Differently Great

(OR: ADAPTATIONS THAT CHANGE THINGS UP
WITHOUT SUFFERING FOR IT.)

When books are adapted for the screen, I tend to shove them into one of two categories, “faithful” or “rubbish”, and I suspect that this is a common trait among book lovers. After all, if I love a book enough to want to consume it as more than one form of media, I’m not likely to be happy about significant changes to the plot or characters (or even aesthetic, though that’s more forgivable, I think, as no two people are going to imagine something exactly the same, however well it’s described)… Of course, not all writing translates well to the screen, so changes sometimes really do need to be made – but this can often sour the opinions of the books’ biggest fans.

I’ve been thinking about adaptations quite a bit lately, as the release of the new Mortal Engines film inches closer and closer; it’s one of my childhood favourites, and so far I’m feeling optimistic about the adaptation (which I will absolutely be seeing at the earliest opportunity!), even if they do end up making some changes… So I thought I’d share with you some films (and a TV series) that I thought bucked the trend, and managed to be great in their own way, despite diversions from their source material. 😊

1) How to Train Your Dragon

More inspired by Cressida Cowell’s series of novels than actually based on it, this film retains the heart and main character of its source material, but changes basically everything else. I can’t think of anything specific in the books that would make these changes strictly necessary, but since the result was so fantastic, I don’t really mind… The two are different enough that it’s easy to think of them as entirely unrelated, to be honest, but it’s absolutely worth reading/watching both.

2) The Little Prince

The 2015 adaptation (available on Netflix, if you couldn’t tell from the thumbnail!) of Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s classic novel is actually remarkably faithful, but the original story only takes up about half of the film. A new storyline, where the book’s narrator is befriended by a new protagonist (a little girl who is rather more grown-up than one would expect from a child her age) plays out alongside the old one, to make a story-within-a-story that is incredibly well-executed. I couldn’t recommend this film more. 💕

3) Howl’s Moving Castle

Contrary-wise, fans of Studio Ghibli’s interpretation of Diana Wynne Jones’ novel (of the same name) might be surprised to know that parts of the book are set not in the fantasy world of Ingary, but in 1980s Wales, and that Howl is actually a Welshman called Howell, as this detail was cut entirely from the film. There are other (quite significant) changes as well, from the war that Miyazaki invented, to the modified roles of many of the supporting characters, and even the different aesthetic of Howl’s castle itself (described as a wizard’s tower in the book, but a beautiful steampunk monstrosity in the film) – but both versions are absolutely wonderful.

4) The 100

The CW version of Kass Morgan’s post-apocalyptic series The 100, is perhaps a slightly dubious addition to this post, as I found the books enjoyable, but not great. So I was very much in favour of almost all the changes that the TV series’ writers and directors made… and I also wouldn’t be at all surprised if die-hard fans of the books were less impressed by the adaptation. These changes, needless to say, are too numerous to list, but I did write a whole discussion post about them a little while ago, as I found it quite interesting spotting what changes were – and weren’t – made. You can find it here, but beware of (minor) spoilers.

5) Ella Enchanted

This last one  – which is a loose adaptation of Gail Carson Levigne’s Cinderella-retelling – is one that some people may argue against, as I know that the film of Ella Enchanted isn’t the most popular… but I really enjoyed it. It’s a much more light-hearted take on Levigne’s original story, and misses out a lot of important story moments, but is still great fun. It will likely appeal to a much narrower age range than the book, however.

Source Material Matters!

Why do people re-tell stories? To flesh out otherwise bare-bones, moralistic fairytales? To add a new perspective? To put beloved characters in a new setting and see what they’ll do? And so on, and so on… There can be any number of ways and reasons to write a retelling, and the results can be spectacular. One good way not to write a retelling, however, is to ignore your source material altogether.

I recently read (and reviewed!) a book called The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice, which is nominally an erotic retelling of Sleeping Beauty that “probes the unspoken implications of [the] lush, suggestive tale by exploring its undeniable connection to sexual desire”[1]. What it actually is is an utter travesty of a novel, for a variety of reasons… but one of its worst offences is that it claims to be a retelling at all. In the very first scene, the Prince wakes Sleeping Beauty not with a kiss, but by having sex with her – which is not an unexpected way for such a book to begin. Afterwards, however, the retelling aspect of the story is thrown away entirely. The world seems not to have changed at all in the hundred years that Beauty has been asleep (or, if it has, it’s never mentioned), and it is made quite clear that nothing that happens to Beauty in the book is unique; hundreds of other princes and princesses have gone through exactly the same thing, curse or no. In short, there is no reason to include Sleeping Beauty in the narrative at all, and Rice has done the book a huge disservice by even mentioning the fairytale. I’m not saying that this is a book that shouldn’t exist (I know it has its fans), just that it should not exist as a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, as the original source material has no bearing on Rice’s story whatsoever.

And the source material really should matter! After all, if you’re not going to do something with whatever tale your story is based on, then what’s the point of bringing it up at all? Why not write something completely original instead? For example, Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass was, in its pre-publication form, a retelling of Cinderella, but at some point during the editing and re-writing process, almost all the Cinderella aspects of the story were removed[2]. How is that any different from The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, you might ask? Because Throne of Glass doesn’t claim to be a fairytale retelling. Sure, you can find hints of Cinderella if you’re looking hard for them, but no more so than in any other rags-to-riches story. In its current form, Throne of Glass exists as an entirely separate entity from Cinderella.

But we’re not done with Sarah J. Maas quite yet, as the other book I wanted to talk about in this post is A Court of Mist and Fury, the second book in her A Court of Thorns and Roses series, which is (or at least starts off as) a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. In the first book, Feyre kills a faerie who is disguised as a wolf, and as punishment she is taken away to the Spring Court, whose people and Lord are bound by a terrible curse – which can only be broken if a mortal woman and the High Lord Tamlin fall in love. So far, so conventional. And A Court of Thorns and Roses – though I wasn’t as in love with it as I’d hoped I would be – is actually quite an interesting retelling of Beauty and the Beast; the way that Maas blends together the fairytale with traditional Faerie lore is really original, as it the way she is able to expand the plot from a simple, romance-driven retelling to an exciting, intrigue-ridden fantasy… And then the sequel happened.

I personally consider A Court of Mist and Fury (you can find my review here) to be a far superior novel to A Court of Thorns and Roses… it just doesn’t make sense that it’s the continuation of a Beauty and the Beast retelling. The message of Beauty and the Beast is, after all, that we shouldn’t judge people by their appearances, and this is illustrated by the monstrous Beast turning out to be not-so-monstrous after all. The way that Tamlin’s character develops in this book, however, completely undermines that message; why set him up to be the misunderstood “Beast” in book one, if he’s just going to turn out in the sequel to be an awful person after all? And I could understand wanting to do this with a fairytale that has a completely outdated message, or moral, but I’m of the opinion that Beauty and the Beast‘s message continues to be as valid and important as it has ever been…

To end on a more positive note, I thought I’d recommend some really great, interesting retellings that I’ve come across, because there are a plethora of them out there, all with a lot to love about them. The Lunar Chronicles is a series of incredibly inventive retellings of several different fairytales; my favourite in the main series was Cress (which draws mainly on Rapunzel), though I found the spin-off novella The Little Android (a retelling of The Little Mermaid) particularly compelling. Neil Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle is a dark, clever take on Sleeping Beauty, with some Snow White elements in the mix as well, and there are also short stories in The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski[3] that do the same for The Little MermaidSnow WhiteBeauty and the Beast and The Snow Queen… Tiger Lily offers a fascinating new perspective on Peter Pan (as I Was a Rat! does for Cinderella); and GeekerellaNora and Kettle and Boy, Snow, Bird bring their respective fairytales beautifully into the real world. I could go on, but I expect it’d get boring fast.

CITATIONs:

[1] A quote from the back of the 1990 Plume edition of The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice (ISBN 0-452-26656-4).

[2] “… it started off as a Cinderella retelling and later it became it’s own original fantasy.” Maas, in conversation with Valerie Tejeda for the Huffington Post.

[3] These two short story anthologies are the first two books in the Witcher series.

Books i talked about in this post (in order of appearance):
  1. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice
  2. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  3. A Court of Thorns and RosesA Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
  4. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
  5. The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
  6. The Last WishSword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski
  7. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
  8. I Was a Rat! by Philip Pullman
  9. Geekerella by Ashley Poston
  10. Nora and Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor
  11. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Bookish media

One of the (great many) things that’s consuming my life at the moment is cross stitch, which one of my friends got me into about a month ago. It’s not a hobby I was expecting to enjoy so much – when I told my sister, she informed me that I had bypassed middle age entirely and become an old person – but it’s oddly soothing (in much the same way that colouring books are, and I enjoy those immensely).

Anyway, because I have the compulsive need to make all my hobbies at least partially about reading, I’m currently making a Song of Ice & Fire bookmark – House Baratheon (as you can see), which I’m attached to partly because I love Gendry so much, but also because they have Hufflepuff colours. 😛

But! There is a point to this post beyond me wanting to show off my almost-finished bookmark: Bookish things that are not actually books! 😀 In this post, I’m going to be sharing some interesting book-related things that I’ve found around the internet – I hope you enjoy them, too! ❤

1) The Katniss Chronicles [link]The Katniss ChroniclesThis is a fan-made audio drama of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, and it’s incredibly well-done, with excellent voice acting and narration, and a script that stays true to the books while also adding in new perspectives on the events of the novels, so that it’s a completely different experience from reading the novels (or even listening to an audiobook). It’s easy to tell that a huge amount of care and effort went into every part of this podcast, and it’s something that every Hunger Games fan should definitely check out – especially since it’s now complete, so you can binge-listen to the whole thing!

2) Harry Potter & the Sacred Text [link]

Harry Potter & the Sacred TextAnother podcast, though this one is much newer (the first episode was only published in May!). It’s something in-between a readalong and an in-depth study of the Harry Potter books, chapter by chapter, with a great emphasis on looking at the events and characters in ways that you probably wouldn’t naturally see them. And there’s a twist – it treats the books as if they were sacred. Because pretty much every die-hard Harry Potter fan has thought of these books as something life-altering and profound at some point, right? I certainly have! 😉 And if that’s not enough to spark your interest, then take a look at this beautifully-animated trailer:

3) Book Nerd Problems [link]

imagesThis next recommendation is probably a bit more familiar to people, as it comes from Epic Reads – the YA publicity branch of HarperCollins… but Book Nerd Problems is a series of hilarious and super-relatable skits about the trials and tribulations of loving books above all else. My favourite? Probably “Unhelpful Recommendations“. ❤

4) A Feast of Fiction [link]

Feast of FictionLast, but by no means least, is A Feast of Fiction, which is a youtube cooking channel – but everything they make on it is adapted from a book, or game, or TV series. Cocoa beetles from Coraline; curry bread from Black Butler (which I really, really want to try sometime soon); lembas bread from The Lord of the Rings; pumpkin pasties from Harry Potter… There’s something there for every kind of fan, so long as you love food (and who doesn’t love food?)!

Books that call to you!

How do you choose which books you want to read? Not in the which-book-next sense, but when you’re in a bookshop, or your local library, and surrounded by books which may or may not be to your taste, and many of which you’ve probably never heard of. What makes you go for one book, instead of another? The cover? The title? The blurb?

Nowadays – with goodreads, and booktube, and wi-fi available almost everywhere – it’s pretty easy to find reviews and recommendations on short notice, so you don’t really need to take too many chances on unfamiliar books. So, for the most part, I don’t end up reading books that I haven’t already heard of, and heard good things about. Which is sad.

There is, of course, something to be said for large groups of people all reading the same books, as it allows for a much greater sense of community amongst readers. I’m always a little taken aback when I make a Harry Potter reference in general conversation, and find that the person I’m talking to hasn’t read the books, because so often it seems like everyone has read them. And there are loads of other series like that: Twilight, of course, and in the booktube/book-blog community, everyone seems to be really into Throne of Glass and The Mortal Instruments, as well as about a hundred other things. And part of the appeal of these books is the desire to get involved in the conversation that surrounds them. I probably never would have picked up a book like Twilight if it weren’t for all the hype surrounding it, because it just doesn’t sound like my kind of book – but I’m still really glad that I did.

On the other hand, though, this predilection towards reading books that other people have already vouched for, as it were, means that a lot of potentially brilliant books could be slipping by, unnoticed. A lot of my favourite books have been ones that I’ve just picked up on a whim, without knowing anything about them beyond what I could learn just from looking at them.

Which brings me to what I actually wanted to talk about today (I got away from myself for a bit, there ^^’ ): Book-sense! When you spot a book out of the corner of your eye, and are inexplicably drawn to it. Pre-internet, I used to rely on my book-sense a lot, and I feel like I have a pretty good one. It led me to A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley – one of my favourite books, which I initially found lying around at home, covered in tea-stains from being used as a coaster for so long; to The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper, and the Daughter of Storms trilogy by Louise Cooper – both incredible series that I’m really glad I read; Power & Stone by Alice Leader; Starseeker by Tim Bowler; The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge; Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick; and many, many others.

More recently, I’ve picked up books like Night Owls by Jenn Bennett, Trouble by Non Pratt, and The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick (even though I wasn’t quite so fond of the prequel to that last one) just because I saw them and had a good feeling about them. And these have turned out to be some of the best books I’ve read. In the case of The Iron Trial (by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare), my good-book-sense was so strong that I broke my Cassandra Clare boycott for it with only minimal agonising during the event, and no regrets at all once I’d read it.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to read the books that other people are reading; to join in the conversation, and be part of the community, and to understand when people make references to popular books. But I also really love the feeling of trying something new and unknown, and being pleasantly surprised by it, and taking chances on books is definitely something that I want to do more.

There are three books on my TBR shelf at the moment that were whimsical, book-sense purchases – Lorali by Laura Dockrill, A Dark Horn Blowing by Dahlov Ipcar, and The Battle of the Sun by Jeanette Winterson – and I really hope to get to all of them soon. I just have a really good feeling about them, and that feeling hasn’t lead led me wrong yet.

How about you? Do you also feel a book-sense sometimes, when you walk into a bookshop? Are there any books that you really want to read, despite knowing next to nothing about them? I’d love to hear about them!

Bookmarks ~ ♥

Like a lot of book lovers, I’m a huge fan of bookmarks, and have been collecting them for several years. I even have an emergency bookmark that I keep tied to my backpack, in case of… unanticipated books? (Okay, so it’s not likely that I’ll ever need it, but I like to carry it anyway.)

Anyway, in my post today I wanted to talk about a bookmark-related habit I have: Matching bookmarks to the books I’m reading. Every time I pick up a new book, I take a look through my pot of bookmarks, and pick out one that matches the book’s themes, or colour scheme, or even just the “feel” of the book. I don’t have a bookmark for every book, of course, but I thought I’d share some of my favourite matches with you all~ 😀

[You can zoom in on the pictures by clicking on them, if you want to get a better look at the pictures. And sorry about the lighting! I wrote this post in the early hours of the morning, and all the lights in my room are rather yellow… 😳 ]

The Handmaid's Tale + bookmark1) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood / Amnesty International bookmark. This is actually the pairing that inspired this post; I’m pretty proud of it~ 🙂 The Handmaid’s Tale is an incredibly bleak dystopian novel about a woman who’s trapped in a role that her oppressive society has chosen for her… “dreams of freedom” seemed like an appropriate slogan! The bookmark itself I received free (and at random) with a book that I ordered from the Amnesty International online shop.

Monsters of Men + bookmark2) Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness / crayon Godzilla (?) bookmark. I mostly just picked this bookmark because it had a monster on it, to be honest (though I still like the match-up a lot). Monsters of Men is about monsters of the human variety, rather than the terrifying-giant-lizard type, but it still works. 😛 This bookmark was another free-with-your-online-order one, but this time from the Book Depository (who, to be fair, have some really excellent bookmarks).

All I Know Now + bookmark3) All I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher / owl bookmark. You might have to squint to see the bookmark in this photo, but it’s a little magnetic owl that I  brought back from Hong Kong as a souvenir. All I Know Now is a self-help book, which is full of advice and anecdotes about growing up, and I picked out this bookmark for it because owls are wise. Obviously. 😛 And they’re both yellow, which is an added bonus! (I am very fond of colour-coordination.)

The Boy Who Wept Blood + bookmark4) The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick / Wadham College bookmark. The connection in this case is more based on atmosphere than anything substantial, but The Boy Who Wept Blood (and its prequel, The Boy With the Porcelain Blade) are gothic fantasy novels, with a very strict, traditional-feeling setting, and I picked out this bookmark mainly because it looked the part. (And because I don’t own many books that are tall enough to not ruin this super-tall bookmark whenever I put it in my backpack… ^^’ ) The bookmark is made of leather, and was a gift that my parents got for me at a conference in Oxford.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making + bookmark5) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente / passport bookmark. This last book I haven’t actually read yet, but this is definitely the bookmark I’ll be using when I finally do! I wanted to include it on the list mainly because this is my newest bookmark, which I was left inside a book that was donated to the second-hand bookshop where I work… You should zoom in on this one, and take a look at the passport stamps – it’s pretty easy to see how they it fits with the book~!

But I’m sure I’m not the only person who likes this kind of thing! If any of you guys have any book/bookmark match-ups that you’re willing to share, then I’d love to see them! ❤

Distractions!

A.K.A. The obligatory reading slump post.

A.K.A. An excuse to geek out over something other than books.

Today’s post comes to you pretty late (a whole day late, in fact!), because I’ve been super-distracted for the last week or so. I realised a couple of days ago, after my last post went up, that I didn’t have anything lined up for today – and every day since then, I’ve said to myself, “Oh, I’ll write something next time I have a spare moment.” … And then I promptly forget about it. Or rather, I get distracted by other shiny things.

goodreads challenge 2015

Also, this is a thing that happened while I was in Skye! I’ve increased my goal since then, of course, but I’m still pretty chuffed! (Click on the image to see my challenge page.)

The thing is, I haven’t been reading all that much this month. While I was in Skye, I only managed to get through about half of The Boy Who Wept Blood (by Den Patrick) over the greater part of the week – only to binge-read the second half of it, and the whole of How to Be Bad (by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle & Sarah Mlynowski) on the last day of the holiday. On the way back, I started on The Ask & the Answer by Patrick Ness, and I’m really loving it so far, but it’s been six days since I started, and I’m still less than 150 pages in… (well below my usual reading pace.) I don’t think I’m in a reading slump, exactly – I don’t really get reading slumps, thankfully. I’m just really, really distracted.

And what am I distracted by, I hear you ask? Well, a lot of things, but mostly Fire Emblem! In Skye I decided to introduce my friend Chloë to the wonders of Fire Emblem: Awakening, and we spent most of the week on a cooperative playthrough (we’d play a chapter each, and have long, involved discussions on important matters like who was going to marry whom, whether it was worth resetting the game in order to save a character who’d just died, and other such things). In this way, we managed to play about half of the game before Chloë had to leave, and it was really, really fun. But watching Chloë play – and experience this amazing game for the first time – made me kind of want to do the same thing.

I couldn’t, of course. At least, not with Awakening, as I’ve already played it over and over and over (as you can probably guess, it has great replay value~ 😛 ). However, I do have one other Fire Emblem game available to me: The Sacred Stones, which I got ages ago as part of the Nintendo 3DS Ambassador programme, tried playing once, and gave up on in sheer frustration. The experience almost stopped me from even trying Awakening, which would’ve been a shame (though perhaps not for my reading list!).

Some of my favourite characters so far. Left: Tana the pegasus rider. Right: Cormag the wyvern rider. Can you tell I like flying units? ;)

Some of my favourite characters so far. Left: Tana the pegasus knight. Right: Cormag the wyvern rider. Can you tell I like flying units? 😉

So, long story short, I decided to give it another go. I’m about halfway through at the moment, and while it’s definitely still a frustrating game (and a lot harder than Awakening), I’ve only had to reset-due-to-character-death a few times so far, and I’m enjoying the storyline and gameplay mechanics. I think it suffers a little in comparison to Awakening because the lack of voice acting makes it harder to get attached to the characters, but I’ve still found a few favourites~ ❤

The very observant amongst you might have noticed that I’ve added a video games category to my sidebar, so you can probably tell that I’m planning to do more gaming posts in the future (though it’ll still be more book stuff than anything else). I might eventually add an anime category as well, as that’s another of my major hobbies…

Lastly, I have a quick poll for you. One of my resolutions this year was to write at least one detailed book or series review every month, and I’m having trouble deciding which book to review this month…

*This would be my first choice, as I feel like there’s a lot to say about it, but there would be serious spoilers for The Boy with the Porcelain Blade (which, unfortunately, I don’t have so much to say about). I feel, however, that The Boy Who Wept Blood is a better introduction to the series – The Boy with the Porcelain Blade felt very prequel-y… :/

**Assuming that I actually get round to reading them this month… 😳

#FantasyNotSciFi

Those of you who’ve been following my blog for pretty much any amount of time will probably know that I’m a huge fan of fantasy literature – most of my favourite books are in that genre! You’ll also probably know that I’m not such a big fan of science-fiction (with the exception of books like the Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout, which should probably technically be considered sci-fi, because most of the main characters are aliens, but which read more like paranormal romance novels).

So it’ll probably come as no surprise that one of my biggest bookish pet peeves is that fantasy and sci-fi are always getting lumped together as if they’re the same thing. 😡 Quite often, when I’m browsing in bookshops and libraries, I’ll have to spend a significant amount of time going through the “fantasy/sci-fi” section (1) (which – to make it even worse – is sometimes just labelled “fantasy” or “science-fiction”! 😮 ), filtering through all the books to try and find something that I’m not bound to dislike (2).

Anyway, I thought I’d let you know how I classify sci-fi and fantasy books, and I’d love to know if any of you have different ideas about the genres!

SCI-FI FANTASY
SETTING The real world, but not necessarily on Earth. Can be set in any world or universe.
PREMISE Magic does not exist. Magic exists.
RULES Science (or pretend-science) must be able to explain all unusual events. Science does not need to explain anything.
MAJOR SUB-GENRES Space-based books (e.g. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams). High fantasy, set in an entirely made-up world, usually on an epic scale, and with epic themes (e.g. The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson).
Virtual-reality books (e.g. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline), including virtual fantasy-worlds. Contemporary or low fantasy, set in the real world, but with added magic (e.g. Half Bad by Sally Green).
Super-human / superhero books (e.g. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi). Middle fantasy, where there are two distinct worlds, one magical, and the other at least resembling reality (e.g. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling).
Cyberpunk, which deals with information technology, and often robotics (e.g. Cinder by Marissa Meyer). Mythic fiction, which deals with various types of mythology (e.g. Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan).
Time-travel fiction (e.g. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon), so long as the time-travel is explained by science, not magic. Paranormal fiction, where there is little or no magic, but there are supernatural creatures (e.g. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer).
Alien books (e.g. Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout).
Steampunk and dieselpunk, which place current or futuristic technology in a historical setting (e.g. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld).

Or, as wikipedia says (much more succinctly):

In general, science fiction differs from fantasy in that the former concerns things that might someday be possible or that at least embody the pretense of realism. Supernaturalism, usually absent in science fiction, is the distinctive characteristic of fantasy literature.

As you can see, there are a lot of different types, and (in fantasy particularly) there’s often quite a lot of overlap. If you’re looking for more detailed descriptions of the various sub-genres (many of which I haven’t even mentioned), then I direct you to wikipedia’s articles on fantasy and science fiction, respectively.


Footnotes:

1) I actually work at a second-hand bookshop, and a month or two ago my manager let me separate and re-label all the fantasy and sci-fi books, which made me happier than it probably ought to have done. 😛

2) Which is not to say that I hate all sci-fi. The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness is sci-fi, and I love what I’ve read of it so far, and so, apparently, are the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon (3)… It’s just that, for the most part, whenever I decide to try a sci-fi book, I end up confused, often frustrated, and usually unsatisfied. Needless to say, this was an unpleasant discovery to make, two or three stories into a one-thousand plus-page anthology of sci-fi short stories… 😦

3) I used to think that these were fantasy, but when I went to hear Diana Gabaldon talk about them, she said that she’d come up with a scientific theory that explained everything. Having only read the first two books in the series, however, I don’t know whether this theory is ever presented to the readers…

Book-Borrowing Etiquette: A Tale of (Potential) Woe

A while ago, I decided (in my infinite wisdom), that my dad should really read The Book Thief, and to hurry him along I thought I’d lend him my nice, new, shiny copy. What I’d forgotten was that he was leaving for China the next morning – which wouldn’t have been a huge problem for me (despite my belief that my local library had the right idea when they implemented the rule that library books should not leave the country), if not for what he said to me as I handed over the book…

I’m pretty picky about who I lend my books to: As someone who borrows library books on a semi-regular basis, I see how tattered they can get, and am naturally horrified by it. I don’t need my books to look brand new, but I do like them to stay in good condition. Spines unbroken, no dog-eared pages, and so on. And there are very few people who I trust not to mistreat my books. I’m also, however, very bad at saying no if people ask to borrow my books, and – even when they haven’t asked – if I want somebody to read a book badly enough, then that need will usually overcome my reluctance to lend out my books (but I’ll still end up feeling super-anxious until I get the book back).

This attitude has led to my composing a spiel, which I deliver to every potential borrower. So my conversation with Dad went something like this:

Me: I will lend you this book, but you’re not to damage it at all.

Dad: What constitutes damage?

Me: No dog-eared pages. And you mustn’t break the spine.

Dad: How am I supposed to read it without opening it?

Me: Dad!

Dad: Just hand it over.

Me: No breaking the spine!

Dad: I make no promises.

But I gave him the book anyway, trusting (or perhaps just hoping) that he was only trying to wind me up, and he took it away to China, and a few days later I received this email from him (or actually, words to this effect, since I deleted the actual message):

Dear F,

I finished the book on the plane, and it’s still in perfect condition. I was wondering if I could lend it to [D] to read on the way back to Berlin. If you agree, then I’ll be able to get it back when I go to Berlin in December, or else I can buy you a new copy.

Just for the record: This kind of message is not reassuring! He might have just told me that my book was still in perfect condition (though I’m not sure that my father’s idea of “perfect condition” completely matches my own), but giving people permission to pass on a borrowed book is a great way to make sure that you never see it again. And what if Dad lent it to [D] but didn’t give him my usual spiel about proper book treatment?! I don’t know how [D] treats his books! And what if he loses it? Or lets someone else read it who doesn’t know the rules? And if Dad bought me a new copy, then what if he didn’t get the right edition (I spent a long time deciding which edition of The Book Thief I wanted to buy…)? After all, this was all the way back in mid-October, and December was still a long way off.

But like I said earlier, I suffer from an irritating reluctance to say no to people, so I was paralysed with indecision for a couple of days, and then I finally agreed, my heart sinking as I resigned myself to the idea of never seeing my book again.

And then a miracle occurred! Dad came home from China, and The Book Thief appeared on the stairs up to my bedroom, all shiny and beautiful and in not-quite-perfect-but-pretty-close condition. Because apparently [D] had already read it.

And all was once again well in the universe, and The Book Thief and I (and my dad’s wallet) all lived happily ever after (until the next crisis occurs).

THE END.

Books that Changed Me

There are a lot of books that have influenced me over the years, and they’ve done so in various ways: Books that have changed my way of looking at the world; books that have been instrumental in creating lasting friendships; books that made me think about issues that I’d never considered before…

I thought that today I’d let you know about a few of the books that have influenced me the most over the years (for better or for worse), & tell you a little bit about how. I’ve picked out ten (though there are, of course, a lot more out there), and I’d love to hear about how you think you’ve been shaped by books, so be sure to leave a comment to let me know!

In the order in which I first read them:

The Magic Key1) Biff, Chip & Kipper series. I don’t know what this series is actually called, but oh well. There are probably hundreds of these books, & I’m pretty sure that my primary school had the lot. During my first few years at school, we would have time every week to sit down & read these books, to develop our reading ability, but I absolutely hated them! I guess that pretty much everyone hates the books that they were made to read at school, but I got started pretty early: I must have been about five when these books led me to the conclusion that reading was a chore. I don’t remember ever finding them difficult to read – just annoying. :/

[Edit (9/9/2014): Literally a few seconds after posting this, I checked my email and found a Nintendo Newsletter announcing a Biff, Chip & Kipper game series, so apparently that’s a thing. 😐 ]

J.R.R. Tolkien//The Hobbit2) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. An exception to my no-books rule, since I never technically read this book myself. When my sister and I behaved ourselves, our Dad would sometimes come upstairs and read a chapter of The Hobbit to us before we went to bed. I was completely obsessed with it, and I even called my fish-shaped lunchbox Bilbo, after the main character (or possibly Gandalf. My sister & I had matching lunchboxes…). When Dad had finished the book, I wanted so badly for him to start again from the beginning, that he went out and bought me the tapes of the BBC audio drama, which was the first audiobook (kind of) that I ever listened to.

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone3) Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. I think that pretty much everyone in my generation has been influenced in some way by the Harry Potter series. In my case, this was the book that made me love reading. My sister was badgering me to read this series pretty much as soon as it came out, but I was stubborn, and ended up not picking it up until a little before Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire was released, when my best friend Jen started pressing me to read it, too. I went home, read the first couple of chapters, got frustrated that it wasn’t moving quickly enough, and then, at school the next day, I told Jen something along the lines of, “This is boring. I though you said it was about a magic school.” Her response was to tell me to start from chapter 5 (I think), so I ended up skipping over most of the stuff with the Dursleys the first time (though nowadays that’s actually one of my favourite parts of the book).

Anyway, needless to say, I loved it, and when I’d finished, my parents were so overjoyed that I was reading for fun that they went straight out and bought me the next two books in the series (something that my sister thought was incredibly unfair, since, having been an avid reader pretty much her whole life, she had to save up all her pocket money if she wanted new books to read), and I read them both in a day, and then went and re-read all three over and over until Goblet of Fire came out…

K.M. Peyton//Flambards4) Flambards by K.M. Peyton. I first read this book in year 7 at school (when I was 11), and it was the book that made me realise that school books didn’t always have to be boring. I ended up finishing it way ahead of time, and when I did, the first question I asked my English teacher was, “Does this have a sequel?” It did, and I raced through the other three books in the series, as well. I eventually also discovered an old TV adaptation, which was amazingly done and I recommend to anyone who likes World War I-era period dramas, or horses, or aeroplanes.

Tamora Pierce//First Test5) The Protector of the Small quartet by Tamora Pierce. It’s complete luck that I ever actually read this series, since the first book (First Test) was a Christmas present from my parents, who have notoriously bad luck picking out books for me. I probably only read it because I was stuck for the whole holiday at my Granny’s house, where the only other books available were things that I felt even less like reading. This series was what got me started on fanfiction – the first fanfic I ever read was a Kel/Merric story set a few years after the end of Lady Knight – which is still a surprisingly big part of my life.

Louise Cooper//Daughter of Storms6) Daughter of Storms by Louise Cooper. I probably first picked this up when I was about 12, just by chance in Waterstones one day – my attention was drawn to the book next to it on the shelf (The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper), and I only looked at this one because I thought the cover was pretty, and the title was kind of interesting. I actually really love this whole trilogy, but the main reason it’s on this list is because this was the first book I read that made me really want to write my own stories. I remember that after I finished the last book in the series (Keepers of Light), I started planning out my own series of fantasy novels (with a main character who suspiciously resembled the girl on the cover of Daughter of Storms), and I spent almost my entire summer holiday writing about her adventures.

Tamora Pierce//Alanna: The First Adventure7) The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce. This series is what really sparked my love affair with high fantasy (which is my favourite genre), and also with Tamora Pierce (who is probably my all-time favourite author). It’s definitely not the best of her series’ (nor the first one I read), but it was the one that best managed to capture my attention, and – more surprisingly – to keep it.

Susan Cooper//The Grey King8) The Grey King by Susan Cooper. This is the fourth book in the Dark is Rising sequence, which I briefly mentioned when I was talking about Daughter of Storms. I initially picked up The Dark is Rising on a whim, and I really didn’t like it (or rather, I could barely follow it), but a couple of years later, I came across a bind-up of the whole series, and discovered that I had actually tried to start the series from the second book. Needless to say, this has made me a little more cautious about starting books that I don’t know anything about, and now I will usually look up books that sound interesting and make sure there’s not another book that I should read first…

But anyway, The Grey King is the fourth book in the series, and my favourite. It takes place in Snowdonia, in Wales, and a large part of the story is tied up in local Arthurian legends. This was the book that really got me interesting in mythology (particularly Arthurian myths and Celtic myths), and was a big part of the reason why I decided to go to Wales for University. It’s also a book that my cousins and I bonded over (we spent a couple of weeks one summer visiting all the places that Will and Brân went to in the book), so it’s also very special to me for that reason. 🙂

Meg Cabot//The Princess Diaries9) The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot. This series made me fall in love with love stories. It was so funny and Mia was such a realistic character that reading these books made me feel like she was actually speaking to me. And Michael, I swoon for thee. Michael was probably one of my very first book boyfriends, and Michael/Mia was definitely my first OTP (One True Pairing). I remember watching the two films with my cousins (who were very young at the time), and rejoicing at the end of the second film, when my cousin Zou turned around and said to me sadly, “Why couldn’t she have married Michael?” This series is basically on this list because it turned me into a massive shipper. ~♥

Philip Reeve//Mortal Engines10) The Hungry City Chronicles by Philip Reeve. Also known as the Predator Cities series; also known as the Mortal Engines series. Whatever you call it, this series is awesome, and it made this list because it was the first series I ever read that really made me think about the future, and not just in an ecological, the-world-is-going-to-die sense (though there is that, too). Shrike is my favourite character from this series, and also one of my favourite characters of all time, and the journey of self-discovery that he goes on in the series incorporates a lot of thought/discussion about the way that the civilisations of the future will look back on the events of today. I first picked up Mortal Engines, the first book in the series, when I was about 15 at the insistence of my friend Clare, and it’ll probably (hopefully) stick with me for the rest of my life.

What are your most influential books? Let me know in the comments!