourself coming back to a certain story at a certain time of year?  I often re-read books during a specific month or season that I feel is inextricably tied to the book.  Here’s what I’m reading right now to get in the spirit of the season.

 Dead Beat, The Dresden Files #7 (Jim Butcher)

17683Harry Dresden is the only wizard in the Chicago phone book, and it’s his responsibility to keep his city safe from werewolves, vampires, necromancers, Fae, and other assorted magic users looking for trouble.

You should definitely be reading The Dresden Files because they are great books that actually get even better as you go.  What makes Dead Beat in particular so special that I would re-read it?

First of all, it’s set at Halloween, featuring a vampire, several necromancers, and Herne the Hunter as antagonists.  So perfect for getting in the Halloween spirit.

It also introduces some really great characters.  Harry has many allies that help him along the way; my favorite is cop Karrin Murphy, but she’s barely in this book at all.  Don’t let that deter you.  Instead, Harry’s sidekick is Waldo Butters, a small, cowardly, polka-loving medical examiner.  He is awesome and he only gets more awesomer in later books.

Like all the Dresden books, Dead Beat stands on its own well while still fitting in well with the rest of the series.  It ties up some loose ends of books that came before it and also sets up some things for future installments.

But if you’re looking for what really makes Dead Beat amazing, this image says it all:

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Enjoy!

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Seasonal Reads: Harry Potter

Do you ever find yourself coming back to a certain story at a certain time of year?  I often re-read books during a specific month or season that I feel is inextricably tied to the book.  Here’s what I’m reading right now to get in the spirit of the season.

 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling)

2Harry Potter for me is practically synonymous with summer reading.  I don’t think I was ever assigned it as summer reading in school, though I daresay that is common.  Or at least it was when I was in school.

All the Harry Potter books have strong ties to summer.  Harry’s birthday is July 31st, and all the books start around this time.  They also finish at the end of the school year, the start of summer.

But most importantly, the books were released in the summer.  From Book 4 on, summer was when I read all of them for the first time.  I’m sure many of you even attended release parties at midnight for some of the later editions; I did for Book 6.

I remember specifically that for Book 5, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, my sister had placed a pre-order from Borders/Amazon.  On June 21, 2003, she was not home to receive it…but I was.  The next day I left for tennis camp, with the book packed in my suitcase.  I read the whole thing that week, before she ever got a hold of it.  (In my defense, she was still gone most of the time I was at camp.)

I distinctly remember sitting in the camp dorm room crying, not when Sirius died (I was too in shock), but later at the conversation in Dumbledore’s office, when he seems so defeated, telling Harry about the prophecy and how his fatal flaw was that he cared about Harry too much.  I’m getting a little teary thinking about it now.

So for me it seems natural to come back to this series as a summer read, though I probably re-read Prisoner of Azkaban most frequently, as it’s my favorite.

Seasonal Reads: Pride and Prejudice

Do you ever find yourself coming back to a certain story at a certain time of year?  I often re-read books during a specific month or season that I feel is inextricably tied to the book.  Here’s what I’m reading right now to get in the spirit of the season.

 Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

P&P

Pride and Prejudice is probably the non-YA novel that I’ve reread the most.  I have multiple copies of it, and it was one of the few English novels I took to Spain with me during my study abroad.  I’ve even psychoanalyzed its characters.

For me, spring is a wonderful time to re-read P&P.  The story takes place over the course of a year, so really any time is a good time, as all seasons contain some significant event, from Mr. Bingley’s arrival at Michelmas, to the Gardiners’ summer trip to Derbyshire.  The beginning of April brings one of the defining moments of the story, Darcy’s ill-fated proposal to Elizabeth at the parsonage at Rosings.  It is a perfect “Act II” moment, the low point in their relationship, but it becomes the starting point for change and growth in both characters.

I also associate the book with spring because that’s when I first read it in my junior year of high school.  It was not actually my first Austen novel (I’d read Emma two years before), but it is the book that made me a Janeite.  For my Brit Lit class, we had to do a multimedia group project, and one girl in our group was a talented artist, so we painted a big movie-poster-style piece of Elizabeth with Darcy and Pemberley in the background.  I admit it was heavily inspired by the 1995 BBC miniseries, of which we watched all 6 VHS tapes, borrowed from the library, as we worked.

As the prototype of modern rom-coms, P&P is ultimately a happy, optimistic book–I think that’s another reason I enjoy reading it in spring, a time of new beginnings.  Despite its cutting depictions of characters such as Lady Catherine and Elizabeth’s parents, and its sardonic quips about societal expectations, it still seems full of hope.  It never fails as a pick-me-up, and hence I will keep rereading it whenever I’m in need of some cheer.

Seasonal Reads: The Dark is Rising

Do you ever find yourself coming back to a certain story at a certain time of year?  I often re-read books during a specific month or season that I feel is inextricably tied to the book.  Here’s what I’m reading right now to get in the spirit of the season.

 The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper)

It may have been The Grey King that won the Newbery, but my favorite book in Susan Cooper’s classic fantasy series is the one the series takes its name from: The Dark is Rising.  It was the first book I read in the series, and I have re-read it many a December.  When I was studying in Spain, I even found a version in the local public library (I think it was called Los Seis Signos de La Luz) to help me practice my reading skills in between the García Márquez.

The story begins on this date, Midwinter’s Eve, the day before Will Stanton’s 11th birthday.  He wakes on Midwinter Day to a different existence, because he has come into his power as an Old One, and his quest for the six Signs of the Light has begun.

Rather than the traditional Christmas cheer, this book gives the season a more ominous feel.  All Will wants for his birthday is snow, and snow he gets.  So much snow that the village is stranded, the phones out, and even fireplaces are getting doused by snow coming down the chimney.  Over the twelve days of Christmas, the Dark is rising in power, using the cold and snow to stop him from completing his quest.  The book culminates with the ride of Herne the Hunter on the eve of Twelfth Night. (If you have read the Dresden Files, you know Herne as the Erlking–pretty scary guy.)

But parts of the book do convey that Christmas warmth.  Will is one of nine children, and while I’m sure this sucks at times, at Christmas it seems idyllic.  On Christmas Eve they have a Yule log and decorate the Christmas tree, then they all go caroling and come home to cocoa and mince pies.  The caroling is another reason I love this book: it actually has the words to the second, third, and fourth verses of “Good King Wenceslas” (yes! there are more verses–five total in fact).

If you haven’t read the series, this is a great place to start, and it’s a perfect book to curl up with under blanket with some hot chocolate and watch the snow come down outside.

Seasonal Reads: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Do you ever find yourself coming back to a certain story at a certain time of year?  I often re-read books during a specific month or season that I feel is inextricably tied to the book.  Here’s what I’m reading right now to get in the spirit of the season.

 Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury)

swtwcThis short novel, published in 1962, is basically the original “Goosebumps” book.  R.L. Stine has said it’s his favorite scary book and it had a big influence on him as a teen (here’s a cute video of him talking about it for Google Play.)  But even beyond the dark fantasy/horror genre, it’s really a classic in American literature.

SWTWC is the story of two 13-yr-old boys—Will and Jim, one light, one dark—who get caught up with Cooger and Dark’s Combined Shadow Shows when it comes to their small Midwestern town at 3am one late October day.  Will and Jim are curious boys, but the carnival will do anything to protect its secrets…and it’s always looking for new members.

The story’s horror aspects stay in “creepy” territory, and I like how psychological it is.  This is really a perfect book for teenagers, but at the same time stands up to multiple re-readings as an adult.  The prose is simply gorgeous and the book has so much to say about concepts like temptation and desires, growing up and then growing old, friendship, fatherhood, and conquering your fears.  Every time I read it I’m struck by new profound and beautiful phrases.  This is actually the only Bradbury I’ve read, and I have no idea why because this is the kind of writing that is sadly missing from a lot of popular literature.