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

My First Loves from Various Book Genres

‘What is your favourite book genre?’. Here is a question I haven’t got an answer for. Lately, I have been mainly reading books that can be categorised as literary fiction, a term I use despite having various reservations about it (an interesting topic for discussion which I’m not focusing on today). However, I also really like fantasy, dystopian novels and horror, for example. My reading taste is fairly varied in this regard.

When it comes to some genres, I clearly remember which book made me want to read more of the same sort. The books mentioned below are my first loves from a specific genre, although some of them denote influences from various other ones. They may not be my favourite books from that genre anymore, but I liked them enough when I first read them to continue picking up books with some of the same characteristics.

 

Fantasy

Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

To have the third book of the Harry Potter series as my first love in the fantasy category may seem a bit strange. But this was the first book that I read in the series. I was around 13 years old, and it was recommended and lent to me by a friend, who apparently didn’t consider necessary to start the series from the beginning. And to be honest I don’t remember struggling to understand the plot at all. After falling in love with the characters and the world portrayed, I then bought Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone and from there read all the others books in order. Continue reading

Favourite Books Written by Women

Ahead of International Women’s Day, on 8th March, I put together a list of my favourite books written by women. Although I believe that unintentionally I still read more books by men than by women, it wasn’t difficult at all to come up with these five magnificent books by female authors. In fact, I could have mentioned many more books than the ones below, but I wanted to keep the list short.

In no special order, these are some of the books written by women which were a delight to read:

 

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

One of the most captivating books I’ve ever read, Rebecca was my first foray into Daphne du Maurier’s work. It is narrated by an unnamed woman who recalls meeting Maxim de Winter in Monte Carlo. She accepted to marry him, and they went to live at Manderley, his family home. There, the shadow of his deceased first wife, Rebecca, was even more present. Apparently, she had exceled at everything, so the narrator’s doubts and insecurities became overwhelming. The characters are complex, and the prose is utterly atmospheric. 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

Bookish Christmas Gifts Ideas

Christmas is coming, and I thought some of you may be in need of some ideas for bookish gifts to either offer your dear ones or to ask Santa Claus for. Expect not only books, but also other items which are in one way or another connected with them. Some of them I own, while others are on my wish list. Not that I expect many book-related gifts, as nowadays people offer me other things, since they are not sure about which books I already own.

 

Books

A book with a beautiful cover is always a fantastic idea for a Christmas gift. Even if the person already owns that book, it may not be in a particular stunning edition. For Jane Austen lovers, I hugely recommend the Vintage Classics Austen Series. I have Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey in these editions, but you can get all of her main novels wrapped up in gorgeous covers with French flaps.

But if you don’t know anyone who is a Jane Austen fan (which I doubt), you may have a friend who loves Russian classics. The Vintage Classics Russian Series features many books I’m also looking forward to reading and that may appeal to many people. Anna Karenina and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky and The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov are some of the books in this series. 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 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

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

Favourite Children’s Books

There are books that we have only read during our childhood years but that we will always fondly remember throughout our adult lives. Nevertheless, children’s book can also be appealing during adulthood, when we need to return to a world full of fantasy and hopefulness. I took a walk down memory lane and chose some of my favourite children’s books, although I have read some of them for the first time in more recent years.

 

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

This is one of the children’s books that I’ve read as an adult. It tells the story of Peter Pan, a boy from Neverland who doesn’t want to grow up, and Wendy, who assumes the role of the grown-up, despite being also a child. It is a tale full of adventure that focuses on the differences between childhood and adulthood.

 

Tales of Hans Christian Andresen by Hans Christian Andresen

I read some of Hans Christian Andresen’s fairy tales for the first-time last year. I was acquainted with several of the stories thanks to Disney adaptations, but the originals are far darker. I still haven’t overcome the sadness I felt while reading The Little Mermaid. I own the Walker Illustrated Classic edition which features beautiful drawings by Joel Stewart. Continue reading