TOP 100 Books Collected by a Dragon

Welcome to Dragons Den’s 100th post!

To celebrate this monumental occasion, I have collected a list of my top 100 books. Each book on the list is a book that 1) I own, 2) has had a positive impact on my life, and 3) belongs in everyone’s den of books. This list is broken down into categories and is by no means the whole of my personal library. You can check out most of these books at your local bookstore or from the author’s websites.

Comics: 

Poetry

Fiction

Nonfiction

Misc. (I.E. I wanted to include these just because I love them so.)

Book Review of To Love As Aswang

On August 1, 2016, my review of To Love As Aswang appeared on the Halo-Halo Review.

To read that review, please click here.

To buy the book, please click here.

I adore this book. I am not saying this because I was asked to. To be honest, I asked to be a reviewer simply because I loved Diwata so much that I could not wait to read the next collection by Reyes.

By the by, I would like to announce that I am now taking book review requests. If there is a book you believe I or anyone should read, please provide a suggestion below. Thank you.

Memorial Weekend Reading

Today begins the Memorial Day Weekend, here in the United States. Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Traditionally, it was also a day where families would visit national grave sites and decorate each fallen heroes last resting place.

As writers, it is always important to remember those who have come before us. They inspire us, give our work meaning and depth, and often provide us with clarity in a very unclear world.

Given this, I have compiled a top 10 books to read this weekend while honoring our fallen soldiers. Each image links to the Amazon page or Goodreads page and most can be found at your local library. Happy reading!

1. Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five

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2. Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms

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3. Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead

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4. Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace

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5. Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief

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6. Homer’s The Iliad

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7. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind

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8. Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities

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9. Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables

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10. Joseph Heller’s Catch-22

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NATIONAL POETRY MONTH

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Happy National Poetry Month!

National Poetry Month is the largest literary celebration around the world, with readers young and old marking the importance of poetry in our culture and lives. There are many ways to celebrate poetry (reading, writing, going to poetry events, carrying a favorite poem around with you, etc.) and one of my favorite resources to explore this month, Poets.org, has a list of creatives activities to do during April.

One of their suggestions is to carry a poem in your pocket or share some of your favorite poems with your friends.

Now, having read a lot of poetry books in my days as a graduate dragon, I have a large horde of poems that I call my favorites. However, limiting the list to Rosie’s to 10 Poems for 2016, seems too … limiting. I am a dragon writer, after all, and as such I would be embarrassed to show off only 10 gems when I could display 10 treasure chests.

Without much ado, I present to you, A Dragon’s Top 10 Poetry Books:

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The Lorax taught me that you can tell a story, a sad and thoughtful story, through music. I didn’t know, as a kid, why the music came out of everyone who read the Lorax aloud to me, but the music came all the same. This was my first introduction to narrative poetry.

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I know, I know, technically this is not a poetry book. But there are enough memorable poems here to make my list. Also, I did my undergraduate thesis on the poems held inside this treasure chest. Nonsense poetry that hides depth and meaning while teaching the reader how to read … Lewis Carroll was a genius.

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From Lewis Carroll, I found my way to Edgar Allan Poe, writer of the infamous “Raven.” Enough narrative poem. I became hooked soon after this. Poetry began as necessary to me as water.

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It was in High School that I came to love this poet. Something — about her — struck — me — deeply.

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I found myself craving songs with meaning in my high school life. Songs that changed history and then I found Hughes. “Dream Deferred” still rings in me like an unfinished song or a tune caught in my throat.

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I am cheating here because 1) Carlos Bulosan is a treasure all on his own and 2) for some reason I cannot find a full complete collection of his works on line. I can copies of his poems scattered about my files and I keep America is in the Heart by next to my Bible.

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AUDRE LORDE, ENOUGH SAID, MOVING ON!

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“here yet be dragons”
so many languages have fallen
off of the edge of the world
into the dragon’s mouth. some

where there be monsters whose teeth
are sharp and sparkle with lost

people. lost poems. who
among us can imagine ourselves
unimagined? who

among us can speak with so fragile
tongue and remain proud?

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FOR ALL THAT IS HOLY, BUY THIS BOOK! I was so inspired by Ms. Carmen Giménez Smith that I even wrote her a Facebook fan letter.

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I already reviewed this one, but, as with all the books in this list… READ IT IF YOU LOVE POETRY, FANTASY, AND THOUGHTFUL DISCUSSIONS! … cough… roar…

I hope you enjoyed this list and the books found within. What are your favorite collection of poems? Who are your favorite poets? Please comment down below.

As always, peace, love, and pancakes!

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Review of The Boy in The Suit Case

Book by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

Review by Rose Booker

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

What would you do if you found a boy in a suitcase? What if your friend led you to the locker where the suitcase was found? What if said friend was later found dead? What is one poor Red Cross nurse to do! Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis explore these and many more intriguing questions in their novel, The Boy in the Suit Case.

This novel is a wonderfully dark Scandinavian thriller about Nina Borg, a Red Cross nurse with a bad habit of doing good deeds. When her old friend, Karin, suddenly leaves her a token to a public locker in the Copenhagen train station, poor Nina is plunged into her most daring good deed yet. Once she opens the locker, she finds a suitcase containing a small boy: naked, drugged, but alive.

What pulled me into the story was the style of the prose. The novel is tightly written and presented in a series of brief vignettes told through the eyes of the various characters. Each one serves as a puzzle piece, a clue, to why the boy was left in the suitcase. This structure adds to the suspense and the feeling of anxious confusion as each character plays their part. By the time Nina opens the suitcase, we are sure of only one thing: that child and Nina are in danger.

For the casual reader, the transitions between vignettes may seem sharp and sudden, only announced by the chapter-like breaks in the text and nothing else. However, this adds to the tone of the novel and by the third vignette I hardly noticed the transitions. In fact I began to read faster because of them – seeing each one build upon the other or fill in the gaps of the jig-saw puzzle that is this mystery.

I highly recommend this book to all those who love thrillers, mysteries, and high literature and to those who love a good puzzlers.

This review first appeared on Writers Advice, Hooked on Books page.

A Book Worth Biting Into

 

Review of Dracula in Love

Book by Karen Essex

Review by Rose Booker

A Book Worth Biting Into

I am going to be blunt here: I don’t have a taste for romances or vampires. In fact, I usually detest the very idea of pairing legitimate romantic inklings with the undead of any sort. The concept has become a cultural cliché. However, after reading just the first few pages Karen Essex’s novel, Dracula in Love, I was hooked in and I could not set the book done despite all my personal prejudices. Essex’s Dracula in Love caught me under its spell.

The novel is (on the surface) a retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula through the point of view of the genteel Mina Harker. Mina is the quintessentially pure Victorian heroine and her desires reflect this. That is, in the beginning. Through the course of her willing/unwilling seduction by Count Dracula (an affair that is rendered to the reader in such a way as to cause the flesh to become rosy red – i.e is hot as hell) Mina’s character morphs from an innocent Victorian woman obsessed with protecting her chastity and social image to an increasingly complex and sexually mature individual.

Which gets me to why I enjoyed this novel – the complex characters. Often times, novels such as these are largely plot-driven, leaving the reader with flat two-dimensional characters within a two-dimensional world. Yet, Essex’s takes the concept of Vampire-Human romance and adds emotional complexity, social intrigue, historically accurate depictions (my favorite being the asylum scandal), and internal conflict. All of this creates a world that is anything but flat.

Did I mention this book is hot? Essex has a way of making something as ethereal as a dream sensually stimulating and lusciously sexy. I don’t wish to spoil anything for the reader, but trust me when I say this: you will blush with pleasure throughout the love scenes.

I recommend this book to anyone who has a taste for the sensual, the Victorian-era, vampires, and surprisingly strong women characters.

Explore Your Mind with Dr. Surprise

Review of Synchronicity: The Art of Coincidence, Choice, and Unlocking Your Mind

Book by Dr. Kirby Surprise

Review by Rose Booker

You’re not feeling well and something is telling you not to go to class today, yet you go anyway because there’s a big test scheduled next week. The bus is late, there’s a traffic jam 12 miles long, yet you still go on ignoring the inconvenient events and your sniffling nose. You reach the class room door just to discover … the class is cancelled. Your intuition and the signs around you were right all along; you should’ve stayed home.

The above scenario is an all too common Synchronistic Event (SEs), often tossed away as coincidence, dumb luck, intuition, or simply a gut feeling during a specific moment in your life. Ever wondered if there was something more to them then just that? Well there is and you can find out more in Dr. Kirby Surprise’s Synchronicity: The Art of Coincidence, Choice, and Unlocking Your Mind.

One part science text book, one part metaphysical treatise, and two parts (non-fiction) story telling, Synchronicity is a book that will change the way you understand your own mind and the reality in which you live in. Through it, you will gain the ability to recognize your own SEs, create them, and recognize the SEs of other’s around you.

This book is written in such a way that anyone could easily grasp the concepts presented by the author. As an individual with an English degree (something as far away from the scientific field as Neptune is from the sun), I can vouched for this book’s accessibility. Moreover, it has changed my mind for better, and it can change yours too!

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in psychology, Jung, synchronicity, and, of course, to anyone who is interested in themselves.

Axis Mundi: In Pursuit of Healing through Place

Review of  Iona Dreaming

Book by Clare Cooper Marcus

Review by Rose Booker

Clare Cooper Marcus’s memoir, Iona Dreaming, is an inspirational account of personal survival and hope, in which Marcus shares her battle with cancer. This deepens into a contemplation of the events in her life and her physical, emotional and spiritual healing.

Recently retired with adult children, Marcus struggles with more than her cancer. The sudden stillness in her once fast-pace life, forces memories from her past into the forefront. Iona becomes a place were she confront these memories and learns to let go.

This work encourages the reader to search out for that one place on earth that allows one to heal. It doesn’t matter if there is nothing more than an inkling that pushes you toward a particular place. As Marcus wrote, “I cannot say why this particular place nurtures me as no other … Yet I know this is my place of healing. That is enough.”

Her work, however, does tend to lean on the pastoral. In this I mean that through demonstrating, first hand, the healing power of place, Marcus is taking part of a literary tradition as old as Middle English. This does not distract from the power of her message. On the contrary it adds to it through placing her work among some of the greatest writers in English history. I only mention it as a warning to those who sneer at anything that has the faintest hint of sentiment – this book may not be for you, at least not until you too find yourself searching for your place of healing.

I recommend this book to those in need of healing, to those with a deep yearning for a place in this big world (an axis mundi), and to those who love memoirs that let you into the author’s life the way a loving friend lets you into their home.

This review will soon appear on Writer Advice’s website.

“I can’t sleep. There is a poet stuck between the love lines of my palms”

Review of Diwata

Book by Barbara Jane Reyes

Review by Rose Booker

“Diwata,” Barbara Jane Reyes’s book of poetry, leads readers through a brief history of the Philippines, when colonization was just beginning to take hold of the archipelago and when magic was apart of each word and each breath.

One part story-telling, two parts rhythmic song, and all parts brilliantly written, Reyes’s poetry encapsulates the elements of Malakas and Magandá – the strong and beautiful. In “A Genesis of We, Cleaved,” a story of creation is told in a lovely voice that, despite the pain of separation that drips from each word, is strong and vibrant.

“Sea Incantation” and “Upland Dance” showcase Reyes’s lyrical and linguistically abilities; weaving Filipino and English words together without breaking from the rhythm. There is never a moment were the two languages sound jarring or out of harmony with one another.

Though gorgeous, each poem is not spared the horrors of colonization. Rape, murder, dismemberment, and exile are common themes throughout the book. “Visitation” and the “Eve” poems are just some that highlight Reyes’s honest treatment of this subject, which is clearly close to her heart.

If there is one negative thing to say about these poems, it is that they are so compact and filled with wonder that I was pleasantly compelled to read them over and over again (I lost count after the 10th read through).

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Filipino poetry, myths, and history and to those who love magic and poetry.

This review will appear on Writer Advice’s Hooked on Books.

“Who knows the blues of life in prison?”

Review of Shahid Reads His Own Palm

Book by Reginald Dwayne Betts

Review by Rose Booker

Who knows how to make wine out of government mandated juice while behind prison walls? Who knows the ancestors that didn’t go to Heaven?

“Who knows the blues of life in prison?”

Reginald Dwayne Betts does. Within his collection of poems, Shahid Reads His Own Palm, Betts guides us through the jail cells of America, exposing the harsh realities of what the American prison system does to its people locked behind bars and what that, in turn means, for America as a whole.

The first thing that struck me when I encountered Betts’s poetry was the raw emotion and honesty that he embeds into each poem. He can take an idea, such as solitude in “The Spanish Word for Solitude” and make it so tangible that even in a crowded café I felt as if I was alone.

Betts use of traditional form, moreover, complements the tone of his poems. This is especially true of his ghazals, where the form lends itself easily to the themes of lost, redemption, and revelation.

Finally, the music within this work is reminiscent of a psalm one moment and blues lyrics the next. For instance, “Song,” when read aloud, sounds as if it should be accompanied by a guitar or a saxophone.

Though the topic is heart wrenching, Betts presents it to us in a startlingly beautiful way.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in African American poetry, the American prison system, and poetry about redemption.

This review will appear on Writer Advice’s Hooked on Books.