Category Archives: Books

Five Favorite Book Characters of All Time

The gals at The Great Noveling Adventure have been a delightful distraction from my writing lately (and they’ve got some swell stuff for writing, too, for when you’re feeling responsible and crafty). In a recent post, one of the writers talked up her five favorite book characters of the year, and it made me want to do the same thing. I only wish I’d read enough this year to have more than a handful of characters to choose from. So instead I’m going to take the easy way out and share my five favorite book characters of all time. Because what isn’t fun about all time?

These aren’t in any particular order, and while some of these books are certainly among my favorites, these characters transcend the page, making me wish for short stories and artist renderings and, gasp, fanfiction.

I dig American movies. I dig Negroes, particularly Michael Jackson. I dig to disseminate very much currency at famous nightclubs in Odessa… many girls want to be carnal with me in many good arrangements, notwithstanding the Inebriated Kangaroo, the Gorky Tickle, and the Unyielding Zookeeper.”

Alex Perchov from Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated is irresistible from the very start. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the “hero” of this novel. Never has a character misused so many words so spectacularly.

 ∞

Remember that while the Clayr can See the future, others make it. I feel that you will be a maker, not a seer. You must promise me that it will be so. Promise me that you will not give in. Promise me that you will never give up hope. Make your future, Lirael!”

Lirael from Garth Nix’s Lirael and Abhorsen manages a balance of strength and vulnerability on the page that makes me wonder if perhaps Nix was a teenage girl in another life. She’s the rare heroine who can make enormous, childish mistakes, cry about them, and challenge herself to overcome them without ever distancing her reader (at least not this reader).

  ∞

There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”

Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice demands a place in my esteem forever, and the esteem of most women, I think, of my generation and temperament. She is confident, intelligent, and refuses to compromise who she is despite every expectation that she must.

  ∞

Curiosity killed the cat,” Fesgao remarked, his dark eyes unreadable. Aly rolled her eyes. Why did everyone say that to her? 

“People always forget the rest of the saying,” she complained. “‘And satisfaction brought it back.” 

Aly Cooper from Tamora Pierce’s Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen is indomitable. And so funny. I feel like I don’t read enough traditional fantasy with a good sense of humor, but Aly really carried me into this series after many failed attempts to read Pierce’s other works.

  ∞

You show the man you are when you insult me thus,” I said very quietly.

“And what sort of man is that?”

“A man with no sense of right or wrong. A man who cannot laugh and who rules by fear. A — a man with no respect for women.”

There was a moment’s silence.

“And on what do you base this judgment?” he asked eventually. “You have spent but the briefest time in my company. Already you believe me some kind of monster. You are indeed quick to assess a man’s character.”

“As are you to judge a woman,” I said straightaway.

So, I lied and saved the best for last, and I’m cheating because it’s actually two characters. Bran and Liadan from Juliet Marillier’s Son of the Shadows are whole and real within minutes of meeting them on the page, but together they make me weep. Marillier has gone on to write a number of Sevenwaters novels, and most of them have been highly enjoyable, but still. All I want is more of these two, forever.

… I can’t promise I won’t do this again with my biggest fictional crushes. Or favorite fictional worlds, because, nobody from Harry Potter even made this list because I’m really just in love with Rowling’s world building. But for now, who’s on your list?

Love at First Sight

Alif the UnseenWell, almost.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t sure when I started reading if I was going to enjoy G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseenbut I’ve never been more delighted to be wrong (about a book, anyway). Once I got into the mystic, jinn-blue heart of it, I couldn’t put it down.

I’ve seen some references here and there that liken the novel to Harry Potter, and I think I know why. Willow Wilson is incredibly skillful in taking the mundane and making it magical, which is even more of a feat given she does so with a) the Middle East, a world  largely mysterious to the Western reader already, so she’s almost doing double the work, and b) the seemingly black and white, zeroes and ones world of computers. I was so impressed with the believability of the hacking that goes on in this novel, along with about a thousand (and one nights) other things. Like Rowling, the world leaves me wanting more, to the degree that I wish there were a journaling community where I could pick up a Sila character, or at least a forum with some illuminating fanfic about Vikram and the Convert.

My tastes, they are so much less lofty than the aims of this novel. I hope it’s okay if I love it anyway.

Listen Up

For a first time mama, I make a lot of time to read. Which still isn’t a whole lot, or nearly as much as some others I know (envy!), but I do what I can. I also try to read in front of my daughter as often as she’ll let me, because I want her to know that I’m a reader, that I value books, and they’re more fun even than the Farscape marathons that accompanied her early nursing days.

But being a baby, she doesn’t have my unrivaled attention span for a new book (though she does toss the ones she doesn’t like to the floor, which I can appreciate after reaching the end of Cold Mountain). So when we’re not listening to “Pollywog in a Bog” or “Prairie Lullaby,” I’ll often listen to some old favorites on audiobook.

I indulge in Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy at least twice a year, and the full cast version of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, too. There are a few books that listening to has actually made readable, though I’ve gambled on others I neither enjoyed in print nor by ear. And let’s just say I can’t even wait to hear as well as read one of my favorite writers later this year.

Listening to a book is such a dozy pleasure, like nursing a cup of hot chocolate in December, or taking a bubble bath. I can’t race right through, and I’m not competing with my cat for a comfortable spot to rest my arms. Listening also means I can get away with things like folding diapers or building block towers at the same time. While I’ve got to start being more mindful about what we’re listening to as my baby girl grows up (I don’t want a repeat of when this book got super unexpectedly sexy, super fast), listening to books seems to me like a lovely way to share some of my favorites with her.

And a way to take advantage of what precious little spare time motherhood provides.

All Shook Up

It’s rare (for me) to read a tough as nails heroine who delivers on the grit and still has enough heart to keep me reading. While she took a little while to grow on me, Boneshaker‘s Briar Wilkes’ ferocity (and at times her heart-achingly dear vulnerability) where the fate of her son is concerned is a wondrously written thing. I felt I was getting a little sneak peek at the future of worry and love over an almost grown up child, and I connected with Briar in a way I’m not sure I would have before I became a parent.

But Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker offers plenty to revel in. The Doornails and the gadgets and the rotters and a surreal, Blight-fogged Seattle thrilled and really fired my imagination. I even loved Priest’s epilogue for the nit-pickers (and anyone who does their research just so they can toss it).

My only complaint was in the reveal of Minnericht’s identity. Without more of his story, it lacked the impact of Briar’s confession (which I loved, and should’ve seen coming and didn’t, a credit to Priest’s writing).

Super curious about the next installment and will absolutely be reading.

Book Lust

I feel like I’m giving myself permission to write about All The Things in a way that is neither deep nor lyrical. Because I am, lately, a creativity camel. My urgent need to write and world-build and daydream is by necessity put off by diapers that need changing (and washing and drying and folding), block towers that need collapsing, toothless smiles soaked up and baby giggles bottled. When I get my figurative drink on, however, I drink deep.

So I am excited about reading and writing when I can, and presently, this. I’ve made a concerted effort to read women in the science fiction and fantasy genre (and all books ever, really), and I love a good reading challenge. I’ve had Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker on loan from the library and am anxious to dig in. I only wish I hadn’t just finished Julianna Baggott’s Pure, because, my goodness, what a note to begin on that gritty gem would’ve been.

Reading is such a cornerstone to writing that even when I’m reduced to a blubbering, unproductive mess by the spectacular imaginations of others, I can’t regret the hours lost in another world. Because lost isn’t even really the right word.

It’s more like lust.

A good book is about what can’t be had, only dreamed. And I can’t hope to write one if I haven’t read a whole hell of a lot of them.

Psychosomatic Symptoms

You know the feeling when you finish a really spectacular book and you just can’t move on? You’re hanging around on the last page, musing over the last few lines, perhaps turning to the mysterious blank pages publishers include and hoping for a secret little bit more. Like when I went to the movies as a teenager and waiting around until the credits had finished rolling rewarded me with an intimate fifteen seconds of something. Good movies don’t seem to do that anymore. But that’s a story for another day.

I’ve got the book-finishing-psychoses of a rabid reader and a writer working against me. I find myself wishing for more and more and more book and also wondering why it is I think I’ve got something in me that will make somebody else feel the same way. And what’s the point of writing if i haven’t? I want to turn pages more than I’ve ever wanted to turn heads, to facilitate cramped hours in bed ravishing sentences long after bedtime, to fan crushes and crush expectations to finest metaphorical powder.

But I finish something like Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star and I just don’t feel like a contender.

But You Don’t Have to Take My Word For It

Re-reading has always felt indulgent to me in the best of ways. When I was studying literature it was practically breaking the rules unless I was doing so for comprehension of some unnecessarily overwrought text, when reading for pleasure was worthy of a laugh unless you were arguing that you actually enjoyed imagining the Panopticon into every nineteenth century English parlor (which happened in a class, once, but the tally of incidents in which I felt like a dirty fiction writer daring to enjoy artistry without critical theory are too many for any one blog to recount, and certainly not this one).

But I’ve always done it, and I do it now, too, flying in the face of all of what’s great and new and should be read; some books are just old friends.

Revisiting Anne Shirley of late has made me marvel at how little I needed to go on as a ten-year-old reader, how dearly dreaming talks of mischief and the paper-heady scent of apple blossoms could render me. I’ll tell you, almost nothing happens on the page. What does is almost always relayed to Marilla over plum cake hours after, unless it’s a certain titian-headed someone falling off of a roof, or nearly drowning playing at The Lady of Shalott. I’ve got a kindred spirit of my own in K, and the wild ramblings of Anne and Diana are just as I remember them, as I remember ours as sweetly.

What isn’t the same the second time around is Tolkien. I remember struggling and abandoning the first book after Bilbo’s party before I’d seen the films, and only after managing to get through the trilogy on the merits of the cast. I swore Aragorn had no personality and the hobbits little more than appetites, but there’s something to be said for re-reading The Fellowship of the Ring with ten years to season the pages and my temperament. The prose at times feels positively lush. If I’ve told my husband once I’ve expressed to him a dozen times my shock over how much I am actually enjoying this re-reading, which is a testament, perhaps, to what an unworthy jerk I was at nineteen. But really, who isn’t?

Besides, I can’t trust anyone who fantasized they were an edgy Elizabeth Wakefield. No matter how cute Conner McDermott was written.