Favorites Friday: Romantic Couples (Biannual Event)

Valentine’s Day is this weekend, and I have a (loose) tradition of posting about favorite fictional romantic couples around this holiday…  I’ve covered a number of favorites in the past (2012 and 2014), but have met some new ones since last time, and noticed one I’m surprised I didn’t have before…

1) Cress and Thorne, The Lunar Chronicles Series – This series is just full of wonderful romances, and I could put Scarlet and Wolf or Winter and Jacin on this list too…but Cress and Thorne are my favorites, each one a little unsure, each trying to become more than what they fear they are.  And they’re just adorable, separately and together.

2) Percy and Annabeth, Heroes of Olympus Series – I met these characters in the Percy Jackson series, but the romance doesn’t come in until Heroes of Olympus…and it’s wonderful.  I love that they are such equals with so much respect for each other; they’re comrades in arms who are also in love, who literally go through Hell (Tartarus) leaning on each other.  In Book Two Percy forgets all of his memories except the name Annabeth; in Book Three there’s a lovely moment when Percy reassures Annabeth by saying, “It’s okay, we’re together” and she reflects on how he knows that’s what will most make her feel better.  It’s just beautiful.

3) Daniel and Sophia/Lucy, My Name Is Memory – This is less about who they are and more about the nature of their story (unusual for me).  A story of reincarnation across 1,500 years, Daniel always remembers and recognizes “Sophia” – but she never knows him, until finally in the 21st century, as Lucy, she begins to pull some glimmers together.  I just love the way they’re connected to each other in different ways in different lifetimes.  So fascinating.

4) Faolan and Eile, The Well of Shades – Two incredible characters with hideous amounts of pain and darkness in their pasts, who help each other heal…so beautiful!  The one and only time Juliet Marillier has left me dissatisfied with an ending was the book preceding this one, because I was sad for Faolan–and this book made it all come out right after all!

5) Beatrice and Benedick, Much Ado About Nothing – I can’t believe these two never made it onto my lists before!  My favorite Shakespearean couple, the sparring Beatrice and Benedick who are clearly obsessed with each other and fall right into love with just a little pushing.  Maybe I love them because they’re such intellectual equals–and for a story written in 1598(ish), that’s remarkable!

Do you have any favorite fictional couples?  And happy Valentine’s Day!

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Book Review: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

I decided to begin my Newbery Medal Challenge with a favorite author and a book I probably should have read years ago: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.  This is one of those books I seem to have seen around for years–the cover feels extremely familiar–and it probably came up in oral book reports in elementary school.  But somehow I never read it, or even knew much about it.

The story turns out to be set in Copenhagen during World War II.  It follows 10-year-old Annemarie Johansen, whose family helps their friends the Rosens, including Annemarie’s best friend Ellen, to escape from Denmark when the occupying German soldiers begin rounding up the Jews.

I think I may have avoided this book because I had a vague idea it was sad.  Maybe I coupled it in my mind with The Diary of Anne Frank?  Well, if it’s not too much of a spoiler to say so, I was glad to find that this has a happier ending than Anne’s story.  Which is not to say there weren’t tense moments along the way!  There are, plenty, and the German soldiers are threatening and imposing, even without resorting to any atrocities Lowry could have included–in fact, there’s almost no violence (it is a kids book) but that doesn’t reduce the sense of danger any. Continue reading

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Favorites Friday: Characters Outside the Spotlight

When I’m looking for bookish topics, I love visiting the archives of The Broke and the Bookish, home of Top Ten Tuesday.  I found this long-ago topic and decided to adopt it: we all love a good protagonist, but how about those minor characters who don’t get much screen–er, page-time, but still steal your heart?  In no particular order, here are ten minor (or at least, supporting) characters I especially love.

1) Horatio from Shakespeare’s Hamlet – He’s not actually in the play much, but I’ve always loved Horatio.  He doesn’t have that many brilliant lines, but two of the most famous lines are said to him (“Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well Horatio” and “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”).  Mostly I love him because he’s just so loyal to Hamlet.  Everyone else goes off the deep end in one way or another, but Horatio stands by him.  And then there’s what might be my favorite line in all of Shakespeare (really), said…not by Horatio, but to him: “If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, absent thee from felicity a while, and in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain to tell my story.”  Which, arguably, indicates that Horatio is really the one telling us the whole play.

2) William Cecil Clayton from Tarzan of the Apes – Clayton isn’t an amazing character–but I feel an outsized degree of fondness for him just because I’m indignant on his behalf.  He got one of the rawest deals in literature, and doesn’t even get remembered that way.  He was supposed to inherit the title of Lord Graystoke and marry the beautiful Jane Porter, until a long-lost cousin comes swinging out of the trees and ruins everything for him.  The real injustice of it is that he often gets set up as a villain (I’m looking at you, Disney!) solely because he was an obstacle for Tarzan–but Clayton was actually a really good guy who had the misfortune to not be a superhero.  And then he dies.  Painfully.  It’s all incredibly unfortunate.

3) Gavroche, Eponine and Enjolras from Les Miserables – So this is really more about the play than the book…but it does hold true through both that I like Valjean immensely, care very little about Marius and Cosette, and just love cheeky Gavroche.  And Eponine and Enjolras are less significant in the book, but wonderful minor characters in the play.

4) Higgins from the Jacky Faber series – Jacky is delightful but I also love Higgins, her great good friend and valet who tries to make her look presentable, loves her in spite of her wildness, and somehow stays a very proper British valet while confessing a secret love for adventure.  He’s also, in a somehow very proper British valet way, very clearly gay, making him one of the few men in the series Jacky doesn’t flirt with (which can be a bit of a relief!)

5) Neal from the Protector of the Small series – Kel’s best friend, Neal is wonderful and I desperately want a companion book to the series about his time as Alanna’s squire.  Desperately.

6) MasterHarper Robinton from the Harper Hall trilogy – This is cheating slightly since McCaffrey did write a book with Robinton as the main character…but he began as a minor character in other books, especially the Harper Hall trilogy, and that’s really when he’s at his best.  So charming, so wonderful.

7) Magpie from An Unexpected Apprentice – This was a frankly forgettable book with characters I couldn’t muster much interest in–except for Magpie.  A prince disguised as a minstrel to spy on an enemy king, who then became close with that king while spying, who has a contentious relationship with his own family and the princess he’s betrothed to, he’s witty and roguish and just the kind of character I want to read more about.  Except we don’t actually get his story, he’s just along to support a far less interesting character.  Lost opportunity on that one.

8) Rose from The Magicians and Mrs. Quent – This requires a little context…the book is basically a mash-up of Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre (with magic!), and in that framework, Rose is drawn from quiet Mary Bennet, the rather forgotten sister.  And that’s why I love Rose.  Because she’s quiet and sweet and valued by her family in a way that I’m not sure Mary ever was.  In this book, the quiet one is also the perceptive and deeply caring one, and it’s a lovely development on the original character.

9) Anwin from Silver Woven in My Hair – A supporting character in this Cinderella story, Anwin the Monk is one of the few people kind to the heroine, and also one of my favorite portrayals of a religious character.

10) Horace the Lancre Blue Cheese from WintersmithI really wanted to think of a Discworld character to include, except most minor characters get to be major characters somewhere…but then I thought of Horace the Cheese.  Lancre Blue always tends to be a bit feisty, but Horace breaks out of the pantry, becomes an honorary member of the Nac Mac Feegles, and hums along when they’re singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” while crossing the Discworld River Styx.  He also cheats wildly during a cheese rolling event in the next book…

11) Meg from The Phantom of the Opera – Bonus #11, because Meg feels so obvious to me that including her seems like cheating, but ignoring her wouldn’t be right either.  She’s so much a minor character in the original novel that she’s virtually a non-entity, she becomes a much more intriguing character in the Webber play, and so I made her the main character of my retelling of the story.  And I’ve convinced my entire writing group that she’s the secret heroine of The Phantom of the Opera!

Do you have any favorite characters who didn’t get the spotlight they deserve?  Or who simply shine best in a supporting role?  I’d love to hear about them!

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Movie Review: Much Ado About Nothing (Joss Whedon version)

much-ado-posterI kicked off my Shakespeare reading/viewing goals this year with Joss Whedon’s production of Much Ado About Nothing.  It’s my favorite Shakespearean comedy, and so the perfect place to start–especially since I’ve been meaning to watch this one pretty much since it came out (in 2012!)

Much Ado tells the story of Beatrice and Benedick, verbal sparring partners who are tricked by their friends into falling in love.  Meanwhile Beatrice’s cousin Hero and Benedick’s friend Claudio have fallen in love and are set to wed, but nasty Don John arranges to disrupt the match with false allegations on Hero.  Because it’s a comedy, we all know it ends with a wedding, despite the un-smooth course of true love along the way.

I actually have a theory about why it took me so long to watch this movie.  Whenever I first heard about it from someone (I forget who), I think the conversation went something like, “Joss Whedon is doing Much Ado, and Nathan Fillion is in it.”  And in the next brief pause between sentences my brain went, Nathan Fillion as Benedick–I want to see that!  Before my friend concluded, “He’s playing Dogberry.”  Who has never been a character I much enjoyed.  And I just couldn’t get the same enthusiasm for the movie after that.

However!  It was a quite good version.  Continue reading

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Top Ten 2015 Movies I Meant To See…

The Broke and the Bookish, home of the Top Ten Tuesday meme, had for their topic recently 2015 books you meant to read but didn’t.  I’m actually pretty on top of book releases (there just aren’t that many new releases I want to keep track of) but movies are a completely different story.  Some time last January, I actually put a bunch of movie release dates into my calendar for the entire year.  And then…yeah.  Well.

I went to the theater three times in 2015: Age of Adaline, Inside Out and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  All of them were excellent, so in that way I made good choices!

I saw on Home on DVD, and watched Jupiter Ascending and Cinderella on a plane…didn’t love any of them, so I guess it’s just as well I didn’t go to the theater for those.  But that leaves quite a few still unknown quantities!  So, top 2015 movies I haven’t seen…

By release date order:

  1. Mortdecai
  2. Tomorrowland
  3. The Walk
  4. Victor Frankenstein
  5. The Martian
  6. The Jungle Book
  7. Suffragette
  8. The Peanuts Movie
  9. Mockingjay 2 (…and 1, actually)
  10. The Good Dinosaur

Looks like I have some DVDs to track down!  Have you seen any of these?  Any I should rush out and watch, or any I’m better off not spending two hours of my life on? :)

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