T5W: Books for Your Hogwarts House

Ravenclaw_Crest_1 (1)
Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
If you’ve a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind.

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is Books For Your Hogwarts House and yes, you guessed it, this Librarian is a proud Ravenclaw! Like many book bloggers I suspect, I have always loved books and learning. I pursued first an undergraduate degree in English, and then a graduate degree in library and information science, and I value and admire creativity and intelligence in others.

This winter my parents and I visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the first time. Before we went, all of us took the house percentage quizzes and it turns out we’re a family of Ravenclaws (except for my brother, a Slytherin)!

Without further ado, here are the five books I think represent Ravenclaw well:

JonathanStrange1. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
When I began to consider books that represent Ravenclaw, Susanna Clarke’s historical fantasy about English magic during the Napoleonic Wars immediately came to mind. Although magical history and theory is studied, practical magic is believed to be long dead, until the reclusive Mr. Norrell reveals his ability. He becomes a celebrity overnight, and takes on a student in another practicing magician, the young and dashing Jonathan Strange, but their differences in style strain the partnership.

Why should Ravenclaws read it?
Obviously the subject matter, the history and revival of English magic, is a perfect fit for the intellectually curious Ravenclaw, and readers will enjoy Jonathan Strange’s somewhat unconventional uses of magic. The author’s wit has been compared to Jane Austen, and this well-researched novel even includes footnotes about the history of magic and texts for further study!

1226382. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde is surely synonymous with the word wit by now, and for good reason! My favourite work of his has to be the brilliant comedic play, The Importance of Being Earnest, which satirizes Victorian ways. Featuring mistaken identities, double lives, and a misplaced handbag, this popular farce is well worth a read.

Why should Ravenclaws read it?
Although the play is over a century old, it still manages to be funny and the infamous scene with the muffins always makes me laugh. Wilde’s works are perfect for the Ravenclaw reader who values “wit beyond measure” as man’s greatest treasure.

162993. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Although I enjoy a good mystery, I have to admit that I’m one of those people who rarely puts it all together before the end. Because of this, I have immense respect for anyone who can write an engaging mystery, and Agatha Christie is the master of this genre. I haven’t read many of her books yet, but I found And Then There Were None, a story where ten strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island begin to be killed off until there is no one left, incredibly atmospheric and clever.

Why should Ravenclaws read it?
Christie shows ingenuity in bringing all of the characters’ deaths in line with the ten little soldiers poem. The way in which she paints a psychological portrait of each of these people with a dark secret and the way she keeps the reader guessing until the very end with red herrings and plot twists is brilliant to read and sure to draw admiration from the Ravenclaw reader.

ioj8xt4. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Station Eleven is one of my favourite books. It’s perhaps a more controversial Ravenclaw choice, but I love the central theme in this soft post-apocalyptic novel, “because survival is insufficient”. I feel like it’s a very Ravenclaw concept, this idea that civilization and life is more than just getting by and surviving, there has to be a preservation of art and knowledge and a purpose to existence. This is demonstrated in the ways in which the characters carry on after the world as they know it ends. Kristen joins the travelling symphony as an actress, performing Shakespeare with its enduring appeal, to survivors of the pandemic. Clark opens the museum of civilization at the airport to preserve the way of life before and hold objects that no longer have any practical use, like high heels and a motorcycle, and a minor character begins printing a newspaper.

Why should Ravenclaws read it?
Station Eleven features culture and creativity and preservation of knowledge, told through beautiful prose in a story that is completely unique in setting the action during the pandemic, in its first days, and then fifteen years, entirely skipping the early days following the end of the world and the mayhem and brutality to tell a story about the new culture that begins to emerge and hope for the future.

2983175. Sandman by Neil Gaiman
(Art by Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, and Malcolm Jones III)
I was a little stuck on exactly which Neil Gaiman book belongs on this list, but ultimately went for his critically acclaimed Sandman graphic novels. For me, Sandman (and Neil Gaiman in general) represent that wildly imaginative, original, and eccentric part of Ravenclaw, much like Luna Lovegood. The Sandman comics are stories about stories. They’re not always linear, they’re not always easy to understand, but they’re always incredibly creative and interesting. The stories focus on Morpheus, the anthropomorphic personification of dreams, one of seven Endless, along with Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium–who was once Delight–and Destruction, and blend history, mythology, and horror.

Why should Ravenclaws read it?
The Sandman comics are unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and in that way represent the eccentricity and uniqueness of this house. Neil Gaiman’s brain is a fountain of original thought, which is perhaps at peak weirdness in Sandman. The series won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but it’s definitely worth checking out for the sheer imagination and creativity of the work.

Which Hogwarts house would you be in? And which books do you think represent your house?

T5W: Favourite Minor Characters

Top Five Wednesday is currently hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Want to join in the fun? Check out the goodreads group!

I took a bit of a detour the last few weeks to do a few Top Ten Tuesdays, but I’m back to Top 5 Wednesday with a list of my Favourite Minor Characters! I think the hardest part of compiling this list was trying to determine which characters counted as minor. This week’s topic defines minor characters as ‘less than a sidekick or a side character’ and uses the example of Ron and Hermione being side characters, while Lavender Brown, Oliver Wood, and Dean Thomas are minor characters. I’ve tried to keep to characters who are less than a sidekick, so hopefully I’m not too far off base here!

Without further ado, here’s my list:

3511981. Danny Hislop (The Lymond Chronicles)
I could probably make an entire top five list of my favourite minor characters from The Lymond Chronicles, but Danny Hislop is definitely at the top of it! I’m pretty sure it’s actually impossible to dislike Danny. From his first appearance as a soldier of Saint Mary’s he provides a much needed lightness to the series, asking why the men follow Francis Crawford of Lymond and assuming (correctly) that he’s gorgeous. Upon meeting Francis for the first time he actually moans, and proceeds to follow Lymond as much for the drama and out of curiosity than anything else.
Here are a few of his best lines:

“Gorgeous I called him and that he is…..And nasty I called him, and that, Maeve, was a shrewd piece of insight, for nasty he certainly is. And a clever bastard, I called him…Not to his face, dear. We’re not all born to be heroes. But what he may not know, Maeve, is that I’m a clever bastard as well.’

“As a reward for… what is your principal characteristic, would you say?”
“Treacherousness,” said Danny, gloriously.

“‘Do you think he will notice?’ Danny said. ‘I sometimes feel if I placed myself nude on the floor between the Voevoda and one of his meetings, he wouldn’t even walk round me.’”

173785082. The Women of 300 Fox Way (The Raven Cycle)
It feels only right to consider this formidable set of women as one (although if I had to pick a single woman it would be my favourite, Persephone). Blue’s family consists of her mother, Maura, Estonian psychic Persephone with her cloud of pale hair, confident Calla, Maura’s sister Jimi, and her daughter Orla. Growing up in this environment, surrounded by psychics with distinct but strong personalities, has clearly shaped Blue to be the self-assured individual she is, and I love that there is this sisterhood feeling to 300 Fox Way. All of the women are fully-realized despite the fact that they mostly play minor roles in the story, and I would happily read a collection of short stories about these ladies.

“Persephone said, “What an unpleasant young man.”
Calla let the curtains drift shut. She remarked, “I got his license plate number.”
“I hope he never finds what he’s looking for,” Maura said.
Retrieving her two cards from the table, Persephone said, a little regretfully, “He’s trying awfully hard. I rather think he’ll find something.”
Maura whirled toward Blue. “Blue, if you ever see that man again, you just walk the other way.”
“No,” Calla corrected. “Kick him in the nuts. Then run the other way.”

72601883. Finnick Odair (The Hunger Games)
Oh Finnick. Introduced as a somewhat cocky flirtatious male victor from district 4, as Katniss gets to know him, she and the reader discover that there’s more to Finnick than meets the eye. He is close to Mags, an elderly woman who was his mentor, and he is deeply in love with “mad” Annie Cresta, who is also a former victor. As an ally to Katniss and Peeta in the Quarter Quell, he helps to keep them alive and is an integral part of the story in Mockingjay where he falls into depression over Annie’s captivity by the Capitol, but assists in creating rebel propaganda, where it’s revealed that he was prostituted to wealthy citizens by President Snow, who threatened the people he loves. Probably my favourite character in these books besides Katniss herself, I have all kinds of feelings about Finnick Odair.

“Finnick!” Something between a shriek and a cry of joy. A lovely if somewhat bedraggled young woman–dark tangled hair, sea green eyes–runs toward us in nothing but a sheet. “Finnick!” And suddenly, it’s as if there’s no one in the world but these two, crashing through space to reach each other. They collide, enfold, lose their balance, and slam against a wall, where they stay. Clinging into one being. Indivisible.
A pang of jealousy hits me. Not for either Finnick or Annie but for their certainty. No one seeing them could doubt their love.”

226373584. Cardenio (Doctrine of Labyrinths series)
Cardenio is a true minor character. A cade-skiff who drags the river under the city for bodies, he’s shy, quick to blush, and perhaps the best listener Mildmay has ever met. His role in the plot is minor. Cardenio sometimes offers information, but for Mildmay who is chronically underestimating himself and who has been used by some of those closest to him for their own purposes, including Kolkiss who raised him as a thief and assassin and took sexual advantage of him, and his brother Felix who often treats him poorly, Cardenio is the one person who wants nothing from him, who is just a good friend. (Ignore the truly awful cover that makes this look like a paranormal romance with a tattooed redhead, it’s actually a dark fantasy quartet.)

“Okay?” I said.
“Yeah. Really okay.  I mean, nobody’s ever given me this good a present before. Thanks.”
“Hey, you’re the only person I know’s ever made it to journeyman cade-skiff. That’s gotta be worth something.”
He blushed like a girl, and I let him off the hook by asking him to tell me what kind of thing he was learning this decad. We talked the way we always did, about everything under the sun. Cardenio was maybe the best listener I’d ever met. With him I didn’t feel like I had to worry about my scar.”

crookedkingdom5. Nikolai Lantsov/Sturmhond (Crooked Kingdom)
Okay, I’m sort of cheating since Nikolai is a character who had a larger role in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, but he appears more briefly in Crooked Kingdom. A snarky pirate king with a heart of gold, how could I not love Nikolai? I might have squealed a little when he popped up in Crooked Kingdom. I’m fascinated by characters who are malleable/able to code switch when in different company (like Prince Hal in Henry IV) and Nikolai is one of these characters, using his persona as Sturmhond the pirate to negotiate in situations where he cannot go as King of Ravka. Seeing him match wits with Kaz Brekker in Crooked Kingdom was a particular delight. Should Ms. Bardugo ever write more of Nikolai’s story I’ll be among the first in line to read it!

“Ravka is grateful for your service,” Sturmhond said as they turned to go. “And so is the crown.” He waved once. In the late afternoon light, with the sun behind him, he looked less like a privateer and more like… but that was just silly.”

Honourable mention to:

Jaqen H’ghar (A Song of Ice and Fire)
A girl is fascinated by Jaqen H’ghar, from his unusual manner of speaking to his relationship with Arya Stark, to his mysterious past.

The Red God has his due, sweet girl, and only death may pay for life. This girl took three that were his. This girl must give three in their places. Speak the names, and a man will do the rest.

Margaret Erskine (The Lymond Chronicles)
Anyone who puts up with Francis Crawford deserves a medal really, but especially Margaret Erskine. Overshadowed by her glamourous mother, she is often overlooked or pitied, having been widowed twice by age 19 (I think?), but Margaret is intelligent and uses her ability to be unnoticed to watch everything around her and use it to her advantage. At the end of Queens’ Play offers Lymond some advice that sticks with him through the rest of the series. Also she has this gem:

“Silently, Margaret Erskine held open the door. Lymond’s eyebrows shot up. ‘My dear, have patience. My wounds are to be salved.’
‘Go away and bleed to death,’ said his onetime savior sharply. ‘On behalf of the female sex I feel I may cheer every lesion.’

Who are your favourite minor characters?

T5W: Favourite SFF Cover Art

Top Five Wednesday is currently hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Want to join in the fun? Check out the goodreads group!

When it comes to reading science-fiction & fantasy, you can’t always judge a book by its cover. Some of the best books I’ve read have terrible covers, like most of the books in Sarah Monette’s Doctrine of Labyrinths series (why the half-naked man?!), the pulpy Lois McMaster Bujold Vorkosigan Saga covers that completely go against the smart science-fiction writing within, and Carol Berg’s Rai-Kirah series, which does at least include a flying male character, but this still isn’t a series I would buy based on the cover alone!


Fortunately, there are also some fabulous science-fiction and fantasy covers out there! Here are my top 5:

1. The Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab
I suspect this series will wind up on a lot of people’s lists and rightly so! I LOVE the cover designs for this trilogy. The colour scheme matching the 4 Londons (Red, Black, Grey, and White), the art that includes part of the map of London’s streets in it, and the stylized design of the characters and concepts is just gorgeous. Vivid, unique, and playful, it’s very appropriate for this fast-paced series about magic and travel between worlds.

22055262     gatheringofshadows     AConjuringOfLight

2.  The Dreambloods duology by N. K. Jemisin
I love the covers on most of N.K. Jemisin’s books (her Broken Earth series also has beautiful cover art), but I especially love the art on The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun. The colours are vibrant, the titles are clearly legible, and the moon and sun imagery is a beautiful contrast. The duology is less well known than her two trilogies, but may actually be my favourite Jemisin works. I loved the characters and the world-building, as well as the choice to base the religion on ancient Egypt.

5yghvd     55m36

3. The Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers
I have yet to get my hands on a copy of A Closed and Common Orbit, but I love the covers for both it and the first book in the series, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. The cover art is very simple, which I think is fitting for this series about a long journey through space, but illustrates both the beauty and the loneliness of space.

huq5on     2qir5w7

4. The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
The Traitor Baru Cormorant has a theme running through it of masks. Baru’s goal is to infiltrate the Empire of Masks, who colonized her island, rewriting her culture and criminalizing her people’s customs, including disposing of one of her fathers. Yet to do so, she has to wear a figurative mask of her own, burying her sexuality and her true feelings about the empire she’s attempting to gain access to. The cover not only represents this well, but is striking in its own right.

barucormorant

5. The Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo
Since I was a little girl I have always loved St. Basil’s Cathedral. I don’t know what it is about the onion domes and the bright colours that appeals to me so much, but is is one of my favourite buildings and I would love to be able to visit it one day. So to see it, or at least a St. Basil’s inspired building, on these covers really drew me in. It also serves as a quick hint that this is not your typical Western Europe set fantasy book. I loved the Russian-inspired setting and thought it was part of what made this YA fantasy series so unique, and I think the covers clearly convey that.

20s6hdv     2r7nc60     2q07ic6

Those are some of my favourite science-fiction and fantasy book covers. What covers make your list?

T5W: Authors You Want to Read More From

Top Five Wednesday is currently hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Want to join in the fun? Check out the goodreads group!

When I first saw this week’s topic, Authors You Want to Read More From: Talk about some authors that you’ve only read one or a few books from, and you NEED to read more, I thought it would be a piece of cake. Don’t we all have authors we’d like to read more from but whose other works are just slightly further down on the tbr list? It turns out when it comes to authors I’ve already read, my tbr mostly falls into two categories:

1. Authors such as Dorothy Dunnett, V.E. Schwab, and Leigh Bardugo. I’ve read more than five of their books already, but sooner or later I want to read everything else they’ve ever written!
OR
2. Authors who have only written one or two novels. I’ve read what they’ve published so far and I can’t wait to read whatever they publish next!

This second category seemed more in keeping with this week’s theme, so I’ve made an effort to keep this week’s Top 5 to authors who I have only read one or a few books from, and who I would buy new works from tomorrow if they were on the shelf, that’s how excited I am about the prospect of more!

alittlelifeHanya Yanagihara
A Little Life was one of the best books I read last year and a new all-time favourite of mine. First of all the writing is absolutely exquisite. In a lesser writer’s hands I’m not sure this grim sort of reverse fairy tale would work at all, let alone as well as it does, but in Yanagihara’s capable hands the book soars. Although it’s a hefty 720 pages, I read the book in about half a week because I couldn’t put it down! It’s also the type of book that appeals to me: dark and sometimes bleak, yet with glimpses of compassion and love that make you feel that all is not lost. The author’s prose and gift for storytelling, as well as her memorably flawed and broken characters had such an impact on me that I would buy her next book regardless of what it’s about. I can’t wait to devour more of her writing!

15q8eafKatherine Arden
As you could probably tell from my review, Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale sucked me in quickly and never let me go. I was enchanted by the lyrical prose, the strength and compassion of heroine Vasya, and the weaving of folktales into this rich historical fantasy. It took me all of about 50 pages of The Bear and the Nightingale before I clicked Want to Read on the second volume in the series, The Girl in the Tower on goodreads. It looks like The Girl in the Tower isn’t out until early 2018, so there’s a bit of a wait ahead, but I am really looking forward to diving back into this magical medieval Rus’ setting and reuniting with Arden’s cast of strong characters. Her enchanting prose alone is enough to guarantee that I will happily pick up more of her work in the future.

barucormorantSeth Dickinson 
At times it felt like Dickinson’s debut novel, The Traitor Baru Cormorant was written just for me. I love books that feature political maneuvering and power, and I usually find stories featuring characters with a grey sense of morality engaging. In Baru, Dickinson creates a protagonist whose motive and reasons are understandable but the lengths she goes to in order to achieve her goals are sometimes difficult to stomach. It makes for a fascinating character study in a book that is brutally effective and completely engrossing. I also found the depiction of colonial empires and the methods colonizers use to stamp out undesirable traits in the colonies, (like Baru’s home island of Taranoke) such as criminalizing homosexuality, both disturbing and thought-provoking. Dickinson is currently working on the sequel, tentatively titled The Monster Baru Cormorant, and I CAN’T WAIT to get my hands on it! When an author manages to make detailed descriptions of economic policy not only understandable, but even interesting, you know he’s one to watch!

cityofbladesRobert Jackson Bennett
The exception to my list of authors who have only published one or two novels, I believe Robert Jackson Bennett has a few previous works that I have yet to check out, but the reason I’m a devotee is definitely his Divine Cities trilogy. I’ve read the first two volumes, City of Stairs and City of Blades, and absolutely loved them. As someone who enjoys epic fantasy, and who has always had an interest in mythology, these were right up by alley. I loved the detailed and rich world-building, his prose, and the fact that he uses a fantasy setting to explore themes of colonialism and racism. The number one reason to pick these books up though is definitely the strong female WoC protagonists in Shara and General Turyin Mulaghesh (the later a middle-aged, disabled, WoC general who swears. A lot.) The third volume, City of Miracles comes out next week (I’m already screaming about this!) and I can’t wait to finish the series, and then to see what Robert Jackson Bennett will do next, because I will be there!

everythinginevertoldyouCeleste Ng
Ng’s debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, was one of my favourite reads last year. Days and even weeks after finishing it, I found myself reflecting on the book, despite the fact that it was such a quick read I finished it in under 24 hours. I’ve since recommended the book to a few people and bought it as a gift for another. The author’s prose is absolutely exquisite and I found the book really well structured with characters who were real and flawed, as she explored themes of racism and sexism in 1970s small-town Ohio. I believe Celeste Ng’s next novel, Little Fires Everywhere, is scheduled for publication this fall, and I will definitely be picking it up!

Have you read any of these authors? Which authors do you NEED to read more from?

T5W: Favourite LGBTQ+ Reads

Top Five Wednesday is currently hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Want to join in the fun? Check out the goodreads group!

Today’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is Favorite LGBTQ+ Reads: Talk about your favorite books that feature LGBTQ+ characters. I’ve been really looking forward to this topic, but it has also been really difficult to narrow it down to just five books!

Swordspoint1. Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
Swordspoint features two male bisexual protagonists, swordsman Richard St. Vier and university student Alec Campion. I knew nothing about the book when I started reading it several years ago and remembered getting the strong impression that Richard and Alec were in a relationship from the writing and how comfortable these men were with one another, but the relationship wasn’t stated and I kept thinking to myself, “no, but this is canon. They wouldn’t actually be in a relationship, I must be reading too much into this” until they were actually in bed together, 80 pages into the book! How sad is it that representation sometimes feels so scarce that I doubt what’s right in front of my eyes until it’s explicitly stated?! Fortunately I think both fantasy as a genre and the book industry as a whole have improved their diversity and inclusion since then. Swordspoint remains a favourite of mine, for the dialogue between Alec and Richard, which is natural and shows how comfortable they are with one another. I also love that for both characters actions speak louder than words and their devotion to one another is demonstrated through their choices, rather than through words. Author Ellen Kushner (who identifies as bisexual) also creates a really interesting world of politics, class distinctions, and wit.

msg-1296591052342. Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan & Adrian Alphona (Illustrator)
Runaways is one of the great underappreciated comic books in my opinion, and I’m a little baffled at how overlooked it has been because it is a poster child for diversity. The main cast of characters includes an African-American boy prodigy, a Japanese-American former alter-girl who is a powerful witch, a plus-sized, glasses wearing, ethnically Jewish but spiritually agnostic girl and her telepathically-linked dinosaur, a mutant, a Latino cyborg, an alien lesbian, and an alien who switches gender at will. The premise is that a set of kids find out their parents are actually supervillains, and that they in turn have powers or abilities, so they attempt to balance the scales by fighting evil. One of these kids is Karolina Dean, a blonde vegan who learns that she is Majesdanian, an alien race that absorbs solar energy and re-radiates it in the form of the colors of the rainbow. Karolina also deals with coming out, as she harbours a crush on her teammate Nico, attempts to kiss a boy in order to feel normal, and finally tells her team that she is a lesbian. Karolina later gets a girlfriend in Xavin, a member of the gender fluid Skrull race, who change gender like we change our hair style. Runaways is a fabulous series full of the kind of snarky, pop-culture referencing dialogue you’d find in Buffy the Vampire Slayer of Veronica Mars, and has characters who are diverse and relatable and endearing.

Karolina+Xavin

24drhv63. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Tell the Wolves I’m Home was a selection for a book club that I’m in and probably not something I would have chosen to read on my own, but it was a really good book and completely different from anything I’ve ever read before. The book focuses on 14-year-old June, whose Uncle Finn, her confidant, dies of a mysterious illness. At the funeral she notices a strange man lingering who wants to speak with her. As she gets to know this stranger, Toby, she realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn and the two connect over their shared loss. Set in 1987, the book provides a different perspective on the AIDS crisis, and the dynamic between June and Toby, her Uncle’s lover, as she experiences jealousy and the realization that she didn’t know everything there was to know about her beloved Uncle, is really fascinating. I found it a very moving novel and one that sheds light on a period and situation that isn’t often written about in fiction, particularly fiction appropriate for teens.

TheDreamThieves4. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
Ronan Lynch and Adam Parrish are two of my favourite characters in fiction, so of course this series had to make my list. Part of what I love about The Raven Cycle is its subtlety. Ronan’s sexuality is hinted at in the first book and confirmed in the second, and in many ways The Dream Thieves is Ronan’s book about coming to terms with his sexuality, something he hasn’t even put into words before. A character who is recovering from trauma (my favourite kind of character!), he has a lot to work through, from his abilities to take things from dreams, to his sexuality and his feelings for Adam Parrish. He’s raw, intense, fiercely loyal to the point where he can’t even comprehend the point of casual relationships of any kind. He is drawn to danger and fights and street-races, but also hand raises a baby raven and leaves thoughtful gifts of hand cream. I also adore bisexual Adam Parrish who has his own issues to work through, which include his abusive father, and poverty, which means he has to work multiple jobs to keep himself in school, as well as his feelings about Blue and later Ronan. Stiefvater writes such incredibly engaging characters that their trials and relationships made me laugh and cry and make high pitched squealing noises out loud. One of my all-time favourites series and with great LGBT representation.

2dhy8w75. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
As far as LGBT historical figures go, is any tale better known than that of Achilles and Patroclus? In The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller tells the story of their bond, from friendship to romance through the eyes of Patroclus as the Trojan War looms. I’m a huge fan of Greek mythology so this was something I really enjoyed reading, and I liked the foreshadowing throughout the book. The prose is lovely, and I thought the development of the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus was really well done and the story was very moving.


This Top Five Wednesdays is about books, but I cannot stress this enough, if you’re looking for a television show with great LGBT representation, I highly recommend Black Sails, which features 4 main characters who are gay or bisexual, and they are all treated with respect and given plotlines and romances.

T5W: SFF Books on my TBR

Top Five Wednesday is currently hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Want to join in the fun? Check out the goodreads group!

A large part of my ever-growing TBR is science-fiction and fantasy books. I could probably put together a top 10, a top 25, possibly even a top 50 list of sci-fi & fantasy titles I want to read one day! For the purposes of this list I’ve focused on the 5 SFF books I’m hoping to read within the next six months.

DaughteroftheForest1. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
This book, a historical fantasy loosely based on the legend of the Children of Lir and “The Six Swans”, wasn’t even on my radar until a few weeks ago when a friend with similar tastes in books gave it five stars. Curious, I looked it up on goodreads and found that a few other friends had also given it five stars! I put a lot of weight in personal recommendations from people who know my reading tastes, and this friend is one of those people. Recently she’s also read and loved A Darker Shade of Magic and the Six of Crows series. When I commented on how much I was enjoying a book she had just finished, The Bear and the Nightingale, she replied, “You will looooove Daughter of the Forest, then!” I definitely enjoy books that feature mythology or folklore and this seems to fit the bill, so it’s been moved up the tbr!

AssasinsApprentice2. Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
This book about a royal bastard who begins training as an assassin has been on my tbr list for a few years now and I’m determined that this will be the year when I finally get to it! Assassin’s Apprentice has been highly recommended by some friends on goodreads who have similar tastes, and recently I’ve read a few positive reviews of Robin Hobb titles by book bloggers that I follow. I even own a copy already thanks to a friend who moved to New Zealand and left me a bag of her favourite books, so I have absolutely no excuse for not getting to it!

 

CityOfMiracles3. City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett
The first two books in Robert Jackson Bennett’s Divine Cities trilogy, City of Stairs and City of Blades, are among my favourite books of all time, so I’ve been looking forward to this third volume, which will be published in May, for ages! Each book has had a different protagonist, and this time it’s Sigrud je Harkvaldsson, the 6-and-a-half foot former bodyguard of spy Shara Komayd. I loved Sigrud in the first two novels of the series and am looking forward to getting his perspective in City of Miracles! If you’re interested in reading this series at all (and you should be) don’t read the goodreads summary for City of Miracles though, because it has some pretty heavy spoilers for the first two books.

AncillarySword4. Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
This series is centered around Breq, a lone soldier on a distant planet who was once the Justice of Toren – a huge starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. I finally got to Ancillary Justice, the first book in Ann Leckie’s science-fiction trilogy, in January, and I was really impressed by how refreshingly unique it was, how intelligent, and how well written. Since then, my current reads have been pretty solidly booked, but I can’t wait to pick up Ancillary Sword and continue this fabulous series!

NeverLetMeGo

5. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go is one of my wonderful friend Rachel’s all-time favourite books, which is honestly enough of a recommendation on it’s own, that’s how important her opinions on books are to me, but I’ve also seen it rated highly by other bookish friends. I remember the release of the movie, but never actually got around to watching it so I can even read the novel relatively spoiler-free! I’ve been trying to  avoid reading too much about the book, so about all I know is that it’s a dystopia that involves cloning and organ donation in some way. I’m looking forward to giving it a try!

What science-fiction & fantasy books are at the top of your TBR?

T5W: Future Classics

Top Five Wednesday is currently hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Want to join in the fun? Check out the goodreads group!

This week’s topic was a challenging one for me: Discuss the books you think will be considered classics one day! What makes a book a classic is a topic that has been much debated and I don’t know that there will ever be agreement on this topic, so I’ve opted for books that I think fit many of the characteristics commonly cited as being markers of the classics.

The classics are usually books that you can read multiple times and take something new away from them each time, they endure across generations and speak to people from different backgrounds and time periods, they have themes or noteworthy qualities that can be discussed and shared with others, in a book club or an academic setting, for example, and they have something important to say or are innovative in some respect.

I also set a few rules for myself in constructing this list:
1. They had to be books I’d actually read and not books on my tbr or that I expect will be good.
2. They had to be books I think stand an actual chance of becoming a classic. In other words, not just novels I liked and think should still be widely read in 50 years, but novels I actually think will stand the test of time.

Without further ado, here’s my list of future classics:

10nyuis1. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (published 2014)
There are many reasons to love this gorgeous book about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths cross in occupied France during World War II. The book is beautifully written with evocative prose and imagery, and I loved both of the protagonists and the way their stories were told. Tearjerkers can often feel manipulative to me as though they’re trying to make you cry, but with All the Light We Cannot See everything about the novel feels so genuine that the emotional reaction I had to the book was completely earned and came from the feeling I had for the characters and their circumstances. It’s a book that has stayed with me, and that has transcended it’s setting (Contrary to what you’d think from reading this T5W, I’m not usually one for WWII set stories). I could easily see this story of youths who are both victims of the war being taught in classrooms and read for generations to come.

15dtj612. Maus by Art Spiegelman (serialized 1980-1991)
Art Spiegelman’s classic Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel tells the story of his father Vladek’s experiences as a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust in cartoon form, and was perhaps the easiest choice for my list. I’d argue that it’s already a contemporary classic and will still be read in one hundred years. The black and white art depicts Jewish people as mice, German people as cats, Polish people as pigs, etc. in order to show the absurdity of dividing people by the lines of nationality. The story is told through Art interviewing his father Vladek about his experiences in Hitler’s Europe in order to write and illustrate a graphic novel based on his father’s story. Interludes as Art clarifies details about the story show his relationship with his father and his horror as he comes to terms with what his father has been through. Ultimately Maus examines both sets of experiences, those of the survivors as well as how the children of survivors are affected by what their parents have gone through.

ioj8xt3. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (published 2014)
A patient, slow-moving, yet beautifully told story about the breakdown of civilization as we know it and what happens fifteen years after the end of the world. Following a devastating plague, a theater troupe and orchestra known as The Travelling Symphony travel through what remains of North America. Unlike many post-apocalyptic works that focus on the period directly following the collapse and the fight for survival, Station Eleven moves between the pre-collapse days and fifteen years after the collapse to tell the story of what comes next. The central idea, “Survival is insufficient” really resonated with me and the reader sees through the museum, through an individual trying to start up a newspaper, and of course through the symphony, the ways in which human beings begin the slow rebuilding process and the importance of culture and art. It’s a gorgeous lyrically written story that gets better on a re-read and is a wonderful piece to analyze and find new insights in.

alittlelife4. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (published 2015)
Perhaps a more controversial choice since it’s not a book that I would recommend universally due to the darkness of its themes, but A Little Life is one of my favourite books. The story follows four friends through the decades as they graduate from university in New York City and deal with their personal demons. Although difficult to read at times due to the violence one of the characters endures throughout his childhood, it’s one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read with gorgeous prose and real flawed characters. It is also unlike anything I had ever read before. Ultimately A Little Life is a master class in writing, and brought an incredible beauty to one man’s struggle against the ties of his traumatic past.

j6n48z5. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (published 1997)
I went back and forth over my last pick, debating less obvious choices, but ultimately of course Harry Potter had to make the list. I don’t know that it will be considered a classic in terms of its writing style or having deep themes for discussion, but it’s a beloved series that has been read and re-read by devoted fans. When a series has a large portion of a major theme park (The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios) dedicated to it, you know it has staying power. Harry Potter has had such a huge cultural impact on the world that the word “muggle” has entered common usage and you instantly have an impression of a person by their self-proclaimed Hogwarts House. The sheer impact the books have had on a generation guarantees that the kids who grew up with Harry Potter will no doubt one day read or pass along the series to their own children, nieces, or nephews, making the series a classic in the making.

What books do you think will be classics one day?

T5W: Favourite Angsty Romances

Top Five Wednesday is currently hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Want to join in the fun? Check out the goodreads group!

I have a confession. I love angst in fiction. When done well, it takes me through the emotional wringer in a really cathartic way and moves me greatly. I’ve been looking forward to this topic for a few weeks now and quickly came up with my five couples, although I found it harder to jot down a few thoughts on just what it was about each couple that I loved so much. Ultimately all of these pairings are ones that had me making incomprehensible high-pitched noises and/or crying at least once, often from joy and from sorrow.

SPOILER WARNING: This post contains major spoilers for The Lymond Chronicles and A Little Life. The couples are slow-burns who happen later in the book/series, so if you are considering reading these, I’ve kept the actual summary and quotes deliberately vague and safe to read, but don’t highlight the pairing names or parts that I’ve hidden with white font!!

Without further ado, here are the five couples that had me making dying whale noises at least once in anguish and in joy!

1. Francis Crawford & Philippa Somerville (The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett)
CheckmateThe Lymond Chronicles are my FAVOURITE BOOKS OF ALL TIME. I read them for the first time in 2012 and had such a bad book hangover that I found it impossible to read anything else for days. I’ve already re-read the entire 6 book, roughly 500 pages per book, series twice.

There was really no competition for the top position on this week’s top five. If you ever read The Lymond Chronicles, and you should, everyone should, because they are superb in every single way (although they will break your heart along the way, you have been warned) you’ll get it because there is ALL OF THE ANGST, particularly with this couple. They spend most of the book (Checkmate, the last in the series) hopelessly in love with each other and yet pushing one another away. Each person believes that they are doing the right thing and is not aware that the feelings are mutual. With any less gifted an author than Dorothy Dunnett this would just not work, but in her hands it’s wonderful anguish. Just when the pair have realized that they love each other, one person makes a sacrifice for the other that changes them and their relationship forever. This is a true match of equals who complement each other intellectually and who know each other’s soul, but there are a hell of a lot of obstacles that stand in their way.

“As you say, I’m inexperienced. On the other hand, you are not always right. Please listen. Please think. Are you sure, when it matters so much, that you know my feelings better than I do?”
“No,” he said. “I’m not infallible. You might, without my crediting it, fall deeply in love and for ever, with some warped hunchback whelped in the gutter. I should equally stop you from taking him.”
She couldn’t speak. Her breath wheezed in and out. With extreme deliberation, and indeed restraint and moderation as well, [she] raised her glass and dashed it on the parquet. Crystals frosted the carpet between them, and the wine lay like blood.
Speech came back. “God in heaven,” [she] said. ‘Do you think that I care?’
He looked up from the mess. “I know you don’t,” Lymond said. His eyes were black, not blue; and there were red splashes on the white velvet. “But you must excuse the hunchback, who does.”

2. Kaz Brekker & Inej Ghafa (Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo)
SixOfCrowsI love this pair so much! Kaz and Inej are both scarred by their pasts to the point where it impacts their ability to have normal relationships. Kaz’s childhood trauma has made touching another human being with bare skin so unbearable that he wears gloves to cope, while Inej was captured by slavers and forced to work in a brothel. The depth of feeling they have for one another is intense. Kaz saved Inej and gave her the opportunity to start again as The Wraith, someone to be respected, and he in turn depends on Inej and she is a sort of moral compass for him. They make each other better, and I love that their trauma doesn’t just magically disappear because they’re in love. They begin to heal together but there’s still a long long way to go.

“Stay,” he said, his voice rough stone. “Stay in Ketterdam. Stay with me.”
She looked down at his gloved hand clutching hers. Everything in her wanted to say yes, but she would not settle for so little, not after all she’d been through. “What would be the point?”
He took a breath. “I want you to stay. I want you to…. I want you.”
“You want me.” She turned the words over. Gently, she squeezed his hand. “And how will you have me Kaz?”
He looked at her then, eyes fierce, mouth set. It was the face he wore when he was fighting.
“How will you have me?” she repeated. “Fully clothed, gloves on, your head turned away so our lips can never touch.”
He released her hand, his shoulders bunching, his gaze angry and ashamed as he turned his face to the sea.
Maybe it was because his back was to her that she could finally speak the words. “I will have you without armor, Kaz Brekker. Or I will not have you at all.”


3. Willem Ragnarsson & Jude St. Francis
(A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara)
alittlelifeTo say anything at all about this pairing is to spoil part of the novel, so highlight to read my thoughts, or if you don’t mind being spoiled for the book/aren’t going to read it.

A Little Life is very much Jude’s novel, but the central conceit is that sometimes a person is so damaged by the trauma they’ve endured, in Jude’s case systematic sexual and physical abuse, that they can’t recover from it. Jude’s battle with his past is very two steps forward, one step back. Through it all he is supported by Willem, his best friend. Slowly Jude realizes that he doesn’t want to be alone and that he loves Willem, but Jude sees himself as unworthy of love and his childhood abuse has left him repulsed by the act of sex in any form. Willem and Jude are truly two halves of a whole who just fit, but Jude’s past places strain on their relationship and both men have to make concessions. Like some of the other relationships on my list (oops I’m sensing a pattern), they can’t overcome and fully heal from their pasts, but the relationship is a stabilizing force in Jude’s life and their connection is beautiful and heartbreaking. It is impossible not to be moved by these two.

“Who am I? Who am I?”
“You’re Jude St. Francis. You are my oldest, dearest friend .. You’re patient. You’re generous. You’re the best listener I know. You’re the smartest person I know, in every way. You’re the bravest person I know, in every way. You’re a lawyer. You’re the chair of the litigation department at Rosen Pritchard and Klein. You love your job; you work hard at it. You’re a mathematician. You’re a logician. You’ve tried to teach me, again and again. You were treated horribly. You came out on the other end. You were always you.”
“And who are you?”
“I’m Willem Ragnarsson. And I will never let you go.”


4. Damen and Lauren
(Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat)
kingsrisingThe premise of this m/m novel involves Damianos (Damen), Prince of Akielos, being betrayed by his lover Jokaste and his ambitious half-brother and sold to Laurent, the Prince of an enemy kingdom. Damen keeps his identity a secret, for the Prince despises Damianos, who killed Laurent’s beloved older brother on the field of combat years earlier. Their mutual hate grows into a grudging respect, a friendship, some truly smoldering UST, and even, finally, love, but Damen’s unrevealed identity is a tremendous source of angst and until the final book the reader is left to speculate on whether Laurent already knows and, if not, how he will take the news that he has fallen for his brother’s killer. Angst also stems from Laurent’s childhood trauma and the walls he has built up around him in response. I’ve been reading this series since 2009 back in the Livejournal days and the final book in the trilogy, published last year, was everything I was hoping it would be for one of my favourite angsty couples.

“I hated you,” said Laurent. “I hated you so badly I thought I’d choke on it. If my uncle hadn’t stopped me, I would have killed you. And then you saved my life, and every time I needed you, you were there, and I hated you for that too.”


5. Richard St. Vier & Alec Campion
(Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner)
SwordspointReckless, sharp-tongued nobleman Alec and honourable, but ruthless swordsman Richard St. Vier are one of my favourite fictional pairings. The very natures of those involved, particularly self-destructive Alec who picks fights for fun, give the relationship a darkness, yet the reader never doubts that they love each other deeply. There’s angst enough in Swordspoint, as Richard believes Alec has left him, but the angst and the depth of love between them continues in a few novels and short stories set years later in the ‘verse, which include Richard losing his sight (a particularly devastating blow to the most skilled swordsman in the city), and their respective deaths.

Please,” Alec said, still pulling against his arm as though he were ready to start hitting him again; “That’s a new one from you. I think I like it. Say it again.”
Richard’s own hands sprang open; he flung himself away from the other man. “Look,” he shouted, “what do you want from me?”
Alec smiled his feral smile. “You’re upset,” he said.
Richard could feel himself shaking. Tears of rage were still burning behind his eyes, but at least he could see again, the room was losing its red tinge. “Yes,” he managed to say.
“Come here,” Alec said. His voice was long and cool like slopes of snow. “Come to me.”
He walked across the room. Alec lifted his chin and kissed him. “You’re crying, Richard,” Alec said. “You’re crying.”
The tears burned his eyes like acid. They made his face feel raw. Alec lowered him to the floor. At first he was rough, and then he was gentle.

Who are some of your favourite angsty couples in fiction?