Favourite Book Settings

When choosing a new book, the setting of the story is not, by any means, my primary concern. However, with the passing of the years, I’ve come to realise that there are certain locations that tend to appeal to me. Generally speaking, I’m more interested in books that are set in cities than in those taking place in the countryside, for example, and am also keen on fictional locations. There are four book settings, some real and others fictional, that I particularly love.

 

London

London has always been one of my favourite cities, strangely (or not) even before I ever visited. Thus, a book set there is bound to catch my attention. I love reading the descriptions of the city and recognising the names of the streets. I have read plenty of books solely or partially set in London, after all there are no shortage of them.

Saturday by Ian McEwan is not one of my favourite books, but the various mentions of the streets of London stood out to me. It takes place during one day in February 2003. A demonstration against the Iraq war makes the main character, Henry Perowne, muse on personal satisfaction, the meaning of his life and the protest itself. Continue reading

Dragons in Books

Many books in the fantasy genre feature dragons as real animals and not as mythical creatures no one has ever seen. They are serpentine beings that spew fire and have both reptilian and avian traits. Despite sharing these characteristics, the role they play in a specific story vary according to the world created by each author. In some books dragons can speak or have riders, while in others they are subject to scientific studies. I’ve read a few books which include dragons, all having different parts to play.

When we think about the Harry Potter series the first word that comes to mind is wizards. But the books in this beloved series also feature dragons, although they are not one of the major elements of the world created by J.K. Rowling. They were used as an obstacle to be overcome in the first task of the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, for example. Dragons, in the world of the Harry Potter series, are generally considered impossible to either train or domesticate. They are seen as dangerous, since they can kill wizards. Nonetheless, there are people trained to work with them.

Dragons assume a more relevant and totally different role in The Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan. This is a fantasy and adventure series where the protagonist, Lady Trent, recalls how she became a famous and respected dragon naturalist. So far, I’ve only read the first two books – A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents. However, it is obvious from the very beginning that in this series dragons are not portrayed as magical or mythological creatures, but real wild animals that roam free in various parts of the world and are scientifically studied. Continue reading

Orphans as Protagonists

I’ve recently realised that orphans are protagonists in numerous books, thanks to a video on YouTube where Simon from SavidgeReads interviews E. Lockhart. They can be characters who are on their own, forced to look for a place they can call home. But they are also used to showcase either strained or loving relationships with other family members besides parents. When there is really no family member left to take care of them, they are a window to the difficulties faced by children who are institutionalised.

Glancing through my shelves, I found some books whose protagonists are orphans of both parents at the beginning of the story.

 

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter

Probably the most famous literary orphan, Harry Potter lives, at the beginning of The Philosopher’s Stone, with his horrible uncle and aunt unaware that his parents were two famous wizards killed by the evil Lord Voldemort. I’m sure there is no need for me to tell you more about his story. Continue reading

Favourite Animals in Books

I’m not a huge fan of books, and particularly films, which feature animals that can speak. I tend to find it a bit cringeworthy. However, I do think that a loyal animal can be a worthy addition to the plot of a book and enrich characters’ interactions. In no particular order, the following are my favourite animals featured in books I’ve read so far.

 

GhostA Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

Ghost is one of the direwolves discovered by the Stark children after his mother is killed by a stag. He is an albino, having white fur and red eyes. Although he was the smallest of the pack, Jon Snow’s direwolf grows up to be the larger.

 

Mr BonesTimbuktu by Paul Auster

Mr Bones is a dog with a homeless owner who is dying. He is dealing with the fact that he is about to lose his master. Despite having an internal monologue in English, he is not anthropomorphised. Continue reading

Favourite Protagonists

Since the beginning of the year I’ve been revealing some of my favourite characters in books (characters I love to hate, favourite female characters and favourite supporting characters). Today I introduce you to some of my favourite protagonists. These are leading characters who stood out for me among the various I discovered throughout the years and that I keep remembering for several reasons. The books they feature in are not necessarily my favourite books of all time (although some of them may be), as when I like almost all of the characters, it’s difficult for one of them to stand out from the rest.

 

Mrs de Winter – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

The unnamed narrator of the first book I read by Daphne du Maurier is quite an insecure young woman at the beginning, but that didn’t stop me from really liking her as a protagonist. The main reason why is her feelings being quite relatable, taking into consideration the situation she was facing. By the end of the novel I felt like I really knew her and missed hearing about her feelings and worries. Continue reading

On Adaptations: Are the Books Always Better?

Whenever a new film or TV adaptation is announced, it isn’t difficult to find someone saying that the books are always better. That is a statement that I’ve never agreed with. The vast majority of the adaptations that I’ve watched, I enjoyed as much as the books. Some I even liked more than the books. Although it’s true that I believe that some adaptations may not do a book justice, this is far from the rule for me.

I really struggle to claim that a book is better than its adaptation, or vice versa, mainly because I would be comparing two completely different forms of entertainment, which require different ways of storytelling. What works fantastically on page may not work on screen. I tend to compare the enjoyment I had when reading the book or watching the film or TV adaptation instead of saying one is better than the other. The fact that I liked reading about a story more than watching it on screen doesn’t automatically make the adaptation a bad one.

However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t bad adaptations. If the adaptation completely misrepresents the feelings, the tone or the entire plot of the story to the point that it stops making sense, then it is not only a bad adaptation but also a bad film or TV show. I don’t expect all the plot points to be presented on screen in the exactly same way in which they were written. I don’t mind changes on adaptations at all, as long as they make sense in the context of the story being told, or they result in a more compelling story on screen. Continue reading

Favourite Supporting Characters

The most famous or loved characters in books usually are the protagonists. However, a fascinating book wouldn’t be the same without captivating supporting characters. They have a significant role when it comes to add depth to the story and even to the protagonists. Being a supporting character doesn’t mean being secondary to the protagonist or less important. In fact, they usually help us to better understand the main characters.

When I first decided to write about this topic, I thought it would be quite easy to choose my favourite supporting characters. But I was quite wrong for a couple of reasons. First, it isn’t always easy to establish if a character has a main or a supporting role. And second, too many characters sprang to mind. Nevertheless, I managed to select six among the myriad of possibilities.

 

Levin – Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The main story in Anna Karenina centres around Anna and Vronsky, so I consider Levin to be a supporting character. However, I could read an entire book just about him. He’s one of the most enthralling characters in my opinion, because it’s mainly through him that we get to know more about Russian society and politics, and his internal struggle to adjust to having a family (and it not being perfect) is rather thought-provoking.   Continue reading

Characters I Love to Hate

Not all characters in books are supposed to have our approbation and that is a good thing. A book in which all characters make understandable decisions and behave almost like perfect human beings becomes really dull after a while. I love when books feature characters who are unlikeable, but who are also complex, fleshed out and well written. They are not merely evil or plain villains, there is more to them than their despicable actions. They bring complexity to the plot of a book.

These are some of the characters I love to hate:

 

Cersei Lannister – A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

There are quite a few unlikeable characters in the fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. But the one I love to hate the most is Cersei. Although the utmost evil and twisted characters are probably Joffrey and Ramsay, Cersei is the one I would miss the most if she didn’t exist. She is eager for power, using any means possible to achieve what she wants. However, she is not as cunning as she believes herself to be, not considering the consequences of her actions. One redeeming quality could be her love for her children, except I believe that such love comes second after her ambitions. Continue reading

Favourite Female Characters

Tomorrow, the 8th of March, we celebrate the International Women’s Day, not only to honour the women who fought for equal rights and celebrate women’s economic, political and social achievements, but also to highlight the importance of continuing the path to gender parity. Unfortunately, I haven’t read enough books about female rights to give book recommendations focusing on the topic. So, instead I decided to choose my favourite female characters.

The characters I’ve selected as my favourites are not necessarily women that fought for equality of the sexes or that advocated for any kind of change. They are solely characters that stood out to me for their characteristics or actions throughout the books they are part of.

In no special order, these are some of my favourite female characters: Continue reading

Longest Books I Have Read

Longer books can be more intimidating than shorter ones, as they take longer to read and require more commitment. However, once in a while I quite like to immerse myself into a long book for a few weeks. It feels like an alternative life that complements our real one, since the characters are usually more developed and the plot more detailed.

I turned my bookcase upside down to discover which were the longest books I have ever read.

 

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke – 1006 pages

The story of two practical magicians, who restore magic to England during the time of the French Invasions, is quite an entertaining read. The amount of details on magic and the various footnotes transform this novel into an alternative history tale. You can read my full review here. Continue reading