If I Were Stuck On A Desert Island

We’ve all talked about it at some stage. What would you take with you to a desert island. If I’m not allowed to take a lemon tree so that I can use the lemons to charge my kindle then I suppose I will have to choose my top five books to take with me.

And what better time to share that list with you than now, when life is up in the air and we could be stuck at home at any time. Especially when I was debating comfort reading or trying something new during the recent lockdown. I ended up just not reading most of last week and turning my eyes square in front of the TV.

These books are up there for my comfort reads though – I know what to expect which is also why I tend to lean into romance books because I find the structure and predictability soothing when the world is…the real world. As I wrote about A Secret Love a few weeks on in this blog. I haven’t included it in my list today but it would definitely come along with me to a desert island or a downward spiral.

Link to Catalogue record for Bet Me

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Minerva Dobbs knows all about risk management, which is why it’s such a shock when David, her extremely logical choice for a boyfriend, dumps her three weeks before her perfect sister’s wedding: David was not supposed to be a wild card. So when Min overhears David make a bet with his old nemesis–the gorgeous and successful Calvin Morrisey–that Cal can’t get Min into bed in a month, she decides that fate has just handed her a stacked deck: she can make Cal sweat his sex appeal and get a date to the wedding, if she plays along and doesn’t fold. What follows is a novel of destiny, chaos theory, Krispy Kreme donuts, the spirit of Elvis, Chicken Marsala, and a gamble for the highest stake of all: true love.

I first read this book when my sister lent it to me while I was travelling in Europe a few lot of years ago. Then, when I got home I bought myself a copy because it’s an amazing book.

This may be the perfect romance novel.

I love Min, the main character who is body positive (when her mother’s voice isn’t in her head), her sister, her two best friends, the weird cat she adopts, her insane shoes, her sensible job, etc.

I also like Cal, the leading man who starts off looking like a bit of a ‘not very nice guy’ but who is, who has a terrible family, good friends, an awesome nephew, and who doesn’t want to fall in love with Min.

But, obviously, fate and the author refuse to allow him to get away from TRUUUUUUU LOVVVE (see Princess Bride below for the reference). Food plays a bit of a role in this book as evidenced by the scene with Krispy Kreme doughnuts – it’s the reason I keep thinking I might like them when I really don’t.

The book plays on the whole idea of someone betting someone else they can’t take someone out/take someone to bed but Min knows about it and Cal doesn’t really make the bet and it becomes a bit of an inside joke between them because Min isn’t interested in someone like Cal and Cal doesn’t want anyone including Min. Then there’s the bed and the cat and chicken marsala. Eventually, we get our happily ever after…

I haven’t kept a track of how many times I’ve re-read this book but it’s more than one and probably less than twenty.

The only downside to this book is that thinking about it makes me sad that it’s been so long since I’ve been able to read a new book by Jennifer Crusie.

Link to Catalogue record for One For The Money

One For The Money by Janet Evanovich

Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is down on her luck. She’s lost her job. Her car’s been repossesed and her apartment is fast becoming furniture free. Enter Cousin Vinnie, a low-life who runs a bail-bonds company.

This book…

Okay, so you know when you’re living your life and pretending that you’re an adult and you know what you’re doing and then life proves that you’re bad at adulting and life is HARD!

That is when I read this book because no matter how bad I am at adulting, and no matter how crappy my life is at that moment and how many things are going wrong it’s not as bad as Stephanie’s life. And that makes me feel good.

Plus there’s crime (love a good mystery), there’s humour (sometimes you laugh until it hurts and sometimes you’re sitting at your desk with a mask on and remembering that scene at the hospital from book 20 or something when Tank goes down hard during a birth scene). There are two hot male leads (I know I should be team Morelli but I’m definitely team Ranger – it’s the way he calls her babe when she destroys his cars). There is GRANDMA MAZUR

GRANDMA MAZUR!!!

There is so much to these books and there are 26 of them, and counting, so it’s hard for me to try and remember which I should mention here and which are spoilers. So, I’ll talk a little about this book.

Stephanie used to be a lingerie buyer but lost her job – she has no money, no car, no prospects except a cousin who did something unknown with a duck who can be blackmailed into letting her be a bounty hunter. She has no skills to be a bounty hunter.

Enter Ranger…a character based on The Rock back when he was ‘just’ a wrestler and before he bloomed into everything we see now. Ranger has the skills and knowledge to be a bounty hunter. Stephanie has pluck and a lack of self-preservation. Then there is Morelli – a cop who is on the run because he apparently killed a criminal informant. So, obviously Stephanie goes after Morelli…how hard can it be? It will be hard and things will be dark but Evanovich’s writing, Stephanie’s pluck, and the humour of the book make it a great read.

Stephanie gets a little better at the bounty hunter thing as the books progress but she’s never going to convince anyone she’s got this adulthood all figured out. But they are great books, fun to read even after so many. Plus, did I mention Grandma Mazur?

Link to Catalogue record for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive. Addressed in green ink on yellowish parchment with a purple seal, they are swiftly confiscated by his grisly aunt and uncle. Then, on Harry’s eleventh birthday, a great beetle-eyed giant of a man called Rubeus Hagrid bursts in with some astonishing news: Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. An incredible adventure is about to begin.

I understand that this is ‘technically’ a series but I can’t pick between the books (okay, fine – if you twist my arm I suppose it would be Prisoner of Azkaban) but I really think you need to lean in and take the whole saga. Besides, if I’m getting to pack for this deserted island paradise then surely the whole series won’t be that much of a problem.

I started reading this series when it was just the first three (this does make me feel old, thanks for wondering) and no matter what happens post-publication or online now it doesn’t change the fact that these books are solid – there is a great story with awesome characters even if Harry could make better choices and listen to Hermione (and others) more often.

Yes, looking at it through the lens of 2021 there could/should be more representation in a number of areas but it is a product of its time and there is nothing wrong with enjoying it for what it is. And refusing to read the epilogue because it ruined your ships (I may be old but I’m stubborn). 

I don’t think I need to say much about this book or the series it will make you laugh/cry/go from love to hate with a character who…anyway. And it gives us what we need sometimes in our books – a happy ending where good wins over evil and while that might not fix everything it’s a VERY good start.

Link to Catalogue record for Persuasion

Persuasion by Jane Austen (also available as an ebook, eaudiobook, and audiobook)

Eight years ago, Anne Elliot broke off her engagement to the dashing young naval officer Frederick Wentworth. Though she loved him with all her heart, she followed the advice of Lady Russell, her only true friend, whose greater experience and wisdom she trusted. Lady Russell was as worried by Wentworth’s self-confident manner as by his lack of any title, land, or money. Wentworth was crushed and embittered by Anne’s rebuke. Anne was only crushed. Now twenty-seven and considered a faded beauty, she is resigned to a spinster’s life. Then she learns that Wentworth, now a captain and wealthy with prize money from the Napoleonic Wars, has returned. While Anne visits her married younger sister, Mary, Wentworth pays frequent calls on Mary’s two charming sisters-in-law, and Anne must endure Mary’s debates with her husband over which of the girls Wentworth should marry. Anne takes solace in the fact that only Wentworth and Lady Russell know that he courted her. She tries to avoid him. When she cannot, she is polite but formal, and he pays her little notice. She knows he has not forgiven her, and his presence is a constant reminder of what she has lost. Wentworth, meanwhile, may have ideas of his own.

I know that a lot of people out there would say they would take Pride and Prejudice but for me it is the story of Anne Elliot (so under appreciated by her family) and Captain Wentworth (a naval captain with a little too much wounded pride) that I adore. It’s my personal favourite Austen.

Anne is the only member of her family with any sense and is therefore taken advantage of and treated with flippant disinterest by all of them. Her family is in financial trouble because her father and older sister don’t have a sensible bone in their bodies so her home is let to Admiral Croft. Admiral Croft just happens to be the brother-in-law of the man that Anne loved seven years earlier but was persuaded not to marry because he was not an ‘advantageous match’ – Frederick Wentworth.

Of course, Captain Wenworth comes to visit his sister and he’s beautifully stoic and wounded. Anne is still in love with him obviously and while there is little indication as far as she can see that he still thinks of her at all nicely the reader knows better. They spend time at Uppercross, but the story really gets going when his rather reckless indulgences of Louisa Musgrove and their trip to Lime force him to realise he’s a fool!

My absolute favourite scene is when Captain Wentworth leaves the letter hidden among papers for Anne to find – a perfect declaration. I love it every time I read it.

No matter that it’s been hundreds of years, there is still a lot we can learn by reading Jane Austen because her comments on society, human failings, and love do not age even if the physical trappings of time have changed.

Link to Catalogue record for Princess Bride

Princess Bride by William Goldman (also available as an ebook)

Beautiful, flaxen-haired Buttercup has fallen for Westley, the farm boy, and when he departs to make his fortune, she vows never to love another. So when she hears that his ship has been captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts – who never leaves survivors – her heart is broken. But her charms draw the attention of the relentless Prince Humperdinck who wants a wife and will go to any lengths to have Buttercup. So starts a fairytale like no other, of fencing, fighting, torture, poison, true love, hate, revenge, giants, hunters, bad men, good men, beautifulest ladies, snakes, spiders, beasts, chases, escapes, lies, truths, passion and miracles.

I haven’t been lucky enough to read S. Morgenstern’s original – as Goldman explains it is a very hard book to find but he has done the world a huge favour in abridging this version for us; leaving only the good bits.

And what good bits they are.

This book is told in two parts – the Princess Bride and the autobiographical commentary that are included by the author that explain why the book means so much to him. You also get to know his family through this commentary.

I loved the notes – I want all the good things for his son but the real reason we are here is the main story – the one of Buttercup and Westley. Westley is the ‘farm boy’ on Buttercup’s farm and she doesn’t treat him that well but eventually they fall in love however a farm boy must have a way to provide for his wife so he leaves to seek his fortune. And dies.

Buttercup is distraught…her sweet Westley. She agrees to marry the prince, Humperdink which really says it all, but…and I know this will shock you…but, Westley IS NOT DEAD!

There is fighting, there is love, there are ROUSes, there is the most perfect kiss in the history of kisses and this book is amazing.

This book is only let down by its name because some people don’t realise that a book called The Princess Bride will in fact be very little about the wedding or the princessing but mostly about fighting for love through death, torture, blood feuds, giants, and underground lairs.

I am still desperate to visit Florin and read Buttercup’s Baby no matter what you tell me.

I can’t really talk about The Princess Bride without mentioning the movie so…

This movie is one of the all time best movies in the history of the world.

And anyone who disagrees will be won over like the little kid playing a video game, anything else is inconceivable.

The book and movie were written by the same person so it’s no surprise that they are closely connected plot-wise but it’s worth reading the book even if you’ve seen the movie enough to quote it in a blog-post.

And here is where we get the TRUUUU LUVVVVV reference from above. There are few movies out there that just work so well even the stuff that should be naff isn’t because it’s Carol Kane explaining that she’s not a witch she’s your wife, or Mandy Patinkin bleeding out and avenging his father – my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father…prepare to die! Or the ridiculous priest at the wedding who is into true love. It’s all amazing (okay so sometimes I want Buttercup to save herself a little more but I can let that go) and I encourage you to watch the movie with the ones you love this Library Lover’s Day…sorry, Valentine’s Day 🙂

Do you have a set of books, or a book, you would take with you to that deserted island? I’d love to hear about them.