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?

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Books Of H2 2017

This week’s topic is the Top Ten Most Anticipated Books For The Second Half of 2017. Weirdly enough a bunch of books I’m anticipating have just come out or are coming out in June, just short of making this list. A further few are due out in January 2018, just after the cut off. I managed to find ten books due out this summer and fall that I’m really looking forward to reading though.

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

255288081. That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston
(Release date: October 3, 2017)
A friend of mine who read an ARC has been raving about this for ages, and I’ve generally only heard positive things about this book. Certainly the premise sounds right up my alley, and I love that my home city of Toronto plays a role, so I can’t wait to give it a try!

Synopsis: Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendant of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history two centuries earlier. The imperial practice of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage like her mother before her, but before she does her duty, she’ll have one summer incognito in a far corner of empire. In Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire’s greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir apparent to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an unusual bond and maybe a one in a million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process —just like the first Queen Victoria.

318177492. The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
(Release date: August 15, 2017)
The first book in her Broken Earth trilogy, The Fifth Season, deservedly won the Hugo Award for Best Novel last year and its follow-up, Obelisk Gate, is nominated this year. Both books are like nothing I have ever read before. Jemisin’s prose and world-building is exquisite, her fiction diverse, and her stories incredibly engaging. I can’t wait to finish the trilogy this summer with The Stone Sky.

Synopsis: The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.
Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe.
For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.

342732363. Little Fires Everywhere by Celene Ng
(Release date: September 12, 2017)
I LOVED Ng’s first novel, Everything I Never Told You and ranked it number four on my list of the best books I read in 2016. It was the kind of novel I was still thinking about days, and even weeks after finishing it. The prose was exquisite, the subject (a Chinese-American family’s struggles with sexism and race in 1970s America) one not often dealt with, and the characters were all flawed and nuanced. Based on the strength of that one book I would read just about anything this author puts out.

Synopsis: In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

335668714. The Speaker by Traci Chee
(Release date: November 7, 2017)
I really enjoyed Traci Chee’s first book in this series, The Reader, which struck me as something of a love letter to books and those who love to read, but in a fascinating YA fantasy story. I remember loving both of the protagonists, Sefia and Archer, and I can’t wait to read what happens next in their story.

Synopsis: After barely escaping the clutches of the Guard, Sefia and Archer are on the run again and slip into the safety of the forest to tend to their wounds and plan their next move. Haunted by painful memories, Archer struggles to overcome the trauma of his past with the impressors, whose cruelty plagues him whenever he closes his eyes. But when Sefia and Archer happen upon a crew of impressors in the wilderness, Archer finally finds a way to combat his nightmares: by hunting impressors and freeing the boys they hold captive.

With Sefia’s help, Archer travels across the kingdom of Deliene rescuing boys while she continues to investigate the mysterious Book and secrets it contains. But the more battles they fight, the more fights Archer craves, until his thirst for violence threatens to transform him from the gentle boy Sefia knows to a grim warrior with a cruel destiny.

253532865. Provenance by Ann Leckie 
(Release date: September 26, 2017)
I still have to read the final volume in Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy, but I love the world-building, the inventiveness of the plot, and the characters, particularly snarky with a heart of gold former ship Breq/Justice of Toren. Ann Leckie is definitely on the list of authors I would try just about anything by, and I can’t wait for this new book.

Synopsis: A power-driven young woman has just one chance to secure the status she craves and regain priceless lost artifacts prized by her people. She must free their thief from a prison planet from which no one has ever returned. Ingray and her charge will return to her home world to find their planet in political turmoil, at the heart of an escalating interstellar conflict. Together, they must make a new plan to salvage Ingray’s future, her family, and her world, before they are lost to her for good.

340769526. The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo
(Release date: September 26, 2017)
I’m not usually a short stories person, but at this point I think I’ll read just about anything Leigh Bardugo writes, and I love the rich world-building she’s done through the Grisha trilogy and then through the Six of Crows duology. I can’t wait to read more from her vivid imagination.

Synopsis: Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

285261927. 27 Hours by Tristina Wright
(Release date: October 3, 2017)
I’ve heard a few good things about this one, mostly because I gather it’s about 4 queer teenagers battling to save the planet. I’m all for increased diversity in fiction and this sounds really interesting, so I’m looking forward to reading it.

Synopsis: During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

27 Hours is a sweeping, thrilling story featuring a stellar cast of queer teenagers battling to save their homes and possibly every human on Sahara as the clock ticks down to zero.

297607788. The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera
(Release date: October 3, 2017)
Victoria Schwab’s blurb reads: “A love letter to my favorite kind of fantasy―rich, expansive, and grounded in human truth. It is a story of star-crossed loves, of fate and power and passion, and it is simply exquisite.” I also gather it’s Mongolian-inspired epic fantasy and involves queer protagonists, so this is definitely one I’ll be reading!

Synopsis: The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.

This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

339582309. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie Dao
(Release date: October 10, 2017)
I don’t know much about this one, but it looks really interesting! An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl’s quest to become Empress–and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny, it apparently features an anti-heroine and a richly developed fantasy world – sign me up!

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

2992370710. One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake
(Release date: September 19, 2017)
I gave the first book in the series 3.5 stars on goodreads, saying that I definitely had some issues with it, but I was engaged enough to keep reading and to continue the series. I loved the concept, but thought it started off very slowly and the writing style and plot felt a little younger skewing within the YA genre. I’m still excited about the next book though.

Synopsis: The battle for the Crown has begun, but which of the three sisters will prevail?

With the unforgettable events of the Quickening behind them and the Ascension Year underway, all bets are off. Katharine, once the weak and feeble sister, is stronger than ever before. Arsinoe, after discovering the truth about her powers, must figure out how to make her secret talent work in her favor without anyone finding out. And Mirabella, once thought to be the strongest sister of all and the certain Queen Crowned, faces attacks like never before—ones that put those around her in danger she can’t seem to prevent.

Are you looking forward to reading any of these? What are your most anticipated books for the rest of the year?

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Moms in Literature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Ten Tuesday: Reading Wishlist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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