The North Read-members: A “Game of Thrones” Book List

Like many people, we are HUGE fans of “Game of Thrones” here at The Library Ladies. The drama, the action, the intrigue, the DRAGONS, we are here for it. With the seventh season a little past its midway point, we thought that it would be fun to throw out some recommendations inspired by the show. But instead of focusing on plot points, we’re focusing on characters, and what books they might like. The night is dark, and full of readers, so let’s see what books we would recommend to some of the best loved (and most hated) characters on the show.

 

Jon Snow: “The Zombie Survival Guide” by Max Brooks

Jon Snow, who is presently the King of the North, is less interested in the fight over the Iron Throne, and more interested in the fact that a horde of ice zombies known as White Walkers are gathering an army that is threatening to invade all of Westeros. Even though his strategizing has been mostly solid up until this point (the whole Rickon thing notwithstanding), we think that he should read up on Max Brooks’s book “The Zombie Survival Guide”. This book talks about how to defend against an uprising of the undead in your day to day life, and while it has it’s tongue planted firmly in cheek, it still gives realistic and helpful tips on how to plan for multiple kinds of disasters. Dragon Glass and Valyrian Steel may be key, but having escape routes and plans for any terrain and climate from the get go couldn’t hurt, right?

 

Daenerys Targaryen: “Dragon’s Milk” by Susan Fletcher

It’s been quite a while now since Dany’s dragons were adorable little draclings, but there was a time when they were only adorable little babies, helpless and needing her care. “Dragon’s Milk” was one of my favorite fantasy stories when I was a teenager, and the three adorable draclings that our teenage protagonists “adopts” was definitely part of the appeal. I believe we even named one of our pet birds “Pyrro” after one of the draglings in this story. Here, Kaedra, like Dany, finds herself raising three tiny dragons who are truly babies, temper tantrums and all. What’s more, this book, like “Game of Thrones” doesn’t play it safe with the stakes. There is danger, tragedy, and real consequences involved for all of the character’s actions.

 

Arya Stark: “Skullsworn” by Brian Staveley

For our most deadly Stark, what could be better than a book that is ALSO about a female assassin who has been trained by an organization that essentially worships death? While Staveley’s Skullsworn do not give up their names (or get super cool face-changing-abilities) they do have a similarly pragmatic approach to death and killing and are equally proficient at it. Our would-be-assasin, Pyrre, even has a list of marks she must kill before the end of the book in order to pass her final test. Arya would fit right in with this group! And I’m sure they would have looked on with pride at her mass elimination of no-one’s favorite sleazy patriarch and family.

 

Tyrion Lannister: “And I Darken” by Kiersten White

Going in, this book seems to be about Lada and her rise/fall to power. But this is also Radu’s story, and his is one that in many ways closely mirrors Tyrion’s. They are both born into the world with traits that set them apart and clearly mark them as “other.” This failure to be the sons their fathers want leads to neglect, scorn, and ultimately, exile. Both have complicated relationships with their siblings, specifically their sisters, and both find themselves more welcome and at home in the court of a foreign ruler whom they go on to support and become the right hand man of. Like Tyrion, Radu thrives at political maneuvering and brings these skills to the forefront in his support of Mehmed. And in many ways, Lada can be seen as the combination of Cersei and Jaime into one sibling; she both loves and hates Radu at different points throughout the story, and his feelings are similarly flexible towards her.

 

Cersei Lannister/Jaime Lannister: “Flowers in the Attic” by V.C. Andrews

Well, the obvious comparison is there. Cersei and Jaime, the Golden Twins of House Lannister, are a bit too close for comfort. They are in love with/obsessed with each other, and all of her children with King Robert Baratheon are actually her children with her twin brother. So yes, the Twincest factor matches up with the brother/sister couple of Cathy and Chris Dollanganger. But there are other parallels between the Lannister family and the Dollangers of V.C. Andrews’s book “Flowers in the Attic.” The Dollangangers also have a massive fortune that they sit upon, and with that money comes the dysfunction, cruelty, and haughtiness that has come to define the Lannisters. So does a penchant for poisoning those who may be getting in their way. And much like Corrine Dollanganger, it can be argued that Tywin Lannister doesn’t really care for any of his children, so parent issues are present as well.

 

Sansa Stark: “The Witness Wore Red” by Rebecca Musser

There is no question that Sansa Stark has been through hell. She was raised to be a queen, but then betrothed to a sociopath, held political hostage by his family, only to escape to then be married off to ANOTHER sociopath who tortured and raped her daily. But she escaped from him as well, reclaimed her family home, got her brutal revenge on her husband (in one of the most satisfying sequences the show has ever done), and became the rightful Lady of the North once again. Because of all this, she should read “The Witness Wore Red,” a memoir by a woman who was a member of the FLDS Church, until she escaped and testified against her abusers in court. It follows her life as a child growing up in the FLDS, being married off to the elderly ‘prophet’ of the sect, Rulon Jeffs, and her eventual escape and activism. This book is harrowing and hard to read, but ultimately triumphant, as Musser not only has her life and her freedom now, she is also an advocate for stopping sex trafficking and abuse.

 

Brienne of Tarth: “The Woman Who Rides Like a Man” by Tamora Pierce

Technically, “The Woman Who Rides Like a Man” is the 3rd book in a 4 book series, but the title and plot of this one book in the series most closely aligns with Brienne’s experience of life as a lady knight in a world that doesn’t know what to make of that. I mean, this is the tag line of this book: “Let her prove herself worthy as a man.” Alanna faces the same challenges as Brienne now that she has graduated as a full knight while at the same time being exposed as a woman, a fact she has hidden for years as she trained. Both Brienne and Alanna are constantly defending their right to be what they are: excellent warrior women. And both Brienne and Alanna find the people and causes for which they are willing to devote their considerable abilities to fully.

There are so many other characters that we haven’t touched upon. What books would you recommend to those characters, or the ones that we covered? Tell us in the comments!!

Beach Reads: Summer 2017

Back for 2017, here is a list of some more favorite beach reads! “Beach read” is a very fast and loose term for books people read over the beautiful summer months when we really should be outside “doing things” but are instead reading…maybe outside. Some people see these months as an opportunity to slog through long classics (we’re looking at you “Moby Dick”) before the busy-ness of of the fall starts up, but for the sake of this list, we’re limiting our choices to stand alone, mostly feel good books (though there’s some obvious leeway here for Kate’s horror tastes!) that could be easily brought along on vacations. So, still a very loose definition, but hey, we had to start somewhere! We will select one title for each of the genres we most read.

Serena’s Picks:

18782855 Fantasy Title: “Princess of Thorns” by Stacey Jay

I reviewed this one fairly recently on the blog, but it’s still stuck with me as one of the more simply “fun” fantasy books I’ve read in quite a long time. Not only is it a standalone fantasy book (quite the rarity in its own right), but it’s a perfect pick for a summer beach read due to its expert balancing act of tone and story. There’s plenty of action and adventure, just the right amount of romance, witty dialogue, and two main characters who are each a blast. On top of this all, the villain of the story is a compelling and sympathetic character on her own, and in many ways, brings to bare the true heart of the story. This is a fast, fun read that is sure to please fantasy lovers, especially those who like fairytale retellings. For more on this book, here is my review of “Princess of Thorns.”

6424171Science Fiction Title: “Jurassic Park” by Michael Crichton

So while trying to come up with a science fiction pick for this list, I’ve discovered two things: 1.) I need to get back to my science fiction list, cuz man, it’s been a while since I’ve read any and 2.) what I have read is all super depressing and not really fit for a “beach reads” type of list (ie Oryx and Crake). So we’re going old-school with the fan favorite “Jurassic Park.” I don’t need to tell you the story with this one, though if you are basing all of your knowledge on just the movie, you will be surprised by aspects of it. There’s much more science mixed in with all of the dinosaur adventure madness. And yes, before you ask, dinosaurs eating people is my idea of a light read!

91661Mystery Title: “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice”  by Laurie R. King

As a lover of all things Sherlock Holmes, of course I have to highlight King’s amazing “Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes” series. I’ve been reading these books for over a decade now, and while there are some hits and misses in the long-running series, the first several books, and the first book itself, “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” are simply excellent. (While this is the start to a series, it easily reads as a stand alone novel, so I feel justified in including it). Here, Mary Russell becomes the apprentice and, later, partner of Sherlock Holmes. There are nods and winks to the original mysteries, but the stories themselves are all new. Most importantly, Holmes is spot on with the way I always think of him, and Mary Russell is a strong enough character on her own to never get lost in his large shadow. Definitely check this book out if you like historical mysteries, and Sherlock Holmes especially.

37470Historical Title: “The Other Boleyn Girl” by Philippa Gregory

Chances are good that if you’re a fan of historical fiction, especially historical fiction focusing on the years during the Tudor reigns, you’re already well familiar with Philippa Gregory. She’s written what seems like a million and one of these novels in her many years as an author, but I remember picking this book up way back when she was lesser known, and this was her first book and absolutely loving it (I have fairly mixed feelings about many of her following books). The story focuses on the life Mary Boleyn, the younger sister of the infamous Anne Boleyn. Through her eyes, we see the inner workings of the court, all while waiting with a sense of sickened dread for the inevitable doom of her family. While that sounds grim, and yes, it is, Mary’s story still has moments of brightness, and, for the most part, ends in a satisfying manner…you know, given the beheadings and all. This is a longer book, but for fans of historical fiction, especially those who like some romance in their stories, definitely check this one out!

Kate’s Picks:

924765Horror Title: “‘Salem’s Lot” by Stephen King

If you want to go for fun beach reads that are also a bit scary, you really can’t go wrong with horror master Stephen King. While he’s very good at dark and angsty existential dread, he can also tap into entertaining and ‘lighter’ horror. His second book, “‘Salem’s Lot”, has been referred to as vampires meets “Peyton Place”, so you know that there’s going to be some fun and sudsy drama along with your vampire scares. When a man comes home to the small town of Jerusalem’s Lot, he slowly comes to the realization that the townspeople are turning into vampires. This is the book that has the iconic scene of the little boy vampire hanging outside his brother’s window, and since it was still kind of early in King’s career it was before some of the darker and deeper themes of small town banality and innocence actually hides a deeper evil, a la “It”. Really, for fun vampire fiction, this is the book.

2247142Thriller Title: “The Talented Mr. Ripley” by Patricia Highsmith

I literally read this one on a beach in California when I was a teenager, and have been meaning to revisit it as the trope of the ‘charming psychopath narrator’ has started to gain popularity again. Tom Ripley is living an unfulfilled life, so when he’s approached by the wealthy father of former classmate Dickie Greenleaf, he’s a bit surprised. Seems Dickie is living it up in Italy when he should be at home. So Tom says he’ll go find Dickie, but instead finds a life of luxury and power that he doesn’t want to come back from… even if that means murder and identity fraud is necessary. I haven’t seen the movie version, but I was quite struck with how charming and yet malignant Ripley was, and he paved the way for future characters like Dexter Morgan and Joe Goldberg. For unsettling and addicting thrills, take this one with you.

12959045Graphic Novel Title: “My Friend Dahmer” by Derf Backderf

Okay, before you question my tastes (more than you probably have already), I want to make it clear that this isn’t the story of Jeffrey Dahmer’s crimes. This is the story of his teenage years, as seen through the eyes of his high school classmate and kind of friend Derf Backderf. It looks at the high school years of both boys, with Backderf’s not so popular group taking Dahmer into their fold, but only because they think he’s a complete weirdo whose weirdness entertains them. Backderf tells us the Dahmer he knew in school, the one who was the product of a broken home, who was hiding a heavy drinking habit, and who was never a member of any group of peers who could, or would, relate to him. While Backderf takes special care not to give Dahmer a pass when it comes to his later, horrific crimes, he does ask where the adults in his life were when he was so clearly fighting a number of demons, and whether interference could have saved multiple lives. This book is insightful and, yes, upsetting, but it’s also compulsively readable.

What are you planning on taking to the beach with you this summer? Let us know in the comments!

Joint Review: “Triple Threat” by Gwenda Bond

31632115Book: “Triple Threat” by Gwenda Bond

Publishing Info: Switch Press, April 2017

Where Did We Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: For the first time, Lois Lane has almost everything she wants. Non-temporary home? Check. Dream job? Double check. Incredible BFFs? The absolute best. And now, her online crush, SmallvilleGuy, is coming to Metropolis. If all goes well, they’ll turn their long-distance friendship into a some-kind-of-fairy-tale romance. But when does all ever go well? Before she can check boyfriend off her list, Lois must take down a mad scientist plus a trio of mutant teens, protect the elusive flying man from the feds (including her dad), and navigate her very first date with SmallvilleGuy. In the follow-up to FALLOUT and DOUBLE DOWN, Gwenda Bond’s reimagination of DC Comics’s first leading lady takes on her toughest challenge yet: Love.

Kate’s Thoughts

So I will wholeheartedly admit that after reading “Double Down”, the previous book in this series, I was starting to feel disheartened. While I absolutely loved Lois Lane and her relationship with SmallvilleGuy, I was starting to realize that I just wasn’t interested in Lois’ life in Metropolis, or her friends, or the mystery that they were all trying to solve. Plus, I was worried that Gwenda Bond wouldn’t be able to sustain the cute relationship between Lois and SmallvilleGuy, aka Clark Kent, aka the future Superman, because if she was to stick with canon, Lois and Clark don’t meet until they are adults. How much longer could I accept Lois and SmallvilleGuy just having an online relationship that doesn’t progress beyond that?

Well good news! Gwenda Bond just tosses all that canon out the window, because it is in “Triple Threat” that Lois and Clark finally meet in person!!!!! Most of the time I’m kind of irked when a new writer or content creator ignores the history of the characters, but in this case I’m grateful  that she did. Because I’m still really just here for Lois and Clark.

That isn’t to say that I don’t like Lois’s friends in Metropolis. Because I do, for the most part. But ultimately they are kind of inconsequential, because they just aren’t quite strong enough to stand on their own two feet next to Lois and Clark. And hell, next to the rest of the original characters that have shown up in the series thus far. I even find Lucy Lane infinitely more interesting than Maddy, James, and the rest of the gang. I also wasn’t too interested in the main mystery this time around, just like last time. Teenagers with mysterious powers, potential connection to SmallvilleGuy, blah blah blah.

The true strength in this series is definitely Lois, and to a slightly lesser extent Clark. It’s fun seeing them interact with each other, and be cute and hesitant boyfriend and girlfriend together. These were the parts that I liked, and boy did I like them a lot. I think that while I don’t want Lois to lose her reporter storylines, because that IS who Lois is and she does deserve to be on her own without Clark part of the time, she is stronger with Clark. And honestly, I think that’s kind of a shame.

But something else that I enjoyed about this book? Lex Luthor has shown up. And I think that he could potentially bring interesting storylines in the future should this series continue. Especially seeing the dynamic between the three of them has been switched up a bit.

“Triple Threat” brought us some wonderful and cute Lois and Clark moments. But while I greatly liked those parts, part of me wishes that this Lois Lane could interest me more in her own right, not just when she’s with Clark. However, for pure shipping and romance purposes, this really does a great job of showing what a great couple Lois and Clark are, both romantically and professionally.

Serena’s Thoughts

I had the same feelings going into this one as Kate has expressed. I’m mostly here for Lois and Clark, and while the system that Bond has put in place for them to interact through a virtual reality chat system is cute and all, it was beginning to wear thin. So, in this instance, I was more than thrilled when Bond just threw her hands up in the air and said “Canon schmanon!” and had them finally meet up.

Also, as Kate said, I had similar feelings in the first two books about the unfortunate comparisons that are inevitably drawn between canon characters and the original characters. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these characters on their own, but they don’t have the emotional heft and weighty backstory that accompany even the most minor of original characters. Like Kate said, even Lucy, who has tiny, incremental scenes in all of these books, reads as more interesting than the story lines of Maddy, James, Dante, and the crew. This problem is only being expounded upon as the number of canon characters is beginning to heavily out number these originals. We had Perry, the Lanes, Lucy, and online-Smallville guy in the first two books. But here, we have the addition of not only Clark in the person, but his parents the Kents (who I always adore in every version!), and another heavy-hitting character with Lex. Even his father shows up!

This feels weird to say, as the concept of these books as an original take on Lois Lane as a teen is a great idea, and with that goal should come new characters. But whether it was the execution of these new characters or the fact that their storylines were frankly not that interesting ever (there’s a lot of relationship drama between Maddy and Dante that doesn’t fair well in a book where you have Lois and Clark meeting for the first time in real life. The comparison level of interest is never going to play in favor of that), my urge to skim these sections is at an all time high. At this point, there are so many canon characters and their storylines and scenes are so inevitably more interesting, that I almost think it would be best to just shelve these original characters largely. It feels wrong to say/admit that, but I kind of think it’s the truth. I love that Bond has brought in Lex and Clark (outside of the internet), but it’s kind of a game-changer move, and the reality is now that we have them, it’s even harder to think of a fourth book not predominantly focused on this threesome.

In the last two books, I’m also on the record as saying that I have never been a huge fan of the mysteries that are central to the plots. It’s a weird believablity issue, really. Which is a strange thing to say about a book that has a flying alien as a romantic hero. But, look, Superman aside, this is supposed to take place in the real world. So when I’m reading a mystery about teens with wacky abilities, and the science behind it, and the scientists themselves, are all pretty wacky, I end up being thrown out of the story. If my brain is waking up and questioning the physics of things, there are problems. This is also a strange problem, as the comics, cartoon versions, and my beloved “Lois and Clark: The Adventures of Superman” all have a long history of zany mysteries that are just like this. But, and we’re back to it, at the center of all of those plot lines you had Lois and Clark together and a great super villain behind it, Lex. Without those core elements, the wacky, unbelievability of these plot lines just stand out in a negative way.

But, as Kate said, this book gets major props for the things it did right. Namely, forgetting canon and bring in Clark early in Lois’s life, and the addition of Lex. Bond did some creative things with his character that laid a really solid groundwork to understanding how this teenage Lex could grow to be the super villain we all know and love. So for these things, I will be still be here when book 4 comes out!

Kate’s Rating 7: Once again I had little investment in the main story line, BUT there was so much Lois and Clark interaction (and a surprise cameo by Lex) that I was pretty happy with it overall.

Serena’s Rating 7: I’m staring to admit to myself that I just want a novel version of “Lois and Clark: Teenage Reporters” without any of the original added aspects of this series. Sorry, but not sorry.

Reader’s Advisory

“Triple Threat” is fairly new and isn’t on any Goodreads lists yet, but like it’s predecessors it would fit in on “Ladies of DC”, and “Books with Comic Book Heroes”.

Find “Triple Threat” at your library using WorldCat!

Book Club Review: “Ghost”

28954126We are part of a group of librarian friends who have had an ongoing bookclub running for the last several years. Each “season” (we’re nerds) we pick a theme and each of us chooses a book within that theme for us all to read. Our current theme is a “Book Challenge!” theme. This book comes from a “Pick A One Word Title” challenge.

For this blog, we will post a joint review of each book we read for bookclub. We’ll also post the next book coming up in bookclub. So feel free to read along with us or use our book selections and questions in your own bookclub!

Book: “Ghost” by Jason Reynolds

Publishing Info: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, August 2016

Where Did We Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Running. That’s all that Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But never for a track team. Nope, his game has always been ball. But when Ghost impulsively challenges an elite sprinter to a race — and wins — the Olympic medalist track coach sees he has something: crazy natural talent. Thing is, Ghost has something else: a lot of anger, and a past that he is trying to outrun. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed and meld with the team, or will his past finally catch up to him?

Kate’s Thoughts

It occurred to me and the rest of book club that we have been dong a fair  amount of Middle Grade books for this session! Which, hey, that’s just fine. I know that for some of us, me included to a certain extent, the fear with middle grade is that the book may rely less on nuance and more on being explicitly clear about what is going on. But the good news is that with “Ghost,” one of the deluge of books by Jason Reynolds recently, the story never seems to underestimate the middle grade audience. Not only are the themes of this book pretty sophisticated, such as parental abuse, systematic oppression, and bullying, but Reynolds doesn’t seem to feel a need to water anything down. Ghost is a very intriguing and complex protagonist, who is dealing with a large amount of trauma due to his father trying to kill him and his mother when he was younger. I thought that Reynolds addressed this trauma in a way that wasn’t told but definitely shown. Ghost has a lot to deal with, and while his first person POV never explicitly describes how he’s dealing, the reader gets a very clear sense of how much this continues to haunt him. Though I’ll be honest, the sports theme wasn’t really my thing, just because I myself am not really a sports oriented person (outside of hockey and baseball). I was definitely skimming the more sports oriented parts, and wanted to get back to Ghost’s personal life and struggles.

I think it’s also important to note that I greatly appreciate the fact that “Ghost” is a book that has People of Color as the default. What I mean by this is that in many books, ‘white’ is kind of the default character, so when the author describes someone, their skin is kind of assumed to be white, while characters of color have their skin described almost right off the bat. In this book, however, it’s the opposite, and the white characters are the ones who are described as if they are outside the norm. Given that the middle grade and YA publishing industry is still struggling with diversity, this was refreshing.

I liked “Ghost” quite a bit and I think that a lot of kids could find a lot of things to like about it as well.

Serena’s Thoughts

Like Kate said, sports books aren’t really my thing either. Unless it’s, like, magical horse racing or something. I read a few as a kid, like the almost required “Maniac Magee,” but never really went beyond that. But “Ghost” has received a lot of attention as a great new addition to middle grade fiction, including both a diverse cast of characters and a story/topic that is likely to appeal to middle grade boys (the age-group-bane of most public librarians’ existence!), so I was excited to try it out. And while sports books will never be my thing, I found myself quite enjoying this one.

Reynolds expertly mixes the two primary parts that make up this book: track and life trauma. The obvious parallels about literally and figuratively running away from one’s struggles are never hit on the head too fully, and I appreciate the author’s dexterity in creating a story that doesn’t simplify the realities its main character has lived through. As an adult reader I very much enjoyed such literary touches as opening the story with the shot of the gun his father is aiming at Ghost and his mother and closing it with the shot of the pop gun to begin the race. This ability to weave real depth into the story while also creating a relatable main character with an excellent voice that would appeal to young readers really makes this book stand out. Ghost himself could make me laugh on one page and want to shake him on the next.

I also enjoyed the fact that the sport in question was track. There are tons of books out there about the more traditional sports like football, basketball, and more and more often, soccer. But track with its strange balance of individual stakes and teamwork was a unique sport to choose. My own track career was very short (due to a happy ankle sprain that got me out of it, essentially), but I still enjoyed reading the sporting portion of the book as well.

Reading books like this is why I particularly enjoy being involved in a great bookclub. I’m consistently challenged to read outside of my own comfort zone and discover excellent books like this that I likely would never have stumbled upon myself.

Kate’s Rating 8: While I don’t really care about the sports themes of this book, I liked Ghost and the other members of the track team, as well as the way that Reynolds tackled some pretty complex themes.

Serena’s Rating 8: “Ghost” was an excellent middle grade book that provided deep commentary on important topics while never losing sight of its own story and audience.

Book Club Questions

  1. What do you think motivates Ghost to run at the beginning of the book? Do you think that has changed by the end of it?
  2. What did you think of how Coach dealt with Ghost stealing the shoes? Why do you think Ghost impulsively stole the shoes in the first place?
  3. The end of the book is fairly ambiguous about how the track team ended up in the race. Did you wish that there was a definitive ‘win’ or ‘lose’ outcome? Do you think the book needed that?
  4. What did you think of the other members of the track team? This is going to be a series that follows each of these kids. Whose story are you most excited for, and why?
  5. This is a middle grade book, though Reynolds is known for writing YA books as well. How do you think this book would have been different had it been written for a YA audience?

Reader’s Advisory

“Ghost” is included on the Goodreads lists “2016 YA/MG Books with POC Leads”, and “2017 Mock Newbery.

Find “Ghost” at your library using WorldCat!

Next book club book up is “The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog”.

Literary Loves: Characters Who Woo Us

We know that we can’t possibly be the only book worms who have fallen for literary characters. So in celebration of all things fantastical and romantic (and perhaps setting up our husbands to fall short), we would like to share the characters who make our hearts thud a little bit faster as we turn the pages of their stories. 

Serena’s Picks

heroes
(source)

Book: “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma,” Northanger Abbey,” Sense and Sensibility,” Persuasion,” and “Mansfield Park” by Jane Austen

Literary Crush: Well, let’s see, we have Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightly, Mr. Tilney, Colonel Brandon/Edward Ferrars, Captain Wentworth, and Edmund Bertram

I cheated! Right off the bat! Right out of the gate! But really, there was no other choice because either 1.) the list would be extra long including all seven and made up entirely of Jane Austen characters for my portion or 2.) there would be no post because I could never narrow it down to only 3 and my part would STILL be made up entirely of Jane Austen characters. I will say that Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightly are probably my favorite two of the bunch, but when we start to get into thirds and fourths…nope! Can’t do it! Many, many articles have been written about the appeal of Jane Austen’s heroes, so I won’t bore you with a re-cap here. They’re just the best. The end.

11289310Book: “Daughter of the Forest” by Juliet Marillier

Literary Crush: Hugh ‘Red’ of Harrowfield

Juliet Marillier is one of my favorite authors and “Daughter of the Forest” is my favorite of her books. So it stands to reason that out of the many fantastic heroes she has written (I really resisted not just including them all again, guys! I’m making progress!), Red would be my favorite leading man. He’s pretty much what every woman wishes for. Strong and competent, but endlessly patient and understanding. Sorcha can’t speak for the majority of their time together in this book, and even though he knows she can answer some of his most heart-wrenching questions about his lost brother, he stands by her, giving her the time and space she needs to heal and grow to trust him. He stands up for her against his family and the questions and fear of her that arise from her being a strange outsider. Their love grows slowly throughout the book until in the end she, too, makes her own sacrifice for him. Their love story is beautiful, and Red is a great hero character in his more quiet, steady way.

119324283870Book: “The Subtle Knife” and “The Amber Spyglass” by Philip Pullman

Literary Crush: Will Parry

This one feels a bit strange typing it out as an adult woman since this is technically a child character, but I read these books when I was the main characters’ ages, and it would be wrong to deny the  massive crush I had (have?) on Will. Having been already introduced to the unstoppable Lyra in “The Golden Compass,” Will was already fighting an uphill battle being introduced as a main character in book two. But not only did he stand his own, by the end he may have been my favorite of the two. It was also surprising seeing a meaningful and touching romance develop in a natural way in a book that is about teenagers as young as these two. But especially in “The Amber Spyglass,” we see Will’s willingness to do anything to save Lyra and then to follow her anywhere, even into the Underworld. He has the same quiet, steady strength as Red, so I guess that must be kind of my thing?

Kate’s Picks

77392Book: The “Anne of Green Gables” Series by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Literary Crush: Gilbert Blythe

One of my favorite literary heroines is the impulsive, imaginative, and witty Anne Shirley. I grew up idolizing her (thanks to my Dad’s love for the books about her), and her love interest Gilbert Blythe was hands down the first book character I was totally in love with. Gilbert starts out as a rival, who pisses Anne off when trying to get her attention by calling her ‘Carrots’. But as the series progresses, Anne and Gilbert go from enemies, to friends, to true loves. He’s funny and smart, and sure, a little careless with how he shows his affection for her, but that’s okay. He worships the ground that Anne walks on, but also doesn’t let her get away with some of her more irrational (or spiteful) moments. And boy did it take Anne long enough to figure out that he was the one for her! But the moment that she did (after he nearly died from typhoid fever, OH MY GOODNESS THE FEELINGS), they were just the best couple, and he was everything that she (and I) ever wanted.

4722840Book: “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë

Literary Crush: Edward Rochester

Snarky? Check. Brooding with a tragic past? Check. Willing to have his true love go toe to toe with him and respectful of her because of it? CHECK MATE. Yeah, it’s probably not great that Edward Rochester lied about keeping his mentally deranged wife locked in an attic, but given how terrible asylums were at the time I’m sort of willing to cut him a little bit of slack. As the love interest in “Jane Eyre”, Rochester falls in love with Jane, the Governess to his ward. Jane is an independent and capable woman and is not willing to let him give her any grief, nor is she willing to let him manipulate her. Rochester does eventually learn from his mistakes, and when he and Jane are reunited they continue to be on even footing, relationship wise. As much as the ‘dark and brooding soul’ trope can get old, Rochester has enough snark and sarcasm to keep it from becoming too much. And for the time period that the book was written, him being on such even footing with Jane in their relationship and romance is quite refreshing!

472331Book: “Watchmen” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (Ill.)

Literary Crush: Dan Dreiberg/ Nite Owl II

As someone who loves superheroes and has a thing for a good number of them (Helloooooo Wade Wilson), Dan Dreiberg from “Watchmen” is the one that holds the biggest key to my heart. Dan is painfully geeky and kind of socially awkward, but he’s very smart, way adorable, and fiercely loyal when it comes to his teammates and friends. He is also a very capable crime fighter, who plays to his strengths of tech knowledge and gadgetry by creating a number of doo dads and inventions that aid him in his endeavors. And he is eternally patient when it comes to his unstable partner, Rorschach. Dan does have his issues, of course, as he is a bit neurotic, and is sometimes plagued by self doubt (such as when being a superhero is strictly outlawed by the Nixon Government). But at his heart he’s really just a good guy who puts on the cape and cowl because he wants to make the world a better place. Also, he loves bird watching and has a deep love for owls. He’s just an adorkable and good guy, so what’s not to love?

What about you? Do you have any literary crushes that make your heart sing? Let us know in the comments!!

 

A Blog’s Birthday Bonanza and Giveaway!!!

So last year, the two of us got together with the idea that we should do a book blog. And now it’s, amazingly, a year later, and we are celebrating our Bloggaversary (is that right?)! And with that comes our warmest, deepest gratitude to you guys who have been following us and supporting us and reading our reviews and lists. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And because of this, we wanted to host a huge and special giveaway! Like mentioned yesterday, it’s not just one book, but four books! Each of us picked two to pass on, and we think that you will love them too! So what are these books? We’re glad you asked.

7234875Book: “The Little Stranger” by Sarah Waters

Publishing Info: Riverhead Books, May 2010

In post-war England, Dr. Faraday goes to the countryside to tend to the someone who lives at the sprawling and glamorous Hundreds Hall. Though the Ayres family still lives there, changing times, changing economic circumstances, and changing ways have pushed the family closer and closer to losing everything. But along with a changing way of life, there may be something else in these halls that is haunting this family. Dr. Faraday soon finds himself twisted up with this family and whatever else comes with them. This is a haunting and sweeping book, that is a must for fans of “Downton Abbey,” as well of fans of old school haunted house stories.

13132403Book: “17 & Gone” by Nova Ren Suma

Publishing Info: Dutton Books, March 2017

Lauren is a seventeen year old girl who is haunted by disturbing visions. Visions of girls who have gone missing, and also seventeen. She doesn’t know why these girls are reaching out to her, or what it means. But she feels a need to figure out what has happened to them, just in case she is potentially next. After all, she, too, is seventeen. This suspenseful YA book is a tense and interesting rumination on how there are many different ways that a person can be lost, and Nova Ren Suma writes about difficult subjects with lots of care.

18490585 Book: “Mistborn” by Brandon Sanderson

Publishing Info: Tor, July 2006

Brandon Sanderson is one of my all time favorite authors, so I had to include a book from him in this giveway, and what is more fitting than “Mistborn” the first book of his I read that served as a gateway drug to the long, loooong list of books this author regularly pumps out. “Mistborn” tackles the question of what a fantasy hero journey would look like if the hero fails. Long ago, instead of saving the world, its hero died, leaving the land to sink into desolation under the heavy hand of its cruel king the Lord Ruler. A ragtag group, featuring our lead character, a spunky street rat teenage girl named Vin, hope to now succeed where this previous hero failed. Kate knows my love of this book as I literally shoved it at her a few years ago, so now I’m shoving it at you all as well!

28220899Book: “Freeks” by Amanda Hocking

Publishing Info: St. Martin’s Griffin, January 2017

Mara has grown up in the circus surrounded by the odd and the extraordinary. But so far, she herself seems fairly…normal. When the circus stops at a new town, Mara jumps at the opportunity to blend with the locals where her normalcy is a boon and she can pretend, just for a little while, that she too is leading an ordinary life. That is until members of the circus begin to disappear, starting with the most powerful among them. Mara, along with a dreamy local boy named Gabe, must now rush to untangle the truth before all of her strange family, including her clairvoyant mother, are lost forever. This book hits many of the standard tropes of YA fantasy, but I’m always a sucker for a circus story, so I had to include it in this giveaway!

Enter the giveaway!

 

 

Joint Review: “Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast”

41424Book: “Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast” by Robin McKinley

Publishing Info: Harper, October 1978

Where Did We Get this Book: Serena’s owns it, and Kate borrowed it from Serena!

Book Description: Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, “Cannot a Beast be tamed?”

Serena’s Thoughts

I originally read this book back in highschool after finding it while browsing through my school library. What a lucky day of my life! I had read a few books by Robin McKinley before this but had somehow missed the fact that she wrote a Beauty and the Beast re-telling (she actually wrote two! Her other book is titled “Rose Daughter” and is a bit more of an adaptation of the tale than a straight re-telling like this one). Fast forward an undefined number of years and “Beauty” is one of a handful of books that I re-read almost on a yearly basis. It’s the epitome of a comfort read for me, at this point. And with that in mind, I’ve found it a bit challenging to review it here for the blog! Unpacking the book as an actual work of fiction outside of my own long history of gushing over it is tricky!

One of the most noteworthy aspects of this tale is its simplicity. There are a million and one Beauty and the Beast adaptations, and they all approach the tale differently with unique additions to the tale and versions of the main characters. What makes “Beauty” stand out is the fact that it really isn’t providing anything extra to the tale: if you could have a novel-length version of the fairy tale itself, no bells or whistles added, this would be it. The tale unfolds in a very familiar way, broken into three parts essentially. There is Beauty’s life through her family’s fall from wealth, then her time adapting to a more simple life and hearing tales about a mysterious woods that one days hits too close to home with her father’s unlucky trip to a strange castle, and then the final third, Beauty’s time in the castle itself, falling in love with a Beast.

I particularly appreciate the fact that McKinley doesn’t rush the first half of this novel. As anxious as I am (and I’m sure many readers as well) to get to the meat of the story, Beauty and the Beast’s love story, this initial build up is important for setting up Beauty as a three dimensional character. We need time to understand Beauty herself, and to grow to love her family as well so that her sacrifice, when it comes, to leave them forever has the emotional weight it deserves.

Due to this greater fleshing out of the beginning of the story, Beauty’s family all get a lot more page time. The sisters, particularly, become their own characters with their own struggles. And, luckily, they are treated much more kindly by McKinley than sisters often fare in fairy tales being neither catty nor selfish.

But, of course, the true joy of the story does indeed come in its second half when Beauty begins her new life at the castle and meets the Beast. Here lies the true brilliance of the story. Under less sure hands we have seen too many incantations of the Beast where he can fall into many character traps, like the overly angsty Beast, or, most likely, the “anger issues are sexy” Beast. The Beast in this story is perfect as a strange, romantic hero. The tragedy of his story and life up to this point is the primary emotion that is brought to the forefront. And it is this sympathy for him upon which Beauty begins to build her feelings. But, even more importantly, McKinley allows her characters to travel the full of arc of a burgeoning relationship. Each are wary of the other (Beauty, for obvious reasons, and the Beast due to the vulnerability he must show to grow close to another human after so long), then through small moments and risks on each character’s part, a friendship develops, and only from there do we begin to see the romance come. McKinley never stumbles in this progression, and its this sure-handedness that makes the story and Beauty and the Beast’s relationship so beautiful and believable.

Re-reading this book for the millionth time, and especially with the new movie on my mind, it strikes me that the original Disney movie might have needed to credit this book for parts of their story. I mean, really, there’s even mention of a dog-like footstool! And this was written before that movie!! Perhaps a questionable lack of attribution on Disney’s part…

Kate’s Thoughts

So I had never actually read “Beauty” until I was at Serena’s house awhile back, and she literally thrust her copy of the book into my hands. I had only read “Sunshine” by Robin McKinley before then, though I had some familiarity with her other works because my mother really likes the “Damar” series. I, too, am a huge fan of the story of “Beauty and the Beast”, as the Disney movie is my favorite Disney movie of all time, and I’ve always enjoyed the fairy tale. Hell, in college I wrote a paper about the symbolism of the Beast in regards to sex and growing up. So yes, Serena was right to toss this my way with the command of ‘read it, read it now’.

I think that the biggest thing that strikes me about this book is that McKinley is very careful to flesh out all of the characters, from Beauty to her sisters to the Beast. While some fairy tales function more on tropes and common themes, McKinley takes these kind of stock characters and explores them a bit more. I was especially happy, like Serena was, that Beauty’s sisters Grace and Hope were also kind and empathetic people. I was worried that there was going to be some of the usual ‘only one girl can be the good one’ malarky, but this book is really kind to it’s female characters. Beauty herself was a wonderful surprise as well, as she is good and kind but has her own weaknesses and is not perfect. I felt a lot of love from her family, which is so rare in so many fairy tales. Seeing them going from wealth to near poverty was a really neat take, giving the story more motivation for the Father to go off, and more motivation for Beauty to make the sacrifices that she ends up making. And I will admit that I was also invested in the love story that befalls upon Grace, who is longing for a long lost love to return to her, even if the odds aren’t in her favor.

And like Serena, I also liked the parts with the Beast and how their relationship progresses. The Beast never really comes off as an actual threat to Beauty, which is a difficult line to treat with this story. I know that a lot of people compare this fairy tale to Stockholm Syndrome (I have a lot of opinions as to why this is incorrect, but that’s another rant for another day), but in “Beauty” it felt more like a mutual understanding between Beauty and the Beast instead of a captive situation. I feel like this gives Beauty the credit she deserves, and it doesn’t let any critiques turn her into a victim in spite of her obvious agency. Her relationship with the Beast is tentative, then sweet, and it was nice seeing them progress and learn about each other.

I think that the best part about this book is that it’s really just fluffy and pure escapism, which sometimes we really just need. There isn’t any unnecessary drama or nonsense, and you know that you’re going to get a happy ending. But even if the ending is guaranteed to be happy, McKinley does a great job of keeping you interested in the journey to happily ever after. If you are a fan of “Beauty and the Beast”, this is definitely a book that you should be picking up. Do yourself this favor!!!

Serena’s Rating 10: My absolute favorite fairy tale re-telling of all!

Kate’s Rating 10: An absolutely lovely retelling of one of my very favorite fairy tales.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast” is on these Goodreads lists: “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Best Fairytales and Retellings.”

Find “Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast” at your library using WorldCat!