hefty tomes + cozy children’s books // the Curious Wren’s winter TBR tower

Whenever I write my seasonal TBR lists I usually have a few books that, to me, are most suited for specific times of the year: The Wind in the Willows for spring, The Phantom of the Opera for autumn, etc. Winter, on the flip-side, is the only season when it’s not so much about specific books (although, I do re-read A Christmas Carol every December) but rather literature that’s quintessentially cozy + hearty. The biting cold + howling winds are perfect for making me want to burrow in a nest of blankets while I indulge in hefty classics, and children’s books that I’ve loved since I was a tiny munchkin. I’ve already re-read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and, even though they’re not written on the list, I’ll also be enjoying Agatha Christie mysteries (when am I not) and Angela Thirkell’s slice-of-life British stories.

winter TBR tower

(optimism and enthusiasm intensifies)

Les Miserables (Victor Hugo). I’ve promised myself I’ll finish Les Mis this year. That sounds like I’m struggling to read it or not enjoying it when I do, but I promise you when I pick the book up it’s amazing. The problem is I haven’t been reading it steadily and every time I tuck it back on my shelf I forget about it. Maybe I’ll have to lug it everywhere with me (never going to happen since it’s a massive doorstopper) or keep it somewhere conspicuous in our house.

The Great Divorce (C.S. Lewis). I’ve never read any of Lewis’ nonfiction books even though I’ve wanted to for years. Nonfiction (particularly the theological sort) intimidates me and makes me feel very smol + as if I possess only a single braincell. BUT I realise discomfort in growth is an important part of the process so I’m being brave this year. My plan is to read TGD in as hygge-like a setting as pos. (think cozy blankets, spiced apple tea, and fairy lights) because if my mind is wrestling with deep books I am absolutely going to be comfy whilst doing so. And after The Great Divorce, I have a whole list of intellectual reading to dive into.

Every time I discuss my plans to read nonfic books, I feel like Emma Woodhouse, “… so that I might not be so uneducated compared to Jane Fairfax.”

Sugar Creek Gang series (Paul Hutchens). ack, these books! I love, love, love them. They’re deeply relatable, humorous, easily devoured in one day, and probably taught me more about friendship + people + life truths growing up than anything else I read. It’s one of those series that’s so close to my heart, and influenced me in so many ways it’s difficult to put into words. I gifted myself a goodish portion of the series after Christmas–thus far I’ve already re-read two books and been bowled over by the happy feels.

Louisiana’s Way Home (Kate Dicamillo). Just thinking about reading another DiCamillo book gives me warm fuzzies. I’ve already heard such high praise for Home from my sisters (also this lovely) and I’m only waiting for the perfect day to make a cup of decadent hot chocolate + crack open my copy (it’s signed by the author. yes, I cried happy tears when it was gifted to me).

The Pickwick Papers (Charles Dickens). Good, old Dickens. I miss his books like missing a dear friend when you’ve gone months without a meet-up. Since I’ve never actually read Pickwick (I can hear Certain Friends of Mine sputtering in disbelief as I type this) I think it’s high time I change that before my badge as a Dickens fan is taken away.

A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens). No explanation required, but let me say that Sydney Carton breaks my heart, and this book is a masterpiece I will cry over for the rest of my life with no regrets.

The Wonderful Garden or The Three C’s (E. Nesbit). E. Nesbit’s books are the epitome of coziness + childhood nostalgia with lovable, heart-warming characters everywhere. I’ve only ever heard the audiobook of Three C’s (which is pure magic) on LibriVox, however, one of my sisters owns a copy which I’m going to stealthily transfer to my bookcase as soon as I have the opportunity.

Anne of Ingleside (L.M. Montgomery). I finally finished re-reading Anne’s House of Dreams in December (hopefully next time reading it will be less arduous) and Ingleside is next up in my read-through of the Anne books. It’s one of my favorites in the series–the children are all darlings–and the shenanigans and humor are wonderful. Montgomery’s books are a gift to this world, lovelies.

The Thief Lord (Cornelia Funke). This is here primarily to please my two younger sisters. They’ve been telling me I need to read it and I keep on forgetting the book exists so on the list it goes to remind me. I like Funke’s writing style and the Inkheart trilogy (Dustfinger! Be still my beating heart) and since Thief Lord is set in winter it seems apropos. also if I don’t read it soon I might never be heard from again, and you’ll know who the culprits are.

The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett): Have I ever mentioned how much I adore this book? It’s another of those childhood books that I’ve read multiple times, heard on audio during car rides, seen various adaptions of, and sat listening breathlessly with my siblings while Mother read it aloud. It’s woven into my soul in a special way that only books that came alive to you in your childhood can be. Technically it’s a book that ought to be read in the springtime, but I miss it. (If you’ve never read or owned Secret Garden before, gift yourself a copy of the edition illustrated by Tasha Tudor. They’re perfection.)

What books are you enjoying right now? Do you have specific reads you re-visit every winter?

mayhem and whimsy // the Curious Wren’s summer TBR tower

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Despite the fact that it’s already mid-July how can this be possible say it isn’t so I’ve finally written down a list of books I’m eager to read over the summer. Some are special favorites, some are brand-new (as in Just Published) and others are books I’ve been intending to finish for weeks now and this is my final nudge of “Annie, stop prevaricating (such a good, stimulating word) and READ THE bOoKs ALREADY.”

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This is one of my traditional summer reads–it has all the essence of childhood nostalgia, dripping glasses of ice-cold lemonade on sultry afternoons, cicadas singing, the low hum of a battered, oscillating fan, sepia-colored tones, and learning how to understand pain & people & hope.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes. I actually pre-ordered it which tells you everything you need to know about my level of excitement for this magical twist on the story of Guy Fawkes. Plus Nadine Brandes has the sweetest heart for her fans + she’s highly relatable so I’m over the moon about being able to support her. It’s a nice thing when one has favorite authors that are actually, y’know, alive and in the same century that felt dark oops.

The Unmapped Sea by Maryrose Wood. It’s the last book I have to re-read before I can pick up the finale of the series (silent flailing). The Incorrigible Children and their brave, kind governess “Lumawoo” are such precious gingersnaps, ohmyheart.

The Long-Lost Home by Maryrose Wood. (see above) I’ve loved this series since the first book caught my eye at the library nine years ago. I’ve counted down the days as each book was released, and I’m high-key emotional at the thought of the series ending. Excuse me whilst I go have a smol moment of weeping.

Joshua L. Chamberlain: The Life in Letters of a Great Leader of the American Civil War by  Thomas A. Desjardin. Chamberlain is one of my favorite historical heroes, to put it mildly. Since I might have the chance this year to visit some of the key locations in the life of this incredible man, I figured a bit more knowledge about him wouldn’t be a bad idea. Really though, the writer-side of me is squealing at the thought of reading someone’s private letters (a thing I’ve never done) and having the opportunity to discover fascinating insights about their character; how they thought, and felt, what their dreams and fears were. It’s like a treasure hunt, but better.

Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery. I’m re-reading the Anne series and I am Stuck. I devoured the first four books & loved them more than ever, but for some reason Anne’s House of Dreams aggravates me every time I pick it up. Even my perennial favorites, Captain Jim and Miss Cornelia, are not enough to entice me to finish the book. It’s terrible.

Mossflower by Brian Jacques. Per my Youngest Sister’s recommendation I’m reading the Redwall books for the first time BUT I’m reading them in chronological order. So far I’ve read Lord Brocktree and Martin the Warrior (this one scarred me forever but I love it). Now I’m in the middle of Mossflower and currently my favorite character is Gonff the King of Mouse Thieves… which probably means he’ll die by the end of the book. Brian Jacques is a cruel, cruel author, lovelies.

Crowning Heaven by Emily Hayse. a) portal fantasy with one of my favorite heroines, b) I had the privilege of beta-reading this when it was still in the refining stage–there’s something special about holding a book in your hands and knowing you helped it become the best version of itself.

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. Anybody acquainted with me knows how much I adore Alice in Wonderland and, therefore, is likely as perplexed as I am that I haven’t read the sequel yet. Bring on the mayhem & whimsy.

Am I being overly optimistic with this list?

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Am I hyped to take it on anyways?

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What’s on YOUR summer TBR list? Let’s chat!

 

 

Blog Tour: Crowning Heaven // feat. the evolution of a character in the words of her author

When my lovely + talented friend Emily Hayse asked for volunteers to help out in a blog tour for her debut YA portal fantasy novel, I jumped at the chance. Ever since I had the privilege to beta-read Crowning Heaven a year or so ago, the heroine Heaven (let’s just appreciate the unique beauty of that name for a moment) has been one of my favorite characters; shining out like a steady, sweet light amongst all the other book-people that have laid claim to my affections over the years.

Today we get to find out how Heaven came into existence and enjoy a glimpse of her journey into the world of Grown Up + Published Books.

Introducing Heaven (as written by Emily Hayse)

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I distinctly remember: I met Heaven on a cold, gray afternoon in December. I stepped into a small, empty establishment called Madelyn’s for a hair cut with my younger sister. She went first, and I sat down to wait.  “You can look at the magazines,” encouraged the stylist. “See if any styles in there strike your fancy.”  I knew what I wanted, but I picked them up anyway.  After a few minutes I realized that Carrie Mulligan, sporting a lovely blonde pixie was in almost every one of them.  I had seen her in a couple things before. A friend had mentally casted her as a character in her book. I thought it was cute and set down the magazines to get my hair cut.  But the vision of a smiling girl with dimples and a blonde pixie followed me around for the rest of the day.

fun fact: Heaven has no middle name, and her mother was originally a morally gray character who deliberately abandoned Heaven on Earth.

I was restless. I had just finished NaNoWriMo, I was working on a historical fiction tome set on a British Ship in the seventeenth century. But there was something, something big, lurking in the back of my mind.

That night it clicked into place in my mind. I never remember the clicks really–the moment where it turns from random floating pieces to a solid project that I can build on is usually a black hole of vagueness. But that night, the small blonde girl in the pixie with the dimples got a story.  And I wrote, swiftly, in a beautiful blue notebook that had been gifted me for Christmas, before I forgot the words as they flew into my head: I write in feverish haste. The world is slipping away. I am greeted by the light of a million unknown stars…farewell, Earth! Farewell! 

I wrote notes frantically on note-cards before church the next morning, after church I started a Pinterest board. When a book takes me, it really takes me. I kept the project secret for a while as I usually do, and slowly Heaven and her world took form.

fun facts: Heaven had a temporary foster brother named Chan, who was adopted from China. She loves books, especially fiction, and she does not like fake cheese.

Heaven is a cellist. She is an ex-foster child. She is a lover of vanilla lattes. From a very young age she’s had to fend for herself, even in the context of foster care, and so she’s quite independent by the time we meet her and she has come to terms with grief and regret. Her music is her refuge and a good deal of her income. I do not consider myself a cellist, but it is agreed on by many musicians I’ve met that if they could start over again, they would become cellists.  Maybe in that way I made her the coolest thing I knew how to make. But it was not a conscious decision. She literally walked into the book with her cello over her shoulder and ordered a vanilla latte and I’ve been trying to keep up ever since.  If you want something fun, most of the songs Heaven plays on her cello are on my Official Crowning Heaven Spotify playlist, so you can look them up as you read the book.

fun fact: Heaven came to love vanilla lattes because her foster father, Mr. DeKlyen would buy her one on the way home from cello lessons if she practiced every day that week.

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It was February when the very first person besides myself met Heaven. I was going to a friend’s concert with my older sister, just the two of us, and she, being a clever sort of girl, could tell that I had been keeping a new project under wraps and had not been sharing it. She always figures it out. We were in a clunky van on a cold day, listening to Homecoming, because though I had heard it and fallen in love in the context of Crowning Heaven, everyone else liked it because it was pretty.  We were listening to it on repeat when she asked. I had the notebook with me, I carried it everywhere. So I read the beginning, and she met Heaven. And she fell in love.  “Emily, this is the book you should publish first, I’m serious.”

It was that simple. The real journey began.

Heaven’s birthday is on June 24th. After writing along (rather slowly at times) for a while, I decided in May that I was going to finish the book on her birthday, which I did. It was a beautiful, long day where I wrote 7K by hand and finished at one in the morning, crying over my manuscript.  To me, Heaven personifies quiet and gentle courage. Not the sort that draws attention to itself, but that tries in its small way to do the right thing when given a choice, and I really wanted to show that and its ramifications on a large scale.  She and many of the other characters are examples to me of what I would hope to do if I was in their situation. And I hope it is a similar inspiration to many others.

The Book:

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Heaven Cassidy has only ever wanted one thing: a family. But when she opens a letter from her long-lost mother, she finds herself running for her life. Swept into a world of proud queens and ancient feuds, Heaven must decide whether her dream is worth taking on the responsibility of two kingdoms, one of which wants to crown her and the other to kill her.

Available on Amazon – Add it on Goodreads

Meet the Author:

As long as she can remember, Emily Hayse has been avidly in love with story, a love that has only grown with time. A fascination with human nature and an ongoing quest for courage, hope, and beauty drive her writing passion.

When she isn’t writing, she can be found working with dogs or horses, studying historical tall ships, or trying a new recipe in the kitchen. Her hobbies include learning Maori and Gaelic, playing the bodhran, and trying to restore a classic car.

And don’t forget to check out an exciting giveaway soon to be announced on her website, www.emilyhayse.com!

In the mood for Gothic! Nostalgic! Whimsical! Magical! Mystery! Cozy Reads! // #AutumnTBRTower

  

Autumn. The nip of chilly air. Trees blushing rosy red. Dead leaves rustling like paper in the wind. The scent of bonfires and ripe, sweet apples. Something about the Fall season always makes my bones tingle with the longing to read, read, read….

— Me from this post last year.

I adore fall. Everything about it. The crisp air that makes you snuggle deeper into your flannel and pull out your wool socks and mitts and cozy things. Brilliant tones of scarlet, gold and orange painted across the landscape by a generous hand. Hayrides and pumpkin pie and cider so hot it feels like it burns your bones, art exhibitions and mission conferences and cute, heeled boots and geese flying off into the horizon.

I could go on for ages, but I shall refrain because a) you might fall asleep over the laptop and that would be all the sads + highly uncomfortable + Not Recommended, or b) we would never get to the truly important part of this post which, obvs, involves BOOKS and LISTS and (you guessed it) BOOKS.

Since after all, what is fall without a delightful, pretty stack of books that you probably won’t even read half of, but just looking at the stack and your list of said stack gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling right down to your toes?

#AutumnTBRTower

(aka. all the excite + hyperventilating because FALL and GLORIOUS BOOKS TO BE HAPPY WITH)

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Jane Eyre — ugh, excited to re-read this, Booklings. So very excited. The atmosphere is perfect for autumn, all deliciously mysterious and creepy and simply overflowing with old English castles and foggy days and dark secrets and brooding masters-of-the-house. Jane is a heroine dear to my heart and her story is beautiful. #allthelove

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Dracula — I blame the Oldest Sister for this. She read Dracula this January and proceeded to rave all over the house about it like a cute, but hyperbolic maniac, and then bought me a copy for Valentine’s Day (we buy books for each other on this holiday. it’s great). Clearly I must read it for the sake of my safety from sisterly terrorizing, at least. she is the most lovable human, tho, really. i promise.  To be strictly honest–always a good thing–I started reading it during our recent holiday trip, but then I decided to wait until fall because for certain books ambiance is key. Actually, I am thoroughly looking forward to digging into it because the instant October arrived I’ve been in the mood for melodramatic, Gothic books and I want to read them allllll. The good ones, obviously.

Also, I have an allegorical vampire high fantasy in the planning stages which means research needs to happen. SO RIDICULOUSLY THRILLED ABOUT THIS STORY/PLOTSY THING. It’s been in percolations for a while + I want to smash all the sparkly vampire cliches to dust and show vampires for the dark, twisted, unlovely creatures they were. Not something to glamorize and swoon over, y’all. *gently nudges soapbox away from Self*

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Rebecca — speaking of Gothic literature, I have heard lots of good things about this from several friends and it sounds just like my cup of tea.

Jane of Lantern Hill — This was on last year’s list too… well, then, apparently I like re-reading favorite books in the fall. Nostalgic, cozy reads are in high demand currently, that’s for sure. I can’t wait to snuggle up with this book and immerse myself in the wonderful world of Jane and Dad and the ice-queen Grandmother, and cats with special names, and food descriptions that make me hungry every time I read them. I love this book so much it hurts.

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The Sherlock Holmes stories — for obvious reasons.

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The James Herriot books — I’ve known about this WWII era Yorkshire veterinarian all my life, we grew up on his books for children, and just recently my entire family fell in love with the BBC TV show (disclaimer: it has a goodish amount of swearing and some inappropriate moments, but other than that it’s wonderful). My Older Sister has read the All Creatures Great and Small series and I decided it’s high time I do too. They sound full of all manner of hilarity and good-old British culture and loveliness, and if they’re anything like the TV show I’ll not regret I picked them up.

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A Time to Die — How! Have! I! Not! Read! This! Yet?!! *crawls away in abject shame*

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Inkspell — I need more Dustfinger and Meggie and Mo and deliciously magical book quotes in my life.

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Scythe — I want this book for three reasons. 1) I love Neal Shusterman’s writing. He knows how to use the little details, how to grab a person’s attention and make them think. 2) have you even read that premise? NEED. BOOK. NOW. and 3) the cover is pretty. so pretty.

I fully intend to pre-order it at some point, but right now… *gestures at tweet*

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What is on your autumn reading list, Wrenlings?

 

epic villains (and the traits we love about them)

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(because we all have to agree that Kylo Ren has a pretty sweet helmet)

It’s no secret among the people who know me that probably about 50% of my favorite characters in books + film would be the villains. And I decided that a post looking into this was long overdue since, after all, I have class (*said in British accent*) and don’t just like any bad guy. I mulled over the villains I do enjoy reading/watching (incidentally I am listening to The Imperial March as I type this) and narrowed it down to the specific traits about a villainous character that makes them leave their mark on my memory.

(so if you want to know how to write bad guys that Annie will enjoy, read on)

Moriarty (BBC Sherlock)

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psychotic genius.

Not going to lie: mental people who are also brilliant terrify me, whether in books or movies or real life. You could argue that Jim Moriarty’s insanity stems directly from his abnormally high IQ level, but no matter what the reason is, this guy should have been put in a straitjacket long ago. But, he is clever and when a bad guy makes me slack-jawed in horrified awe because the twisted brilliance of their plan is nothing like I anticipated…. I love it, humans.

unpredictable.

Granted, Moriarty is predictably nuts, but you never really know how it’s going to break out and if he’s just going to start shouting mid-sentence or instead decide that he’s bored. And when Moriarty is bored, be very afraid.

humor.

He’s horrible, he has no sense of decency, he would force you to commit suicide and smile while you do it, but he still manages to make me laugh out-loud every episode I’ve seen him in. So, either he has some really funny lines or I have a messed-up sense of humor. (tell me I’m not the only one who cracks up laughing whenever Moriarty breaks into the Tower of London. #dramaKing)

creep factor.

If you have a psychotic villain it’s bound to get creepy real fast. Yay for bad guys who are actually frightening.

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Gollum (The Lord of the Rings)

wily, wily worm.

Gollum is a crafty character and all the more so because it’s easy to underestimate him. There’s nothing like being controlled by a magical ring for years to make an already sly creature even more cunning. And it doesn’t help that he does the puppy eyes so well.

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humor.

“Yes, perhaps, yes,” said Gollum. “Sméagol always helps, if they asks – if they asks nicely.”
“Right!’ said Sam. “I does ask. And if that isn’t nice enough, I begs.”

Just the way he puts his sentences together is funny. Then put him and Samwise in the same scene and comedy gold happens.

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 sympathy points.

“And so Gollum found them hours later, when he returned, crawling and creeping down the path out of the gloom ahead. Sam sat propped against the stone, his head dropping sideways and his breathing heavy. In his lap lay Frodo’s head, drowned in sleep; upon his white forehead lay one of Sam’s brown hands, and the other lay softly upon his master’s breast. Peace was in both their faces.
Gollum looked at them. A strange expression passed over his lean hungry face. The gleam faded from his eyes, and they went dim and grey, old and tired. A spasm of pain seemed to twist him, and he turned away, peering back up towards the pass, shaking his head, as if engaged in some interior debate. Then he came back, and slowly putting out a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo’s knee–but almost the touch was a caress. For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, an old starved pitiable thing.” 
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

I cry every time I read this scene. I’ve discussed Gollum’s character many times and at great detail with my various fellow Tolkienites and we all agree that the saddest thing about him is that he had potential to tear himself away from his dark path, but the hold of the ring over him was so strong that every time he considered it something happened to keep him back. He is such a pathetic, pitiable creature and his story breaks my heart.

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Kylo Ren (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

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unpredictable.

A (not-quite-Sith) who throws temper tantrums and wracks havoc on inanimate objects when he’s angry? Yes, please. Uncontrolled bad guys are great because you never can quite predict how they will react (except that it will be explosive) and if you haven’t seen Kylo Ren demolish expensive equipment you’re missing some LOL moments in your life.

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actually does bad things.

When there’s a villain you expect them to actually be, yunno, villainous. So Kylo Ren torturing Poe, killing people instead of just threatening to, and generally being the darker version of his grandfather at that age is satisfying. Even if it does break your heart when he commits some of the deeds he does. *calmly drops Ren off the edge of a cliff*

struggles with the light side.

Talk about intriguing. I love, love this factor of Kylo’s character. The psychology of a Sith is interesting anyways, but when you have one that’s drawn more to the light than they are to the dark, and hence is constantly trying to prove to themselves that they really are as bad as all that…. Excuse me while I do a happy dance over all the fascinating moral quandaries. Which brings me to:

potential for redemption.

You may or may not want him to be redeemed (I’m still torn on that score), but Kylo Ren has serious potential for either an amazing redemption arc or else the possibility of becoming an even darker and terrifying villain. To quote Mirriam Neal:

“Kylo Ren has so much light still left in him that he has to physically cause himself pain in order to keep fighting, because the Dark Side feeds off pain. He is the antagonist, the protagonist, and the battleground of his own story. One thing about true Sith is the fact they are ruthless when harming others to further their own ends. They don’t care if they’re hurting someone else, and this is obviously not Kylo’s case. Kylo isn’t fighting Rey with mere anger or a heartless, stoic demeanor – Kylo is on the verge of breaking down, he’s holding back tears, he is fighting with himself as much as he is with Rey, if not more.

I find it hard to believe that the franchise would present us with such an emotional, sympathetic character if they weren’t planning to give him a redemption arc or, at the very least, giving us an even larger conflict to follow in the coming movies. There’s much about Kylo that we as viewers don’t know and can only theorize about, but they have given us the most emotionally conflicted Sith in cinema history. There is more potential for light and goodness, for redemption, than ever before […]”

Loki (Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World)

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alllll the grey areas.

Conflicted villains are the best villains. That is all.

devilish wit.

Loki’s snark is the best. He is the “god” of mischief after all. And did I mention he’s just a bit clever?

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strong sympathy points.

I don’t even know where to start with this one.

His Dad has serious parenting issues, Loki has serious inferiority issues + family issues + deeply afraid + and this guy needs a therapist like a mosquito needs blood. He’s one of those frustrating characters where you can see exactly where they went wrong and you watch as they make bad decisions (despite your [mildly agitated] shouting at the screen). You root for them to make the right decisions and pull themselves off their dark path—and sometimes they do choose right, which makes it all the more difficult when they choose wrong the next time. His relationship with his adopted brother Thor breaks my heart, and his obvious affection for his mother is sweet and makes me cry without fail. I have strong emotions about this character, in case you couldn’t tell; I think I really must write a Loki analysis article sometime.

it’s not all his fault.

This is where Loki becomes a “sympathetic” villain for me because, despite all his bad choices and wrongdoings, so much of the blame for who he became lies at his father’s doorstep—that does not absolve him of his sins, but it does give us as viewers a connection and level of empathy with him. The need to be loved and valued is an inherent part of humanity, and who hasn’t been disappointed by people they look up to? Loki’s desperate hope + his fear of trusting because he’s been hurt so often gets me in the gut every time.

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potential for redemption.

So. Much. Potential. Don’t let me down here, Loki Laufeyson.

The Master (Doctor Who: series 3 finale, series 4 Christmas special)

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humor.

He is twisted and messed up and ohmystars he’s hilarious. I love it so much when villains have a sense of humor or when they’re given witty lines—half of the reason The Master is funny is because he’s such a nutcase. Parliament execution scene, anyone? *copies his double-thumbs up*

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smart factor.

Manic brilliance is how he rolls and it’s a blast to watch. Not to mention, terrifying. The Master has legitimately scared me on more than one occasion and not a lot of villains do that. When a Timelord goes dark + insane it is not a pretty sight. Take note my Timelordy readers.

it’s not all his fault.

The Master is psychotic-killer genius but (SPOILER ALERT) he was made that way through no fault of his own. His dark path was created for him by some seriously twisted people when he was just a child and a recurring four-beat rhythm was placed in his mind to play on a loop non-stop–is it any wonder he went completely mental? The moments when you see him fight against it, when you see his agony and desperation–they’re gut-wrenching. The Master and the Doctor were best friends as children and it’s heartbreaking whenever they go down memory lane or whenever the Doctor tries to get through to him and help him–basically all the time.

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There’s nothing like a broken friendship that gets repaired slightly (only to be shattered all over again) for taking my emotions through the ringer. The potential for redemption and light is strong in this one. Which is why the last scene with the Master in the Christmas special makes me sad/happy all at once. (You Whovians out there know what I’m talkin’ about.)

Anakin Skywalker (Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith)

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struggles with the light side.

Anakin is equally torn between the light and dark side of the force. He cares deeply for people and he’s always trying to save or protect–it’s his gut reaction when anyone is in trouble: “How can I help them?” At the same time the abilities to protect and the freedom of choice that he believes the Dark Side could give him pull at his attention like a moth to a flame. His struggle against the dark, against doing what he knows is wrong, and what he’s tempted to do, is painful to watch and still hurts me every time I see it.

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actually does bad things.

Once he turns to the Dark Side there’s no denying that Anakin does some horrific stuff. That scene with the Younglings in particular is heart-wrenching. It’s deeply saddening and almost frightening to see the change in him, but as writers don’t you just love it when a villain fulfills his potential and actually is dark? I get chills every time he makes his march–not because it’s epic but because it’s how a villain is supposed to be. They’re supposed to be a threat, they’re supposed to be menacing, they’re supposed to frighten–otherwise what impact does it even make when the hero overthrows them? i will now get off my soapbox. 

potential for redemption.

As a twelve-year old writer Anakin is the first character I was attached to who spiraled onto a downward path. Even though I was 95% sure it was going to happen, I still spent the entirety of Revenge of the Sith rooting for him to pull through, to see where he was going and why it was such a very bad thing. It’s hard to articulate since he meant so much to me (and still does) but Anakin was the character who taught me that feeling empathy for someone does not mean you condone them or excuse them, villains are not two-dimensional, that as a writer I should never make them two-dimensional, and that everyone has a story.

Check out this article for a more in-depth look at Anakin Skywalker. There are much spoilers. Ye be warned.

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Peter Pan (Once Upon A Time)

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“Oh, the cleverness of me!”

Can I just mention that I absolutely love that the writers of OUAT took the potential for darkness in Peter of Peter Pan and ran with it? Peter Pan is devilishly clever and overflowing with sharp wit + manipulation + fake innocent-boy charm. He’s easily one of my favorite villains in the history of ever. And he is dark, people.

humor.

Did I mention the sharp wit and just general sassy one-liners?

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feels-inducing.

I had not expected this element at all, but when you think of a boy-villain and what exactly that means, it’s sad to begin with. Then you find out about his past and, while you detest him even more, it also hurts your heart and makes you wish, wish, wish that he could go back and make everything alright again. If only for the sake of the people he hurt.

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Darth Vader (Star Wars)

Does this even require any commentary at all???

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To sum up: villains with humor + unpredictability + dark deeds + grey areas + cleverness + potential for redemption + sympathy points, or a blend of the above traits, those are the bad guys who stand out. That make a hero work harder, and a reader happy. 

Which is the sort of villain that everyone wants.

Okay, Wrenlings, ‘fess up. Who are your favorite villains? Why do you like them? Or are bad guys just not your cup of dark (very dark) coffee?

mysteries and death and steampunk creatures and British comedy // #JuneJulyReadTower

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I read fifteen books in June and July. Cue happiness!

It’s been harder to fit in the time to devour books ever since I started working my day job back in March. Do any of you Wrenlings have a similar struggle? Listen up, bookworms. I have the perfect solution: read. on. your. lunch. break. I don’t know what I’d do without that precious half hour to eagerly drink in all the doings of good-natured Wodehouse characters and try to guess Whodunits.

(if I didn’t have that half hour I’d probably be smashed to dust by my toppling TBR tower. at least, this way I can keep it from tipping too far. danger is still imminent. protect your young.)

#JuneJulyReadTower

Might have mentioned this before, but I FOUND MY FAVORITE SERIES OF THE YEAR WOOT (why, yes, all-caps are completely necessary for this announcement). The Jackaby books make my heart sing because:

— Doctor Who-esque Sherlock Holmes.

— an amazing guy-girl friendship without a drop of romantic feeling.

— fantastical creatures, witty humor, chill-creeping-over-my-bones scenes, and more awesome that I can’t mention because spoilers.

I read Dreamtreaders. I liked it. I want to own it. I am going to start the Sequel this weekend. (take note, Youngest Sister. be pleased, Youngest Sister).

I honestly don’t know why it took me so long to read Behemoth except for the fact that it’s far too ginormous (in size, not number of pages) to stuff in a bag and read at work during lunch. Now that I’ve finally finished it, I like it more than the first book and also less. Which doesn’t make sense, I am aware. In a nutshell: more things I enjoyed (stronger steampunk vibe, new and fun characters, etc) and more things I didn’t like (the fabricated creatures continue to get on my nerves + a few squeamish moments when it comes to the romance. Barking spiders, they’re basically children still. Hold your horses.)

If you were wondering if it’s possible for me to be even more in love with Wodehouse’s books… yes, yes it is. Indiscretions of Archie is a book I actually had to stop reading at lunches since it made me laugh too hard. Archie’s well-meaning, lovable, irrepressible self is the best. I want to adopt him and take him everywhere with me. On second thought, that might be a bad idea. *carefully places all precious belongings in a seaworthy chest and anchors it in the ocean*

Give me all the Whodunits, please and thank you. Honorable mentions: Towards Zero I read in one day at the beach and the suspense was killing. Also pleasing to my mystery-loving self. The Secret of Chimneys  is aadventurous, fascinating book that i want to read again. Definitely recommended.

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One word: phenomenal. 

I am reserving all my thoughts and excitement and love for this book for another blog post, methinks.

More Whodunits. All delicious. Wodehouse at his best again in The Mating Season. Bertie sneaking into Madeline’s house to retrieve that letter is a scene I will never weary of.

 And last, but not least my favorite Wodehouse read of July: Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit. It has Aunt Dahlia which accounts for half of my affection for it already, but toss in Bertie making hilarious hash of situations, missing necklaces, imminent danger of being knocked out and/or engaged and you have the perfect read for a summer afternoon.

“Love is a delicate plant that needs constant tending and nurturing, and this cannot be done by snorting at the adored object like a gas explosion and calling her friends lice.”

Great Expectations was my most recent Dickens read and, although I didn’t like it as much as his other works, I’m glad I read it–if only for Pip and Herbert’s friendship, sweet Joe, and the eerie atmosphere of Miss Havisham. I learned a goodish amount about writing character arcs and that makes up for all the irritation I felt for Pip during the first half of the book. The ending leaves a warm glow in your bones.

Now I’m in the mood for a delightful re-read of David Copperfield. #alwaysloveDickens

Tell me, Wrenlings: what did you read last month and what books did you fall in love with? What books do I need to make my TBR tower still taller and more dangerous?

10 Fictional People I Would Take On Vacation // link-up with My Lady Bibliophile

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Confession: I am starting this post exactly the same way that Schuyler did. Mimicking the greats and all that. ^_^

Confession 2.0: apparently I haven’t blogged in a month recently? *cringe* Obviously it’s hard to find the time lately (work and editing eats all the hours like a starving mammoth), but another problem is I have so many topics I want to post about that I struggle narrowing down my ideas. Yes, this is a legit issue. But looking on the bright side, it means I’ve not neglected Curious Wren for lack of inspiration, right? ALWAYS BE POSITIVE FOLKS. It’s very Important. So is lemonade + reading books until your head hurts (me on Saturday).

That being said, I’m going to stop internally panicking over the fact that I’ve blogged so little of late (life happens) and instead let’s chat about fictional charries I’d absolutely love to take on a (sadly) imaginary vacation/holiday/roadtrip with me.

(I am linking up with Schuyler of My Lady Bibliophile for this because she is a darling and you should all definitely follow/give her free chocolate chip cookies at the cyberspace cafes.)

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The Cook

Judy Plum (Pat of Silver Bush). She would be such a warm, cozy sort of person to have along on a vacation, and the descriptions in the books of her cookery makes me hungry every time. And she’s overflowing with whimsical Irish charm and many, many tales. She could double as Storyteller too.

The Storyteller

Cress (Winter). Her imagination is wild, and I can see her coming up with all sorts of fascinating stories about everyone and every place we encounter. Plus, she’s a lovable darling and could hack into allllll the things if need be.

The Musician

I rather think Sir Eanrin (Tales of Goldstone Wood) could fit this spot nicely. Hilarious. Quick-witted. Snarky both as a cat and as a human. His skill as a musician knows no bounds and as long as he steers clear of any songs about Lady Gleamdren he would be a welcome addition. (although, even if he did sing about her, I’d want him along. *fangirling*)

The Adventurer

Now technically Dustfinger enjoys being home more than he enjoys trekking about the wild, but I love him dearly so he’s definitely coming with. Every vacation needs a fire-wielder, methinks. ^_^

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It’s also probably cheating to bring two adventurers *coughcough* HOWEVER. Penelope Lumley (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place) is clever and practical but still adorably imaginative, and I’d be seriously thrilled to meet her in person.

The Comedian

Archie (Indiscretions of Archie). Dear, darling, well-meaning, irrepressible Archie. Just throw Bertie Wooster into the mix and you’d have the perfect recipe for hilarious shenanigans.

The Counsellor

Gandalf the Grey. Need I say more? And if he’s off on an adventure involving dragons or rings or dragons and rings, we could always take Jeeves instead. Right ho?

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The Defender

Kurt (Halo: Ghosts of Onyx). Being a Spartan he’s the natural choice for a warrior to protect this odd motley of people. Kurt shall always be my favorite of the characters in Ghosts and with his friendly personality, warm heart, level-headed thinking, and impeccable fighting skills, anyone might want him as a fellow vacationer. And I could see him actually enjoying a holiday which is not per the usual for Spartans. Ever.

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because this GIF is the most epic

The Medical Help

Rita from Unwind. Short of someone breaking their neck, she knows how to deal with injuries, and she could play gorgeous piano music if we ever got tired of Bard Eanrin’s singing. Also, I’d kind of like her for a best friend, just sayin’. *hugs*

The Mechanic

Han Solo. For obvious reasons.

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The Pastor

Well, he’s not technically a Pastor. And he comes from a fantastical world. Oh, and he is a squirrel. Brother Fir happens to be the most lovable and wisest and whimsical squirrel I’ve read about. He could keep Gwin (Dustfinger’s marten) company and teach him the ways of the creatures in the Mistmantle Chronicles.

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So, let me see here. We have an Irish cook, a brilliant hacker, a faerie Bard, a fire-wielder, a governess, two British gentlemen (good eggs, both of them), one of the Istari, a hard-core Spartan, an Unwind girl, a mechanic/hot-shot pilot, and a squirrel.

This. would. be. epic. And possibly a bomb waiting to explode. But definitely amusing and a riot of fun. Ohhh, yes. Anyone care to join me? We have jammy dodgers and iced coffee.

Should you wish to join in Schuyler’s link-up (which I recommend because BOOKS + FUN) click here.

Now then, readers and writers and ice-cream cake makers: how do you think my crew would get along? Who would be clashing every time they saw each other and who would be best friends? Who would suggest robbing a bank just for kicks and who would be raiding the library (besides me)?

And of this odd gang, who would YOU want to hang out with?