Top Ten Tuesday – Rainy day reads

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

I don’t have a lot of ideas for this top ten, but I’ll do my best. (It’s actually been raining for a few days in my city now, so, technically, all the books I read since Wednesday are rainy day reads !)

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1 . The magician’s nephew, by C.S. Lewis

2 . The horse and his boy, by C.S. Lewis – Okay, I know that’s kind of cheating, two books of the same series, but hear me out : I’m not putting the entire chronicles of Narnia here, because some of those books bring me more comfort than others, and, for me, the definition of a “rainy day book” is a book that is guaranteed to lift your spirits on a rainy day, when you’re staying in bed to avoid the cold outside of your apartment (or house, for those of you who live in a house !) and hear the sound of the water falling on your window.

3, 4 and 5. Uglies, Pretties, Specials, by Scott Westerfield – I wrote a review of the series here, and I’m putting the first, second and third book on this list (yeah, I’m cheating twice, why not ?), because the books I read in my teenage years seem to give me some sort of nostalgia – the good kind, where you look fondly on your memories and are glad that this book was there, at this moment, and that you read it.

6 . Ellana, la prophétie, by Pierre Bottero – this one is in french, and it’s amazing. It’s definitely one of my favourite books of all time, and it has never failed to bring me joy whenever I read it. Rainy days in bed with this book are always transformed into good days.

(Also, the protagonist has claws like Wolverine. She’s SO COOL.)

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D’un monde à l’autre, by Pierre Bottero

7 . D’un monde à l’autre, by Pierre Bottero – Another one by the same french author, this is the first book in an amazing series of 13.

It tells the story of Camille, a young french girl, who discovers that she can jump from our world to a parallel universe by using an incredible power, called Imagination. The writing is splendid, the characters come alive before your very eyes, and the way Bottero describes his protagonist’s powers is incredibly poetic.

There’s been multiple editions of these books, and the latest one is the comic book pictured here. (I love it. The art represents perfectly what I pictured in my mind when I read the original text).

8 . The witch who came in from the cold : season one – this is a Serial Box Publishing book, and the first one like this that I ever read (my review is here, but it’s in french !). I got it a while ago, but the atmosphere of this story would be perfect for a rainy day without too much work to do.

9 . Breaking up is hard to do… but you could’ve done better, by Hilary Campbell – I wrote a review of this book here, and it’s on this list just because it’s funny, and I laughed a lot when I read it the first time. And, you know, sometimes on a rainy day, you just need to read something fun to remind you that there’s good things to come, even if you can’t always see them.

10 . I don’t really have a 10th book to add, so I’m leaving this spot empty, and I’ll look at everyone else’s posts for recommendations !

The Uglies trilogy, by Scott Westerfield

Have you ever read a book as a child, then read it again years later to see if it was truly as good as in your memory ? And if so, was it as good ?

That’s what I wanted to know when I picked up Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld, and I must admit that I’m really glad that I decided to read it again.

Warning : this is going to be full of spoilers.

Uglies is the first book of a series of four, that takes place in a futuristic world where our civilization has been destroyed. In its place, individual cities stand, and the world is divided between the Uglies – people under 16 – and the Pretties – people over 16, who have undergone a chirurgical operation to make them perfect. A symmetrical face, well-defined muscles and no baby fat… and something else. Something wrong that makes the Pretties, for lack of a better word, airheaded.

Tally Youngblood, an Ugly whose only dream is to finally reach 16 and get the operation, is thrown into a world of rebellion and uncertainty when her new best friend, Shay, runs away right before her birthday.  The Special Circumstances, or “Cruel Pretties” as Tally calls them in her head, want her to go looking for her friend… and lead them to the anti-operation resistance. Not a single thing goes according to Tally’s plan(s), and she finds herself lost between what she’s always been told to want – the perfect life, the happy life, the Pretty life – and what she, individually, comes to desire : freedom.

One of the main themes of this series is the absence of choice (here comes the big spoilers !) : whenever she tries to make things right, Tally always ends up with an impossible choice to make – or a non-existent one.

She learns the truth about the Pretty operation… then has no choice but to give herself up and undergo it willingly, and trust her friends to be able to reach her and try their “cure” on her. As a Pretty, she once again manages to break through her conditioning, and through the wrong in her brain… only to be captured by the Special Circumstances, and be operated on a second time – but this time, she’s made into a weapon.

Where the first two books are relatively light, with Tally’s innocence keeping her from seeing just how dark and disturbing her world is, the third one, Specials, shows everything in a different light. Her worldview is compromised, and the reader can see it from the beginning : where the Pretty operation had made her bubble-headed, the Special one made her cruel and cold. The reader can see it – but she can’t.

I absolutely love Tally Youngblood. She’s a hero who has to fight, every day, to keep her mind clear and out of anyone else’s control but her own, and that’s something I appreciate a lot : she’s saving the world, yes. But she’s also saving herself, bit by bit, and saving yourself from something (or someone) who had absolute control over your life and every one of your choices is, in my opinion, one of the most brave and strong things anyone can do. The other characters are well made, with their own stories, lives and emotions, and the world-building is amazing.

This is a series of books I would definitely recommend (and it’s not only because f the nostalgia !), and read again !

There are a lot of heavy themes that are talked about a lot in the third book, though, that I think readers should be warned about, such as scarification, severe mental illness and anorexia. From my own experience, I felt like these themes were treated well, but my experience is limited to the things I have personally been through, and is in no way meant to be universal.

Did you read this series when it first came out ? If so, what did you think of it ? Are there any books you’ve read as a teen that you’d like to read again as an adult ?

Art matters, by Neil Gaiman

I’ve had a pretty busy week, but today, I got to read a 5 stars book ! It’s called Art matters, by Neil Gaiman, and with illustrations by Chris Ridell, published in September 2018. This review might be a bit messy, because I’m writing it while procrastinating right before a final exam, but this book is EXCELLENT so I hope you’ll stay to read it 🙂

When I got the library copy of this book, I only knew two things about it :

  1. That Neil Gaiman wrote it.
  2. That one of the sentences from this book was :

The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before

I’m 100% convinced that anything by Neil Gaiman is worth reading. This book, which is a compilation of texts that have already been published separately – Credo, Why our future depends on libraries, dreaming and daydreaming, Making a chair and Make good art – , is no exception to that rule. It’s about creativity, and the power of words and art in our lives, and in our world.

The text I liked the most in this book is the last one : Make good art. When I was a child, I dreamed about writing books one day, and Gaiman’s words in this essay hit really close to home :

Sometimes, the way to do what you hope to do will be clear cut, and sometimes it will be almost impossible to decide whether or not you are doing the correct thing, because you’ll have to balance your goals and hopes with feeding yourself, paying debts, finding work, settling for what you can get.

My dreams of writing are still there, and I hope to realize them one day, but I still have to balance that goal and the hundred other things I want to do, should do, and have to do in my life. It’s a difficult topic to think about, but a necessary one, I think, for anyone who wishes to make art, whether it’s photography, illustration or writing : if you can’t dedicate every hour of your day to your art, that doesn’t make you any less of an artist, and it doesn’t diminish the value and quality of your work.

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Choose art. It matters.

Other things in this book are very meaningful for me : I’ve been struggling with imposter syndrome for a few years now, in university, because every time I pass an exam with a good grade, I feel a bit like what he describes in the next few pages – that one day, the fraud police will come to my door and tell me they noticed I wasn’t in my place, that I had been given too many opportunities to do things I shouldn’t have been allowed to do.

The fact that such a famous and successful author acknowledges this, and talks about his own experience with impostor syndrome, is very important to me, and it’s one of the many reasons why I would definitely recommend this – as a gift for a friend, for a sibling, or for yourself !

This is a book that reminds you that yes, this idea that you have, this project you would like to do, this thing you want to make – you should do it.

Take a chance, and make art that’s yours. Make good art. It matters.