Happy (belated) Mother’s Day!

I haven’t been posting much recently, & I have no real excuse for that, except that I have been too busy reading! And I also managed to miss Mother’s Day (which was yesterday), but, since my own mother is too far away for hugs today, I thought I’d share some love with some of my favourite fictional mothers. 🙂 That said, there’s not that many of them. YA literature in general (which is what I mostly seem to read) is full of absent/horrible/not-even-mentioned parents, which is a shame. But here are some of the more memorable ones:

Emily Watson as Rosa Hubermann.

Emily Watson as Rosa Hubermann.

Rosa Hubermann (from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak) may not be Liesel’s birth mother, but there’s a lot of love between them anyway, and although Hans gets most of the parenting credit in this book, Rosa is a steady supporting presence, and very much in charge of discipline in the Hubermann household.

Molly Weasley, played by Julie Walters.

Molly Weasley, played by Julie Walters.

And, of course, I could never leave out Molly Weasley (from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling), who has basically dedicated her entire adulthood to raising her seven (seven!) children.

Sally Jackson as portrayed by Catherine Keener in the film adaptation.

Sally Jackson as portrayed by Catherine Keener in the film adaptation.

Sally Jackson (from the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan) is another mum who gave up a lot for her son – she even went so far as to marry one of the most awful husbands I’ve ever read about, just because his incredibly potent “mortal stench” would hide Percy from monsters!

Kyoko in the Fruits Basket anime.

Kyoko in the Fruits Basket anime.

As far as manga-mothers go, again, there aren’t too many great ones, but Kyoko Honda (from Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya) definitely stands out, even though she died before the series even started. Her influence and memory is a huge part of what drives Tohru to keep doing her best, even when things are hard.

Sinéad Cusack as Mrs. Thornton (& Richard Armitage as her son Mr. Thornton) in the 2004 BBC adaptation of North & South.

Sinéad Cusack as Mrs. Thornton (& Richard Armitage as her son Mr. Thornton) in the 2004 BBC adaptation of North & South.

And last, but by no means least, I give you Mrs. Thornton (from Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South). She may not be the kindest or gentlest of mothers, and she sometimes seems a little obsessive in her love for her son, but, as Mr. Thornton tells Margaret, “I had such a mother as few are blest with; a woman of strong power, and firm resolve.”

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2014 in Review: Some Favourites

2014 was a pretty good year for me: I managed to read a lot more than I think I ever have before (158 books in total), and there’ve only been a couple of those books that I didn’t enjoy; I also managed to get back into one of my favourite genres – high fantasy – and I spent about two months reading it almost exclusively. There are a few things that I’ve disappointed myself on, too, like that I still haven’t finished reading Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy… Most importantly, though (in my opinion), is that I’ve discovered several new favourites this year, so I thought I’d share some of the year’s highlights with you all today!

Rick Riordan//The House of HadesThe very first book I read this year was The House of Hades by Rick Riordan, the fourth book in the Heroes of Olympus series, which I already loved – but this one was my absolute favourite, and it definitely started off the year on a high point.

Rainbow Rowell//Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell was the other great book that I discovered before I went off to China, and I’m really glad that I did, since it was a very accidental discovery: I only actually bought this book because I couldn’t find a copy of Fangirl!

Brandon Sanderson//The Final EmpirePAtrick Rothfuss//The Name of the WindAnd since I mentioned my obsessive high fantasy phase already, I should mention that during it I managed to discover (and marathon) two of my new favourite fantasy series: The Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, and The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss. Both series have incredibly engrossing plotlines, and (as I’m sure I’ve said before) some of the best world-building I’ve ever seen.

Markus Zusak//The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak is (as far as I can recall) the only book that has ever made me cry. I only read it by chance, since one of my friends happened to have a copy that they were willing to lend me, but I vividly remember reading the last fifty pages or so of the book and being in floods of tears the whole time, just praying that another of my friends wouldn’t turn around and see me, and then decide she didn’t want to read the book after all… 😥

Marissa Meyer//CressMy most recent amazing discovery was The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I went through a bit of a fairytale phase a little while ago (and I’m actually not entirely sure that I’ve got through it yet…), and picked up this series because they’d been generating a lot of buzz on Booktube, but (not being much of a sci-fi fan) I had no clue that I’d like them as much as I did! The third book, Cress, is my favourite in the series so far, and I can’t wait for the conclusion!

T5W: Books you can really get your teeth into!

(… I’m sure it’s still Wednesday somewhere in the world. But not here. :/ Sorry I’m late.)

This week’s theme is books that are over 500 pages long, so I’m going to share with you some of my favourite really, really long books. I’ve given myself some restrictions to work with, since I actually read quite a lot of books which are around 500 pages, so, just for the record, I’m not going to be including books that are part of series’, unless most of the books in the series are 500+ pages. For instance, Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas is almost 600 pages long, but none of the other books in the Throne of Glass series quite hit 500 (not that I’ve actually read any of them yet… :/ ). I’m also not going to include more than one book from a series, and, for my final rule, I am going to do my best to make sure that this list is not entirely made up of high fantasy novels. Variety keeps things interesting. 🙂

5) The Beka Cooper series by Tamora Pierce (552, 580 & 584 pages, respectively)Tamora Pierce//Terrier

A high fantasy series set in Tamora Pierce’s Tortall universe, and focusing on Beka Cooper, a new recruit in the Provost’s Guard. All three books have really engaging plots, and since the Provost’s Guard is basically the police of Tortall, they’re very crime-centric. The three books, in order, are TerrierBloodhound and Mastiff.

4) The House of Hades by Rick Riordan (597 pages)Rick Riordan//The House of Hades

This is the fourth book in the Heroes of Olympus series, which is a sequel-series to the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books. The whole series is amazing, but I’m mentioning this one specifically because it’s both the longest book in the series, and it’s also my favourite. There are two main storylines in this: one follows Percy and Annabeth as they travel through Tartarus; the second focuses on Jason, Leo, Piper, Frank and Hazel as they make their way to the Doors of Death. It’s very fast-paced and exciting, but with quite a bit of emotional content to balance out the action.

3) The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons (810 pages)Paullina Simons//The Bronze Horseman

The Bronze Horseman is the first book in a World War II-era romance trilogy, and is set in Russia just before and during the siege of Leningrad. The two romantic leads are a young Russian girl called Tatiana, and Alexander, an officer in the Red Army with an intriguing (and dangerous) history. I haven’t read the two sequels (Tatiana and Alexander and The Summer Garden, respectively) yet, but it’s easy to recommend this book even so. The characters and relationships are compelling, and the writing is beautiful. I should warn you, though, that this book is incredibly emotionally draining.

2) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (560 pages)Markus Zusak//The Book Thief

And what would this list even be if I didn’t mention The Book Thief? I actually almost left it off this list, because I feel like I’ve talked about it a lot recently… But apparently I haven’t talked about it as much as I thought I had. Anyway, The Book Thief is another World War II-era novel, but is set in Germany, and centres around the story of an orphaned German girl, Liesel, her adoptive parents, and the families that live in their community. It’s a beautifully-written, but heartbreaking story, and is one of my all-time favourite books.
Brandon Sanderson//The Final Empire
1) The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (647 pages)

The first book in a wonderfully-written high fantasy series, featuring political intrigue, class struggle, an interesting new magic system, great characters, one of my favourite book couples of all time, and some of the best world-building I’ve ever encountered. The first book is my favourite in the series, but the way the plot progresses and wraps up in The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages is phenomenal.

T5W: Female Characters

T5W stands for Top 5 Wednesday, which is a Goodreads group that you can find here. Every week, there’s a new theme, and each participant has to make their own top 5 list. I’ve been eyeing the group for a while, since it looks fun, & I thought that this weeks theme seemed like a good topic to start on. 🙂 I probably won’t do this every week, but you’ll definitely be seeing a few more T5W posts around.

As you can probably tell from the title, the theme for this week is female characters, so without further ado, here are my (tentative, because this was a really hard list to narrow down) top 5 favourite female characters:

Sophie Nélisse as Liesel in the Book Thief movie.

Sophie Nélisse as Liesel in the Book Thief movie.

5) Liesel Meminger (from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak)

Liesel is a recent addition to my favourites list, as I only read The Book Thief a few months ago, but, seriously, wow, that book was heart-wrenching. I got ridiculously invested in the characters, & in Liesel in particular (not-so-surprisingly, since she’s the main character). She’s just an ordinary young girl growing up in really difficult times, but she’s an incredibly sympathetic lead, & I really couldn’t help but love her.

Shailene Woodley as Tris in the Divergent movie.

Shailene Woodley as Tris in the Divergent movie.

4) Beatrice Prior (from Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy)

Tris is probably the most obviously virtuous character on this list – she’s brave, and clever, and selfless, and when she does bad things, she always does them for good reasons (and, most importantly, she feels bad about having done them for ages after). She’s also the only action-heroine on the list, mainly because I’m not usually a fan of action-heavy books, and when I am, I don’t usually like the characters themselves all that much. Case in point: Katniss (from The Hunger Games). I like her as a character well enough, but I really get the feeling that if I ever met her in real life, I’d despise her. Not so with Tris – we could definitely be friends. 🙂

Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark in the Game of Thrones TV series.

Sophie Turner as Sansa in the Game of Thrones TV series.

3) Sansa Stark (from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire series)

I love Sansa & Arya almost equally, so it was tough to pick between the two, but while Arya is all kinds of awesome, what makes me love Sansa so much is how much her character grows throughout the series. She starts off as this shallow, spoiled brat, but when life goes badly for her, instead of collapsing under the weight, she manages to find incredible strength, despite her fear. Sansa is probably one of the bravest characters I’ve ever read about, even though hers is not a particularly showy kind of courage.

Emma as portrayed by Kate Beckinsale in the 1996 TV adaptation.

Kate Beckinsale as Emma in the 1996 adaptation.

2) Emma Woodhouse (from Jane Austen’s Emma)

Emma is such a snob. I love her, but she’s still a snob – the kind of character who means well, but finds it difficult to resist being mean if she thinks it’ll make people laugh – which makes it a little awkward to read about her sometimes (especially since I’m the kind of reader who gets embarrassed on behalf of the characters…). So it took me a while to read Emma, but I’m so glad I did. She is hilarious, even if she’s sometimes a bit snippy with people, and her character growth is great to watch, as well.

Evvy from the US cover of Street Magic.

1) Evumeimei Dingzai (from Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic universe)

Tamora Pierce has written some amazing female characters, & several of them almost made this list (Alanna, Daine, Beka, Tris… I could go on), but Evvy is, & will probably always be my favourite. She was first introduced in Street Magic, the second book in The Circle Opens quartet, as a 10-year-old street rat in Chammur, unaware of her magical abilities, and eventually becomes Briar’s student. I initially liked her because of the way her personality complement’s Briar’s, & their dynamic is wonderful, but Evvy by herself is a force to be reckoned with, as well, & she definitely managed to carry her own story when she was given one (Melting Stones is one of my favourite Circle-verse books). She’s spunky & suspicious, and an all-out great character.

August Book Haul!

As if I needed more books. But one of the great trials of book-lovers everywhere is, when walking past a bookshop, resisting the urge to go inside, and (once, inevitably, inside) battling the compulsive need to buy everything in sight. Lack of funds often helps to curb that second impulse, but, alas, not always – on this particular occasion, it was not helpful in the least.

August Haul

The (physical) books I bought this month!

So, this is what I bought (& thankfully, not all of these were impulse buys):

1) The Dark Horse by Marcus Sedgwick. This book sounds very mysterious. I actually don’t know any more about it than what’s written on the back, but I’ve heard really great things about Marcus Sedwick’s writing, so I’m looking forward to trying this out. Also, I bought it second hand, so it was super-cheap.

2) The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. I read Princess Academy by Shannon Hale so long ago that I can only remember the vaguest details of what it’s about, but I remember being very pleasantly surprised by it. I don’t know what this one’s about, but I’ve heard that it’s one of her best works, & I’ve been meaning to pick it up for a while, so…

3) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. One of my favourite books of all time. I read this one for the first time a few months ago, while I was in Beijing, but I was under a very strict no-physical-books rule at the time (because I needed all my stuff to fit inside one suitcase for the trip home), so I borrowed a copy from a friend of mine. This book was actually the reason that I was in Waterstones today: I wanted to make sure that I got a copy with the pretty cover (which I did), ’cause I keep seeing the movie-cover edition everywhere…

4) Four by Veronica Roth. The Divergent novella bind-up. I read this pretty much as soon as I bought it, & I really enjoyed it.

5) The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. A complete impulse buy. But I really want to read this soon, because it’s beautiful (but also giant).

6) Boxers & Saints (box-set) by Gene Luen Yang. I actually ordered this one while I was still in China, & then had to wait an agonising (approximately) two months before I could read it. 😦 This is a graphic novel series about the Boxer Rebellion, & it made me feel all kinds of unexpected things. Of the two books, I think I preferred Saints (the second), but not by much – they’re both absolutely amazing.

Philip Pullman//Four Tales

Seriously, this thing is so far beyond gorgeous that I can’t even…

7) Four Tales by Philip Pullman. I’ve had my eye on this book for so long, but I’ve been putting off buying it because it’s pretty expensive. But I couldn’t resist any longer! Look how pretty it is! The aforementioned “four tales” are The Firework-Maker’s DaughterI Was a Rat!Clockwork, and The Scarecrow and His Servant. Philip Pullman was one of my favourite authors when I first started getting into reading, & I Was a Rat! was actually one of the first books that I read & really loved (it’s a Cinderella retelling/sequel-type thing, from the perspective of one of the rats that was transformed by Cinderella’s fairy godmother). The other three stories I haven’t read yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to.

8) Percy Jackson & the Greek Gods by Rick Riordan. Greek mythology as told by Percy Jackson (as far as I can tell). I studied Classics at university, so I’m assuming that I’ll be familiar with most of the actual stories in here, but I really love the way that Rick Riordan writes Percy’s voice~ 🙂

9) Japanese from Zero! Vol. 1. A beginner’s Japanese textbook. I’ve completed the first lesson, & it seems pretty good so far. The most exciting thing about it, in my opinion, is that as you learn the kana characters, they start replacing the roman characters, so you’re constantly reviewing the kana just by progressing through the lessons. (This is helpful for lazy people like me, who can’t be bothered to review normally, unless there’s a test coming up…)

& that’s all! This was a way longer first post than I expected it to be… & I didn’t even include all the kindle books I bought this month! I’ll probably do an ebook haul sometime later in the month, because I expect I’ll be buying more of them, but goodbye for now!

~Fran.