Top Ten Tuesday: Childhood Characters I Would Love to Revisit as Adults

toptentuesday

Image via The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by the The Broke and the Bookish, is all about checking in with our favorite literary characters from our childhood. It’s great when you’re a kid reading about other kids–often from magical places–but what would those characters’ lives be like when they’re all grown up?

I can only imagine all of the shout-outs to Harry Potter from other book bloggers, but I’ve purposefully left that series off my list. As much as I love Harry and friends, let’s make room for other awesome novels!

Kids Books

  1. Jonas from The Giver by Lois Lowry
  2. The Tuck family from Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  3. The children from The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
  4. Artemis from the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
  5. Bartimaeus from the Bartimaeus series by Jonathan Stroud
  6. Lyra and Will from the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
  7. Addie and Meryl from The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine
  8. Sophie and Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones
  9. The Baudelaires from A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
  10. Harold from Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

The Booker Award and My Top 5 Books of All Time

The real world is overrated, anyway!

One of my favorite blogger friends over at http://wantoncreation.wordpress.com nominated me for yet another award, this time “The Booker Award,” which can be given to any blogger who devotes at least half of their posts to reading.

While I’m never good at fulfilling the chain-letter-esque nominations and keeping the ball rolling, I will finally reveal my top five books of all time! I know a lot of you have been waiting with anticipation!

In order from greatest to oh-my-god-why-are-you-still-on-my-blog-and-not-reading-these-books-right-this-second! A few I reviewed for Masterpiece Monday, so click the links to learn even more!

5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (1847). This novel combines two of my favorite things: Victorian literature and star-crossed romance. Many people despise the lovers Catherine and Heathcliff for their often selfish, cruel behavior towards each other, but I can’t get enough of this tragic tale of true–albeit, angsty–love. Heathcliff is the perfect brooding lead, and Bronte does a fantastic job on character development for the two generations of these families. Not to mention, she includes critical discussion of social and racial issues of the time period. Can you believe Wuthering Heights was the only novel she ever published? Talk about the literary jackpot!

4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005). I first read this novel my freshman year of college, and I’m still a die-hard fan. When the movie adaptation came out a couple years ago, it gained a boost of popularity, and I would literally stop people in the bookstore if they were looking at it and say, “Don’t even think about it. Just buy it.” And if you don’t take my word for it, TIME named it the best book of 2005, and among the top 100 English-language books since 1923. I can’t really tell you anything about it without spoiling the story, but trust me, it’s breathtakingly haunting. Movie also highly recommended!

3. The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954-55). I hesitated in determining where to place this series on my list, because I have a multifaceted opinion of LOTR. I truly believe that it is the greatest story ever created; however, I do not believe that it is the greatest written story ever created. I admit that Tolkien was more of a historian than an author, and I understand that many cannot swallow his dry, textbook-like style. I should also be honest with my fellow book bloggers: I watched “The Fellowship of the Ring” and then read the whole series before the sequels were released. I know, blasphemy! But I think that no matter how you come to this story, it’s worth it, because once a Ringer, always a Ringer!

2. Demian by Hermann Hesse (1919). This is probably the least known novel on my list, and I owe it to my English teacher senior year of high school for introducing me to it. Translated from its original German, it’s a coming-of-age story of Emil Sinclair, who befriends a enigmatic young man named Demian. Demian teaches Emil about philosophy, religion, and finding your true self. It’s a short read, but my absolute favorite to re-read, because I learn something new each time. If you’re looking for something mentally stimulating and completely engrossing, this is it. Total life-changer.

1. His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman (1995-2000). Hands down, favorite series of all time. Many critics label Pullman’s trilogy for children, but this modern adaptation of Milton’s Paradise Lost is anything but childish. I walked into a bookstore one day in middle school, suffering from Harry Potter withdrawals, when the cashier recommended the novels. I bought the Del Rey mass market paperbacks (which were located in the adult fantasy section, by the way), and since then, nothing has influenced my life so profoundly. These novels motivated me to question the status quo and think for myself, so on the off chance that Pullman stumbles upon this post, I want to say thank you. If my writing can affect someone a fraction of what His Dark Materials has done for me, then I can die happy.

I know that I can sound a bit dramatic, but who can’t when discussing their all-time favorite books? Of course, I’ve got decades of reading left to do, so this list may be subject to change. You never know!

I would LOVE to hear your top five books–we have to help each other in making our to-read lists even longer, right? So many books, never enough time!

Happy Mother’s Day!

For Masterpiece Monday, I discussed the most infamous mom: Medea. But you didn’t think that I was done talking, did you?

As I have only five more days until my graduate commencement, I spent today reflecting on how grateful I am for my own mother’s love and support. Whenever I needed to practice a debate speech or read a rough draft of an essay, she was always there to listen. She’s been my inspiration and motivation, encouraging me to chase my dreams as well as keeping me grounded. I’m so glad that I’ve been able to have such a good relationship with her, and I can’t wait to make her proud when I finally get hooded.

As for moms of the literary sort, I’ll share my thoughts on the one I love and the one I love to hate. Of course, give a shout-out to your own mom and to any literary moms out there, good or evil!

Excuse the profanity, but this is hilarious!

Mom I Love: Molly Weasley (Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling)

Come on, this one was obvious! Molly would be the best book mom. She not only had her hands full with seven children, she also helped save the entire world from Lord Voldemort. Sure, she worries about you constantly and knits you hideous-looking sweaters for Christmas, but she’s fiercely loyal to her loved ones. She adopted Harry like one of her own and was devoted to all her kids’ best interests. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that one of the most anticipated scenes in “Deathly Hallows: Part Two” was when Molly killed Bellatrix in revenge with her beloved line, “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!” Now, that’s a mom you do not mess with!

Let’s just forget that this movie ever happened, ok?

Mom I Love to Hate: Marisa Coulter (His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman)

Unlike her film portrayal, Mrs. Coulter actually had long, sleek, black hair, but her ice-cold personality was something not easily rivaled. First off, protagonist Lyra didn’t even know Mrs. Coulter was her mother, as she was brought up as an orphan at Oxford University. Marisa and her lover (Lyra’s actual father) Lord Asriel are so obsessed with power that they continually lie and kill to get ahead. At one point, convinced that her daughter was a modern-day Eve, she planned to murder Lyra to prevent another “Fall.” And, of course, let’s not forget her wicked golden monkey daemon!

However, Mrs. Coulter is an intriguing, multidimensional character with redeeming qualities. She saves Lyra from danger multiple times, and seems to experience maternal love every now and then. You don’t trust her as far as you could throw her, but her final action in the trilogy (which I won’t spoil) forces you to rethink your perception of her.

I highly recommend both fantasy series, if you haven’t already read them. Let me know what you think of these bad-ass moms, and be sure to come back tomorrow for the next Masterpiece Monday!!!

Do Novelists’ Personal Beliefs Affect Your Opinion of Their Work?

Orson Scott Card at Life, the Universe, & Ever...

Orson Scott Card (Image via Wikipedia)

So I’m about 50 pages into my 20th book of the year, Ender’s Game, and coincidentally I ran across this column on the Huffington Post about the author Orson Scott Card. Since I’ve never read Card’s books, I had no idea that he was a Mormon who was staunchly against same-sex marriage. Given what I knew about Ender’s Game, that it was a sci-fi story about a boy genius soldier, I didn’t think Card’s religious views would play much of a role.

And yet, in Chapter Three, Graff tells Ender that his mother was a Mormon and his father was a Catholic. Because of their upbringing, they love their third son even though most families are permitted to only have two children. But they also hate Ender, because he is an everyday reminder that their family does not fit into this society.

I admit that after reading the HuffPo column, I am more aware of traces of religious bias than I would be if I hadn’t read it at all. For example, when bully Bernard is ridiculed for supposedly watching the other boys’ butts, I wondered if this scene promoted homophobia by declaring that being attracted to the backsides of the same sex is somehow wrong and worthy of mockery.

Am I reading too much into this? I just started the novel, so those who have finished it probably have a better idea of its themes. But at least this article got me thinking: Do I like or dislike certain books, just because I like or dislike the author’s personal beliefs?

The answer for me is sometimes. I love pre-modern literature, which is mostly written by racist, sexist, homophobic men. But I just chock it up to the time period and take their words with a grain of salt. And because I can’t go back in time and get to know them personally, how am I to be sure that people like Joseph Conrad or Mark Twain were racists? Anyone who has taken any literature courses knows that autobiography definitely plays a role in a person’s writing, but that you cannot assume that every word of theirs is autobiographical.

On the other hand, I can either love or hate a story whether or not I like that writer’s opinions. My favorite novel is The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, who is a devout atheist. You cannot ignore his anti-religious messages in the story, which is exactly why I adore it. His modern adaptation of Milton’s Paradise Lost demonstrates that churches are corrupt and that there is absolutely nothing sinful about experiencing puberty and sexual awakening, despite what the clergy brainwashes children into thinking.

And because I’m secular myself, I am extremely wary of books with religious messages. I enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia as a child, but I agree with Pullman that the books send the wrong messages to kids. I refuse to read explicitly Christian literature now, even if it’s disguised as fantasy.

This is why I have a hard time swallowing The Twilight Saga. As a hopeless romantic, I gobbled up this forbidden vampire/werewolf love triangle. But anyone who claims that Stephenie Meyer’s Mormonism doesn’t affect the story is sorely mistaken. If I had a young daughter, I don’t think I would want her reading a story in which the female protagonist marries at 18 to have sex with her overly controlling, jealous boyfriend. Not to mention, Bella gets pregnant after said sex and refuses to terminate the pregnancy even though the vampire-hybrid fetus is killing her from the inside out.

Feel free to agree to disagree, but Meyer’s anti-choice, anti-premarital sex viewpoints, as well as Twilight’s inherent misogyny, do not an excellent novel make in my humble opinion. And I realize that Pullman’s atheistic epic turns a lot of people off as well. I guess the point of this post is that we should be grateful that we possess the freedoms of speech and press, because even if we disagree with an author’s values, that author has every right to include those values in their novels. And nobody’s forcing you to read books you don’t agree with.

So what about you? Do novelists’ personal beliefs matter to you? Are there certain books you can’t stand or just can’t get enough of on the basis of values alone? Let’s get a debate going, guys!

30-Day Book Challenge Update

Cover of "Kittens in the Kitchen (Animal ...

Cover via Amazon

Well, today is a day of celebration, because I finally reached 1,000 views!!! I’ve only been blogging for nine weeks, so I’m pretty proud of this little accomplishment. I love sharing my thoughts and reviews, as well as hearing from others. So before I jump into this long list, I just want to say thanks so much for reading!!!

Okay, back to the book challenge:

Day 9: Book that makes you sick = Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (Unplanned vampire pregnancy, pedophilia, don’t even get me started!)

Day 10: Book that changed your life = His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman

Day 11: Book from your favorite author = Sally Lockhart series by Philip Pullman

Day 12: Book that is most like your life = *Not applicable*

Day 13: Book whose main character is most like you = Mia from The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

Day 14: Book whose main character you want to marry = Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Day 15: First “chapter book” you can remember reading as a child = Kittens in the Kitchen (Animal Ark #1) by Ben M. Baglio

Day 16: Longest book you’ve read = Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (870 pages)

Day 17: Shortest book you’ve read = Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (77 pages)

Day 18: Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like = Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (NOT Breaking Dawn, see Day 9)

Day 19: Book that turned you on = Any book from the Nerd series by Vicki Lewis Thompson

Day 20: Book you’ve read the most number of times = The Epic of Gilgamesh (at least 3 times in college)
         Feel free to fill in the list yourself or ask more about my own entries! And thanks again for reading!!!

30-Day Book Challenge (Condensed to fit my life)

Cover of "WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS"

Spoiler: The dogs died, and I cried...a lot. (Image via Amazon)

I’ve been racking my brain about what to blog…I already feel guilty about not blogging as frequently as I did during the summer–alas! the demands of grad school!–but since I’m not done with Madame Bovary yet (about 150 pages to go!), I thought I’d borrow a list from my book club friend Bridget at http://bridgetsbooks.wordpress.com/.

It’s a 30-Day Book Challenge to discuss the books in your life. I’m not as dedicated as Bridget to do one day per day, but why not check in with the list every now and then? Since it’s Sept. 8, I’ll do the first 8 days:

Day 1: Favorite book = His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman

Day 2: Least favorite book = Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Day 3: Book that makes you laugh out loud = Bartimaeus: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

Day 4: Book that makes you cry = Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Day 5: Book you wish you could live in = The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

Day 6: Favorite young adult book = Any book written by Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries series

Day 7: Book that you can quote/recite = Hamlet by William Shakespeare (and LOTR of course!)

Day 8: Book that scares you = Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan

I won’t go into more detail, unless you’d like to know the reasons behind a certain choice of mine! (But I’m sure I’ll discuss these books frequently on this blog). I’d love you all to comment with your own entries, and I’ll be sure to finish the list when I can!

Movie Alert! Bradley Cooper Playing Lucifer in “Paradise Lost”

Gustave Doré, Depiction of Satan, the antagoni...

Image via Wikipedia

The rumors around a new adaptation of John Milton’s 17th century epic have been confirmed this summer: Bradley Cooper, star of such films as “The Hangover” and “Limitless,” has been cast as Lucifer, otherwise known as Satan or the Devil (in case you live under a rock with internet access). His adversary, the archangel Michael, will played by Benjamin Walker from the upcoming movie “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”

And in case said rock you live under does not have Paradise Lost, here’s the synopsis: the 12 book poem follows the fall of Lucifer as God’s angel, and his retaliation in tempting Adam and Eve, thereby getting them exiled from Eden. A pretty basic Genesis story, except in this version Lucifer is portrayed as a sort of anti-hero–in fact, in some parts, you either feel sorry for the poor guy or cheer him on.

Milton had the epic transcribed, given that he was completely blind at the time. He also infused many themes from the world around him, including his thoughts on marriage and experiences during the English Civil War. The result is a magnificent, multi-faceted piece of literature among other epics, such as Homer’s Iliad, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Dante’s Inferno. It has even inspired modern tales like Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.

I’m intrigued of this silver screen version, but I’m also anxious. It could be a masterpiece or a train wreck. Depending on how the director Alex Proyas (most known for “I, Robot”) interprets the text, Christians around the world could feel proud or offended by it. I only ask that it not be turned into some cheap, “Clash of the Titans” action flick of the bible.

By the way, did you know Bradley Cooper speaks fluent French? I know it wouldn’t make any sense, but could you imagine him saying “‘Tis better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven” in the language, which he demonstrates exquisitely in this video…

Mmmm…sinning never sounded so good!