This or That Book Tag

Hi readers,

The wonderful Aditi from Readers Rule has nominated me for the This or That Book Tag, which looks like a lot of fun, so here goes!

Rules:

  • Mention the creator of the tag (Ayunda @ Tea and Paperbacks)
  • Thank the blogger who tagged you.
  • Choose one of the options, you don’t have to tell the reasons why you chose that but you can also do them if you want to.
  • Tag other people to do this tag to spread the love!

This or That?

Reading on the couch or on the bed?
There’s something about reading in bed that is just so enjoyable. It’s definitely where I curl up to finish an emotional book, surrounded by blankets. I have a pet cockatiel named Poe, who I adore but she tends to eat books and the living room is her domain, so I’m more likely to read in bed.

Male main character or female main character?

both

I really don’t have a strong preference! I love finding a female protagonist that I admire, who is strong, capable, and flawed, but many of my favourite main characters are male. Really as long as there are interesting three-dimensional female characters contained in the book they don’t have to be the main character for me to enjoy it.

Sweet snacks or salty snacks?
I have a major sweet tooth, so pass me the chocolate!

Trilogies or quartets?
I haven’t come across many quartets actually, mostly trilogies or sequels these days. Out of the two options I’ll take the trilogy though. Four books always seems to stretch out further and I don’t want to wait years for a series that may never be finished.

First person POV or third POV?
Third person generally, but I have read some well done first person, it’s not a deal breaker.

Reading at night or in the morning?
I love the idea of reading at night, and certainly when I’m REALLY into something I do stay up reading it, but more often I wind up reading in the morning. On a warm weekend I like to grab a coffee or tea and sit on a park bench mid-morning and read while the world is still fairly quiet and the sun isn’t at peak strength.

Libraries or bookstores?
Honestly both, but if I had to choose, libraries. I live in a large city with a fabulous library system and it saved me so much money. Sometimes there’s a bit of a wait, but I love that so many books are at my fingertips! As a Librarian, I also feel that libraries are important to communities as one of the last free public spaces where you don’t have to buy a coffee or food to be able to sit for several hours. There are few things I enjoy more than browsing a bookstore though!

Books that make you laugh or books that make you cry?
Books that make me cry! I seem to enjoy books where the main character *suffers* (A Little Life, the Doctrine of Labyrinths series, THE LYMOND CHRONICLES), and although I’m not someone who cries easily at books, I do love being moved to tears that are genuine and feel earned. I have a bit of a thing and don’t enjoy books that feel emotionally manipulative, like they’re just trying to draw tears, though.

Black book covers or white covers?
Black book covers. I enjoy the sleek look they have.

Character driven or plot driven?
This is another case where I really need both for a book to be a homerun for me. I need to feel engaged, if not with all characters than at least with a few of the characters, for me to want to continue with a book, no matter how interesting the plot is, and similarly if there are great characters but nothing at all happens, I get bored. I like character-driven plotty novels!

I Nominate:

As always, if you aren’t interested, don’t do tags, or have already done this one, feel free to ignore it!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Moms in Literature

As you can probably tell, my mom and I are very close, so I jumped at the chance to celebrate other great mothers in fiction this week for Mother’s Day. Want to join in the fun? Head on over to Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and Bookish.

242801. Fantine (Les Miserables)
It may be partially the fact that I have been so shaped by the musical, and then, as an adult, by the book Les Miserables, but Fantine is the first example of a great mother who comes to mind. Everything Fantine does is for her daughter. Seeing the way that the innkeeper’s wife Thenardier treats her own daughters, Fantine naively entrusts Cosette to the woman’s care and regularly sends money and clothing to pay for her daughter’s expenses. As the Thenardiers, who treat abuse Cosette and treat her as a servant, claim more and more money, Fantine sells her two front teeth, and her golden blonde hair, before turning to the streets and selling herself. Ultimately she suffers from tuberculosis and dies before seeing her daughter again, but it is clear that Cosette is the light of her life.

“Calm yourself, my child,” said the doctor. “Your child is here.”
Fantine’s eyes beamed and filled her whole face with light. She clasped her hands with an expression which contained all that is possible to prayer in the way of violence and tenderness.
“Oh!” she exclaimed, “bring her to me!”
Touching illusion of a mother! Cosette was, for her, still the little child who is carried.

Pachinko2. Sunja (Pachinko)
The thing I loved most about Pachinko (one of my favourite reads so far this year!) was its incredibly likable yet flawed characters. There are multiple mothers in this story, such as Yangjin, who lets her daughter go because she knows it will give her the best opportunity to make a life for herself, but knows that saying goodbye means she may never see the girl again, but my favourite is Sunja. More than anything Pachinko is Sunja’s story, one of hard work as she makes candy and sells her sister-in-law’s kimchi in a marketplace all day to make money, and as she swallows her pride and goes to Hansu, the gangster who lied to her and got her pregnant, in order to pay for her son’s schooling when he’s accepted to a prestigious Japanese university. She doesn’t always make the right decision and she faces the consequences of her choices, but I believe that she always tries to do the right thing for her children and she certainly works hard, sacrifice for them, and loves them.

79378433. Ma (Room)
Room is undoubtedly as fascinating as it is because it’s written from the perspective of a five-year-old boy and his limited worldview. Through this perspective the reader, who has a broader understanding of what’s happening, sees just how hard Ma tries to shield her son from harm, ordering him into a wardrobe on the nights when Old Nick may arrive to rape her. I also marveled at how well this young mother raises a son in such a confined environment. Limiting his TV intake, creating new and entertaining games and ways of keeping physically fit, and fiercely loving her boy.

3512114. Kate Somerville (The Lymond Chronicles)
There are a few mothers in the Lymond Chronicles and many of them raise conflicting emotions in me, but not superb Kate! Is there anyone who has read these books that doesn’t love Kate? A plain, sensible young woman in a stained gown, Kate becomes a young widow raising a daughter alone on the border between England and Scotland. Down-to-earth, she consistently provides practical advice to both her daughter Philippa and Francis Crawford, who becomes a friend of the family. I adore Kate for the way she parents with love but also good common sense, ensuring that Philippa grows into an admirable and self-sufficient young woman, and for the way she offers some peace and normality to the distinctly not normal life of Francis Crawford.

“Lymond said softly, ‘That is the only thing you may not say to me. . . . Kate, superb Kate: I will not be mothered.’

‘Mothered!’ Kate’s small, undistinguished face was black with annoyance. ‘I would sooner mother a vampire. I am merely trying to point out what your browbeaten theorists at St Mary’s ought surely to have mentioned in passing. Health is a weapon of war. Unless you obtain adequate rest, first your judgement will go, and then every other qualification you may have to command, and either way, the forces of light will have a field-day in the end.”

619005. Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan (The Vorkosigan Saga)
A rare sci-fi and fantasy mom on this list, I adore Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan. A former commander of a ship and a formidable woman, Cordelia becomes pregnant in Barrayar but is targeted along with her government official husband by a nerve gas. Although she receives an antidote, she is told that it will weaken her unborn child, turning its bones to jelly, and is encouraged to abort. Cordelia makes the choice to keep the fetus and, thanks to woman-centric uterine replicator technology that means a woman doesn’t have to carry their child to term inside them, she’s able to save the planet from civil war while her baby grows, presenting the severed head of the leader of the coup d’etat to her husband in a memorable scene. Although her son Miles is physically small and fragile, he is also incredibly intelligent and courageous. Cordelia raises her differently abled son with love and opts not to have more children, although she would like them, because healthy children could endanger her son’s life and position as heir.

3412886. Marmee (Little Women)
I have to admit, it’s been several years since I’ve read Little Women and my impression of Marmee is more from the books than Louisa May Alcott’s novel, but Marmee struck me as the quintessential mother. She works hard and keeps the household running while her husband is off at war, and she carries out charity work for the less fortunate and encourages her daughters to do the same. Most of all she is patient, counseling and consoling her girls. Ultimately she leads by example, showing that there are more important things in life than money and possessions, and believing that education is important so her daughters can think for themselves. 

j6n48z7. Molly Weasley (Harry Potter)
(Spoilers for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)
Harry Potter is very much a story about mothers and their love for their children. Lily’s love for Harry (she died trying to protect him) is what makes him “The Boy Who Lived”., while Narcissa lies to Voldemort, telling him that Harry is dead, once she learns that her son Draco is still living and she has an opportunity to protect him. My favourite Harry Potter mom definitely has to be Molly Weasley though. Mrs. Weasley’s kindness means that she is in many ways a mother to Harry too, welcoming him into their home for the holidays and knitting a sweater for him at Christmas. Don’t let this generosity fool you though, when it comes to her children, Molly is not to be crossed! After dangerous Death eater Bellatrix LeStrange nearly hits daughter Ginny with a Killing Curse, Molly is enraged, challenging Bellatrix to a duel and killing her.

60416898. Catelyn Stark (ASoIaF)
Catelyn Stark, when her agency and storyline have not been taken away from her *ahem*, is a one of the small number of positive and present SFF novel mothers I can think of. Although Catelyn doesn’t always make the best choices, she means well and believes that she is doing the right thing for her family. Certainly she takes some heat from fans for her attitude towards Jon Snow, but she believes him to be Ned’s son, making Snow a constantly present symbol of her husband’s believed infidelity. I don’t always agree with Catelyn Stark and the fact that she makes Jon feel like an outsider, but I understand her motivations. Catelyn’s love for her children is absolute and she will do anything to see Sansa and Arya, who she believes to be hostages in King’s Landing, returned safely, including freeing Jaime Lannister.

TheDreamThieves9. Maura Sargent (The Raven Cycle)
In YA it’s often rare for the parents to play any roles at all, let alone positive ones. While other parental figures in The Raven Cycle run the gamut from joyful loving Aurora to Adam’s father, I think Maura Sargent is striking for a few reasons. It’s mentioned at one point that Maura’s daughter Blue is rich in love. Indeed confident independent, entirely original Blue is the product of the kind of home where she supported and free to be herself. Although Maura isn’t single-handedly responsible for this environment, the kinship and bustle that come from having Calla and Persephone and extended family at 300 Fox Way, also plays a role, Maura is a huge part of why Blue is so interesting a character.

1570430710. Alana (Saga)
An army deserter in a mixed marriage (their two races are engaged in war) her main priority is keeping her daughter Hazel safe. Together with husband Marko, Alana flees from those who would harm the first cross-species baby to survive more than a few weeks. She spends many pages in the first issues of Saga kicking butt with baby Hazel strapped to her body, and even after Hazel is capable of walking, Alana is still fiercely protective of her daughter and will fight anyone who comes between them. She isn’t a perfect mother. The stresses of being on the run and being a mother lead her to pick up a drug habit from a co-worker. But Alana’s love for Hazel is still keenly felt in this ongoing comic series.

Have you read any of these books? Who are some of your favourite fictional mothers?

Books: Queens of Geek

QueensOfGeekQueens of Geek by Jen Wilde
Published March 14, 2017
star-3-half
An enjoyable light read that can be finished in a couple of hours, Queens of Geek was a refreshing bridge book for me between the intense world building of City of Miracles and dense science-fiction novel The Three-Body Problem. Set over a weekend at SupaCon, the story is told from two perspectives, that of shy best friend Taylor who dreams of meeting the author of her favourite series of books, and her best friend Charlie, a vlogger and actress on the rise who is dealing with the fallout of a bad breakup, even as a new crush enters the scene.

YA contemporary is not usually a genre of mine, but as a card carrying geek who has attended Fanexpo for the last few years, I found the premise interesting. Sure enough, author Jen Wilde’s SupaCon setting will excite readers who recognize the positive environment and passion that a Con setting can have. It’s the kind of magical place where you can ride an escalator with Alexander Hamilton and pose for a picture with him and King George III in your Hamilton shirt. The kind of place where a moderator announces that the next question to Alan Tudyk will be the last and you watch Jesus Christ cede his place in the line to the girl behind him, who just missed out on getting to ask Nathan Fillion a question at another Con. And then, due to popular demand, Jesus getting to ask his question as well and walking away with a tube of signed hotel toothpaste (Tudyk was giving everyone who asked a question a gift, but these were primarily signed items from his last hotel room – another attendee got a pamphlet on zip lining), to much laughter.

Wilde does an excellent job of capturing the excitement and intensity of the convention environment, and she fills it with equally interesting and diverse characters. There’s Charlie, a Chinese-Australian bisexual actress and vlogger who is usually full of confidence in herself and her friends, but is dealing with wounds from a very public breakup and afraid to put herself out there and get hurt again. Charlie’s P.O.V. is so focused on her romantic relationships past and future (in the form of awful co-star ex Reese Ryan, and cool not-so-one-sided crush Alyssa Huntington) that I was disappointed we didn’t see more of her friendship with Taylor though. I understood that Charlie’s work gets in the way of them spending the whole weekend at SupaCon together, but I was disappointed that the best friends only share a few scenes over the whole book.

In her perspective chapters Taylor is often the shy best friend, but she lights up when the Firestone series of books and movies are involved. Separating her from the more self-assured Charlie provides an opportunity for Taylor to make friends of her own and to grow closer to Jamie, as well as to standout in the Con environment for her handmade Queen Firestone costume, I just wished we had seen more of her friendship with Charlie directly instead of through group message.

There are aspects of both characters, and of other interesting side characters, that readers can identify with. As a shy introverted person with some anxiety, I definitely empathized with Taylor, but I also felt that the book was targeting a different audience than my thirty-year-old reasonably comfortable in my own skin self. I think the positivity, representation, and broader message about how you can be your weird self and be accepted and loved is incredibly important though, especially for teenage readers who see themselves in these pages.

I enjoyed the book and the diverse representation it includes, but for my personal tastes it was a little on the light side, and I found the plot pretty thin/predictable with there being few obstacles to keep the plot interesting and most of these easily and effortlessly conquered. Still, it was a fun way to spend a few hours and I enjoyed seeing geeks depicted in such a positive way.

Top Books Both Mom and I Loved

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

While my mom didn’t single-handedly create my love of reading, she definitely nurtured it and helped it grow. My mom kept up-to-date on children’s books that were well-regarded, like Newbery award winners, but never forced me to read a particular type of book. My childhood was a combination of children’s classics, like The Borrowers, Dr. Doolittle, and Pippi Longstocking, fantasy series like the Prydain Chronicles and the Narnia Chronicles, and series books, including The Boxcar Children, Saddle Club, and Babysitter’s Club.

gglam
(Mom and I holding A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder‘s Tony Award for Best Musical)

My mom is the most important person in my life. She’s kind, she is always there to listen when I’m having a bad day or need help, and she’s a lot of fun to be around. We’ve traveled together to New York, taking in the sights by day and seeing some truly fabulous Broadway shows by night, we discuss television shows (Black Sails! The 100!) that we both love, and, of course, we read, often lending books to one another. So in honour of Mother’s Day and how incredibly lucky I am to have such a wonderful mom, here’s a list of the top 10 books my mom and I both loved.

j6n48zHarry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
This is perhaps an obvious choice, but Harry Potter has to be on this list because it spanned the period from childhood to adulthood for me and encapsulates how the way we read changes. My mom was always on top of what was new and noteworthy in children’s literature so we started reading Harry Potter before the movies came out and before it had become the phenomenon that it is today. The first few books she read aloud, with my younger brother and I listening beside her on the couch. When new books were published in the series, my mom pre-ordered a copy that her and I took turns reading on our own, moving our bookmarks and being careful not to lose our family member’s place. For the final book, we attended a midnight release party at the bookstore and brought the last Harry Potter book home with us. Although I’m grown and have my own apartment, so our current form of book sharing usually involves one of us reading the book then lending it to the other, this is how it all started; One book, two bookmarks.

186074The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Name of the Wind was recommended to me by a few co-workers at Chapters, a bookstore chain in Canada. I loved the book and passed it on to my mom, who also loved it. Although we weren’t as impressed with the second volume in the series, we’re both eagerly awaiting a publication date for the final book in the trilogy. I had the opportunity to attend a Patrick Rothfuss reading and signing about five years ago where he spoke about a fantasy novella he was working on about a mother who goes off to have adventures after her kids are grown. He pointed out that the only times moms get to be badass or the hero is when their kids are in danger, perhaps their husband, and I thought it was really interesting that he was writing about an adventurous mother who was adventuring just for her. Sadly I don’t know what ever became of the novella, if he finished and published it or not, but I’d love to read more about moms having adventures without their kids!

10626594The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
The Scorpio Races is one of my favourite books, and it was recommended to me by my mom. As a girl I went through a prolonged horse phase that included three Halloweens of handmade (by my talented mom) horse-related costumes (jockey, cowgirl, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer). I even took riding lessons for a few years, although I didn’t have enough interest to continue. My mom rode into her twenties though and has an enduring love for horses as well. I don’t know if this book has the same appeal for people who don’t love horses, but for those who do it is a must-read about the friendships between horses and riders, and with a supernatural element in the wild water horses.

9361589The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Night Circus grabbed my mom right away. I was in grad school and didn’t have time to read for pleasure, but she told me to put it on my tbr for when I finished, calling it the best book she had read in awhile. As usual, my mom was right. The Night Circus is enchanting with its vivid descriptions of the circus tents standing out as particularly unique and memorable. It’s not a perfect book and the romance is a little overdone, but we both adored The Night Circus.

11870085The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
One of my cousins gifted The Fault in Our Stars, John Green’s tragic YA novel about Hazel, a girl with terminal cancer, and the boy she falls in love with, to my mother for Christmas. Mom loved the book, recommended it to me, and we discussed how although the subject matter is depressing, the writing style and the humour throughout keeps it from feeling overly dark. I don’t think either of us expected to enjoy the book as much as we ultimately did.

ioj8xtStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
When trying to come up with a book gift for an individual we didn’t know very well, Station Eleven was on both of our short lists. I think this is one my mom read first and recommended to me, but both of us loved this tale of hope after a pandemic wipes out most of the world’s population. Melding the past before the disease broke out, the days directly following disease, and fifteen years in the future as a travelling symphony travels a circuit through the wasteland that remains performing music and Shakespeare for the survivors, this book is beautifully written, thoughtful, and uplifting.

17910048The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Recommended to me by a friend, it was one of those books I loved so much that I forced it upon ended up lending it to my mom, who also loved it! This fantasy novel tells the story of a half-goblin son of the emperor who has grown up in an isolated exile, but when his father and the others in line for the throne are all killed in an “accident”, the naive, but earnest Maia takes his place as the surviving rightful heir. The world-building is fabulous and the court intrigue well-written, but what really struck me was how refreshing it is, in this world of anti-heroes and dark protagonist, to have a main character who is just so *nice*. Maia’s efforts to do the right thing by everyone when he doesn’t always know what all of the rules or customs of society are, is really endearing and you root for him.

26409580The Swan Riders by Erin Bow
I loved the first book in this YA dystopian duology, but The Swan Riders improved upon it, providing more of my favourite character, Talis, the snarky overseer AI. Some of the dialogue is laugh out loud funny, and the overall theme of what it is that makes us human and why it’s important is poignant. Since this was a quick read, I borrowed it from my local library and had time to lend it to my mom before it had to be returned, and we both really enjoyed it!

AConjuringOfLightThe Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab
This series is such a great read. I love the relationships between characters, especially serious loyal Kell, and impulsive dangerous Lila, the imaginative settings of Red London and White London, and the way Schwab builds up an antagonist (Holland) and makes us feel pity for him. The pacing is excellent. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and I loved how the stakes are raised with each book in the trilogy. My mom’s review of the final book in the series, A Conjuring of Light, was “WOW. That is all.” I totally agree.

crookedkingdomSix of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
The Six of Crows series is one that I recommend to absolutely everyone, and I think my mom had a similar reaction to it. Bardugo’s characters are flawed and real and so damn likable. The worldbuilding is gritty, the dialogue is clever, and the plot is full of twists and turns that kept me on the edge of my seat. I have rarely been so sorry to leave a cast of characters behind, but I loved the way it all wrapped up.

Wishing everyone a great day of reading and I hope all mothers out there have a fabulous Mother’s Day!

 

 

Books: City of Miracles

CityOfMiraclesCity of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett
Published May 2, 2017
star-4
Thirteen years after City of Blades, wanted Dreyling Sigrud is in hiding, moving from job to job while hoping to hear from the one person who can bring him back to civilization. When he gets word of her assassination instead, Sigrud, a man with nothing left to lose, sets out on one last mission to take his revenge. Yet discovering the truth about her death pulls Sigrud into a secret, decades long-war and a facedown with an angry young god.

When I first learned that there would be a final book in the Divine Cities series and that Sigrud, a side character in the previous novels, would be the protagonist, I was thrilled. Introduced in City of Stairs derogatorily as Saypuri spy Shara’s pet Dreyling thug, Sigrud has always been a character I loved. Although he often plays the role of the muscle, Sigrud is a character with hidden depths. More intelligent than he appears to be, he also feels deeply, and is fiercely loyal to Shara.

There are a lot of things about Sigrud as the main character that make sense, and to some extent they work. He is likable, and, as a character with nothing to lose, is an ideal choice for a likely suicide mission of revenge against the murderers of an old friend in this third volume, which is closer to an action thriller than a fantasy novel at times. However, I also think City of Miracles loses something by placing him at the forefront.

The previous book protagonists have been Shara, the WoC spy who remembers almost everything she reads and has a great love of history, and Turyin Mulaghesh, a middle-aged, disabled, WoC soldier, who swears like it’s going out of style. Putting these unique, well-rounded women, who are two of my favourite book characters of all-time, in the leading roles, was part of what set this series apart. Both characters have minor roles in this book, and there are other interesting female characters in Tatyana, Ivanya, and Malwina, but with Sigrud as the protagonist, City of Miracles is initially the story of a Viking-like berserker grieving and vowing revenge on the people who murdered his friend. In other words, it feels stale, like something I’ve read or watched before. The story does expand and there is more to it than that, especially in Bennett’s capable hands, but the premise comes across as disappointing in comparison to what the author has already achieved in his previous novels.

The final installment of the Divine Cities trilogy ultimately has a lot to offer though. One of the things that first attracted me to this series was that it’s not a medieval or even 1800s set Western Europe-inspired fantasy world, but a world that’s draws inspiration from Southeast Asia (Saypur) and Eastern Europe (The Continent). Dealing with themes of colonialism and discrimination, this world is closer to our twentieth century than to medieval times. The robust world-building that has been a strength of Bennett’s continues in City of Miracles, with magic and myth giving way as the forward march of technology brings widespread use of the automobile and phones, as well as new inventions, such as express trains, and even skyscrapers, to Saypur.

Seen through the eyes of Sigrud, who has been removed from the world by necessity for the last thirteen years, the changes are all the more startling. I am part of a generation that has lived through some of the most rapid technological growth. We remember when Internet was dial-up and limited to 100 hours a month shared among a family of four and we remember a time before Microsoft Windows. Sometimes the rapid changes in technology just in my lifetime take my breath away, so I understood both the excitement of young Taty as she sees the possibility of the vibrant city for the first time, and the weariness of Sigrud who feels the weight of change keenly.

“Change is a slow flower to bloom. Most of us will not see its full radiance. We plant it not for ourselves, but for future generations. But it is worth tending to. Oh, it is so terribly worth tending to.” – Shara Komayd, City of Miracles

The character development is also strong here. This is a story of Sigrud coming to terms with what he’s capable of, including confronting the truth about what he did at the end of City of Blades, and having, in some ways, a second chance at fatherhood as he protects Shara’s adopted daughter Tatyana from harm. Being in Sigrud’s mind gives the reader a deeper sense of his complex emotions, from the wrath that sometimes overtakes him, and his enduring grief over the loss of Signe, to his enduring self-loathing as he thinks, “What an ugly thing I am. Why did I ever believe I could wreak anything but ugliness in this world? Why did I ever think that those near me would meet anything but pain and death?” Initially this comes across a little self-pitying and tiresome, but his conscious efforts to shape Tatyana differently and not let her make his mistakes, give Sigrud an avenue of growth and the book benefits from this increasing self-awareness.

Most importantly, City of Miracles brings the Divine Cities trilogy to a fitting conclusion. The final scenes provide the characters and the reader, with closure, and do so through passages that are beautifully written and extremely moving. Without giving too much away, I found the end reminiscent of Les Miserables (I think I half expected Signe and Shara to appear and sing!) and was glad that after this wild ride of a third book the characters are finally granted a chance at peace. Although I didn’t find City of Miracles to be as strong as the previous books in the series, due in large part to the fact that Sigrud lacks some of the depth and originality of Bennett’s previous protagonists, I still very much enjoyed it and especially the final scenes of the book. I look forward to reading whatever Robert Jackson Bennett decides to write next, because with this series he has won a devoted fan for life!

Listicle Tag

Thank you to my wonderful friend Rachel at pace, amore, libri for tagging me in this! The tag was originally created by Not-So-Modern-Girl.

Rules

  • Create your own listicle tag, using the prompt from the person who tagged you.
  • Tag the creator of the post (not-so-modern-girl!) so that I can read all your brilliant posts and see how the joy of listicles is being spread.
  • Nominate as many people as you want!
  • Set those 5 people the subject/prompt of their listicle post!

listicle-meaning-w300

Rachel’s prompt: Villains! Who are your top 5 fictional villains?

This is a great topic,  and so interesting because my list contains both villains who are so evil that I would happily set them on fire if I were to ever meet them, and villains I found fascinating and complex and sympathized with. Here’s my list:

1. [Spoiler] (The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett). What’s so intriguing about this villain is that the only thing that might give them away as a villain for much of their first appearance in the series is that they’re almost too good to be true. Intelligent, devout, and attractive, with a beautiful voice, this character is liked by all. In fact, only the protagonist suspects the character for what they really are, and it means that Lymond’s behaviour towards the villain seems harsh. And then the reveal of just what the villain has done occurs…and things get worse. Maybe the only other villains I’ve read about who come close to this level of malevolence are Ramsay Snow and The Red Wedding scene, so that tells you something. I would set this villain on fire if I had the chance. Seriously.

2. Jaime Lannister (A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin). Jaime has the ultimate in redemption arcs. He’s introduced having sex with his sister and pushing a boy off a tower (hoping to cause his death) in order to keep the incest a secret, and yet by book three he’s one of my favourite characters in the whole series! Part of the secret of this redemption is Martin’s use of P.O.V. chapters so we only get Jaime’s perspective on himself and what he’s done in A Storm of Swords, just as he goes through having to re-examine who he is after the loss of his sword hand. He’s a fabulously interesting character and my favourite villain redemption story.

3. Achren (The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander). Sure there’s a bigger bad in this Welsh mythology-based fantasy series for children, but I was always more interested in Achren, the enchantress, who has a lovely redemption arc. As the former Queen of Annuvin, she ruled as a harsh tyrant, but her throne was usurped by Arawn Death-Lord. Initially serving as a villain in the first and third books of the series, she bewitches the main female character, Eilonwy, in a bid to regain power, but is defeated. Achren becomes a reluctant ally to the protagonist and forces for good, but she retains her bitterness and cynicism. Still, she goes onto redeem herself through a final sacrifice to save another’s life, and finds peace at last in the destruction of Arawn. I haven’t read these books since I was young (although I think a re-read may be in the cards), but I remember being very taken with Achren.

(Note: Spoilers for the Watchmen graphic novel/movie)



4. Adrian Veidt aka. Ozymandias (Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons). The brilliant and wealthy former costumed hero is one of my favourite villains because he turns a trope on its head in one of the best plot twists I’ve ever seen. Faced with a world on the brink of nuclear war as Cold War hostilities between East and West intensified, he decided that the only way to avert nuclear war and unite the world was from a perceived outside threat, and faked an alien attack in New York with a psychic shockwave that would kill everyone in its path, totaling half of New York City. “When were you planning to do it?” his former teammates ask in a confrontation near the end of the graphic novel. “Do it? I’m not a republic serial villain. Do you seriously think I’d explain my masterstroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did it thirty-five minutes ago,” Veidt explains. His justification of the death of millions is chilling.

5. Jadis, The White Witch and The Green Lady (Narnia by C.S. Lewis). I’m cheating a little by naming two here, but as a child I actually thought they were the same person, so it kind of counts? On a personal level, as someone who suffers from SAD, hates the cold, and who adores Christmas, cursing the whole of a country with eternal and unbreakable winter but no Christmas is one of the most horrible things a person can do, so Jadis is pretty scary. Also there are the whole humiliating and killing Aslan, turning people to stone, and luring a boy with sweets (kind of – depends on how you feel about Turkish Delight) things. I have strong memories of The Green Lady (the villain of The Silver Chair) and how scary my younger self found it when she used her hypnotic magic to dull the senses and critical thinking to very nearly convince our heroes that Narnia and the Earth don’t exist, only the underground domain. She also enslaves the Prince of Narnia after killing his mother, intending to use him for her own means to rule Narnia.

My listicle prompt: Non-human characters! Who are your top 5 non-human characters?

Tagging: Readers Rule, A Book Without EndMaxxesbooktopia, and BookishLuna, but as always if you’ve already done this tag or aren’t interested in doing it, please feel free to ignore.

Or if you’ve read this and would like to do it, consider yourself tagged! Tag me back so I can see your answers. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday: Reading Wishlist

This month I looked at the topics for Top 5 Wednesday and for Top Ten Tuesday, a meme I’ve been thinking about participating in, and realized that I really liked a few of the monthly topics for each, but there were other weeks that I would be completely stumped on, or that didn’t appeal as much to my reading habits, so I’ve decided to mix it up and do a few from each meme this month.

This is my very first weekly Top Ten Tuesday, which is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and the topic is Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist. This can include types of characters, tropes, issues tackled, specific time periods, etc.

So what do I want to see more of in books?

1.Asexual, Aromantic, and Demisexual Characters
YA and other genres are getting better at representing diversity, including characters of different races, cultural backgrounds, and sexualities, but asexuality, aromantics, and demisexuality are still incredibly under-represented both in YA and in the broader world of fiction. There are a few examples out there – for books Seanan Mcguire’s Every Heart a Doorway has an asexual protagonist and the television series Shadowhunters has an asexual character (which I gather is canon in the books too but I haven’t read them), but I would love to see more books include characters who identify in this way.

2.”It/[Character] Reminds me of Lymond”
I adore Dorothy Dunnett’s The Lymond Chronicles, a historical fiction series set in sixteenth century Europe. The series features Francis Crawford of Lymond, a Scottish noble who is handsome, brilliant, and has a razor-tongue and a gift for music. He should be a Gary Stu, except he has SO MANY FLAWS and is in the hands of an extremely gifted writer. So instead Francis is this frustrating, fascinating character who you adore reading about, but would probably never want to actually meet.
Fun fact: the fastest way to get me to read a book is to compare it to Lymond. I’ve picked up Lois Mcmaster Bujold’s Vokosigan Saga series for this reason, as well as Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity. C.S. Pacat’s Captive Prince series was actually inspired by Lymond and you can see it most clearly in the coldly calculating and sharp-witted Laurent. There can never be enough books out there that are, in some way, reminiscent of my favourite books on the planet, so bring on the consciously or unconsciously inspired by Lymond works!

3.Mothers in Sci-Fi and Fantasy
I was going through goodreads looking for inspiration on next week’s topic, top ten mothers and realized that with very few exceptions, there aren’t many moms (and especially good moms) in science-fiction and fantasy. I suspect some of this is due to the gender gap and the fact that although it has made huge strides, SFF is still a genre largely populated with male authors. I can think of at least a few examples of mothers in science-fiction and fantasy television series and movies off the top of my head though, so I’d love to see some great moms in SFF books!

4.Political Manipulations and Strategies
I love a book with some good political manipulation and characters playing strategies a few steps ahead of the rest. Some of my science-fiction and fantasy favourites, including The Goblin Emperor, The Divine Cities trilogy, The Vorkosigan Saga, and The Traitor Baru Cormorant, all feature politics and plotting in some way, so political intrigue, court intrigue? Good things to say to get me to read a book, and something I can never get enough of in fiction! I also loved watching the multiple twists and turns in the Six of Crows duology featuring master plotter Kaz Brekker, and the protagonist of The Lymond Chronicles, who doesn’t always reveal his motivations for the moves he makes, but when it all comes together, it’s glorious to behold.

5.Middle-Aged and Senior Main Characters
It feels like most middle-aged or older protagonists are confined to the pages of mysteries, with an occasional literary or contemporary fiction book thrown in. Protagonists across all fiction genres tend to skew younger, with books featuring characters in their teens, twenties, or thirties. But just as I don’t need want to always read about people who are my race, gender, sexuality, cultural background, etc. I wish there was more diversity of age in fiction. Why not protagonists in their forties, fifties, or sixties? People certainly don’t stop being interesting when they turn 40 so I wish they were better represented in (non-YA obviously) fiction.

6.Emphasis on Platonic Relationships
YA is particularly known for being focused on romance, but across all genres I would love to see more books that focus on platonic, rather than romantic, relationships. There is this odd perception that romantic love is somehow superior to platonic love, which I don’t think is at all true. Although Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle includes both types of relationships, I love that when she wrote the series she had a sticky note affixed to her computer that read: “Remember that the worst thing that can happen is that they can stop being friends.” It would be wonderful to see that perception expressed more in books, particularly romance-heavy YA, to show that it is not always the most important thing for there to be a significant other.

7.Historical fantasies
Some of my favourite books, including Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and The Bear and the Nightingale fall into this subgenre of fantasy and I would love to see more books written that feature magic in some way, but are also strongly rooted in a historical time and place rather than a fantasy world.

8.Librarians/Libraries
As a librarian, I am a sucker for a great library or archive (like in Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicles) and for interesting librarian characters (like Irene in The Invisible Library series). I would love to read more books that feature librarian characters!

9.Greek Myth-Inspired Stories
Since I was a child, I have been fascinated by Greek mythology. Retellings and books inspired by various myths and folktales have been popular recently and I would love to read more well-done books inspired by or based on Greek mythology (such as Madelaine Miller’s fabulous The Song of Achilles).

10. Books Tackling Depression
This can be more broadly applied to other kinds of mental illness, but as someone who has suffered from depression in the past, I would love to see more portrayals in fiction of what that experience is like and non-judgmental looks at depression and other mental illnesses that still have some stigma attached to them. For example, I found Jeff Zetner’s The Serpent King to be a great example of a YA book that portrayed depression (and grief) really realistically (imo).

That’s my list of things I would like to see in more books. Do you have any recommendations of books that do any of these things really well that I should check out? What would you like to see more of in fiction?

Reading the Hugos

hugoawards

The finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards, which honour achievement in science-fiction and fantasy, were announced via social media on April 4, 2017 and this year’s nominees are very exciting!

Since the awards are voted on by supporting or attending members of the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), in recent years there has been some controversy as organized right-wing campaigns (the “Sad Puppies” and the “Rabid Puppies”) sought to undermine what they saw as a movement towards recognizing diversity and more literary takes on science-fiction and fantasy that rewarded “niche, academic, overtly to the left in ideology and flavour” works by lobbying voters to support their suggested nominees, generally white men, who likely would not be nominated otherwise. (This is my simplified view, George R.R. Martin is quite involved in the Hugo Awards and has discussed the matter more thoroughly on his Not a Blog for anyone interested).

As a result, I was extremely pleased to see such a diverse slate of nominees for this year’s awards. African-American author N.K. Jemisin, who (deservedly imho) won Best Novel last year for The Fifth Season is nominated again for her second book in the series, Obelisk Gate. In fact the Best Novel category is completely devoid of white men, while including authors who are transgender, Asian and Asian-American, and gay.

With such an exciting slate and works that look interesting and all very different from one another, I’ve decided to read all six Best Novel Hugo nominees before the winners are announced at Worldcon on August 11th! Since one of the nominees (Death’s End by Cixin Liu) is the third book in a trilogy, I’m also going to read the first two books in the series, The Three Body-Problem and The Dark Forest. I’ve already read Jemisin’s Obelisk Gate, but will be re-reading in July to prepare for the release of the final book in the trilogy, The Stone Sky, in August. This gives me 3 months to read the eight titles.

I’ve decided to stick to just the Best Novel nominees this year, but the Short Story, Novella, and Novelette nominees also look interesting. And as a sidenote for any musical theatre fans, Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs is nominated with his band Clippin’ for their album Splendor & Misery in the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form category! I haven’t listened to it, but it was an interesting surprise when I first read the nominees!

Here are the six nominees for Best Novel that I will be reading:

Hugos

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Books / Titan Books)
An ancient society of witches and a hipster technological startup go war as the world from tearing itself. To further complicate things, each of the groups’ most promising followers (Patricia, a brilliant witch and Laurence, an engineering “wunderkind”) may just be in love with each other.

As the battle between magic and science wages in San Francisco against the backdrop of international chaos, Laurence and Patricia are forced to choose sides. But their choices will determine the fate of the planet and all mankind.

All the Birds in the Sky offers a humorous and, at times, heart-breaking exploration of growing up extraordinary in world filled with cruelty, scientific ingenuity, and magic.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager US)
Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

Death’s End by Cixin Liu (Tor Books / Head of Zeus)
Half a century after the Doomsday Battle, the uneasy balance of Dark Forest Deterrence keeps the Trisolaran invaders at bay. Earth enjoys unprecedented prosperity due to the infusion of Trisolaran knowledge. With human science advancing daily and the Trisolarans adopting Earth culture, it seems that the two civilizations will soon be able to co-exist peacefully as equals without the terrible threat of mutually assured annihilation. But the peace has also made humanity complacent.

Cheng Xin, an aerospace engineer from the early 21st century, awakens from hibernation in this new age. She brings with her knowledge of a long-forgotten program dating from the beginning of the Trisolar Crisis and her very presence may upset the delicate balance between two worlds. Will humanity reach for the stars or die in its cradle?

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris Books)
Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics. Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics. Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake. If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.

Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress.

The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own. As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao–because she might be his next victim.

The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)
The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever.

It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy.

It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last.

The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer (Tor Books)
Mycroft Canner is a convict. For his crimes he is required, as is the custom of the 25th century, to wander the world being as useful as he can to all he meets. Carlyle Foster is a sensayer–a spiritual counselor in a world that has outlawed the public practice of religion, but which also knows that the inner lives of humans cannot be wished away.

The world into which Mycroft and Carlyle have been born is as strange to our 21st-century eyes as ours would be to a native of the 1500s. It is a hard-won utopia built on technologically-generated abundance, and also on complex and mandatory systems of labelling all public writing and speech. What seem to us normal gender distinctions are now distinctly taboo in most social situations. And most of the world’s population is affiliated with globe-girdling clans of the like-minded, whose endless economic and cultural competion is carefully managed by central planners of inestimable subtlety. To us it seems like a mad combination of heaven and hell. To them, it seems like normal life.

And in this world, Mycroft and Carlyle have stumbled on the wild card that may destablize the system: the boy Bridger, who can effortlessly make his wishes come true. Who can, it would seem, bring inanimate objects to life…

I have The Three-Body Problem and Ninefox Gambit checked out my local library now, so those will be my May contributions to this challenge. Stay tuned for reviews later this month!

Have you read, or are you planning to read any of this year’s Hugo nominees? What do you think of the nominees?