Category Archives: Discussion

Having Kids in the 21st Century

Hello and welcome! It’s time for another discussion, we haven’t had any of these in a while, so I really need to get moving if I want to complete my Discussion Challenge (I’m participating again and if you want some really great discussions, head on over and click around a bit).

I normally only discuss bookish things around here – and while this discussion will touch on books, it’s of a more personal nature. Not that books aren’t personal to me, it’s just that my kids are more personal if you get me. If you’re new here, I have two kids, aged 2.5 years and 6 months (they share a birthday).

I was scrolling through the absolutely beautiful photos in this post the other day when it struck me how spoiled (or maybe just protected?) my kid was. It’s a sobering moment for any parent to realize their child isn’t the perfect little angel they thought s/he was, but I’m trying to go a bit deeper here.

Now, Kiddo is a great little person. He’s compassionate, kind, and very smart, and his temper tantrums can be chalked up to the fact that he’s 2.5 years old and it’s normal for kids that age to have temper tantrums.

But as I was looking through the photos of this Pakistani mining community, something jumped out at me. Now, I don’t know whether the kids in these photos are happy or not (I’m going to assume they are because my hormones are currently preventing me from imagining anything bad happening to kids), but they’re clearly not enjoying the same benefits of being middle-class citizens as my kid.

My kid, however, dissolved into tears last week because he wanted the orange jam on his toast, not the red one. We have daily battles on which t-shirt he’ll wear to kindergarten (because the stripy one from H&M is clearly inferior, Mom) and last night, he cried for a full five minutes because I wouldn’t let him eat double his usual dinner because I was afraid his tummy would hurt during the night.

What I’m getting at here is this: my kid’s troubles are superficial (aka First World Problems) because he’s never experienced what it’s like to really not have something. And thank whatever power there is out there for that. I’m grateful for our life every day.

But now I’m wondering how to instill some sense of worth in the (material and emotional) goods he has access to on a daily basis. How do you explain to a very young child that he should value his clean, dry, warm clothes because there are kids who don’t have the same privilege? How do I make him understand that turning up his nose at a perfectly good dinner is bad? How do I tell him that while my cuddles, love, and support are unconditional, not all children grow up in such an environment? And most of all (and this is the over-protective mother speaking), how do I do this while still protecting him?

Bookish person that I am, my first thought was to turn to books. I’m in search of picture books that feature diversity of this specific kind (we’ll tackle race and gender issues another day) without being over-the-top didactic. I know our local libraries and the Slovenian section of IBBY are preparing a list of children’s books that deal with the topic of immigrants, so I’ll definitely be making use of those, but I’d love more general suggestions.

I know that not many of my followers have children but in this day and age, social sensitivity is something we should all work towards, and where better to start than with our kids, right?

What’s your take on this? Do you have kids? How do you face similar problems?

Do you have any bookish recs for me?

I’l love to hear from you! :)

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Shifty Characters

It’s time for some discussing and some list making (because have you met me? I always make lists). I’m participating in the 2017 edition of the fabulous Discussion Challenge, which is a fantastic place to find more bookish discussions. The participants always have something interesting to say!

Today, I thought I’d say a word or two about my love for shifty characters: thieves, assassins, pirates, and so on.

It’s weird that I enjoy reading about these people so much when in real life, my worst “crime” was getting fined for jaywalking in high school (seriously, I’ve never even gotten a parking ticket, I’m distressingly honest and law-abiding. Okay, so there might have been some underage drinking and pot smoking but I’m a responsible adult now. *cough*). I can’t even say that I know any criminals – at any rate, I would do my best to avoid real-life hustlers and con (wo)men, let alone assassins, because they prey on innocent people and kill and engage in really bad behavior.

So why is it that I am so drawn to any book that has a morally questionable protagonist? I’m not even talking about villains here. It’s the main characters with shifty lifestyles that I love. The redeemable bad guys.

Probably it’s because I hate characters who are too good and pure to be true. I mean, I consider myself to be a fairly honest, good person, but I still get jealous, petty, and downright nasty (only when I’m hungry, though, promise).

So let’s consider the loveable bad guys and get some recommendations! Note that some of them fall into multiple categories (I mean, as if stealing wasn’t enough. Let’s add murder to the mix, right?).

Have you read any of these? Did you like the shifty characters?

What do you think makes them so great?

And do you have any recommendations for me?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Friends

discussion

Hello and welcome to another discussion! As usual this year, I’m linking this to the Discussion Challenge – which I won already, by the way (my goal was to write at least 13 discussions and I passed that last month)! Go check out the other posts – there are always great bookish discussions to be found in the linky.

Today, I want to talk to you about friends. I know that’s a very broad topic but I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. And I want to know: where did you meet most of your friends? Are they mostly college friends or coworkers? Or are you friends with totally random people?

During my high school and university years, the vast majority of my friends were people I also went to school with. So we were stuck together in the same classroom (or school, at least) every day, we had breaks together and all – but we also saw each other after class and partied together and so on. However, once the classes ended – not just for the summer, but once we graduated – people drifted away. It made even more sense after university because most of my group of friends didn’t even live in Ljubljana (where our university is situated) and they returned home, either to their parents’ houses or to start families of their own. And we… drifted apart.

Now, I have a sort of motley crew of friends from different stages of my life. I’ve known two of my best friends since we were seven (we went to primary school together), I have one friend left over from high school – and two ladies from the university that I see on a regular basis. Then there’s an editor friend, some friends I met through my husband, and my brother and my cousin, who I’m lucky to have because you can’t always count on family also being friends. It’s a small number of people, really, but they’re incredibly important to me. I’ve kept in contact with my other friends, of course, but we mostly write emails to each other once or twice a year.

It’s harder to make friends as an adult, I think. My situation is very unhelpful for meeting new people because I’m a freelance translator and work from home, where I’m alone most of the time. It’s a perfect arrangement for me, I love it, but I have to make a conscious effort to set dates with my friends each week so I socialize enough. I’m very lucky that my husband is also my best friend, I don’t know what I’d do if that wasn’t the case.

Blogging opened up a new world for me. I now have several… friends, whom I’ve never even seen in person, that I talk to more regularly than I do with some of the people I count as my closest acquaintances. Either through comments, Twitter, or emails – these newfound relationships are just as important to me as the friends I get to meet in person, perhaps because we talk about books a lot, which is enormously important to me (and I don’t get to discuss them with my other friends because they don’t read as much or their tastes are different).

srcek

Anyway, this all means that I’m always happy to read books that feature good friendships. You know I love reading about romantic relationships but I’m always on the lookout for a good friendship book. Somehow, good friendship books are harder to find than good romances – which is weird if you consider that most people have fewer lovers (or true loves) than friends (I’m not being judgy here, you can have as many lovers as you want).

Here are some of my favourite bookish friendships:

  • Harry, Ron, and Hermione – okay, so I know Ron and Hermione end up together but for the majority of the series, these three are just really great friends.
  • Agnieszka and Kasia – from Naomi Novik’s Uprooted – Agnieszka is driven by her love for her friend and I really enjoyed reading about their relationship. I also liked that Novik wasn’t afraid to write about the ugly aspects of such a friendship (the jealousy, the resentment).
  • Locke and Jean – from The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch – I know most people refer to their relationship as a “bromance” but a) I hate this word; and b) unless you saw something I didn’t (and believe me, I know this book almost by heart by now), Locke is horribly in love with Sabetha and I won’t spoil you for Jean but he loves Locke like a brother. They’re great.
  • Jennifer and Beth – from Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments – this has become one of my favourite books of all time (I think I say this a lot when it comes to Rowell’s books). Their friendship is the ordinary kind – they’re coworkers – but I loved their interactions and how they came to trust each other.
  • The Thirteen – from Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas – I haven’t reviewed this yet but one of the bright points of this book are the close bonds between the Ironteeth witches of Manon Blackbeak’s coven. I love how far they go to protect one another and it’s their stories I was most excited to read.
  • Karou and Zuzana – from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone – there is something to be said for a friend who will follow you into another world. I really liked their private jokes and loyalty.
  • Corrine and Ada – from Iron Cast by Destiny Soria – this is a very new addition to the list (it releases in October), but I really, really enjoyed it. Their friendship is tested several times and I think they’re both fantastic characters. Give this one a try (I’ll be reviewing it soon).

A lot of ladies on this list, huh?

srcek

Tell me, which bookish friends would you add to this list?

Who are your friends?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Re-reading Childhood Favourites

discussion

This post will be linked to the Discussion Challenge, hosted by very lovely people. Try to go over there and click through the other posts – I always find very interesting debates to participate in! :)

Today, I want to talk to you about your childhood favourites. What was your favourite book growing up? How many times did you read it as a child? And have you re-read it in recent years, as an adult reader?

My favourites, for example, include:

  • Matilda and The Witches by Roald Dahl (I even wrote an Author Addiction post about him)
  • The Brothers Lionheart and Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren
  • The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Momo by Michael Ende
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

And there were many more, of course. I think I read the entire children’s section of our local library by the time I was 14 and then wandered over to the adult section where I found The Lord of the Rings and that was the beginning of my fantasy reading, but that’s a different story.

srcek

I re-read some of these already (Matilda, The Witches, The Brothers Lionheart, The Hobbit, The Secret Garden) and they were marvellous. I loved how they made me return to my childhood years but I also discovered new aspects that I simply missed as a kid. This is one of the wonders of children’s literature – the dual addressee “issue”, where the books are meant to be read both by children and adults (who often read these books out loud to their children).

But there are definitely some books that I’m afraid to read for fear of being disappointed with them now that I’m an adult reader. Most notably, I’ve had The Little White Horse on my shelf for three years or so and I still haven’t made myself read it. I’m not sure why; I think I’ll like it but I just have this perfect memory of the story and the characters that I don’t want to spoil.

Honestly, this disappointment happens much more often with movies (like Hot Shots or Men in Tights, both of which were horrible now that I watched them again). I also know that some books I read – like The Famous Five or the Sadler’s Wells series (this one was probably one of my very first binge reads! Ahh, the memories) – were actually pretty bad. I don’t want to re-read them because I know I’ll be rolling my eyes the entire time and I just have such good memories of reading them at night with my flashlight because my mom thought they weren’t “good” books and couldn’t understand why I kept reading them. She never banned me from any books, mind you, she’d never do that, but I just didn’t want to explain myself, so I read in secret. I think this little rebellion was a part of the charm, actually, the fact that I was doing something my parents weren’t happy with (see, I was a rebel even at a young, tender age). :)

srcek

I know I’ll be re-reading some of my favourite books with my kids. I’m really looking forward to that! We’ve already established a good reading routine with Kiddo, we read to him every single night before bed, but we’re at picture books at this point, of course. I can’t wait for him (them) to progress to longer stories that will keep us all up at night.

And I’ll probably read them books that I’m “afraid” to re-read now – and we’ll see if they love them as much as I did when I was a kid (though I’ll be leaving out some of the more horrible ones). Some of them have become classics now, even in Slovenian, like Dahl’s books. And we’ll discover new favourites from among newer literature, too. And they’ll hopefully discover some horrible books on their own and read them even though I’ll be giving them the evil eye all along. At least I hope they grow up to be readers…

srcek

Have you re-read any of your childhood favourites lately? 

Or are you content with the memories and prefer discovering new books?

If you have kids, do you read to them/with them?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Reading Bad Books

discussion

Hello, lovely people, and welcome to another rambly discussion here at Of Dragons and Hearts. I’m doing my best to win the Discussion Challenge this year – the link will take you to a space where other great discussions on books and reading can be found, so do click over there and spend some time exploring!

Today, I want to chat about reading bad books. “But wait,” I can hear you say, “why would you want to read bad books in the first place? That’s a no-brainer and this discussion will surely suck.” But here’s the problem: I sometimes read bad books even though I know they will be bad.

And I keep asking myself why.

The fact is that I’m incapable of skipping some books even though I know deep down that they will inevitably piss me off. I recently read Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Torn, fully expecting to roll my eyes at it the entire time (that one ticked me off more than usual, as can be seen here). But at the end of my review, I originally still wrote that I will be reading the last part of the trilogy because I want to know how it ends (I changed that now that I’ve written this post). The same goes for Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Mist and Fury, which I thought was spectacularly problematic. But I’ll be reading the next one all the same!

srcek

One reason (and probably the most important one) is that I want to finish the series. I don’t finish all series that I start, but these have some kind of pull to them – maybe it’s the readability, the popularity (I don’t want to be the only person who hasn’t read SJM’s latest, after all), and maybe it’s just my love of crossing books of the list.

There’s also the loyalty to an author. Do I give up on them if they write one bad book? Two? Four? I’m just never sure if perhaps the next series will be different, you see.

Another reason is that I’m sort of convinced I should read a couple of crappy books in between great ones so I can really appreciate the good ones. This is probably the stupidest reason ever, especially since I would probably stumble onto not-excellent books even if I wasn’t purposefully reading bad ones. I mean, even if I only read books that come highly recommended (or classics), there’s a good chance I, personally, won’t like some of them, so the bell curve of ratings will still be there.

And… that’s it. I have no more reasons for reading bad books.

Okay, maybe I feel like bad books equal fluffy, easy-to-read books (romances and the like), so I pick up books that I know won’t wow me because I just want to switch my mind off for a couple of hours. But that’s also a silly reason because there are loads of good fluffy, easy-to-read books around.

And honestly, sometimes it’s just hard to tell whether a book will be bad or not. I’m becoming relatively skilled with picking my romances (I know how to look for triggers and I usually read at least a few sample pages on Amazon before buying them) but sometimes a book is just a flop. srcek

What am I trying to say here, really?

I’m going to make an effort to read fewer bad books. I know I won’t be able to avoid all of them but I have to try because:

  1. Life is too short to purposefully read really bad books.
  2. I am giving my money to authors who write bad books instead of buying good books and supporting good authors (this is all subjective, yeah? Let’s be clear on that, please.).
  3. I am missing out on thousands upon thousands of fantastically great stories by giving my precious time to bad writing. That’s just unacceptable.

So. I might be dropping some series that I just don’t feel like finishing. I might not buy all the latest releases. I might not buy all the romances I want. We’ll see how that goes. But most of all, I just want to be more mindful when it comes to purchasing – and reading – books. My time is worth everything to me, after all, so I should probably try and make good use of it.

srcekWhat’s your strategy when it comes to buying (or just reading) books? 

Do you ever read books that you know will be bad?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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What Makes a Fantasy?

discussion

Hello and welcome to another discussion! As is my habit this year, I’ll be linking this post to the Discussion Challenge linky, where you can find many interesting discussions about books (and sometimes other things as well).

Today, I want to talk about fantasy. Specifically, I want to know what makes a fantasy. I’ve been sitting on the idea for this post ever since I read Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea trilogy (see my reviews of parts 1, 2, and 3) and have now decided to finally write it as I had an interesting conversation with Mogsy when I reviewed And I Darken by Kiersten White.

In the Shattered Sea trilogy (and I warn you for minor spoilers here), the events take place in a ravaged land with a Viking-like society of very brutal people (Hello, it’s Abercrombie. Of course it’s brutal.), but it wasn’t clear to me for a while that it might not be an actual fantasy land but a postapocalyptic society that lives in the area of the Baltic Sea. And that all the fiery weapons the characters think are magic are actually guns, relics from a society that they call Elves because they knew how to build tall buildings made of glass and iron.

See, I felt cheated by this revelation that there were actually no elves in that world. And that “magic” consisted of gunpowder. I thought the author had imagined a fantastic new world where instead he used the relics of our disintegrating one to build a society that is just as “backward” and human as ours. *sigh*

Then I talked to my husband about it – he’s a huge Abercrombie fan – and he remembered this quote by Arthur C. Clarke, who allegedly said (or wrote?): “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” And I think this is what Abercrombie played with in his books. He used our (readers’) expectations and put us in the mind of people who’d never seen electricity or guns or anything similar. I don’t have to like it but there it is.

zmaj-desno

And then I read And I Darken, which is an alternative history retelling of the life of Vlad the Impaler, where the main character of the story is a girl, Lada, an unpleasant and cruel kid. I didn’t really think much of it, I just read the book as if it was any old historical YA and left it at that. And then Mogsy said that she considered every alternative history book to be fantasy/sci-fi, too – especially if it was written for adults because apparently such books are always classified as speculative fiction.

Now, I haven’t read enough alternative history novels to be really familiar with the subgenre, but my response was something like: “But, but, but there are no dragons! No magic! How can it be fantasy?” 

And yeah, I still hold to that. I’m aware it’s a personal preference but I only classify books as fantasy if there’s something magical about them. If they take place in a world that does not exist in our consensual reality, if the characters have supernatural abilities, if there are magical creatures like dragons and the Fae. I remember reading J. R. R. Tolkien’s “On Fairy Stories” and Ursula K. Le Guin’s “From Elfland to Poughkeepsie” (I think this is a full article!) and I agree with a lot of what they said. It’s pretty old school but still.

So did I go back and correct my classification with Abercrombie’s trilogy? No. But I kind of want to. Because although it’s alternative history and written as if it’s a fantasy, it’s really not – not by my rules. And I probably wouldn’t go all “my way or the highway” if I was writing an article for publication, for example, but I can certainly do it here. :)

zmaj-levo

So, how do YOU classify fantasy? 

Do you need dragons and magic or is the author’s/publisher’s word enough for you?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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