Category Archives: Weekly Features

Tough Travels: Forbidden Love

tough travels

It’s Thursday again so I’m participating in the Tough Travels meme which is hosted by Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn. These posts are fun explorations of common tropes in fantasy, (sometimes) inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’s The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. Join me in the search for examples of this week’s topic – and don’t forget to check out other people’s lists, they’re wonderful and my TBR pile grows every week because of them!

This week’s topic is very close to me, as we’re looking for FORBIDDEN LOVE: even in Fantasyland parents aren’t always happy with their children’s choice in partners. Yep, that’s true.

You know, paranormal romance is FULL of these examples. I mean, it’s a really common trope anyway but you can’t read a vampire or werewolf novel without someone being all “I’m not good for you” or “he’s trying to eat you, you little fool” but I managed to leave them off this list for the most part.

But if you think that I had a bunch of ideas straightaway, think again. So I enlisted A.’s help and the ones marked with a *star are his ideas, so thanks! <3 (Also, I usually use the dragon-head post dividers for Tough Travels but hearts are much more appropriate this week, no?)

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  • daughter-smoke-bone-laini-taylorAkiva and Karou from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. This was my first pick. I spent so much time with this trilogy it’s permanently etched into my memory/mind/soul. Akiva is an angel – Karou is human (or is she?!?!). Anyway, just in case you haven’t read this yet (you REALLY should!), I’m not saying anything else.
  • *Burrich and Lady Patience from Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy. Ahh, the age-old conflict between classes.
  • *Jamie and Cersei Lannister from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Well, this is less of a families-at-war thing…
  • *Jon Snow and Ygritte from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. You know nothing, Jon Snow… GAH this story is another example of why I dislike Martin…
  • night-circus-morgenstern-erinCelia and Marco from Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. I just finished this one last week. Celia and Marco are forced to compete in a game of magic so convoluted and elaborate, it’s no wonder they fall for each other.
  • Clary and Jace from Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series. Yeah, yeah, it’s bad. But Clary and Jace think they’re siblings for a while, which puts a damper on their budding romance. Aww.
  • Seraphina and Lucian from Rachel Hartman’s SeraphinaShe’s a half-dragon court musician. He’s the prince, engaged to the future queen.
  • Paige and Warden from Samantha Shannon’s The Bone SeasonShe’s a dreamwalker, he’s a kind of alien – and their races are at war. OF COURSE they fall in love, even if Paige has a bit of a Stockholm Syndrome (but Warden is a really reluctant jailor so there’s that).

Honorable mention goes to The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle (YES, I’m including her again, it’s like she’s becoming my next Lynch!), but I can’t say much more than this because it would really spoil everything.

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Which star-crossed fantasy couple have I forgotten to include this week? 

Do you like a romance where the couple have to fight to stay together?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Top Ten Tuesday: Fairytale Retellings

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a hugely popular weekly meme hosted by the lovely people of The Broke and the Bookish. Go check out the crazy number of other bloggers joining in the fun! :) I sometimes participate in this wonderful list-making (you know me, I can hardly resist making new lists!) and this week’s topic (FAIRYTALE RETELLINGS) is especially cool since I’m participating in the Fairytale Retelling Challenge!

I’ve written about my love of fairytales before so I’m not going to repeat myself except to add that I’m still amazed by all the great retellings I’ve read and seen around the blogosphere. I decided to split my list into two fives – the first for the retellings I’ve read and would recommend to anyone, not just fairytale lovers; and the second for the retellings I want to get to soon (both as part of my challenge and for myself).

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My Top Five Fairytale Retellings:

  1. uprooted-naomi-novikUprooted by Naomi Novik. This is a recent title (I reviewed it here) and definitely my favourite from this week’s list. It’s a very loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast intertwined with some cool Polish folklore but it’s a great fantasy novel in its own right.
  2. Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen. This is more of a legend than fairytale – the story of Robin Hood and his Merry Men (or women!). I reviewed it here if you want a closer look!
  3. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge. Nyx was a really nice change from the swooning heroines of Disney films, so I liked her a lot, naturally! :)
  4. The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle. I can’t seem to stop recommending this book. It’s not a fairytale retelling per se but it’s full of folklore and mystery and has this old vibe going on (my review here).
  5. The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab. Again, it’s not a retelling but definitely a fairytale! It’s the first book I ever read by Schwab and the reason I fell in love with her writing.

Honorable mention goes to Laini Taylor’s novella collection, Lips Touch, which features three really gorgeously written fairytales or fairytale-inspired stories.

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The Top Five Fairytale Retellings I Want to Read Soon:

  1. thorn-intisar-khananiDaughter of the Forest (and other retellings) by Juliet Marillier. By all accounts it’s a wonderful story, albeit a tough one. Marillier has re-written a number of fairytales, apparently, which makes my reluctance to start her books completely irrational.
  2. Thorn by Intisar Khanani. I already have a copy of this one and I need to get around to reading it soon! It was recommended by Becky.
  3. Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge. It’s not a sequel to Cruel Beauty as such but it seems to have a similar vibe.
  4. Beauty by Robin McKinley. Her books are fantasy classics and I want to read them soon!
  5. Wicked Lovely by Marissa Marr. I came across this one a while ago on some other lists and it looks really interesting! Several bloggers I like appear to have enjoyed it, too.

See also: these two posts (1 and 2) by Read at Midnight for more inspiration!

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What are your favourite fairytale retellings? Which ones do you want to read next?

Do you prefer the retelling to stick to the story or veer off into the unknown?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Nerds

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a hugely popular weekly meme hosted by the lovely people of The Broke and the Bookish. Go check out the crazy number of other bloggers joining in the fun! :) I sometimes participate in this wonderful list-making (you know me, I can hardly resist making new lists!) and this week’s topic seems perfect: we’re looking for characters who are our fellow BOOK NERDS! 

  1. uprooted-naomi-novikHermione Granger. Hello, the most obvious choice of the week! Hermione has never met a book she didn’t like or want to read and I definitely admire her bookish habits. She might have bitten off more than she could chew in Prisoner of Azkaban, but otherwise she’s always on top of things (and top of her class) and I firmly believe Harry would have been lost without her.
  2. The Dragon (Sarkan) from Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. He owns a massive library of magical texts and has probably read them all, likes his magic (and clothes and food and everything) just so, and is profoundly annoyed with Agnieszka’s lack of organisation, learning and obedience. <3
  3. Rory Gilmore. OK SO I’M CHEATING but this is my list and I can do whatever I want. I’m currently watching The Gilmore Girls for the first time ever and I’m loving this show despite the fact that I miss about a half of the cultural references. *sigh*
  4. matilda-roald-dahlCelaena Sardothien from Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series. I’m predicting she’ll be one of the most popular choices this week. She reads a LOT, thinks the royal library is the best place she’s ever seen and has witty conversations about books with one charming prince.
  5. Matilda. My second-most-obvious choice this week. Roald Dahl was one of my favourite authors when I was a kid and re-reading his books as an adult has only confirmed that he was an absolutely brilliant writer. My favourite novel is The Witches, though!
  6. Liesl from Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Ah, this book broke my heart. It’s amazingly well written and I loved it though the subject is pretty heavy. It’s also narrated by Death if I remember correctly?
  7. Samwell Tarly from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. He was always stuck in a book and refused to learn swordfighting so his father, ashamed of such a son, packed him off to the Night’s Watch, where he now keeps the company of murderers and rapists. That’s great parenting for you… Ugh.
  8. looking-for-alaska-john-greenAlaska Young from John Green’s Looking for Alaska. She’s got a room full of battered paperbacks that she fully intends to read and Miles, the boy who collects famous last words, falls for her hard.
  9. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Their mutual love of books… did in no way guarantee that their relationship would get off to a good start. In fact, Darcy’s insistence that a woman should be well-educated and well-read to be considered worth noticing gets on Elizabeth’s nerves. But they’re both very fond of books (and walking).
  10. Emma Bovary from Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Oh, another classic. I read this one twice and I liked it a lot despite the fact that Emma isn’t really a likeable character. But then she’s not meant to be. Her love of reading sentimental romances gets her into a world of trouble because she fancies herself to be a heroine in one of them, has an affair (or two) and generally ruins her own life. That’s what boredom will do to a person! Yikes.

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Which lover of books would you add to my list? 

Do you like reading about characters who share your interests (like books) or do you prefer people that are completely different from you?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Tough Travels: Middle Age Heroes

tough travels

It’s Thursday again so I’m participating in the Tough Travels meme which is hosted by Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn. These posts are fun explorations of common tropes in fantasy, (sometimes) inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’s The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. Join me in the search for examples of this week’s topic – and don’t forget to check out other people’s lists, they’re wonderful and my TBR pile grows every week because of them!

This week, we’re combing the Fantasyland looking for MIDDLE AGE HEROES: This hero stuff is usually a young person’s game. Occasionally, a grizzled old veteran can get involved. It is a true rarity for someone to join the good fight for Fantasyland living in that in-between ground.

Well! This should be an interesting batch of lists! :) Look, I like YA, I really do (if you come by Of Dragons and Hearts at all you’ll have seen that I post loads of YA reviews), but sometimes I just want to shake the hero/ine and make them see how naïve/inexperienced their views are. That’s not to say that adults can’t be naïve but at least they’ve seen some action already.

As I was making this list, I noticed the lack of female characters!! What is happening? Why am I only reading about women if they’re young? At least I can’t really think of many older ones, not main characters anyway… I’ll see if I can come up with some…

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  • hobbitHarry Dresden from Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. You’re a wizard, Harry! Oh, no, wait… wrong Harry. Dresden is like a supernatural PI and gets into all sorts of trouble. He also thinks he’s pretty good-looking but I’m not sure I’d fall for his particular brand of greasy-haired charm…
  • Bilbo Baggins from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The HobbitHA! You can’t get more middle-aged than Bilbo in this story (he’s much older in The Lord of the Rings). I also wanted to include Aragorn but though his movie version looks pretty great, he was actually 80 years old (I think?) when we meet him in the story so that’s hardly middle-aged…
  • Kelsier from Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn. I don’t know exactly how old he was but he’s definitely a sort of father figure/mentor to Vin, so I’m counting him.
  • red-seasCaptain Zamira Drakasha from Scott Lynch’s Red Seas Under Red Skies. Ok so she’s not a main character but she’s pretty important and she’s a pirate. Yarr.
  • Logen Ninefingers from Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy. Not my favourite series if we’re discussing characters and their development (of which there is none but I’m really glad I read Abercrombie’s Half a King because it’s great). But Logen used to be a husband and a father and now he’s just a sell-sword roaming around with his band of misfits, looking for the next battle.
  • Ned Stark from George R. R. Martin’s A Game of ThronesI wanted to write “from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire” but I don’t think it’s appropriate, do you? :) Anyway, he was a noble man and deserves to be remembered. RIP.

I also known Fitz from Robin Hobb’s books is middle-aged in the series that follows The Farseer Trilogy but I haven’t read them yet so he just gets a small mention because he’s great.

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Which dignified hero/ine would you add to my list? 

Have you had any more luck coming up with female middle-aged main characters? 

I’d love to hear from you!

Tough Travels: Extreme Climates

tough travels

It’s Thursday again so I’m participating in the Tough Travels meme which is hosted by Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn. These posts are fun explorations of common tropes in fantasy, (sometimes) inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’s The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. Join me in the search for examples of this week’s topic – and don’t forget to check out other people’s lists, they’re wonderful and my TBR pile grows every week because of them!

Well, we’re doing some serious travelling this week, looking for EXTREME CLIMATES: Perhaps the handsome prince lives in a castle surrounded by green countryside and sunny days. The rest of the land is forced to deal with freezing cold, searing heat, and every other extreme climate mother nature can throw at you.

Sadly, this week marks one of the few occasions where I didn’t manage to stuff The Lies of Locke Lamora onto the list!! *wails in despair* Or maybe I just need to re-read the books? Oh, well…

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As usual, I couldn’t resist ordering my list into sections!

Hot (otherwise known as deserts):

  • The Aiel Waste from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Rand goes there and has a wonky experience that possibly involves some hallucinogenic substances (I really don’t remember the details) but the whole place is a huge desert where the Aiel people, who are fierce warriors, spend the majority of their time.
  • Planet Arrakis from Frank Herbert’s Dune. This is my husband’s addition for this week (OK so he helped with the other entries, too, but I read all of the other books, while I haven’t read Dune yet). He tells me it’s a planet that’s a desert but there’s a really rare spice available – and that’s it, he won’t tell me anything else because he says I should read the book. Hmph.

Cold (otherwise known as places where fur is worn on a daily basis):

  • jon-snowThe Wall (and everything beyond it) from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and FireLook, I like the rugged, furry-mountain-man look as much as anyone but does Jon Snow’s fur have to match his hair? *POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD* And while I didn’t read the last book, I watched the TV series and dammit, George, but I’m seriously thinking of quitting your show. What the hell is going on? I do believe 90% of the original POV characters are now dead?
  • This northern region from Joe Abercrombie’s Half a KingAfter Yarvi and some of his fellow shipmates escape the slave galley of Shadikshirram (I think that’s how her name is spelled, I can’t check because I’ve loaned the book to a friend), they have to trek through a winter wasteland.
  • Svalbard from Philip Pullman’s The Northern Lights. That’s where Iorek lives, I think, and Lyra has to go even further North in order to save the snatched children from the horrible fate that awaits them at Bolvangar. Ugh.
  • Narnia during the White Witch’s rule from C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the WardrobeYeah so I guess Mother Nature sometimes steps back and allows others to take over – an evil witch in this case.

Toxic (otherwise known as places where the air is toxic and so on):

  • The Blight from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. OK so I’m including the same series twice but to be fair, it’s about 7 times as long as the others so I think I’m good. I don’t really know if the Blight is a climate as such but it has been slowly eating away at the good lands and weird stuff happens there, so I’m counting it. Poor Lan.
  • mordorMordor from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Ahh, the words that launched a thousand memes. Mordor is so evil and dirty that the air is poisonous, it’s hot, and I don’t think any plants or animals live there – the only creatures that are able to survive it are the orcs, no? But Frodo and Sam venture there anyway and nearly perish in the process.
  • The Arena from Suzanne Collins’s Catching Fire. This is an example of a man-made climate: the organizers of the Hunger Games are nasty, nasty creatures and have created a sort of a rain forest that also has a toxic fog creeping though it for about one hour a day. The rest of the Arena is equally deadly, what with a tsunami and the hot weather and all.

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So, would you travel to any of these places if you had a chance?

And tell me – would the world end in fire or in ice? ;) (Or are you convinced we’re facing a different sort of Armageddon?)

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Tough Travels: People on Boats

tough travelsIt’s Thursday again so I’m participating in the Tough Travels meme which is hosted by Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn. These posts are fun explorations of common tropes in fantasy, (sometimes) inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’s The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. Join me in the search for examples of this week’s topic – and don’t forget to check out other people’s lists, they’re wonderful and my TBR pile grows every week because of them!

This week, we’re looking for PEOPLE ON BOATS: Grab a map of Fantasyland and you are sure to see there is water. Of course not everything important is going to happen on land, right? Sometimes people actually have to get on a boat and hit the water.

I dislike boats. I have a poor sense of balance and they make me feel ill. I’ve never spent enough time on a boat/ship to actually be sick but I get this wobbly feeling that persists for hours after I’ve already stepped onto firm ground. Ugh. But I love reading about pirates anyway!

Well, if this was a romance topic instead of fantasy, I’d have no trouble finding a whole bunch of sexy pirates. *snort* Instead, we have these people getting on boats and getting soaked quite often:

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  1. Red Seas under Red Skies by Scott Lynch. Ok this is getting ridiculous! Is there a single trope/topic that isn’t found in the Gentleman Bastards series? :) Well, most of RSuRS takes place on a pirate ship because Locke and Jean are coerced into being pirates. Without really knowing anything about boats. But these two can bluff their way through any situation! (If they don’t forget the cats, that is.)
  2. Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I’m cheating because the ship in this one is actually flying but let’s say clouds are water so there.
  3. ship-of-magicHalf a King and Half the World by Joe Abercrombie. In the first one, prince Yarvi is sold into slavery and works his butt of as a galley slave under a charming crazy, sadistic captain. In the second, they take a ship and sail up one river and down another in order to secure allies for a war that’s brewing on the Shattered Sea.
  4. The Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb. I only got as far as book 2 (I’m stuck!) but the liveships are amazing – I think it takes three generations of a family to die and put their essence into the ship for the ship to awaken, but when it does, it’s got its own personality, combined with the ancestral memories. Pretty great, right? Yep, until the ship goes crazy and drowns its whole crew! *eep*
  5. harry-potter-goblet-of-fireHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling. The credit for this one goes to my husband who remembered that the Durmstrang students arrive on a ship that rises from the lake – which is really weird and magical because I have no idea how they got to the UK from Romania or wherever that school is located.
  6. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. Lyra spends quite some time on the boats of the river people, the Gyptians, when she’s travelling to save the children who’ve been taken by the evil people trying to separate them from their daemons.
  7. The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula K. Le Guin. I’m really hazy on the details (I should re-read this at some point) but Ged and his friends spend a lot of time floating around the various isles of the Archipelago (it’s really the only way to get from one island to another).

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Do you like boats? Have you ever gone sailing?

Completely off topic: what would your daemon look like? I like to think I’d get a fox (but in reality I’d probably end up with a bunny or something un-ferocious).