T5W: Titles that Begin with T

Today for Top 5 Wednesday I used a random generator and got the letter T, so I’ll be listing 5 of my top books that begin with T. I figure the words “the” and “to” are kind of cheating, so I’ll only list books that begin with T using other words.

The Tea Dragon Society by K. O’Neill

Summary: From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After comes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.

After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.

Review: 5 stars. PERFECTION. OMG the art! The little details, the bits at chapter beginnings and between panels, the freaking adorable dragons! O’Neill seriously says 1000 words with their panels. Hese and Erik’s story *cries.* Minette and Greta’s friendship. The themes of disability (both physical and memory) and care and acceptance and tradition and consent (the adults consistently ask the girls if they’re okay with things proceeding a certain way), all touched on and wrapped in a beautiful heartwarming little graphic novel of pure joy. Plus it’s ADORABLE LITTLE POCKET DRAGONS and TEA. I was incoherent after reading this book. This is the book I return to when I’m having a bad day or just need that wonderful, comforting escape.

Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin

Summary: Book 4 of the Earthsea Cycle. Years ago, they had escaped together from the sinister Tombs of Atuan—she, an isolated young priestess; he, a powerful wizard. Now she is a farmer’s widow, having chosen for herself the simple pleasures of an ordinary life. And he is a broken old man, mourning the powers lost to him through no choice of his own.

Once, when they were young, they helped each other at a time of darkness and danger and shared an adventure like no other. Now they must join forces again, to help another in need — the physically and emotionally scarred child whose own destiny has yet to be revealed.

Review: 5 stars. Pure feminist genius. I can’t describe enough how mind-blowingly well the exploration of the themes in this book is executed. It takes the seemingly powerless characters-women, children, the elderly, the disabled-and showcases their true power. The afterword brings it all together and makes me love Le Guin even more. Just go pick up this series right now.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Summary: Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate. Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person -no mean feat for a Black woman in the 30’s. Zora Neale Hurston’s classic 1937 novel follows Janie from her nanny’s plantation shack to Logan Killick’s farm, to all Black Eatonville, to the Everglades, and back to Eatonville- where she gathers in “the great fish-net” of her life. Janie’s quest for identity takes her on a journey during which she learns what love is, experiencess life’s joys and sorrows, and comes home to herself in peace.

Review: 5 stars. If I were judging just the story alone, it’d be a 4 or 4.5 stars. But the flawless writing bumps it up to an indisputable 5.

For anyone studying the craft of writing, this book is a perfect specimen. Hurston often includes such detailed micro-descriptions of scenes that in theory are unnecessary but add SO MUCH to the story’s experience, tone, and meaning. She gives life to inanimate objects, like the hurricane and the lake at the end, that pull the reader in and hold on tight.

Janie’s journey to self-discovery of her own happiness is an absolute joy to follow her on, plus the way she starts to spread it in the end to Phoeby (“Lawd!” Phoeby breathed out heavily, “Ah done growed ten feet higher from jus’ listenin’ tuh you, Janie. Ah ain’t satisfied wid mahself no mo’. Ah means tuh make Sam take me fishin’ wid him after this.”). That theme of female self-discovery and empowerment reminds me strongly of Jane Eyre (even similarly named protagonists-the books are very different, obviously, but I wonder if Brontë’s book had any influence).

This book is so powerful and genre-breaking. I highly recommend text versions with forewords/afterwords that discuss its context.

Those Who Walk in Darkness by John Ridley

Summary: John Ridley’s Those Who Walk In Darkness is a futuristic, sci-fi thriller filled with superheroes and super cops in a battle between good and evil. Soledad O’Roark is a tough, no-nonsense rookie on an elite team of police officers whose sole mission is to capture and deport metanormals. Metanormals are humans who have altered genetic traits which enable them to perform extraordinary feats, like fly, manipulate elements (metal, fire, water), become intangible (move through solid objects), etc. However, the most feared and deadly of the metanormals is the telepath who can enter the mind and take total control of one’s actions, emotions, and thoughts with little to no warning. If you are picking up a strong “X-Men” vibe, then you are right on point.

4 stars. It’s been a long time since I read this book, but I remember really enjoying the worldbuilding and gray morality.

Thrall by Natasha Trethewey

Summary: Natasha Trethewey’s poems are at once deeply personal and historical—exploring her own interracial and complicated roots—and utterly American, connecting them to ours. The daughter of a black mother and white father, a student of history and of the Deep South, she is inspired by everything from colonial paintings of mulattos and mestizos to the stories of people forgotten by history. Meditations on captivity, knowledge, and inheritance permeate Thrall, as she reflects on a series of small estrangements from her poet father and comes to an understanding of how, as father and daughter, they are part of the ongoing history of race in America.

Review: 5 stars. I am in jaw-dropping awe at how Trethewey weaves themes/motifs throughout her collections, to the point that just when you start to forget about them she winds her way back to them in the most impactful way possible. I found especially brilliant the theme and imagery of looking back while trying to move forward, of the intricate relationship between nostalgia, knowledge, and progress. Cannot recommend enough.

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