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Armchair BEA – Day 4, Beyond the Borders

Armchair BEA 2014


Beyond the Borders:

So I’m going to totally geek out with this one. I can’t help it—I was an English major (with a history minor). And as wonderful as books like The Kite Runner are, for me, they just can’t compete with books like:

The IliadThe OdysseyThe HistoriesThe History of the Kings of BritainThe Canterbury Tales

The version of The Iliad that I actually read was in a monster Norton Anthology, and I still get chills when I think about the very first lines:

Sing, Goddess, Achilles’ rage, / Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks / Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls / Of heroes into Hades’ dark, / And left their bodies to rot as feasts / For dogs and birds, as Zeus’ will was done. 

Welcome to the world of the ancient Greeks, my friends.

Herodotus’ The Histories is just an incredible primary document, if not for the history itself, then for understanding the 5th century Greeks. I’m kind of an ancient civilizations geek (and by “kind of” I mean “absolutely”), so when news started to break about Heracleion, I lost my mind. I mean, this was a previously believed to be somewhat fictionalized city (like Atlantis . . . well, not exactly like Atlantis, but still . . . ) mentioned in The Histories. You can’t really blame historians for doubting it’s existence, b/c 1. there was no evidence, and 2. the mention I spoke of was of Alexander (the GREAT) stopping there with Helen (of TROY) on their way back to Greece.<——ZOMG.

Turns out there was no evidence of Heracleion b/c it fell off the side of Egypt. The guy who found it was actually looking for the Library of Alexandria, and while yes, finding that would have been marginally (*snorts*) cooler, I still count discovering Heracleion as a WIN. Check it:


Fast forward several centuries and we have Geoffrey of Monmouth’s The History of the Kings of Britain, which was widely accepted as a legitimate accounting of English history until the 17th century, and guys—this is where we get our King Arthur legends.

All of us were required to read at least part(s) of The Canterbury Tales in high school, but familiar or not, this is an absolutely incredible look into medieval Europe. It covers ( and satirizes) almost every aspect of life at the time.

And now we come to another well-loved classic that one of my professors constantly referred to as “a novel of manners.”

Pride and Prejudice

And that’s exactly what it is. If you want an accurate (if Romanticized) look into the everyday life and values system of the upper classes in 19th century England, this is the book for you.

Moving on to fictionalized worlds, as a lover of fantasy is all of it incarnations (dark, epic, urban, YA, etc.), it should come as no surprise that there are MANY books that I love, and least in part, b/c of the marvelous world-building. A couple of my favorite epic fantasy worlds can be found in:

The Eye of the WorldThe Wayfarer Redemption

Urban Fantasy:

On the Edge by Ilona AndrewsMagic Bites by Ilona AndrewsStorm Born by Richelle Mead

YA Fantasy:

The Demon KingShadow and BoneSkin Hunger

So how about you? Do you love any of these books for the glimpses they give you into life in a different time and place? Or do we have any favorite fantasy worlds in common? Leave a link, and I’ll be happy to drop by and check out your picks too.

Jessica Signature


My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.



  1. Just added Skin Hunger to my wishlist.
    And i love the Edge series by Ilona Andrews. Haven’t gotten further than book 1 in their Kate Daniels series though

    • Oh man, book 1 is as bad as it gets. As much as I liked it (yes, even with all the creepy and bizarre world-building), the next book blew it away, and book 3 . . . book 3 might just be my favorite UF installment EVER. And I hope you get a chance to read Skin Hunger. It’s fantastic, and has a very unique premise.

  2. I love that you went classical! I’m just going to wander over and grab my Norton Anthology for a re-read…

    • I still have all of mine too 😉 Ancient Classics was one of my favorite classes.

  3. Yes! This is exactly why I read these genres. I have always loved history and in fact I wish I would have majored in it because it is just so fascinating. I envy the fact that you did because gah…so much knowledge!

    While I don’t love all of history, there are a few eras I am just inexplicably drawn to and can’t help but pick up every book I see that involves it.

    • Once I got the basic requirements out of the way and was able to pick and choose upper-division classes, it was the BEST. B/c I’m like you—while I appreciate all history . . . the Civil War, WWI and II . . . not my favorite. Give me ancient Greece or Egypt or Celtic Britain, and I am a happy camper.

  4. I have heard wonderful things about Shadow & Bone and I myself love Greek mythology and Woah, that discovery sounds like a huge deal!

    • Shadow and Bone is fantastic, and HUGE deal. So huge that even thinking about it again makes my insides go all fluttery. Stuff like that is why I keep a running subscription with Smithsonian and National Geographic 😉

  5. I loved Shadow & Bone. I guess I don’t really read too many books like that. Hmmm… 🙂

    • If you loved Shadow and Bone, maybe you should give another one a try 😉 Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas is EXCELLENT . . .

  6. Cool post Jessica, I find the histories fascinating and love watching and reading books about these discoveries and periods. I think that is why I love world-building so much.

    • Me too! A couple of years ago that huge mummy exhibit was in Charlotte while I was home visiting, and it was incredible. I love that kind of tangible evidence of long-dead cultures. And when an author can bring something like to to life . . . 😉

  7. Jessicaaaa! When are we going to buddy read the second book of Shadow and Bone? And I totally love this post! It feels nice to be able to read more personal stuff about you, even if they’re still in the form of books 🙂 I really want to read Wheel of Time again… I mean I read like 1/3 of the first book before forgetting about it LOL Much love as always <3 <3 <3

    As for fantasy, me loves ANYTHING by Brandon Sanderson. He is seriously the best fantasy author I've come across. All of his works are super distinct with their own magic systems and whatnot. Even his Earth-like fantasies (Steelheart and The Rithmatist) are still crazy good!

    Faye at The Social Potato Reviews

    • SOON! No really—I have to read it in the next couple of weeks. When’s good for you?

      And I am ashamed to admit that I have never actually read Sanderson . . . I have like 3 or 4 of his books—wait! That’s not true. I have read Sanderson, but only in the context of trying to finish to WoT, and that’s honestly why I haven’t read any of his other stuff. I was too mad about what he did to WoT, but I recently decided to get over that. I just haven’t had a chance to read much epic fantasy lately 😉 But I will!

  8. I haven’t heard of many of the fantasy books that you’ve named. They look interesting. I have to check these out! Especially The Demon King. I’ve loved other Cinda William Chima books and have high expectations for this one!

    • I thought I loved Cinda Williams Chima before I had read The Demon King too, but that series showed me what CWC love really looked like 😉

  9. what an incredible story about Heracleion! those pictures are so vivid – it’s the thing dreams {and nightmares} are made of – how civilizations are lost. . .and found again – our oceans harbor so many secrets!

    • Exactly. I can’t wait until they’ve finished excavating and start fully reporting on what’s been discovered. It’s an entire port city down there with something like 40 ships. Pretty exciting 😉

  10. I admit, I also geek out a bit when our historical knowledge takes a leap like it did with Heracleion. Nice to know we don’t know everything… yet.

    • I shrieked. Then immediately called my sister b/c while we both love ancient civs, I lean more toward the Greeks and she leans more toward the Egyptians. And see, I knew that she hadn’t heard yet b/c if she had, she’d have been the one calling me 😉 And yes, it is nice to be reminded that there are still things to discover. Now I’m waiting for all the James Cameron Mariana Trench footage, etc. to finally be revealed . . .

  11. I am a huge history geek (in fact my nickname as everyone outside the book world knows me is thehistorychic)! If I ever go back to finish college it will be for a history degree (though early American studies would probably be my focus).

    I went to Pompeii in 2003 and spent two days going through the ruins. I was fascinated by how much had been preserved and also (as things do) that lead me to a reading kick. Anything fiction/non-fiction about Pompeii I devoured.

    I remember reading the first 5 books in the Wheel of Time series. Those are really the only straight fantasy books I have read. Other than keeping names straight, I really did enjoy the stories. They were awesomely compelling 🙂

    • The oldest of my sisters was a history major. And an English minor (the reverse of me), so I can’t claim the history buff title in my family, although we ALL love it. Every time I go home my mom has recorded some History channel special on Vikings or bog people for us to watch, LOL. And if your early American studies involves the Lost Colony, or Native Americans in general, I am so there.

      Pompeii is on my top 5 places to see list. It’s a strong contender for the #1 spot actually. I’m completely enthralled by anything to do with it.

      WoT was my first “grown-up” fantasy series, and I LOVED it. But I completely understand—I’m one of the most detail-oriented people that I know, and I’ve read the first 8 or 10 books 5x each, and I still don’t know ALL of the names. I’m sure that when I eventually read them again (b/c I still haven’t read the last book), I’ll have to put a WoT character list back on my bookmarks bar 😉

  12. I find history fascinating and wish I’d paid more attention in class. I’ve found a lot of fiction books that have worked well though because I’m immersed in the world. The middle ages are my favorite (mostly in Britain) but one book I remember being FASCINATED by (I read it years ago) was Household Gods by Harry Turtledove and Judith Tarr. This book opened up so much in my mind and made me curious for so much more. Because it’s time travel it was a bit easier to understand since the main character had to learn it all but she travels to Rome in AD 170. It was just so interesting that I immediately found every time travel book I could. Anyway… obviously I could go on for ages.

    • Two of my favorite classes in college were History of England and Medieval and Renaissance Lit, so I completely understand. And I’m a huge sucker for a good Arthur story. I haven’t read Household Gods, but I’ll be sure to add it to my wishlist. I don’t know off the top of my head what was going on in Rome at that time, but I’m sure it had something to do with barbarian tribes and conquering, and I love that area of history too 😉

  13. Yes on the Fantasy books, I devoured them in my early twenties, until I discovered English books …

    • LOL. I was in my early 20’s when I dove into fantasy too. Then mid-20s I discovered UF, and it was all over.

  14. I read greek legends&Olympus stuff and The Illiad and The Odyssey when I was 13ish, I think. I liked another version of the myths written by a national author, really cool. Literary classics (national and international) came next, while I was in high-school. They were the IT thing to read, lol.
    I discovered fantasy & the more commercial stuff while in my second year of Master, and of course by then I was SO sick of the University-oriented reads (sociology of all kinds, social psychology, communication) that I was itching for some well done, entertaining, less “brainy” fiction. Because I’d done Dostoyevsky and Tolstoi and La Fontaine by then, and while I appreciated them, I didn’t fall in love. I did with Oscar Wilde, for instance, and Edgar Allan Poe, and certainly Sir Arthur Conon Doyle & Agatha Christie (which I re-read often), but commercial fiction is sooooo much easier on the heart, lol.
    There, now that I’ve geeked myself out too, I feel muuuuch better 😀 You’re not alone in your geekdom, sista’!

    • Yeah, I know I’ve said (a LOT) that I was raised on fairy tales, and I was, but I was around thirteen years old, when my grandmother gave me a copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, and well . . . that’s where my fascination with all things classical began. And yes, LOL—I remember swooning hardcore over the boy I went to school with reading a beat-up copy of The Catcher in the Rye at the local coffee shop. *snickers* Definitely the IT thing to do.

      And I. Get. You. As much as I love the classics, I’ve been out of school for 7(?) years I think, and I can’t recall a single classic that I’ve read since then. Not even an is it/isn’t it? classic. I hope I get over that eventually, but the burn-out—I am familiar.

      Happy to share the geek out! It just needs doing sometimes 😉

  15. I should join one of those classic book challenges so I can actually read all of those classics one day.
    It’s funny how Ilona Andrews books always seems to appear on our favorites lists. I see that I’ll be adding even more books to Mt. TBR.

    • Mt. TBR! I have one of those too, LOL. And it’s not funny at all. Ilona Andrews is the BEST. It’d be funny if she wasn’t on our list 😉

  16. Wonderful post, Jessica. I love history and have stacks of books on all sorts of stuff in regards to discoveries, legends ect I think that’s why I crave worldbuilding in my books, Epic Fantasy rocks! You picked some amazing books, one of my favorites is author Sara Douglass 🙂

    • Oh yay! I love Sara Douglass. I love her so much that I ordered the 3rd book in that series from Australia b/c I didn’t want to wait for it to get here.

  17. Ha! I knew I liked you 😉 I have a BA in English (with a minor in classics) and a BA in History (with a minor in medieval and early modern studies) – so needless to say all those books you listed at the start? Yeah, I love em!

    Nowadays though I really like reading my UF because as a medieval PhD student I spend all my work time reading medieval history. Amazingly I haven’t read any of your UF favorites or YA favorites! They’re all on my TBR though!

    • Yes! English majors unite! But how did you play joint English and History dept. convocations, LOL? All of our joint convocations were spent in college bowl-type battles.

      And I don’t blame you even a little bit. I’ve been out of school for years, but I still haven’t managed to pick up a classic since graduation 🙁 And I can’t believe you’ve never read Ilona. Ilona is the BEST.

  18. OMG!!! We are complete nerd twins. I have that monster Norton Anthology on my sacred “do not touch or you die” book shelf. “The Illiad” is highlighted and written all over with my personal interpretations and thoughts. My degree is in Social Sciences with a minor in marketing. Why Social Sciences? Because I took a bunch of classes like mythology, logic, comparative religion, forensics, philosophy, and every literature class. All things that I loved but didn’t actually equal a degree. 😉

    • Hi nerd twin! I was strictly a history and lit girl, but I studied philosophy in one up my upper-division lit classes and some other humanities classes that I can’t remember the names of. And hey, if you can make the classes you love add up to a degree, then why wouldn’t you?

  19. First, I have mad respect for English majors yo!! Seriously, I do despite my Jersey vernacular in my opening line! 😉 And I love that you went back to your roots for this post but most importantly, this gives me and all the other followers an idea of your background and what excites you. LOVE. IT. ♥

    PS: I think I felt a little bit smarter after reading this post! 🙂

    • Gah, I’m such a english/history geek. Seriously, every year when I go home for Christmas, we all do some big family thing—go to The Nutcracker, some kind of Christmas pops concert, check out the new exhibit at the Mint . . . a couple of years ago there was this HUGE mummy/bog people exhibit traveling the county, and it happened to be in Charlotte over the holidays . . . that’s what we did. And it was the BEST. I’m not even kidding. *runs* *hides* It never even occurred to me that it wasn’t a normal thing to think mummies and bog people are AWESOME until my sister-in-law got totally creeped out by it, LOL.

  20. *ha* I have a degree in English Lit, too, Jessica! (I double-majored with Economics…yeah) I am a huge fan of ancient and medieval lit…and I’d never thought about the fact that that might be why I love excellent worldbuilding. 😉

    Funny story…I have a friend who is a poet (really) and she and I were talking about what she wanted in a husband. She said that he HAD to like poetry because it was so important to her. I told her she might have to compromise…I married a man who’d never HEARD of The Canterbury Tales! *haha*

    • English majors unite! We won’t talk about the econ thing . . . JK. But you have to already be aware that that is a VERY strange combo. That just means you have layers, Brandee 😉

      And I can beat that. My husband is the son of the head of the English department at the college I went to, and . . . wait for it . . . he doesn’t like to READ. I mean, really—you’d think that’d be a guarantee, right? NOPE, lol.