Ten fictional characters I would like to meet

Terry Pratchett booksAs a kind of follow up to last week’s list of ten fictional places I wish I could go, I thought it would be fun to also list some of the fictional characters I would love to meet. Notice that I didn’t say top ten! That would be an impossible challenge. Also, this list is in no order other than the order that they came into my head.

  1. Death from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.
    Actually, there are many Discworld characters I would like to meet, but Death is definitely right up at the top! I would like to go to his realm (a place that I sadly didn’t have room for on the other list), pat Binkie then sit down and have a long conversation with Death himself. Hopefully he would also bring Death of Rats with him.
  2. Raistlin and Caramon Majere from the Dragonlance series
    Okay, I’m cheating a little here, but the twins really are two halves of a whole and to understand either of them you would have to meet both. And I still believe deep in my heart that Raistlin was never really evil. He just had to go to the darkside for the sake of balance.
  3. Aslan from the Narnia series
    Well, obviously I would like to meet all the talking animals, but Asland tops the list! I would bury my hands in his fur and give him a massive hug. And maybe I would even be lucky enough to get to ride him.
  4. Lucy from the Narnia series
    Sticking with a theme for the moment, of all the children who featured in the Narnia series, Lucy was always my favourite. Despite being the youngest, she was always brave and she was open-minded from the start (unlike her brothers and sister who didn’t believe her at first!)
  5. Katy from What Katy Did
    I think I would like to meet her before she had her accident and became so sickingly good 😉 But seriously, throughout the entire book (and the two follow ups) she always means well, even before she learns to control her temper. I would like to sit and plan a Christmas celebration with her and help her write poems for all the members of the family.
  6. The BFG from the book of the same name
    He would take me dream catching and we would drink Frobscottle together, then go whizzpopping around. I don’t think I would like to try Snozzcumer though. Bleurgh!
  7. Marina from So Much To Tell You by John Marsden
    I would just want to hug her and tell her everything is going to be okay, except I know she wold hate that, so I would be like Cathy and just be kind to her in subtle ways while trying not to scare her away.
  8. Ellie from the Tomorrow series by John Marsden
    Actually, I want to meet all of ellie’s group of friends, but as the narrator Ellie is the one I feel like I know best. I want to tell her how absolutely amazing she is – and also maybe learn some survival skills from her.
  9. Sherlock Holmes
    I want him to do his deduction thing on me! I wonder what he would come up with? Then, once he had told me everything I never knew about myself, we would settle down and he would tell me about some of his cases that Watson never got round to writing up.
  10. Paddington Bear
    He’s my favourite fictional bear – I love him even more than Winnie the Pooh! We would get up to all sorts of mischief together and I would provide him with all the marmelade sandwiches he wanted.

And, of course, a million and one other characters who I didn’t have room for. I didn’t even manage to include any from films, TV series or or anything! So I feel compelled to give honorary mention shout-outs to Cecil Gershwin Palmer from Welcome to Night Vale (could we maybe transport him here so I don’t end up being killed off along with the interns in Night Vale?) doctors Mark Greene and Abbey Lockheart from E.R. and The Metatron from Dogma.

Which fictional characters would you like to meet? Let me know in the comments, or write your own blog post!

Top ten fictional places I would like to visit

Recently Metal and the Geek posted her top 5 fictional cities she would like to visit. Later I mentioned it to Jan and we had a fun conversation about the places we would like to visit (we changed it from cities because that was just too limiting!). And now I want to share my top ten list with my blog readers. I had to expand it from top 5 because I just couldn’t narrow it down!

10. The Inn of the Last Home from the Dragonlance Chronicles.

It’s an inn in a tree, how could anyone not want to visit! Also, I want to try the spiced potatoes. And hopefully meat some of the heroes of the lance, stopped by for a visit to chat about old times (obviously I would time my visit so there wasn’t a war going on!)

9. Many of the lands at the top of the Faraway Tree

Not the nasty ones though – I’d prefer to stay away from Dame Slap! The land of Birthdays would be nice. And of course I would like to meet all the characters on the way up – Moonface and the Saucepan Mana and Silky the Elf with her pop biscuits.

8. Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory

I seem to be all about the children’s books, don’t I? That’s because those were the first ones that influenced me and got me imagining all these things in the first place. But who wouldn’t want to visit Willy Wonka’s factory, try all the goodies on offer (only with permission, of course!) and see the square sweets that look round?

7. Lancre on the Discworld

Partly because, in my imagination, it’s all gorgeous and green and hilly, but mostly because I want to meet the witches.

6. Rivendell

I love waterfalls, and what could be more magical than the waterfalls in J.R.R Tolkien’s Elven city?

5. Staying with a theme… The Shire

The scenery! The hobbit holes! I bet it’s even more beautiful than Switzerland. And of course I would have to pay a visit to Hobbiton and check out Frodo’s home for myself.

4. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Not to be confused with the Bar at the End of the World; that’s in Paris 😉 The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, or Milliways to give it its proper name, is a five-star restaurant located at the end of time and matter… but then you knew that, didn’t you? I would love to meet all the patrons, view the extravagent decor and see (but not necessarily consume) talking food.

3. La Céleste Praline

That’s the chocolate shop from Chocolat by Joanne Harris. Because Vianne would know exactly what my favourite is and if I was lucky I might even get to sample her yummy hot chocolate. Plus, I want to see Pantoufle (and yes, of course I would be able to!)

2. The Unseen University library

Well, the rest of the university too, of course, but my first stop would definitely be the library. So. Many. Books! I would never get tired of browsing its shelves. And then there’s the librarian to make friends with. All you need is a bunch of bananas and to make sure you never call him a monkey!

1. Narnia

I may have told this story on my blog before, but as a child I honestly believed Narnia was a real place. I spent hours trying to devise ways of getting there! If I was offered the chance to go to just one fictional place I wouldn’t even have to think about it – Narnia wins every time!

So, there you go. I also want to add that Night Vale almost made the list, but then I decided I probably wouödn’t survive two seconds there without breaking a law and being taken away by a vague yet menacing government agency, or accidently getting too close to the dog park and looking at a hooded figure. Nope… I think I’ll stick to listening to Cecil’s voice from a safe distance 😉

Which fictional places would you visit if you had the chance? Join in in the comments or write your own post – I know there are many more amazing places, but my post had to end some time!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I finished reading this book the other day and I loved it so, so, so much that I couldn’t be content with just writing a review on Good Reads… my blog needs one too!

The plot:
Essentially, this is a book about a circus – Le Cirque des Reves (which means “Circus of Dreams”). Except… it’s not really a circus. Not that kind of circus anyway. There are tents and some of them even have acrobats in them, but that’s as far as the similarities with a normal circus go. Plus, this circus is only open at night, closing its gates again at dawn. And anyway, the story isn’t really about the circus. Actually, it’s about two magicians competing against each other in a kind of game (that’s actually more of a… test? Battle of wits? Experiment?). Oh, I give up… summarising the plot is just too difficult!

My review:
In case you hadn’t gathered yet, I loved this book! It started off fairly slowly and I was torn between finding it interesting and being a bit put off by the pages and pages of description but not a lot of actual action. But gradually it sucked me in, until I got to the stage where I wished my commute to work was longer so I wouldn’t have to stop reading. I am aware that a lot of people won’t like The Night Circus – it’s like the Marmite of books, I think. Either you love it or you hate. Looking back, there isn’t really much of a plot and takes ages to figure out what’s actually going on (both for the reader and the magicians themselves!), but somehow, despite these failings, I fell in love with the characters and – more importantly – with the circus itslef. I desperately want there to be a real Cirque des Reves so I can go and visit it over and over again. I had to give it five stars on Good Reads because that’s all I’m allowed, but I want to give it a million stars.

2014 Winter Reading Challenge – month 2

I’m a day late with my check-in post because I’ve only just got back from Zurich. Another month of the winter reading challenge is over and I still haven’t completed it… mainly because I was waiting for my final book to arrive. I found it in my mailbox when I arrived home today though, so I’ll be done soon. On the meantime, here are the categories I managed to complete this month.

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that fits the general rules.
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley – This is the sixth book in the Flavia de Luce series and so far I’ve loved them all. In some ways, this book felt like a filler, or a kind of bridge between past events and what’s to come. There seemed to be less happening than in previous books in the series. But I love Flavia so I gave it five stars anyway. My full review is here.

15 points: Read a book that was originally written in a language that is not your native language.
Die Nacht des Zorns by Fred Vargas (original French title: L’armée furieuse) – My boss gave me this book for my birthday in August so it was about time I read it! It’s a crime novel, but the quirky characters make it different to your usual crime/thriller. I guessed the twist before I got to the end, but I still enjoyed the story and will probably pick up another book in the series at some point. I gave this one four stars out of five. You can read my full review here.

15 points: Read a book written by a local author (either an author from your state if you live in the United States, or from your country if you live somewhere else).
Liebesfluch by Beatrix Gurian – I tried to read a book by a Karlsruhe author for this one, but when it turned out the one I had chosen only had 190 pages and I failed to find another one that interested me, I had to widen my search to all of Germany. Beatrix Gurian is the pen name of Beatrix Mannel, who was born in Darmstadt and now lives in Munich. Liebesfluch is a young-adult thriller novel. Sixteen-year-old Blue is overjoyed when she gets job as an Au pair in Germany. Okay, the Odenwald isn’t as exciting as her home city Las Vegas, but the twins are adorable and she’s excited to explore the village her grandmother came from. When she makes friends with Ju and Felix life seems perfect. But appearances can be deceiving and soon not only Blue but the twins lives are at risk…
This was another book that I really enjoyed. Each chapter started with an extract from a letter… but it wasn’t clear until the very end who the letter was from – or indeed to. Every time I thought I knew what was going on, the author managed to lead me in the wrong direction, but in the end everything did make sense. I also liked that the book was written mostly from the Au pair’s perspective – as a foreigner in Germany it was interesting to see things through similar eyes (although Blue is obviously much younger than me and I’ve never been an Au pair). Some parts were slightly less believable than others but overall the author did a good job. 4 stars.

That makes 35 points for this month. Added to last month’s 140, that gives me a total of 175 so far with one more category to go: “read a book from a genre you don’t usually read”, which is worth 25 points.

The Mysterious Woods of Whistleroot by Christopher Pennell

Another book review for the Summer 2014 Reading Challenge with Megan from Semi-Charmed Kinda Life. I read this one for the category “Read a book from the children’s section of a library or bookstore”, which is worth 10 points. Depending on the source, the age range is given as 8-10 or 9-12. Either way, it fits into the category.

book4The plot:
Eleven-year-old Carly Bitter Bean is an orphan. Since birth, she has only ever been able to sleep during the day. No matter how hard she tries, once the sun sets she just cannot sleep. Understandably, this has led to having a rather lonely life – it’s difficult to make friends when you’re only awake when everyone else is sleeping. All that changes when she meets Lewis, a talking rat who appears at her window one night asking her to join his band, and is then befriended by a mysterious boy at school, Green. Together, they set out to find out why the owls – who had previously enjoyed listening to the rats’ music – have suddenly started killing them instead…

My review:
I wish this book had been around when I was a child! I would have devoured it right around the time I was in my Faraway Tree/Wishing Chair/Narnia phase. But that’s not to say I couldn’t enjoy it as an adult. I really liked how the characters were drawn, and that the aspects that weren’t obviously fantasy (like talking rats) were realistic. In so many children’s fantasy books, the protagonists don’t seem to have any connection to real-life activities, or they manage to miss school for days on end and nobody even asks why. I liked that Carly still had to go to school (where she was constantly in trouble for falling asleep and also teased by her classmates for being “weird”. Not that I’m advocating bullying, but a girl who was constantly falling asleep in school and never came out to play (because after school she had to use the remaining daylight hours to sleep) would be teased). Also, when Green missed a few days of school, he returned with a note for the teacher explaining his absence… just like in real life! I also like the fact that, although Carly’s aunt (who she lives with) wasn’t a particularly likeable character, she wasn’t portrayed as some charicature of wicked with no redeeming qualities. Yes, she neglected Carly and made no effort to stay awake with her, but she did leave food out and make sure she went to school. The plotline was interesting, fun and adventurous. It wasn’t exactly a challenging story, but that’s hardly surprising considering the age range it’s actually meant for! Many adults would probably find it a bit childish, but personally I would see that as a good thing in a children’s book! I would recommend this one for fans of The Faraway Tree series, Narnia and any other stories that involve talking animals or fairytale folk come to life.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!
Photo: Wikipedia

Today is Halloween, the day of hosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night! One of my favourite things to do on Halloween (or actually on any given dark night) as a child was to tell scary stories, so, this Halloween, I thought I would share my favoruite childhood scary story with you…

Heavy Breathing

It was Friday night and Jessie was babysitting for her a family down the street neighbour. The baby hadn’t stirred all night and she’d been watching TV, but now she was starting to get bored. She was considering going to make a Midnight snack when the phone rang. Thinking it was probably the neighbours checking up on her, she answered.

“Hello?”. The person on the other end didn’t reply. All Jessie heard was heavy breathing. She decided it must be her brother trying to scare her and slammed down the phone. A few minutes later, the phone range again.
“Hello?”
*Heavy breathing*
“Gary, I know that’s you!”
*Heavy breathing*
“Stop it, you’re scaring me now!”
*Heavy breathing*

No longer so sure it was her brother, Jessie hung up and called the operator (people still did that in those days).
“Hi, I’m sitting for my neighbour’s baby and somebody keeps phoning me but not saying anything. Could you trace the call please?”
“Of course, just give me the phone number and we’ll get back to you as soon as we know more.”

Feeling better now that something was being done, Jessie hung up and headed to the kitchen to finally get her snack. Just as she’d finished making a sandwich, the phone range again. Oh good, the operator! she thought and hurried to answer the phone. More heavy breathing. This time, Jessie hung up straight away. Immediately, the phone rang again. Fearfully, Jessie answered
“Huh.. hello?”.
“Hello, this is the operator. We’ve managed to trace the call. You need to get out of the house now. Forget about the baby! The heavy breathing is coming from the phone upstairs!”

* * *

Versions of this story have been doing the rounds for decades – it even has a Wikipedia page! I was about eleven years old when I first heard it and was actually babysitting at the time, together with the friend who told me the story. Just after she’d finished telling it, the phone rang and we both jumped a mile! It turned out to be my mother, checking up on us…

Happy Halloween! What’s your favourite scary story?

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

Very little has been going on in my life recently – certainly nothing that would be worth blogging about – and I think posting about German towns two days in a row may be overkill (plus looking for and uploading the photos takes so long. I can’t be bothered with that again already! ;-))
However, when I am in the mood for blogging I won’t let a little thing like my lack of a life stop me. Here’s a review of a book that I read at the end of 2012.

English: Open book icon
Open book icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

From the back cover: There is a fire and they are in there. They are in there…

Black smoke stains a summer blue sky. A school is on fire. And one mother, Grace, sees the smoke and rush. She knows her teenage daughter Jenny is inside. She runs into the burning building to rescue her.

Afterwards Grace must find the identity of the arsonist and protect her children from the person who’s still intent on destroying them. Afterwards, she must fight the limits of her physical strength and discover the limitlessness of love.

I bought this book after having read and enjoyed Sister by the same author last year. Amazon recommended it to me, the description sounded interesting, and so I thought “why not?”.

First of all, I feel I should warn you that the majority of the book is written from the perspective of someone who is in a coma and having some kind of out-of-body experience. You find this out on the very first page of the book, so it’s not too much of a spoiler (I hope). I think it’s something you should know, though, before reading the book. If you’re not the kind of person who can suspend your belief and accept that someone who  isn’t even awake can still experience what is going on then this is not the book for you. Personally, I quite liked this aspect. It makes the book more than just another thriller (not that I have anything against conventional thrillers – I like them! But a bit of originality never goes amiss).

The style of writing takes a while to get used to. The story is told in the present tense and the second person with the narrator (Grace) talking to her husband, Mike, who cannot actually hear her, which seems a bit odd. It didn’t take me long to become accustomed to it (and work out who “you” and “I” were) though and after that I really enjoyed the book. I can imagine people might get irritated at Grace – surely no mother is as perfect as she makes her self out to be? And she doesn’t actually seem to know any of the people in her life that well. To me, though, her flaws just made her seem real, and throughout the books she does realise that she has been judgemental in the past and accknowledges that maybe what she sees isn’t always what’s actually happening.

The book is, for the most part, a mystery/thriller and the main question – as stated on the back of the book – is who started the fire at the school? Quite early on it becomes clear that the fire was deliberate, and the police are called in to find out who it was that wanted to harm Grace’s family. This aspect is handled very well, in my opinion. There are many twists and turns and while I had many theories as to who done it, in the end none of them were correct! I was quite surprised when the culprit was revealed.

The start of the book is quite slow – it takes quite a while before the police discover anything really significant – but it managed to keep me interested enough to keep reading anyway. And once the action does start it just keeps on coming! I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite book of all time, but it kept me engrossed all the way to the end and I was quite disappointed when it finished. I would recommend it.

And in case you don’t think this one’s for you, here are some other book reviews I’ve written in the past. Maybe you’ll find something to read there:

Mary Poppins
Mary Poppins (Photo credit: Jeni Rodger)

Three book recommendations

A review of Delusions of Grandma by Carrie Fisher

A review of The Door in the Lack by Nancy Butts

Some of my favourite children’s books