Thematic Recs: Dragons!

Once again, I’ve been pretty caught up with playing Dragon Age for the last couple of days, and of course I’ve now got dragons on the brain. So I decided to put together a collection of some of my favourite literary dragons! 😀 But first, a quote:

Finn: I’ve never met a dragon worshipper before. Not much for small talk, are they?
Ariane: Why would anyone worship a dragon?
Finn: Dragons are big, powerful, and they breathe fire! … Some people are easily impressed.
~Dragon Age: Origins (Witch Hunt DLC)

J.R.R. Tolkien//The Hobbit1) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, signs on with a company of dwarves who are determined to reclaim their homeland from what is quite possibly the ultimate literary dragon – Smaug! I love this book so much, and Smaug is such an amazing villain; there was no way I wasn’t going to add this to the list! 😉

Naomi Novik//Temeraire2) The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik. A fascinating re-imagining of the Napoleonic Wars, but with the addition of an Aerial Corps, made up of talking dragons, and their captains. The two main characters are Will Laurence, a captain in the Navy, and Temeraire, a baby dragon who imprints on him.

Julie Kagawa//Talon3) The Talon series by Julie Kagawa. Another series with an interesting concept: Set in a world where dragons are not so imaginary as people assume, but instead learned to shape-shift in order to blend in with humans. Ember, a young dragon, is sent to live undercover in a human town, and there she meets Garret, who is a member of the Order of St. George – an organisation that exists to hunt dragons.

Tamora Pierce//Wild Magic4) The Immortals quartet by Tamora Pierce. The main character in this excellent fantasy series (which is set in the Tortall universe) is a wild mage – someone who has a magical ability that lets her communicate with animals, amongst other things – and she uses this ability in order to fight against an invasion of Immortals – creatures that have long been thought to be extinct, or even mythical. Towards the end of the first book in the series, one of the Immortals she encounters is a dragon, who charges Daine with taking care of her baby, the dragonet Skysong.

My Life in Books

I can’t seem to find (and therefore credit) the person who created this tag, but I was tagged by The Quirky Book Nerd (who has a wonderful blog that you should all check out) – much to my delight! 😀 I’ve had my eye on this tag for a while now (it seemed super-fun), and had actually been planning on doing it soon whether I was tagged or not. It is, however, always nice to be tagged~ 🙂 I hope you enjoy it!

1) Find a book for each of your initials.

K.M. Peyton//Flambards Philip Reeve//Mortal Engines Garth Nix//Sabriel Rick Riordan//The Son of Neptune Tamora Pierce//The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

Flambards by K.M. Peyton
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
Sabriel by Garth Nix
The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce

Frances Hodgson Burnett//A Little Princess2) Count your age along your bookshelf – what book did you get?

I’m 26, which (discounting my shelves for study guides, comics and manga, which I usually try not to use for tags) lands me right in the middle of my miniature section of Children’s Classics, where I ended up with A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Anthony Horowitz//The Devil & His Boy3) Pick a book set in your city/county/country.

I don’t think I’ve read any books that are set in Cambridge itself, so instead I’ll go with The Devil & His Boy by Anthony Horowitz, which is at least set in England (and is also a really great book that I don’t mention much!).

Marissa Meyer//Fairest4) Pick a book to represent a place you’d like to travel to.

Can I pick the moon? I’d love to go to the moon. Fairest by Marissa Meyer. 😉

Fredrik Backman//My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologises5) Pick a book that’s your favourite colour.

My favourite colour is orange, which isn’t the most common colour for books… I do own a couple, though, and one of them is My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologises by Fredrick Backman, which has a lovely shade of orange on the spine, in particular. 🙂

J.R.R. Tolkien//The Hobbit6) What book do you have the fondest memories of?

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. My love of fantasy was seeded in me early on in life – my dad used to read this book to me and my sister before bed when we were both little.

7) Which book did you have the most difficulty reading?

George R.R. Martin//A Dance with DragonsProbably A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin, which I carried around in my purse for several months before I finally managed to finish it (I remember it clearly: I constantly had a very sore shoulder from the weight of the book, and I also ended up mangling the dust jacket… :/ ). It wasn’t just that the book was long – I made it through the rest of the series easily enough, and they’re all super-long, too – but most of the book was taken up with either Daenerys or Jon Snow chapters, and they’re my least-favourite POV characters in the series.

David Mitchell//Cloud AtlasDavid Mitchell//The Bone Clocks8) Which book on your TBR will give you the biggest sense of accomplishment to have finished?

Either Cloud Atlas or The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. These two have been sitting on my TBR shelf for a while now, because although I like David Mitchell’s writing, I also find it quite tough to get through. So, yeah, I’ll be pretty proud when I finally manage to finish these. 🙂

9) I tag:

The Extraordinary Means Book Tag

This tag was created by Robyn Schneider (author of Extraordinary Means, hence the name~ 😉 ), and I was tagged to do this by Panda from Panda’s Books. As for who I’m going to tag: Chloë-chu, I choose you! 😀

J.R.R. Tolkien//The Hobbit1) I would give up the internet for a month for a signed first edition of this book.

The Hobbit, or any of the Lord of the Rings books by J.R.R.Tolkien. Or else a Jane Austen book – ideally, Pride & Prejudice or Emma.

Philip Pullman//Northern Lights2) I would give up pizza for a year if it meant I could sit next to this author on a long plane ride.

I would probably be incredibly socially awkward the whole time, but I feel like Philip Pullman (author of His Dark Materials) would have a whole load of interesting things to say.

Naomi Novik//Temeraire3) I would sit through a thousand hours of commercials if it would ensure Hollywood made this book into a movie.

Lots of books to choose from here, but I think that the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik would make excellent films. They’re set during the Napoleonic wars, but with an Aerial Corps made up of dragons and their bonded Captains.

Hidenori Kusaka//Pokémon Adventures vol. 14) I would never read a new book again if it meant I could live inside this book.

Pokémon! That counts as a book-world, right? There’s a manga (by Hidenori Kusaka) and everything! 😛

Tamora Pierce//Alanna: The First Adventure5) I would let my Google search history be made public if it meant I could be best friends with this author.

I would really love to be friends with Tamora Pierce (author of The Song of the Lioness) or Maggie Stiefvater (who wrote The Raven Cycle), but not quite enough to let my Google search history be made public. 😳 I’m sure there’s some super-embarrassing things on there that I wouldn’t want my parents seeing (and, let’s be honest, they’re the only people who’re likely to be interested in reading it)!

Cassandra Clare//Clockwork Prince6) I would donate everything I own to Goodwill if it meant I could date this book character in real life.

Most of my favourite characters aren’t ones I’d really want to date in real life, but, in the interest of actually-having-an-answer, I’ll say Jem Carstairs from the Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare – he’s just such a sweetheart! ❤

11 of the best books for children

The BBC recently came out with a list of the 11 greatest children’s books, as chosen by critics… And it’s an interesting article, but not one that I necessarily agreed with. For instance, I’m sure a lot of people remember Little Women fondly, but I personally found it unreadable when I was a child. And where are the Harry Potter books? So many people my age (myself included) only started reading for pleasure because of them, so surely that should earn them a place on the list! 😦

Anyway, I thought I’d try my hand at making my own list, as a counter to theirs, and I’d really love to hear what you consider to be the best children’s books, too! (And, for the record, when I think of children’s books, I think of the kind of books I would’ve been reading in primary school, so there won’t be any teen books on the list – though I know that, technically, they still count…)

Lemony Snicket//The Bad Beginning11) A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

An incredibly creative series of books about a trio of orphans trying to solve the mystery of their parents’ deaths, whilst simultaneously being pursued by their distant cousin, the nefarious Count Olaf, who’s after their inheritance.

Dr. Seuss//Green Eggs & Ham10) Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss

A book that’s most famous for having been written using only 50 words, to settle a bet between Seuss and his publisher over whether it was possible to write a book with so few words. It’s a simple story about somebody who doesn’t like green eggs and ham.

Maurice Sendak//Where the Wild Things Are9) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

The story of a boy who, after being sent to bed without supper, finds himself on an island inhabited by monsters, who make him their king. An amazingly-written book, with great, atmospheric illustrations, and themes of anger and growth.

J.R.R. Tolkien//The Hobbit8) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

My favourite book as a child, this tells the story of an ordinary gentlehobbit called Bilbo Baggins, who is manipulated by the wizard Gandalf into going on an adventure with thirteen dwarves, in order to reclaim their homeland from a dragon. Probably one of the best pure adventure books ever written, though some people find Tolkien’s writing prosy.

David Almond//Heaven Eyes7) Heaven Eyes by David Almond

Skellig is the most critically-acclaimed of David Almond’s books, but my favourite has always been Heaven Eyes, which is about a group of friends who escape from their orphanage on a raft, only to find themselves stuck in a bog not too far down the river. They’re rescued by a strange girl called Heaven Eyes, who lives in the boggy island with her grandfather.

Roald Dahl//Matilda6) Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda is raised by her abusive parents and brother, and is constantly bullied by the awful Miss Trunchbull, the headteacher at her school. But through her own wits, she manages to forge a happy ending for herself and her friend, Miss Honey. A wonderful story about friendship and resourcefulness.

Dick King-Smith//A Mouse Called Wolf5) A Mouse Called Wolf by Dick King-Smith

There are a lot of Dick King-Smith books I could have chosen, but the one I remember most fondly is A Mouse Called Wolf, which follows the tiny Wolfgang Amadeus Mouse (named for Mozart, naturally), who has a great love for music, and becomes the world’s first singing mouse.

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone4) Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

This series really needs no introduction, as it’s famous worldwide, and for good reason! Reading about all Harry’s adventures is the best kind of escapism, and these books left millions of people wishing for their very own Hogwarts letters.

Antoine de Saint Exupéry//The Little Prince3) The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A pilot stranded in the desert meets a prince from a small asteroid, who tells the tale of his travels on different planets, and the people he met on the way. This book is sombre, but incredibly touching, and all about childhood, and the strangeness of grown-ups.

C.S. Lewis//The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe2) The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

The tale of four siblings, evacuated to the countryside just before the second world war, who find another world by climbing into a wardrobe, and are tasked with saving Narnia from the White Witch. A great story about family, friendship, and loyalty.

Frances Hodgson Burnett//A Little Princess1) A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Sara is made to become a servant at her elite boarding school, after her father dies, leaving her with enormous debts to the school, but she is able to make the most of her situation, befriending the school’s other servant girl, as well as, and keeping her spirits up through imagination and storytelling.

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!