Thematic Recs: Loathsome Villains

Most of the villains I’ve come across in the last few years have been sympathetic ones, and while there’s definitely something to be said for reading about a villain that you like, or understand, or even feel sorry for, the book I’m reading at the moment has reminded me just how great it is to read about a villain whom you utterly despise; to be outraged by every terrible thing that they do, and satisfied by all the poetic justice that (hopefully) comes their way. So, for today’s post, I’ve compiled a list of books with some of my favourite fantastically-written horrible people! 😋

1) The Poldark series by Winston Graham. The series that inspired this post’s main antagonist is George Warleggan, but while he’s pretty hateful at times, he has nothing on Osborne Whitworth (known as Ossie), who is present in the early books as an admirer of Demelza, but becomes an important part of the plot in the fifth book, The Black Moon. I won’t tell you exactly what makes him so repulsive, as that would be a fairly major spoiler, but in The Four Swans (which I’m currently reading) we get quite a few scenes from Ossie’s perspective, and every jaunt into his head leaves my skin crawling.

2) The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. Alexander’s so-called friend Dimitri is a stand-out character in the first book of Simons’ dramatic, emotional trilogy, as a character who claims to be a friend, but never behaves like one – something which is always frustrating, but is particularly awful in this case because of how often he plays the “if-you’re-my-friend-you’ll-do-this-for-me” card, and how much danger his “favours” (which are actually demands) put Alexander in. And let’s not forget how he refuses to take no for an answer when it comes to Tatiana, even though the only reason he’s really interested in her is because he knows that Alexander likes her… 😤

3) The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan. This novel tells two stories: that of a Chinese-American woman called Pearl, and, at greater length, the tale of her mother Winnie’s life in China, and the events that led her to flee to the US. The truly horrible character in the book is a part of Winnie’s tale; her first husband Wen Fu, in fact, whom she is given little choice in marrying, and who treats her – and their children – abominably throughout their relationship, to the point where his memory haunts her long after she’s free of him. This is such an intense, wonderful story, and I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who’s even remotely interested in the subject matter. It starts a little slowly, but it’s well worth pushing through those first couple of chapters.

4) The A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. And of course, I couldn’t possibly write a post about loathsome villains without mentioning A Song of Ice and Fire, where even the heroes are not always what you’d call good people, and so the villains have to be truly awful in order to provide a significant contrast… To be honest I could have made this whole list up of characters from this series: Ramsay Snow, Roose Bolton, Walder Frey, Melisandre… but for the sake of brevity I decided to go for Joffrey Baratheon, the cruel and sadistic prince – and later king – of Westeros; there’s no character I love to hate quite so dearly. 😉

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Thematic Recs: Wintery Books

Winter seems to have finally set in, and in true winter style, it’s dark by the time I finish work, and my whole family have come down with nasty colds. 😦 In celebration of the season, however, I thought I’d put together a list of some of my favourite Wintery reads. Which is to say, not necessarily books that are set during winter, but books that have that chilly, shivery quality to them, that makes you want to stay inside and huddle up by a warm fire, and just keep reading~! 😀

C.S. Lewis//The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe1) The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. A winter classic! In this story, when the Pevensie children first visit Narnia, they find that it’s been cursed by the White Witch, so that it’s always winter, but never Christmas! Naturally, this is something that needs to be rectified. 😛

Maggie Stiefvater//Shiver2) The Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater. An unusual werewolf story, where, instead of transforming on the full moon, Sam – one of the two main characters – and his pack become wolves whenever the weather gets too cold.

Paullina Simons//The Bronze Horseman3) The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. For those of you who want something a bit more adult, I’d definitely recommend the first book in this amazing trilogy, which follows the life of a young Russian girl, Tatiana, and her lover Alexander, through the years of World War II, and, in particular, the Siege of Leningrad. This book mostly gave me the shivers because it’s so emotional and powerfully written, but a significant part of the book is also set during a very bleak winter.

Keith Austin//Snow, White4) Snow, White by Keith Austin. This book follows a young boy – John – who’s living in London when it’s hit by a freak snowstorm, and a pack of mysterious wolves is creeping steadily closer. A really great, atmospheric book, for slightly younger readers.

John Green, Lauren Myracle & Maureen Johnson//Let It Snow5) Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson & Lauren Myracle. And last up is something a bit more cheerful than the rest of the books on this list! Let It Snow is a collection of three (connected) short stories, all set in (and around) the same small town. My personal favourite was the last of the three (The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle), but they’re all really cute, and come together in the best possible way.

♡ BOOKS: Some bookish quotes for Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day, for those of you who celebrate it! I thought it was a bit soon to do another Thematic Recs post, but I still wanted to do something to mark the occasion, so I’ve decided to put together some of my favourite romantic book quotes~ (& for those of you who aren’t celebrating, don’t worry – there are a few heartbreak quotes, too!)

historyoflove

“Love is stupid. It has nothing to do with reason. You love whomever you love.”
~Fire by Kristin Cashore

“I think sometimes when we find love we pretend it away, or ignore it, or tell ourselves we’re imagining it. Because it is the most painful kind of hope there is.”
~The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

“Do you stop loving someone just because they betray you? I don’t think so. That’s what makes the betrayal hurt so much – pain, frustration, anger… and I still loved her. I still do.”
~The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

clockworkangel

“Love: a single word, a wispy thing, a word no bigger or longer than an edge. That’s what it is: an edge; a razor. It draws up through the center of your life, cutting everything in two. Before and after. The rest of the world falls away on either side.”
~Delirium by Lauren Oliver

“He loved her, and would love her; and defy her, and this miserable bodily pain.”
~North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell

“I love you breathlessly, my amazing man.”
~The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

crownofembers

November Wrap-Up

Cassandra Clare//Clockwork PrinceNovember feels like it went by way too fast… :/ & I didn’t actually do all that much reading in the latter part of the month, because the new Pokémon games came out, and I was first caught up in excitement, then in playing the games (which are awesome, by the way). Nevertheless, I managed to read a grand total of 11 books in November, as well as 3 short stories – and this is them:

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare. I had so many feelings about this book that I actually ended up writing a mini-review, which you can read here.5 stars

Cassandra Clare//Clockwork PrincessClockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare. Needless to say, I went straight on to the sequel, which answered all my questions (even the ones I hadn’t realised I was wondering about). I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the way Jem’s storyline seemed to be wrapping up, but that little niggle was thankfully fixed in the epilogue, and my only other  problem with the book was the Will’s-greatest-hits montage at the end, which I thought was a little cheesy… But that was just a tiny, tiny thing, & easily overlooked. It does make me really, really eager to read The Mortal Instruments book now, but I think I need to take a little break (& maybe read some of the books that I already own) first…5 stars

Morgan Matson//Amy & Roger's Epic DetourAmy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. A sweet, but sad contemporary road trip novel. I really loved both Amy & Roger, as well as most of the many, many people they met on their trip, and I particularly loved that Morgan Matson included loads of photos and reciepts and the playlists that they listened to…4 stars

Tabitha Suzuma//ForbiddenForbidden by Tabitha Suzuma. Excellently written, & very thought-provoking, and though I liked the book a lot, I’m not entirely sure how I felt about the situation it presented… On the one hand, Maya & Lochan’s relationship was kind of squicky, but on the other hand, their relationship never really felt like one between siblings, even before they admitted their feelings, and I kind of wanted to root for them to find an escape together someday… My main problem with the way their relationship was portrayed was actually in the early parts of the book, when Maya was pushing Lochan for a relationship that seemed to scare him more than anything – but then again, somebody had to be the instigator (otherwise there’s no story), and reading about the instigation of an incestuous relationship is always going to seem kind of creepy… For those of you who’ve read the book already (or who don’t mind spoilers), feel free to check out my spoilery discussion post here. I’d love to hear your thoughts!3 stars

Paullina Simons//The Bronze HorsemanThe Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. This book was such an emotional roller-coaster! So much tragedy, and then every time Tatiana & Alexander managed to get together, & things seemed to be going well for them, something would come up to drive them apart… 😦 I absolutely loved this book – the characters were so well-written (even the ones like Dimitri, who I really, really hated), & the drama was incredibly intense. There’s a slight cliffhanger at the end, so I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.5 starsRosamund Hodge//Cruel BeautyCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge. A Beauty & the Beast re-telling, though is more complicated than a simple girl-meets-monster-and-redeems-him story, and it also has rather a dark edge to it, which I enjoyed – and a lot of Greek mythology! I liked the story a lot, even though it took me a while to warm up to the main character, Nyx, and I thought that the big reveal about Ignifex & Shade’s connection wasn’t quite as unexpected as it might have been intended to be… I think I may have officially restarted my fairytale retelling obsession now… 😉4 stars

Marissa Meyer//CinderCinder by Marissa Meyer. The first book in the Lunar Chronicles, and a cyberpunk-Cinderella retelling. Really interesting and inventive, and I loved all the characters so much! 😀 The ending was a little abrupt, but that was the only real problem I had with the book, and I hope that the sequels will take care of any lingering dissatisfaction, even though they follow different characters…5 stars Marissa Meyer//ScarletScarlet by Marissa Meyer. I’ll admit that I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as Cinder (not enough Cinder/Kai 😉 ), but it was definitely a solid follow-up. The plot seems to be escalating dramatically, and the new characters are fun, too – although I don’t feel that I managed to connect with either Scarlet or Wolf as much as I did with Cinder and Kai… I did appreciate, though, that rather than presenting this second book from an entirely new perspective (as I had expected), Marissa Meyer included chapters from Cinder and Kai’s perspectives, too; building on the first book rather than starting over.4 starsThe Little AndroidGlitches and The Queen’s Army by Marissa Meyer. These are three of the novellas set in the Lunar Chronicles universe, and I figured I’d read them before getting started on Cress. They’re all pretty quick reads (naturally), and well-written and developed (especially considering how short they are… All three stories can be read online for free, and if you’d like to do so, then I’ve linked each one to the cover inages below:

Marissa Meyer//The Little AndroidThe Little Android is set not too long before Cinder, and is a Little Mermaid-retelling about an android mechanic who falls in love with one of her human co-workers. Cinder herself appears briefly in the novella (in the role of the witch who turns Mech6.0 into a human), which was one of my favourite moments, and feel of the story is bittersweet.5 stars

Marissa Meyer//GlitchesGlitches is a direct prequel to Cinder, and is about Cinder’s childhood in New Beijing, the beginning of her friendship with Peony and Iko, and how she first discovered her talent as a mechanic. It was really lovely to see Cinder as a little girl, so unsure of everything in her new life, but this one was also pretty sad, and the ending was somewhat abrupt (though not unexpectedly so…).4 stars

Marissa Meyer//The Queen's ArmyLastly, The Queen’s Army follows the childhood of one of the new characters who’s introduced in Scarlet, and I wouldn’t recommend reading it before you’ve read both Cinder and Scarlet (even though it’s kind of a prequel), as it’s super-spoilery. Also for that reason, I can’t tell you all that much about it! I did enjoy the book, but I felt that the narrative was much choppier than the other two novellas, and I didn’t like it quite so much…3 stars

Marissa Meyer//CressCress by Marissa Meyer. I loved this book so much! Definitely my favourite in the series so far – the plot seems to be really taking off (literally!), and I’m seriously excited for Winter, the last book in the series… Character-wise, Cress was adorable and incredibly relatable, and I really loved the relationship development between her and Thorne; I’m definitely getting more attached to Wolf and Scarlet, even though there wasn’t so much of them in this book; Jacin was an unexpected delight to read (and that scene in the Rampion when he and Cinder talk about Winter was probably one of my favourite scenes in the whole book); and Winter! I wasn’t expecting Winter to even show up in this book, but I am so glad that she did, and I can’t wait to learn more about her!5+ starsRae Carson//Fire and ThornsFire and Thorns by Rae Carson. This is the first book in the Fire and Thorns trilogy, and in the US I believe it is called The Girl of Fire and Thorns, so if you’ve heard of that one, then, yes, this is the same book. It was a little slow-going at first, and I didn’t enjoy part 1 all that much: I liked how realistic the main character, Elisa, seemed, but I didn’t much care for any of the other characters, and not much of the book’s main conflict had been revealed – in fact, much of part 1 was focused on Elisa’s insecurities. However, in the second and third parts the book really picked up, and (in addition to watching Elisa grow as a character, which was wonderful), I grew attached to many of the supporting characters, and the world and its conflicts were really fleshed out. 🙂4 starsRae Carson//Crown of EmbersCrown of Embers by Rae Carson. Elisa’s (continued) growth is incredible, and there are so many other characters that I came to love over the course of reading this: Some older ones like Hector and Mara and Belén, and some new ones, like Tristán and Storm (who grew on me like a weed, and won’t let go). I did miss Cosmé, though, and I’m still not a huge fan of Ximena – but her part in this book and the direction her relationship with Elisa takes is certainly interesting. Writing-wise, this was a lot faster-paced than Fire and Thorns, which made it a lot easier to get into, and the mix of political intrigue and adventure made the plot engaging right from the start.5 stars

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.