Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Meant to Read In 2018 but Didn’t Get To

There were A LOT of books I wanted to read in 2018 and just didn’t get around to, so I couldn’t resist participating in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday. It turns out working in a public library is both the best and the worst thing that can happen to your TBR. It’s great to have first access to books, but really messes with your backlist reading when you’re constantly surrounded by what’s new and shiny! Here are some of the titles I didn’t quite get to last year:

1392810. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
I picked up the entire trilogy at a used bookstore on a friend’s recommendation in 2017, but I still haven’t read any of them. Daughter of the Forest is the first book in a historical fantasy series that takes inspiration from Celtic mythology though, so obviously this is right up my alley! I can’t wait to finally check this out in 2019.

676979. Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault
Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres and Mary Renault is generally viewed as the queen of historical fiction, so I feel a bit like a Fake Fan for never having picked up any of her novels. A close friend has also been raving about her works for as long as I’ve known her, so I really need to make an effort to read some Renault.

284492078. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Yet another book that I’m sure I’ll love when I finally get around to reading it! This one is pretty much universally adored throughout the book blogging community and is one of few fantasy novels that my mom’s read that I haven’t (she loved it). I really need to catch up.


178999487. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
In 2018 I crossed one longstanding classic on my TBR off when I finished Jane Eyre. Rebecca has been on that list nearly as long. I ending up opting for different classics than I intended to, reading Anna Karenina and Onegin in the fall instead of Rebecca, but 2019 is the year – I promise!

315486. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
This was on my five star predictions list in December 2017, so it’s about time I pick it up! I’ve seen a stage adaptation of this book (which I adored), and I know it’s one of Rachel’s favourites, so I know I’m going to love it, I just need to set aside the time for backlist reading in order to appreciate it!


328025955. Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

A lot of the books I meant to read last year fell victim to my magpie tendency to pick up new and shiny books spotted at the library instead of what I really wanted to read, or to a lack of time to read. Record of a Spaceborn Few was an issue of availability. Although published in October (in Canada, in the US it came out in July), copies are STILL On Order at my local library. Sigh. My library is wonderful and offers access to so many books I wouldn’t be able to afford to buy/have the space for in my apartment, but the waiting can be killer and the fact that it’s been almost three months and this book is still not available to borrow is definitely a little frustrating. Oh well, there are always other books to read in the meantime.

382553424. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley/The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White
I read Frankenstein over a decade ago in university and remember really enjoying it, but I hoped that 2018 would be the right year to revisit this classic. As an added bonus, I hoped to have the story fresh in my mind so I could pick up Kiersten White’s YA retelling from the perspective of Elizabeth Frankenstein. More than most classics though, Frankenstein feels like a very seasonal read and when my fall filled up and we moved into December, I just didn’t feel like reading it any more. This fall I’m definitely going to get through both of these though!

354854473. The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
One of my most anticipated sequels of 2018 and I still haven’t picked it up! Generally if an author publishes a book a year in a series then I don’t always feel the need to re-read because I remember events well enough to continue on. If it’s been more than a year though, my memory gets a little choppy. I read The Traitor Baru Cormorant in summer 2016 and it’s a (brilliant, brutal) book full of politicking so I felt like I needed a re-read before picking up the next chapter in Baru’s saga, but I just ran out of time in 2018. This year I will definitely be reading both books in this brilliant series.

379697232. The Iliad by Homer/The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
I was first on the holds list at Toronto Public Library for The Silence of the Girls. I checked back daily until it appeared in the library catalogue and had the satisfaction of being number one. But it’s 2019, the book has been published, copies have gone out and come back, and my hold is still set to inactive. Why? Because although I have a pretty good grasp on Greek mythology, I really wanted to read The Iliad first. If you’ve ever looked at a copy of The Iliad though, you’ll know it’s a monster of a book, and (stupidly) I wound up committing to read another monster (Anna Karenina) in Fall 2018, so The Iliad went unread. I’ve enlisted a friend though and we’re planning to start in the next few weeks! Wish me luck so I can cross both of these books I’m sure to enjoy off my TBR in 2019!

771971. Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
Of course the number one book I meant to get to last year and didn’t is the first in Robin Hobb’s Farseer series. Robin Hobb has been on my TBR for quite literally years! I’m a huge fan of the fantasy genre and have made strides over the last few years to read sci-fi and fantasy works written by women and authors of colour, but I’ve neglected backlist authors in the genre. I was sure 2018 would be the year and even agreed to be part of a buddy read of Assassin’s Apprentice with a few friends. Well, newer, shinier books came out and I had a tumultuous year personally and I kept pushing back the buddy read. Suddenly it was 2019. So I’m making a public vow that this will be the year I finally read Assassin’s Apprentice! Seriously. If you don’t see a review in a few months time please nag me until you do!

Have you read any of these? Which ones should I bump up my TBR? Let me know in the comments!

Want to join in the fun? Head on over to Top Ten Tuesday, created by The Broke and Bookish and now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl!

Top Ten Tuesday: Longest Books I’ve Ever Read

When someone asks ‘what’s the longest book you’ve ever read?’ I don’t have to think about my answer. Both as an avid reader of fantasy, and as someone increasingly trying to read works of classic literature though, I was curious about which other books on my goodreads read shelf would make it onto a list of the longest books I’ve ever read. Read on to find out which novels I’ve read most closely resemble a brick!

Note: Since word counts are a little harder to come by, I’ve measured using (mostly) mass market paperback word counts according to goodreads. It’s not a perfect system of measurement, but it provides a good idea of the lengthier novels I’ve completed.

Want to join in the fun? Head on over to Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl!

alittlelife10. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
720 pgs (Hardcover)/816 pgs (Paperback)

I’m currently tackling Anna Karenina for the first time, so A Little Life may be bumped off my top ten by next year, but until then I’m going to enjoy the presence of this long, brilliant, heartbreaking book. A Little Life has the distinction of being hands down the book that I finished the most quickly on this list (I read it in about half a week) and one of the ones I was most affected by. It’s a painful book, at times challenging to read because the trauma Yanaghihara writes about is so intense and graphic, and it’s not a novel that I would recommend to everyone, but it’s one of my all-time favourite books.

1530089. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
901 pgs 

When a close friend of mine moved half-way around the world, she left a few bags of her books with me. Some were books that I had mentioned, others were favourites of hers that she thought I might enjoy. Kushiel’s Dart was one of her favourites. I liked it too, despite the dirty looks I got for reading it on the subway (apparently some people DO judge a book entirely by its cover!), but at 900 pages it’s a pretty big time investment. I wasn’t interested enough to read the rest of the series, but I’m glad I tried this first book out.

60416898. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
969 pgs

A Clash of Kings is the first ASoIaF novel to appear on my top ten list, but it’s not the last. For a long time it felt like a big part of being a fantasy fan was waiting years for a new book in a series to be published, devouring it’s huge page count in a relatively short period of time, and then waiting all over again. As much as I love this series, and big books, I’m definitely relieved that we’re moving into a stage of fantasy where series can be shorter and more concisely written. That said, if Martin ever finishes The Winds of Winter, you can bet I’ll be lining up to buy it!

JonathanStrange7. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
1006 pgs

I LOVE this book. Set in one of my favourite periods, Georgian into Regency England, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell employs a dry sense of humour, detailed footnotes about the in-novel history of English magic, and an early scene set in York Cathedral that put visiting it on my bucket list of bookish trips (one I finally crossed off in May – 8 years after reading the book!) It is a little slow moving at times, but I was drawn in from the very first line, “SOME YEARS AGO there was in the city of York a society of magicians.”

lotr6. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
1031 pgs (50th anniversary edition, not including appendices)

Tolkien intended for his epic to be published in one volume, but for economic reasons the book was originally published in three volumes from 29 July 1954 to 20 October 1955.  Why include it on this list then? Because the edition I have, the one I re-read for a University English course in Science-Fiction & Fantasy, is published as one 50th anniversary mass market paperback. Since the author intended it to be read as one volume and that’s the way I (re-)read it, I’ve decided to include it here. Although it takes awhile to get going, Tolkien’s epic is a classic for a reason and is well worth reading.

12150325. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
1107 pgs

I love Patrick Rothfuss’ prose, his ingenious magic systems, and the loving way in which he writes about books and stories, but let’s be honest, there’s really no reason that The Wise Man’s Fear should be as long as it is. I realize that could be said about many books on this list. Could Tolkien have moved things along before the hobbits met Strider to improve the pace? Probably. Could Susanna Clarke have tightened things up? Again, probably. But from what I recall of The Wise Man’s Fear, a good third of the book was spend on sex with a faerie. I haven’t re-read the series, and probably won’t until there’s a firm publication date for the third book, but I can’t say I’m hugely looking forward to wading through that part of The Wise Man’s Fear again!

106641134. A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
1016 pgs Hardcover/1113 pgs Paperback

After such a long wait for a book, opinions will inevitably be divided, but I’m in the camp that loved A Dance With Dragons and found it a more satisfying installment than A Feast For Crows. I loved that Martin, a master at cleverly revealing the backstory of a character previously only viewed through other people’s points-of-view in a sympathetic way, once again proved that he could make us love a character we’d previously hated. I also enjoyed watching Dany, a fairly static character of late, have some moments of growth. I’m not keen on having to watch Game of Thrones to find out how it all ends (although there are enough differences between the books and the show to mean things may play out differently), but I need to know what happens next!

133554513. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
1128 pgs

Often long installments in a series carry some dead weight, but A Storm of Swords is the rare example of the longest book in a series also generally being regarded by the fanbase as the best written of the series. Featuring a certain shocking rite-of-fan-passage moment, as well as PoV chapters from many of the series’ most loved characters, A Storm of Swords is a hell of a book!

6352222. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
1392 pgs

If you’ve been reading this book for awhile, you’ll have either read my review of the disappointing non-fiction work disguised as a novel that is War and Peace, or you’ve heard me complain about it. For the uninitiated, somewhere around the middle of the novel Tolstoy drops all pretense that he’s writing a novel with actual characters, and delivers page after page of Russian military history. Since I’ve never been particularly interested in war, this made my eyes glaze over. Basically, I liked the peace parts but since the book would more accurately be titled War & War & War & War & War & War & War & Peace, it was a dud for me.

242801. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
1463 pgs

It’s no wonder Les Misérables is affectionately referred to by the fandom as “the brick” – its physical dimensions closely resemble a standard exterior housing brick! Since I read the unabridged Signet Classics edition in 2011, I’ve always had an immediate answer to the question, ‘what’s the longest book you’ve ever read?’ Les Misérables isn’t just the longest book I’ve read though, it’s also one of the best I’ve ever read. Unlike War and Peace, which spends little time on its characters, Les Misérables introduces a set of complicated, flawed, terrifically sympathetic characters. Hugo then proceeds to tell their stories through gorgeous prose and using themes that still resonate today. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever read a novel longer than Victor Hugo’s 19th century masterpiece, but it’s very likely that one day I’ll tackle it again. It’s well worth the work.

What are the longest novels you’ve ever read? Which lengthy books do you have on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books You’d Mash Together

I’ve been falling behind on blogging recently, but I couldn’t resist this week’s intriguing topic, which asks book lovers to pick two books that they think would make an epic story if combined. I’ve broadened the topic slightly to, in some cases, speculate on what the combined powers of two awesome authors might create, so here are 10 (+1!) collaborations I would love to see!

Want to join in the fun? Head on over to Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl!

1. Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab
AND
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

SchwabBardugo

This is probably the most obvious combination on my list. I suspect there’s a lot of crossover between the fanbases for Schwab’s Shades of Magic world and Bardugo’s lovable criminal element, the Dregs, and why not? Both authors are masters of plotting who keep us hooked with plot twist after plot twist, high stakes action, and lovable flawed characters. How I would love to see these two worlds collide! Inej and Lila deep in conversation about their knives, Kell’s eternal frown becoming even more eternal at Kaz’ behaviour, Nina and Rhy hanging out. Please someone make this happen!

2. Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
AND
Doctrine of Labyrinths by Sarah Monette

Kushner-Monette

Look, sometimes you just want to watch the world burn – well, in fiction anyway. I’m quite happy to surround myself with less chaotic friends and colleagues in real life, but in fictional worlds it is fun to watch the drama and chaos that sometimes ensues. That would be literally any interaction between Kushner’s Alec, a sharp-tongued, university educated, nobleman brat who likes to bait people and then sic his expert swordsman boyfriend on them, and Monette’s Felix Harrowgate, a flamboyant, vicious educated wizard. Do I want to see them snark at eachother, with glints in their eyes and sharp-tongues taking lashes off of eachother while Richard (the swordsman boyfriend) and Mildmay (Felix’s assassin half-brother) glower at eachother? Yes, yes I do.

3. The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss
AND
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

Rothfuss-Kuang

When I read The Poppy War recently, during Rin’s education at Sinegard I often found myself thinking about The Name of the Wind. There are a lot of similarities between Kvothe’s studies at the University and Rin’s schooling. Against the odds both of them attend a school where they make somewhat poor life choices and enroll under the tutelage of a possibly insightful and magical professor who is viewed by his colleagues and students as crazy. Rothfuss lacks great female characters though and I’d love to see Rin, the ruthless, driven heroine of my heart, teach Kvothe a thing or two!

4. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
AND
Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab

Schwab-Cho

Both Sorcerer to the Crown and the Shades of Magic trilogy are historical fantasy novels with a basis in the same period of English history, the early nineteenth century. It took me awhile to come up with this combination and I’m shocked it took so long, because the books seem like such a natural fit. Although Prunella has a decidedly sunnier and less, um, murder-y disposition than Lila Bard, they’re both the “Prunella/Lila, no!” “Prunella/Lila YES!” types to the more serious male partner. Zacharias and Kell could probably have a frown off while these two ladies who go against everything that was expected of a woman in the early 1800s would undoubtedly get along well… and get up to quite a bit of mischief and magic!

5. The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett
AND
The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss

Dunnett-Rothfuss

Although she wrote historical fiction (and a series of unrelated mysteries), Dorothy Dunnett had left a lasting impression on fantasy authors. For anyone who has read her Lymond Chronicles, this is not a huge surprise. The six-book series often feels more akin to the epic scale and dramatics found in a fantasy novel, although its actual fantasy aspects are limited to the inclusion of prophecy and astrology. Naturally I’ve considered combining Lymond with actual fantasy worlds. The Name of the Wind would be an interesting choice for a few reasons. Both protagonists have strong ties to and a talent for music – watching a competition or even a duet between Kvothe and Lymond would be something to see indeed! I’ve mentioned before that I have issues with the way in which Rothfuss writes female characters in his series though, especially the love interest Denna who has about as much depth and personality as a cardboard cut-out. In contrast, Dunnett (although it takes awhile to get there) shapes a heroine who is Lymond’s equal in every way. Rothfuss could learn a thing or two from Dorothy Dunnett!

6. Neil Gaiman
AND
Jeff VanderMeer

VanderMeer-Gaiman

Honestly, I’ve never encountered anything quite as flat out weird as works by these two authors! Neil Gaiman, particularly in his Sandman graphic novels, which feature the anthropomorphic personification of Dreams through adventures that range from a genuinely moving day spent with his perky goth sister Death as she takes souls to encounters with Shakespeare, showcases a truly out there imagination. Jeff VanderMeer does much the same thing in Borne, a novel that’s wildly unique, touching, and written in a distinctly visual style. I’d love to see the amazing, wacky, visual things their combined brain power could produce!

7. Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly
AND 
The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett

Dunnett-Donnelly

Protagonists Francis Crawford of Lymond and Cyril DePaul are interesting cases because on the surface they’re very similar. Both are blue-eyed, blonde younger children of wealthy families, both are physically and emotionally scarred by events that have happened in their pasts, and both are spies and, at times, are or appear to be double agents. However, while Lymond cares deeply about his family and loved ones, he also cares about his country. Cyril immediately rolls over and plays double agent, acting against his government. I’d love to read a novella that was just a conversation or series of conversations between the two. Also, Lymond is a man ahead of his (1500s) time in many ways. How I would love to see him in another world like Amberlough, which is inspired by the early twentieth century. Can’t you just see Francis Crawford of Lymond acting in early films?

8. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
AND
The Conqueror’s Saga by Kiersten White
AND
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Heroines

Yes, I’ve cheated and picked three books for this one (it’s my birthday – I’m allowed a little wiggle room!) – I just couldn’t resist this combination of ruthless, morally ambiguous heroines! Brutal patriotic Prince Lada, Coldly efficient accountant Baru, and hardened passionate Shaman Rin; What boundaries couldn’t these three conquer?! I don’t imagine it would be easy – all three are stubborn, used to working alone, and single-mindedly focused on their goals (often revenge), but how I would love to see them join forces!

9. The Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte
AND
The Divine Cities Trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett

Bennett-Whyte

When I was in university, my favourite author was Jack Whyte. He had a way of making any tale come alive with his exquisite storytelling ability. Unfortunately, I knew even then that his stories were largely populated by men. Mostly (exclusively?) white men. I don’t remember the female characters having much in the way of roles and I’ve been hesitant to re-read because I suspect his books won’t hold up well these days. I would love to see Whyte join forces with or, in an ideal world, even revise the Camulod Chronicles with the help of Robert Jackson Bennett, whose detailed grasp of (invented) mythology would gell well with Whyte’s largely mythic style of writing. I hugely admired Bennett’s Divine Cities trilogy because the female characters (and especially the women of colour protagonists) were so well-written that I honestly couldn’t tell they had been written by a man. Imagine the stories they could tell together, in a book where the female characters are as interesting as the men, the characters diverse, and the mythology and gift for storytelling heightened in the hands of these two capable men.

10. The Imperial Radch Trilogy by Ann Leckie
AND
The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

Jemisin-Leckie

For my money, these are two of the most exciting authors actively writing in the science-fiction and fantasy genre. A few years back I started to tire of the sci-fi and fantasy genre because so many of the books were trope-filled epic high fantasy sagas by white dudes. Some of these books are very good, don’t get me wrong, but I wanted something fresh and interesting. I started actively seeking out diverse genre fiction and I found these two women. I’ve never read a book by Jemisin or Leckie that I didn’t like. They’ve been a big reason why my love for the genre has been revitalized and I would love to see what these tremendously talented world-builders, who both write books that deal with issues of social justice, could come up with together.

11. The His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman
AND
(literally anything, but especially) Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly

Pullman-Donnelly

A confession: I love daemon-verse stories. Some people are fascinated by considering Harry Potter AUs and what animal a character’s patronus would be. I love ‘daemon-verse’ AUs where every character has a daemon, an external (usually opposite sex) talking animal that is an exterior manifestation of the soul. I’ll read most fanfic or speculation that deals with daemons, so I would love to see Pullman’s alternate universe set stories combined with any of my favourites, but I’d especially like to read a crossover with Lara Elena Donnelly’s Amberlough Dossier series. Amberlough features double-lives, and some of the subtlest depictions of love and relationships I’ve ever seen. This could be so effectively conveyed in Pullman’s universe, where there are taboos, such as touching another person’s daemon, that could easily convey the depth of emotion between two individuals who never say they love one another, but obviously, in the end, do.

Would you like to read any of these imagined books? Which authors would you love to see collaborate? Let me know in the comments.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Awaken My Wanderlust

When I saw that this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic was Books That Awaken the Travel Bug In Me it seemed meant to be; Just three weeks ago I got back from a largely book-inspired vacation to the UK! So I’ve chosen to talk a little about books that have already inspired me to travel, and about books that might inspire me to travel to a specific destination in the future.

Want to join in the fun? Head on over to Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl!

Bookish Places I’ve Been

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
(Paris, France)

Les Misérables will always hold a special place in my heart for being the site of my very first bookish vacation! Although I’d only read a heavily abridged version of the novel at the time and was more familiar with the musical, my trip to Paris was heavily influenced by Les Misérables. I loved strolling through the Jardin du Luxembourg, where Marius first spotted Cosette, standing on the Pont-au-Change bridge over the Seine, where Inspector Javert makes a fateful decision, and exploring the sewers Jean Valjean carried a wounded Marius through on the Paris Sewer Tour.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
(The Harry Potter Studio Tour in London, England)
(The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida)

Like most 90s kids, I grew up on Harry Potter. Initially my mom read the books aloud to me and my younger brother, and as the series continued my mom and I read separately and discussed our thoughts along the way. Perhaps it’s no surprise that I ended up visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with my parents. We loved the thrilling and immersive rides, sipped our butter beers, and enjoyed looking in the many shops. I still haven’t made it to Platform 9-and-3/4s (it was under construction the last time I was at King’s Cross), but nearly five years ago I took the Harry Potter Studio Tour and loved seeing the props, costumes, and sets used in the movies!

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
(York Minster in York, England)

Ever since I picked up Susanna Clarke’s magical novel about the resurgence of English magic during the Regency period, visiting the city of York has been on my bucket list. Fans of the book (or the recent BBC miniseries) will recall a scene where the reclusive Mr. Norrell proves his magical abilities by making all of the statues within York Minster speak. I couldn’t wait to visit York Minster myself and imagine the noise and wonder of such a scene! York Minster is beautiful enough to merit a visit anyway, but it definitely made it special that it plays such a small but pivotal role in one of my favourite books!

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
(Edinburgh, Scotland)
(Hexham Abbey in Hexham, England)

Anyone who knows me is sick to death of hearing me talk about the Lymond Chronicles! Nothing has quite captured my imagination like Dorothy Dunnett’s series about a genius polyglot 16th century Scottish nobleman/spy. A climactic scene in the first book, The Game of Kings, sees Francis Crawford of Lymond pursuing an opponent into Hexham Abbey, so naturally I had to visit Hexham! Much of the rest of the book is set in Scotland, so I also tracked down the location on the Royal Mile where Lymond is, for a time imprisoned. The Tollbooth, as the prison was called, no longer exists, but its former entrance is marked with a stone heart near St. Giles Cathedral.

The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett
(St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland)


I love Edinburgh. It’s a beautiful historical city, that I would love regardless of literary connections, but I must admit that I also love it because it’s the setting of many scenes from Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. The altar at St. Giles Cathedral is the scene of a truly epic swordfight at the climax of the third book of the series, The Disorderly Knights, so naturally I had to visit (and take many, many photos)!

The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff and The Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte
(Hadrian’s Wall/Roman British sites)


Okay, I’m cheating a little bit here since I hadn’t actually read The Eagle of the Ninth in advance, only seen the movie, but I bought a copy on my trip and started reading it at Housesteads Roman Fort in Northumberland. Roman Britain is one of my favourite periods in history, and Hadrian’s Wall figures both into The Eagle of the Ninth and a favourite series of mine while I was in university, Jack Whyte’s Camulod Chronicles. If you ever get the chance to go, I highly recommend Housesteads Roman Fort, which has a picturesque location on a hill, and offers some of the best preserved Roman ruins in Britain and the rare chance to stand on a section of Hadrian’s Wall!

Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
(221B Baker Street, London)


Admittedly I’m more familiar with the consulting detective from film and television adaptations, but I’ve read a few of the original mysteries and really enjoyed them. Naturally I stopped in at 221B Baker Street on a previous trip to London and posed in the famous dearstalker. I definitely have to make an effort to read more Sherlock in the future!


Bookish Places Wishlist

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
(Haworth/West Yorkshire moors)

The one place I didn’t make it to on this book-inspired vacation was the moorland that inspired the Bronte sisters. I read Wuthering Heights as an undergraduate and can’t say that it appealed to me since Heathcliff and Cathy were both such horrible people, but I had better luck with another Bronte sister. I recently read Jane Eyre for the first time and I would love to one day walk some of the landscapes that inspired Charlotte Bronte, although I know they must have changed a great deal. There’s just something about the idea of walking through the desolate moors, the wind swirling a coat or perhaps a scarf behind me that appeals!

King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett
(The Orkney Islands)

I’m still in the process of reading Dorothy Dunnett’s dense historical standalone about the real MacBeth (I paused it in January and haven’t returned – oops!) but I’ve already added the Orkney Islands to my places I’d love to go list! Prehistoric stone village Skara Brae is a must-see at somepoint and I’m sure I’ll add book -related destinations on the islands as I continue reading.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
(Prince Edward Island, Canada)

Like most Canadian girls, I grew up reading about spirited red-headed orphan “Anne -with-an-E” who comes to stay with Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert at Green Gables. I haven’t traveled much domestically at all and would love to visit Prince Edward Island one day!

What are some of the bookish places on your wishlist?

Top Ten Tuesday: A Book For Each Year Of My Twenties

In 2016, I turned the big 3-0. Milestone birthdays don’t usually have much of an impact on me, but 30 felt different. How weird it felt to be able to say “I’m in my thirties”! Big birthdays tend to be a time for reflecting on what you’ve accomplished so far and since this week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is a Throwback Freebie, I’ve chosen to list a favourite Book For Each Year Of My Twenties.

Want to join in the fun? Head on over to Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and Bookish.

2006 (Age 20): Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

14497One of my favourite undergrad classes was Science Fiction & Fantasy. A chance to read sci-fi and fantasy lit and write about it for credit? Sign me up! The class had a fabulous professor (who did the gollum voice when he read aloud from Lord of the Rings!) and there were some great books on the reading list, including my introduction to Neil Gaiman’s works, Neverwhere. Even before I visited the city of London, I was charmed by Neverwhere. I love the idea of a London beneath that involves the subway system and found the story imaginative and whimsical. I loved every word of Neverwhere.

2007 (Age 21): Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan (Marvel)

7389In 2007, I walked into the local comic book store with one purpose: to purchase the first issue of the Buffy season eight, a canonical continuation of my favourite television show in comic book form. Joss Whedon had also just taken over writing for a book called Runaways, so I picked up his first issue as well as a digest version of the first several issues of the series. I continued to read the Buffy comics for awhile, but it was Runaways that had captured my heart. I devoured the rest of the series and impatiently awaited new issues. I fell in love with the diverse cast of characters that includes an African-American genius, a Japanese-American witch, a mutant pre-teen, a gay alien, a mutant, and an overweight sarcastic teenager telepathically linked to a genetically engineered dinosaur. The dialogue is snappy and filled with pop culture references, and I loved the concept – that a group of teenagers finds out their parents are actually evil supervillains and teams up to stop them. When the series was indefinitely placed on hiatus I was devastated. This fall Rainbow Rowell is writing a new set of stories about the characters I so love and a Runaways TV series is debuting on Hulu in November, so I can’t wait for more people to discover this series I love so much!

2008 (Age 22): Watchmen by Alan Moore (DC)

472331Confession time: I could not for the life of me figure out what I read in 2008! My goodreads account only dates to 2009, as does my current e-mail address, and I don’t keep a diary or any kind of hard copy record of what I’ve read. 2008 marked my last year of university, so I wasn’t reading much for pleasure and no course books jumped out at me. In desperation I ended up sifting through my (dozens of) Facebook statuses and posts from 2008 for clues! Despite the various cringeworthy statuses (“likes danishes” really ca. 2008 me?!) in the end I found what I was looking for, 2008 was the year I read Watchmen. Published by DC, the graphic novel is set an an alternate 1980s where the presence of superheroes has dramatically affected and altered the outcome of real world events, including the Vietnam War. Watchmen is a masterpiece of the comic medium. Grim and realistic, it features characters from the relatable Dan Dreiberg to the superhuman tall and blue Doctor Manhattan, and the end packs a punch I never saw coming.

2009 (Age 23): The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

186074One of the great things about working at Chapters, the major chain of Canadian bookstores, was meeting people who felt the same way as I did about books. Two of my fellow employees were also fans of fantasy fiction, and when the store wasn’t too busy and we were working at the same time, we held an impromptu fantasy book club, discussing which novels we had recently finished and loved. The Name of the Wind was one such book, read and loved by one of my co-workers and enthusiastically recommended to the rest of us. Sure enough, I fell in love with this book. I’m not sure what 31-year-old me would think of The Name of the Wind. I’ve read more widely now than I had at age 23, and even at the time I recognized some issues with the way female characters were written. But either way the prose is gorgeous and lyrical, the dialogue at times witty, there’s a clear love of literature and libraries here, and I love the description of the magic system. Despite its faults, this is a book worth reading.

2010 (Age 24): 1916 by Morgan Llewelyn

300944During university, one of my favourite courses was Irish History. I loved learning about the tumultuous and fascinating events that shaped the country, and eagerly sought out more. In 2009 I had the opportunity to visit Ireland, and spent about five weeks traveling around the country, so it’s only natural that I found Morgan Llewelyn’s Irish Century series of historical fiction novels. 1916, the first novel in the set, starts shortly after the sinking of the Titanic and covers the events of the Easter Rising, an armed rebellion in Dublin aimed at ending British rule in Ireland and establishing  an independent Irish Republic. What I love so much about the novels is that although they are fictionalized accounts, told from the perspective of a fictional main character, the books are incredibly well-researched and include historical figures who actually existed. If you’re looking to learn more about Irish history and enjoy historical fiction that gets the details right, this series is for you! By nature I’m more interested in the Easter Rising, the Civil War, and earlier Irish history so I found the first two books in the series held more interest for me than the later volumes (1949, 1972, 1999) but they’re all worth reading.

2011 (Age 25): Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

24280I’ve talked a lot about Les Miserables on this blog, including in last week’s Top Ten Tuesday, where I named it one of my Top Ten Books That Are Worth The Work, and here’s where it began. I’ve been a fan of the musical adaptation of Les Miserables since I was a little girl, but it wasn’t until age 25 where I read the unabridged novel (I had read a heavily abridged edition in high school). It was definitely a “project book” where I set a number of pages I would read a day and worked through it, but I also loved reading this book. Sure Hugo could have used an editor, but much of the prose is beautiful, the characters are sympathetic and engaging, and the events of the novel interesting enough to keep the plot moving. I conveniently timed this read so I finished Les Miserables in the Spring. That summer I went to see the musical in London and had my copy of the Brick signed by the actor playing the role of Valjean, who is still my favourite performer that I’ve seen in the role. My signed book remains a treasure on my shelf, and I’ve now also had it signed by many members of the Canadian cast of the musical.

2012 (Age 26): The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

112077Probably the only book I’ve talked about as much as, or more than, Les Miserables is The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett. The first in her six-book historical fiction epic The Lymond Chronicles sees Francis Crawford of Lymond returning (illegally) to his native Scotland. Upon his return, Lymond promptly flirts with his new sister-in-law, steals his mother’s jewels, gets a pig drunk, and sets his brother’s castle on fire… all in the first chapter! The series is dense, but the pay off is huge. Few things that come close to having the impact that Lymond has had on me. When I finished reading the series for the first time (in May or June 2013), the only way I could get rid of the book hangover was to re-read the entire series! I’ve managed to stay away for awhile now (this series is so addictive!!) but I’m planning on doing a re-read next year, so look forward to my nearly incoherent thoughts on that early next year!

2013 (Age 27): The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

10626594As a former “Horse Girl” it was preordained that I would fall for Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races. I love everything about this series, from the atmospheric writing and the fictional rural British Isles-inspired setting, to the characters and the details of life on the island. I especially love that the horses themselves have personality and are as much characters in the book as the human figures. The idea of the dangerous but beautiful water horses and a high-stakes race immediately grabbed me, and I thought the stakes were raised enough for both of the main characters that I was tense and worried throughout about the outcome. This is one book that I will be re-reading for the rest of my life and I encourage any other horse girls, present or former, to do the same.

2014 (Age 28): Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner

SwordspointI have a strong suspicion that I picked this up because the author, Ellen Kushner, is an open admirer of Dorothy Dunnett’s work. I’m glad I did though, because Swordspoint is a wonderful novel. While it’s a sad commentary on the state of the SFF genre a few years ago, I remember reading about the student, Alec, and the swordsman Richard, and thinking through the first several pages that although it was not explicitly stated, it felt like there was a romantic relationship between these men. I was so conditioned by how rarely this occurs in mainstream literature that even though the dialogue and their interactions made me think the men were together, I didn’t fully believe it until the connection was more explicitly demonstrated. Fortunately even in the last few years I think the genre has made progress towards diversity, but Swordspoint, with its two male bisexual protagonists, is still a wonderful example in the genre. I ADORE Richard and Alec, they are an otp of mine for the ages, and Kushner creates an interesting world of manners and politics for them to inhabit.

2015 (Age 29): The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (pen name for Sarah Monette)

179100482014 was a fabulous year of reading for me, and there were a few choices I considered for my book of the year. Ultimately I went with Swordspoint not because I liked it more, but because I wanted some variety for my list and didn’t want to put the same author for two years in a row. I loved Sarah Monette’s Doctrine of Labyrinths series (which I read in 2014 for the first time), but I was also taken with The Goblin Emperor, a novel published under the pen name of Katherine Addison. The Goblin Emperor is unlike anything I have ever read before. A suspicious accident leaves Maia, the half-goblin youngest son who has been exiled from the court for most of his life, the rightful heir to the throne. Isolated and abused for most of his life, it would be so easy for this to be a story about getting revenge for those years. It would be easy to make Maia an anti-hero or an hier who instinctively knows what to do. Instead The Goblin Emperor is about a young man who is just trying to do the right thing. Lonely Maia tries to make friends with his staff, he listens to the desires of his subjects, he tries to understand the baffling political machinations of the court. Faced with an opportunity to take revenge, he forgives. I love an anti-hero as much as the next person, but it was so refreshing to read about someone who is just nice. The world building is also excellent and the book wholly unlike anything I have ever read, but it’s the characters and the kindness that make this a book I will thrust into just about anyone’s hands.

Have you read any of these? Let me know what you think of my choices in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Are Worth The Work

When recommending some of the books and television shows I love the most, I often find myself advising a friend to ‘stick with it, it gets better’ or that a particular book might be challenging to read, but the effort pays off in the end. I’m a little bit short for my take on this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic, Books That Are Worth The Work, but here are 9 books I really enjoyed but found challenging to read for one reason or another.

Want to join in the fun? Head on over to Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and Bookish.

1120771. The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett
It will surprise exactly no one that the top of my list are the six books that make up historical fiction epic The Lymond Chronicles. Set in the mid-sixteenth century, Dorothy Dunnett’s debut novel sees Francis Crawford, an intelligent, insufferable, polyglot, rogue returning to his native Scotland. Accused of treason, Francis and his band of outlaws attempt to reclaim his reputation while also protecting the country from the threat of English invasion. It took me a good 50-100 pages before I knew I was going to finish the book and enjoy it, and until the last third before I knew I wanted to read the rest of the series, but by then I was head over heels for these books and have since re-read the entire series twice! The Lymond Chronicles are not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination. Dorothy Dunnett is the kind of writer who likes to throw the reader in head first and trust that you are able to keep up, so she throws in obscure foreign language quotations and references, and there is a subtlety to her work that can require close reading. The books are also dense, with each trade paperback coming in at about 500 pages. The first book is the most difficult to tackle though, and those who stick with it will be rewarded with a main character who is definitely a bit of an asshole, but you can’t help loving him too, especially since he gets put through the wringer! Also there’s prose that sometimes makes your jaw drop, fabulous female characters, a well-researched setting, and an action-packed plot.

My advice: Skip the foreign language quotations the first time through. Francis is a bit of a pretentious asshole of a character (I love him dearly, but he is) who tends to throw Latin, Greek, or French expressions as well as obscure medieval poetry into his dialogue, and the author does not provide a translation. There are a few companion books out there that contain the meaning of the quotes (or you could google them) if you’re determined, but honestly you’re better off ignoring the foreign quotes altogether on a first read. The first book in the series, The Game of Kings, is the worst offender for this, Dunnett lightens up on the obscure references in subsequent novels.

242802. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
As a long-time fan of the musical, Les Miserables was the classic I most wanted to tackle but it’s also incredibly intimidating: My Signet Classics translation comes in at a whopping 1460 pages! I made it my goal to read the unabridged translation of Hugo’s masterpiece in 2011 and succeeded. The verdict? It’s one of my favourite books, but I definitely think Hugo could have used a few more edits. Fondly known as “The Brick” to fans for its physical resemblance to, well, a brick, it’s definitely a challenge, but the reading pays off. This is a novel that very nearly made me cry a few times, while other scenes like the courtroom, where Valjean decides whether to send another man to prison in his stead or to give himself up and leave behind the comfortable life he has built for himself as owner of a prosperous factory, had me on the edge of my seat.

My advice: Set a reading schedule of a certain number of pages (25? 50?) that you’re going to read per day and stick with it. This determination makes it easier to get through Hugo’s infamous digressions, including his 50 pages on the Battle of Waterloo, and other slower parts of the book.

JonathanStrange3. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Set during the Napoleonic Wars, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a fabulously creative novel about two very different men who emerge as ‘practicing magicians’ in a world where magical theory is all that remains and the practice has been lost for centuries. The two men join forces in the war against France, but their opposing views on magic strain the partnership and threaten to risk everything. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is admittedly not for everyone. It’s long, there are long periods where it’s not particularly action-packed and very little happens, and the book is packed with invented footnotes adding historical context or providing information on the history of magic. Depending on your background, this is either a plus or a minus – personally I enjoyed the footnotes. Despite these deterrents, it is a fabulous work of historical fantasy different from anything I’d ever read before, and I loved the wry sense of humour that’s almost Austen-esque in the way that it’s deployed. I was hooked from the first page and it’s still a favourite book of mine.

My advice: The biggest obstacle to reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is its sheer length (1000+ pages), so commit to sticking with it and perhaps, like with Les Mis, stick to a minimum number of pages to read per day.

7277984. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Like many people of my generation, I was inspired to pick-up Tolkien’s fantasy masterpiece when the movies were released. Spellbound by the movie version of The Fellowship of the Ring, I needed to know what happened next and read the entire series before The Two Towers was released. As much as I love the movies, I have an equal respect for the books behind them and there are some great book moments or characterizations that only make it into the extended editions of the films, or that are removed completely. Lord of the Rings is definitely a commitment and, like many fantasy properties that followed, it’s difficult when balancing multiple perspectives to make sure it all holds our interest. There were definitely storylines I cared for less, and I really struggled to get into the first half of the first book (it’s just so BORING!), but the series is 100% worth it for fans of the genre.

My advice: Very little happens in the first half of Fellowship of the Ring. Stick it out if you can, but if you need to skim that part of the book it’s totally understandable. In my opinion, the introduction of Strider is where the book picks up.

173333245. The Imperial Radch Trilogy by Ann Leckie
A more recent edition to my list, the Imperial Radch trilogy by Ann Leckie is undoubtedly brilliant, but I think I spent a good chunk of the first book only half aware of what was going on. Admittedly I don’t read a lot of Science-Fiction, but I found the world very different from our own, there was an awful lot of complicated politics, and Leckie throws the reader in headfirst, allowing little time to adjust. There’s also the matter of adjusting to a book where the predominant language doesn’t distinguish gender and refers to everyone by the same default pronoun, rendered she in English. This is both jarring to adjust to and makes it difficult to form a picture of each character in your head! This series is smart, science-fiction that, at unexpected times, tugs on the heartstrings. It may take some time to get used to, but it’s well worth continuing!

My advice: Accept that it’s going to take some time to get used to the default She gender pronouns, and that you’re probably going to miss things on a first read.

thefifthseason6. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
I found Obelisk Gate easier going, but in N.K. Jemisin’s fantasy novel The Fifth Season, the world and its rules and the characters are all new. The story is told from three perspectives, Essun, a middle-aged mother, Damaya, a young frightened girl, and Syenite, a rebellious young woman. The Fifth Season is set in a world where devastating but sporadic climate events have resulted in a system of closed communities rather than cities and nations. A marginalized group of people called orogenes, can quell the shakes, but they are oppressed, feared, and discriminated against by the “stills”, humans who don’t have this ability. The biggest issue I had with adjusting to The Fifth Season was the jarring switch to Essun chapters, which are told in second person compared to the third person of the other P.O.Vs, The worldbuilding, while strong, is A Lot to take in initially, which can also cause confusion. It’s an engaging book that I loved reading and think deserved the Hugo Award for Best Novel that it won, but it’s not easy at the start.

My advice: Try to adjust to and accept the second person in the Essun chapters.

88107. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
It’s been more than ten years since I read A Clockwork Orange (for a university class), but Rachel’s recent review reminded me of how much I enjoyed the novel and of how challenging it is to read. To start with it’s written in “nadsat”, Anthony Burgess’ invented Russian-influenced English language, which makes adjusting to the first-person narration difficult. There’s also the fact that, from what I remember, the book is brutally violent, which may be off-putting to some readers. If you can take the violence and adjust to the dialect though, this is a fascinating dark look at a dystopian society that examines themes of good and evil and free will.

My advice: Adjusting to the language was the hardest part for me, but it gets easier to read as you go on!

261184268. Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
This summer I read Ninefox Gambit for my Hugo challenge. Part of the military science-fiction sub-genre, I didn’t know how I would feel about this one, but I wound up really enjoying it and gave the book 3.5 stars. The plot focuses on Captain Kel Cheris, who uses heretical tactics to save her teammates from death in the opening chapters of the book. The plan backfires, but Kel Command gives her a chance to redeem herself by taking part in a plot to retake the Fortress of Scattered Needles from the heretics. The only hurdle is that it requires her to ally with the undead Shuos Jedao, a man who went mad in his first life and murdered two armies. With Ninefox Gambit I often felt like I had no idea what was going on. Never have I read a book that needed a glossary more! This sheer confusion reigned over much of the first half of the novel, but once I got the hang of it, I found the book very engaging and plan to continue the series.

My advice: Honestly, just try to figure out as much of the book as you can and pray that future editions will include a glossary!

63079649. A Song of Ice and Fire series by G.R.R. Martin
With Tolkien already on the list, it makes sense that Martin’s life’s work, the ASoIaF series, is here too. As someone who reads a lot of fantasy and historical fiction, I wasn’t put off initially by the similar names of some characters or by number of characters, but with each new book the world is explored a little more and additional characters are introduced. Over the course of the series it has become more and more difficult to determine which characters are located in each place and who knows what. With two more books to be published, readers have some time to get caught up though! What awaits you is a richly imagined world with fabulous complex characters who embody a variety of different moral compasses, experiences, and motivations.

My advice: Since Martin does provide a glossary, consult it often when you can’t quite remember which character name is which. Although I haven’t personally, I know there are people who skip or skim certain perspectives (especially the Iron Islands ones) so if that makes it easier going for you, I say go for it!

What are some books you’ve read that may make you work for it, but are worth the effort of reading?

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I’ve Been Meaning to Start

As every reader knows, there are far too many books to read in this lifetime and the tbr list is always growing. How appropriate then that this week’s topic is the Top Ten Series I’ve Been Meaning to Start but Haven’t. Some of the series that made my list have been on it for years, while others are more recent additions. Whether new or old, these are all books that I hope to get to soon and that I look forward to reading…one day!

Want to join in the fun? Head on over to Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and Bookish.

AssasinsApprentice1. The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
A good friend, who previously recommended a series that is now one of my all-time favourites, gave me her copies of The Farseer Trilogy before she moved to New Zealand, so I have no excuse for not starting this one! The books follow the life of Fitz, the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, who becomes a trained assassin and may be the key to the survival of the kingdom. I’ve only heard good things about this series, particularly from some of the other lovely book bloggers I follow, who have started reading Hobb’s books and loved them. The Farseer Trilogy is definitely near the top of my tbr list!

1274552. The Gentlemen’s Bastards series by Scott Lynch
I’m cheating a tiny bit here because I actually picked up The Lies of Locke Lamora several years ago, read not even fifty pages, and put it back down. I can’t remember why it didn’t grab me at the time, although I vaguely remember the prose putting me off a little, but I suspect it was more a case of coming across the right book at the wrong time. These days I’m more willing to give a book a chance and to persevere when it doesn’t grab me immediately, and I know this is a series that several people I respect have enjoyed, so I’m looking forward to starting it again. From the description it seems to involve heisting, and a band of confidence men, so what’s not to like?!

DaughteroftheForest3. The Sevenwaters series by Juliet Marillier
A historical fantasy loosely based on the legend of the Children of Lir and “The Six Swans”, this series wasn’t even on my radar until earlier this year when a friend with similar taste gave the first book a rave review on goodreads. When I looked it up, it turned out several friends had also given the series five star ratings! I tend to enjoy books that feature mythology and/or folklore, and I’ve heard the first book in the series mentioned as a good choice for fans of Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, one of my favourite reads so far this year, so I’m definitely looking forward to trying out this series!

684284. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
I’m a long-time fantasy fan who devoured George R.R. Martin’s ASoIaF series (to date) along with Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicles among other doorstopper epic fantasy novels, so I feel a little like an English major who hasn’t read the great classics when I say that I’ve never read anything by Brandon Sanderson. I keep meaning to but, quite frankly, the size of his books and his back catalogue are a little intimidating. I’m not even sure if Mistborn is the ideal place to start, but at some point I would really like to read his work. I’d definitely appreciate suggestions about where to start with Sanderson though!

553995. The Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson
Going hand-in-hand with Brandon Sanderson is another epic fantasy great, Steven Erikson. I’ve owned a copy of the first book in the series, Gardens of the Moon, for at least a few years now, but it’s still sitting unread on my shelf. Once again I have heard such positive things about this series from friends and it’s definitely a series I want to tackle, but a case where the size of the book has been intimidating.

233956806. The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Before I started this blog I hadn’t even heard of the Illuminae Files, but the positive reviews from book blogs I follow and from friends on goodreads have pushed this one well up the tbr list. I’ve been reading a lot of science-fiction, both adult and YA, this year but these books definitely look interesting!

189523417. The Dandelion Dynasty by Ken Liu
I have to admit that the reviews I’ve heard of this series are mixed and that the main issue readers seem to have is the lack of female characters, so I’m a little on the fence about starting it, but I love the fact that it’s an Asian-influenced historical high fantasy story and I’m certainly interested enough to give it a try. I gather Liu’s short stories have been more universally acclaimed, so I may start with a collection of those before tackling a full-size novel.

213268. Fables by Bill Willingham
At least when it comes to comic books I can pinpoint exactly why I haven’t gotten to a certain series. The main factor is reading time. I tend to read on my commute, but depending on how busy work is I may also read on my lunch hour, or even after work in a park. With a comic book I’d worry about running out of material. Also, comics tend to be expensive to buy and few grab me enough that I would want to re-read them, so I often borrow them from the library and sometimes libraries don’t have all volumes of a book. All of this is a tangential way of saying that Fables is one of those comic books/graphic novels, like Saga or Sandman, that I’ve heard a lot about and have never quite gotten to. Luckily a laid-back friend (I say laid-back because she has been REALLY cool about it taking months for me to get through the issues of Saga I borrowed from her) has agreed to lend them to me whenever I’m ready, so I’ll try to get through this series soon.

187128869. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
The Queen of the Tearling is another series that makes it onto my list, but that I have some trepidation about reading. Most of my goodreads friends have given it four or five stars, but one friend who I often share opinions with said that she hated it so much she couldn’t even be bothered wasting her words on an eloquent review explaining why it was terrible. Yikes. Still, the synopsis, about an untested young princess who must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness, sounds interesting.

2031246210. Jackaby by William Ritter
I have to admit that this is a rare case (for me) of judging a book by its cover…and liking what I saw! I don’t know much about this Victorian England-set novel about a detective of the paranormal, but it sounds interesting enough to give a try and again, how gorgeous are those covers?!

Have you read any of the series I’m on the fence about starting? What did you think, worth my time or should I pass? Any series I should move to the very top of my tbr? Please let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Dads in Literature

In May I paid tribute to my mom with a list of my favourite fictional mothers, so it seemed only fair that this week I count down my top ten favourite fictional fathers/father figures. When it comes to fiction, it can be difficult to find positive father figures. In fact, I could probably create an entire list of awful fathers (and three-quarters of them would be from Lost!), which is all the more reason to celebrate those positive fathers who make an impression. Want to join in the fun? Head on over to Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and Bookish.

242801. Jean Valjean (Les Miserables)
As a huge fan of both the book and the musical, how could I not place Jean Valjean at the top of this list? The ultimate in adopted fathers, Valjean keeps his promise to Fantine, retrieving her daughter Cosette, who has been treated as a servant, from the Thénardiers and raising Cosette as his own. Despite the looming threat of Javert, Jean Valjean ensures that Cosette wants for nothing. The love in this father-daughter relationship is incredibly moving. Cosette and Valjean are so lacking in love that when they are brought together the bond is that much stronger between them. He thinks the world of his daughter, and she of him. When Cosette worries that her father is eating the poor brown bread, she insists that she will eat what he does, knowing that he will not let her do so and will accept the white bread for her sake. When Valjean learns that his daughter has a young man who loves her and intends to fight on the barricades he is initially relieved that the man (Marius) will certainly die, but feels such guilt that he goes to the barricades and rescues the young man, carrying Marius on his back through the sewers to safety for Cosette’s sake. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is!

“When he saw Cosette, when he had taken possession of her, carried her off, and delivered her, he felt his heart moved within him.
All the passion and affection within him awoke, and rushed towards that child. He approached the bed, where she lay sleeping, and trembled with joy. He suffered all the pangs of a mother, and he knew not what it meant; for that great and singular movement of a heart which begins to love is a very obscure and a very sweet thing.
Poor old man, with a perfectly new heart!”

26572. Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)
Through the book and the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch has made such an impression as a positive role model and father that he can be found on just about every list of great fictional fathers. Controversy about the recent sequel aside, Atticus deserves this place of honour. He is a model of fairness and justice, encouraging daughter Scout to see things from the perspective of others, and defending the cause of social outcasts.

“Atticus, he was real nice.”
“Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”

j6n48z3. Arthur Weasley (Harry Potter)
Like his wife Molly, Arthur is a wonderful parent not just to his red-headed brood, but also to the orphaned Harry. Admittedly it has been a long time since I read Harry Potter, but I remember Arthur as being the kind of man who believes in the equality of muggles and magical folk, who may not be ambitious but he is good, and who cares deeply about the wellbeing of his family. The Weasleys may be poor, but they are rich in love with parents like Molly and Arthur on their side.

Pachinko4. Isak (Pachinko)
Above all, what I loved about Pachinko was its characters. This fabulous multi-generational novel about a Korean family through the twentieth century has characters who are real, who work hard, and who are generally good people. Isak is one such character. A young and sickly, missionary, he encounters the pregnant Sunja at her mother’s boarding house and decides it is his destiny to give this young unmarried woman’s child a name. He marries Sunja and brings her with him to Japan, raising her first son Noa as his own, as well as their biological child, Noa’s younger half-brother Mozasu. Although he endures hardship, including the discrimination that Koreans living in Japan face, poverty, and even torture and unjust imprisonment, Isak is a kind husband and father who tries to do right by his family and his faith.

alittlelife5. Harold (A Little Life)
One of the things that prevents A Little Life from being the bleakest book on the planet (don’t get me wrong, it is definitely still DARK, but there is some light in the darkness) is Jude St. Francis’ support system, and Harold Stein, the Harvard law school professor who officially adopts an adult Jude as his son, is a big part of that. Having lost his biological son Jacob to sickness in childhood, Harold tries to make Jude feel like he is Harold’s son and selflessly takes the troubled Jude’s sorrows into his life. And if your heart hasn’t already been broken earlier in this 700-page novel, the final letter written by Harold will definitely do it.

134966. Ned Stark (A Song of Ice and Fire)
It goes without saying that Eddard Stark, in following his principles and honour, does not always make the best decisions, but he obviously cares deeply for his family and children. I loved the glimpses we see throughout the first book of Ned’s regard for his wife and children. He never admonishes tomboy Arya or expects her to act more like a lady (likely because she reminds him of his deceased sister), even hiring a swordsman to instruct Arya in the basics of how to use her sword Needle. Although the reader doesn’t see as much of Ned with his other children, his love for them is always clear.

“She had never loved him so much as she did in that instant.”

162830147. Bob Cratchit (A Christmas Carol)
Surprisingly A Christmas Carol is the only Dickens this English major has read, but it’s an interesting book and involves, of course, an excellent father in Bob Cratchit. Although they are a very poor family, as Cratchit, the clerk at Scrooge’s moneylending firm, is overworked and underpaid, they are kind and respectable. Cratchit clearly loves sickly son Tiny Tim and for the rest of his family and works hard to ensure his family’s survival.

81331908. Matthew Cuthburt (Anne of Green Gables)
His sister Marilla is a fair but sometimes sharp-tongued woman, who sometimes finds herself in conflict with imaginative Anne Shirley, the girl they accidentally received from the orphanage instead of a boy to help with the farm, but shy kindly Matthew takes a liking to Anne from the start. While Marilla serves as the stern parental figure, Matthew spoils Anne and serves as a sympathetic ear and a “kindred spirit”. Noticing that Anne is dressed more plainly than her friends, he buys a dress in the new fashion with puffed sleeves as a Christmas present for Anne, which brings her to tears of joy. This father figure bond with Anne has stuck with me all of these years and still comes to mind when I think of positive father-daughter bonds.

“That’s a Christmas present for you, Anne,” said Matthew shyly. “Why–why–Anne, don’t you like it? Well now–well now.”
For Anne’s eyes had suddenly filled with tears.
“Like it! Oh, Matthew!” Anne laid the dress over a chair and clasped her hands. “Matthew, it’s perfectly exquisite. Oh, I can never thank you enough. Look at those sleeves! Oh, it seems to me this must be a happy dream.”

15q8eaf9. Pyotr (The Bear and the Nightingale)
A recent favourite of mine was The Bear and the Nightingale. Like Pachinko, this was a book I loved because the characters are so vividly rendered and likable. The story centers around Pyotr Vladimirovich’s daughter, Vasilisa who is compassionate but also wild and brave, with something of the supernatural about her. Despite the fact that the novel is set in medieval Russia, Pyotr obviously loves and admires his family, especially his daughter, who reminds him of his deceased wife. Although he invites strife by bringing home a highborn woman as a new bride (who turns out to be very devout and spooked by the northern household spirits, which she believes to be devils) this is obviously not Pyotr’s intent and he tries to do the best he can for his children.

1118107010. The King (The Balloon Tree)
The Balloon Tree was my favourite picture book as a child and it remains a favourite today. The beautifully rendered artwork, the fantasy story about a princess and a kingdom that she saves, and that fairytale balloon tree sent my imagination soaring. In the story, the King leaves for a tournament, telling his beloved daughter Princess Leora “If anything goes wrong, release a bunch of balloons from the castle tower. Wherever I am, I will see them and come home right away.” Leora’s evil uncle wants to become king though and the first thing he does is pop every balloon in the kingdom. It’s up to Leora to find one remaining balloon to save her kingdom. Of course she does, plants it, and a beautiful tree full of balloons grows, releasing enough balloons to warn the King and bring him back in time.

Have you read any of these books? Who are your favourite literary fathers or father-figures?