Desert Island Books with… Mai Taylor

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Today’s strandee is a fellow blogger with impeccable taste in books, so I am very excited to see which five of the very many excellent books she has read that she has chosen to accompany her for eternity on a desert island. Over to you, Mai Taylor.

Book One – The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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Some race to win. Others race to survive. It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them. Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition – the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

I read this book every November to tie in with when the Scorpio Races take place on the island of Thisby, so it is an absolute “must-have” to be stranded with. There is just something about the wildness of the landscape, and of the capaill uisce that I find utterly captivating. I love Maggie Stiefvater’s writing, and if I could, I would take all of her books with me, but I am limiting myself to just one by any particular author, so it has to be this one. Somehow, she creates a community that is both nurturing and claustrophobic – one that I long to be a part of, but at the same time know that I would want to escape if I lived there. The carnival atmosphere that envelopes the island in the build up to the races really gets under my skin, and I think this would help my own island stay more bearable.

Book Two – The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

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It is 1917, and while war wages across Europe, in the heart of London, there is a place of hope and enchantment.

The Emporium sells toys that capture the imagination of children and adults alike: patchwork dogs that seem alive, toy boxes that are bigger on the inside, soldiers that can fight battles of their own. Into this family business comes young Cathy Wray, running away from a shameful past. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own.

But Cathy is about to discover that the Emporium has secrets of its own…

The Toymakers was one of the first books I ever featured on my blog, all the way back in February 2018, and to this day, I have never forgotten the way it made me feel. It was just pure, simple magic in book form. I said in my review that it left me with an overriding sense that even in the depths of despair and devastation, there is still magic to be found, and I stand by that sentiment three years later. I still find it hard to put into words all the emotions that The Toymakers made me feel. It is just one of those books that once you have read it, you are never quite the same again, and I could happily live within its pages forever.

Book Three – Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems . . .

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

Caraval is a book I think I could read a hundred times and still discover a new detail each time. There is just much going on. I think Caraval is my favourite book of Stephanie Garber’s trilogy, partly because Scarlett is my favourite Dragna sister, partly because of the wonder of it all. There was something magical about uncovering the mysteries of Caraval and the enigmatic Legend for the first time, and that feeling has stayed with me ever since

Book Four – Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

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Victor Hugo’s tale of injustice, heroism and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him. But his attempts to become a respected member of the community are constantly put under threat: by his own conscience, and by the relentless investigations of the dogged policeman Javert.

It is not simply for himself that Valjean must stay free, however, for he has sworn to protect the baby daughter of Fantine, driven to prostitution by poverty.

I have selected Les Mis because it is a book I have been meaning to read for years, but have just never got round to getting beyond the first chapter of. I figure if I can’t finish it when I am stranded on a desert island, then I never will. This selection was a close run thing, because I very nearly selected The Court of Miracles, Kester Grant’s reimagining of Victor Hugo’s original work. I devoured The Court of Miracles when it first came out, and it seemed like the obvious choice until I watched an author panel at VoyagerCon with Kester Grant, and the passion with which she spoke about the original, and in particular Marius Pontmercy, reignited my desire to read it myself.

Book Five – Polo by Jilly Cooper

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In Jilly Cooper’s third Rutshire chronicle we meet Ricky France-Lynch, who is moody, macho, and magnificent. He had a large crumbling estate, a nine-goal polo handicap, and a beautiful wife who was fair game for anyone with a cheque book. He also had the adoration of fourteen-year-old Perdita MacLeod. Perdita couldn’t wait to leave her dreary school and become a polo player. The polo set were ritzy, wild, and gloriously promiscuous. Perdita thought she’d get along with them very well.

But before she had time to grow up, Ricky’s life exploded into tragedy, and Perdita turned into a brat who loved only her horses – and Ricky France-Lynch.

Ricky’s obsession to win back his wife, and Perdita’s to win both Ricky and a place as a top class polo player, take the reader on a wildly exciting journey – to the estancias of Argentina, to Palm Beach and Deauville, and on to the royal polo fields of England and the glamorous pitches of California where the most heroic battle of all is destined to be fought – a match that is about far more than just the winning of a huge silver cup…

My final choice is a little different from my usual book choices, with YA and fantasy being my “go-to” genres 95% of the time. However, I figure if I am going to be on a desert island for the foreseeable future, I am going to need something a bit lighter that really is just pure escapism. Jilly Cooper’s Rutshire Chronicles have been a guilty pleasure of mine since I was a teenager and my friends and I used to sneakily read them in our lunch hour at school, giggling over the naughty bits. Polo was the first one that I read, and has always remained the one I loved most, I think mainly because we had the most glorious polo ponies stabled at the riding school I rode from, and the lifestyle always seemed so decadent and extravagant. While Rupert Campbell-Black seems to have become the star of the Rutshire Chronicles, it was always Bas Baddingham and the Heavenly Twins who captured my attention, and I will be more than happy to have them on my island with me.

My luxury item

I think it would have to be an endless supply of cross-stitch projects, ones that would normally take far too long to finish if I wasn’t stranded on a desert island. I love sewing, and I think I would quickly go crazy if I didn’t have a craft project of some description to get stuck into between books. I love the Wrendale artwork, so perhaps one of the cross-stitch kits you can get of those, or I have seen some amazing Alice in Wonderland kits.

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About the Blogger

Mai Taylor is a book blogger from rural Hampshire. Although she mainly focuses on reviewing YA and fantasy books, she can’t resist the occasional psychological thriller or any book with even the smallest sprinkling of magic.

Mai is working on the first draft of a series of YA fantasy books centred around British and Celtic folklore, so when she is not curled up with a book, she can usually be found down a research rabbit hole looking for weird and wonderful tales to include in the series.

When not reading or writing, Mai spends most of her time crafting – from cross-stitch to patchwork, if it involves fabric or thread, then she has probably tried it. Mai also loves exploring cities across Europe and spending time in her favourite place in the world, Moraira, on Spain’s Costa Blanca.

You can find Mai’s excellent book blog at Mai’s Musings.

Connect further with Mai:

Twitter: @maitaylor01

Instagram: @maitaylor01

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