5 Favorite Fictional Mothers

Mother’s Day was just recently, here in the United States. This holiday always leaves me feeling grateful for my awesome mother and all the things she’s taught me. She, like me, is a lover of literature and an English teacher. I can definitely credit her with my love of reading and the reason why there’s always a stack of books on my bedside table.

I always enjoy a strong mother character in books, so this week I’ve compiled a list of my 5 favorite fictional moms!

Molly Weasley from the Harry Potter series

When I think about strong mothers in literature, I immediately think of Mrs. Weasley. I especially think about that line from the last book that she says to Bellatrix Lestrange. Yeah, you know…THAT line. SUCH a powerful female figure and a top notch mother, in my opinion. She’s strong and forceful, while also being loving and protective. You don’t want to cross her, but you also want to know her. Plus…Julie Walters is the PERFECT person to play Mrs. Weasley. Spot on.

Marilla Cuthbert from the Anne of Green Gables series

Marilla is one of my favorite characters ever. I didn’t like her at first, but over time (and after more books) I realized just how much depth she has to her. She is so full of love and has this protective force about her in regards to Anne and Matthew. She’s similar to Mrs. Weasley in that you don’t want to step between her and her loved ones, but what I love most about Marilla is the way she balances Anne out. She matches all of Anne’s wild dreams with sharp wit and sarcasm, pulling her back down to earth.

Phoebe Valerian from the Mark of the Lion series

I really enjoyed reading about Phoebe in this series set in ancient Rome. She has this calm sweetness about her, but she runs her household with masterful precision. She has that classic motherhood quality where she always sees the best in her children, even to a fault, but she was always there for them and full of wise council. I love the way she loves her family and the way she looks out for those in need. As a mother, she sets a great example of selflessness. (Forgive the picture…there’s no movie adaptation or picture books to pull from!)

Mrs. Turner from Finding Audrey

This woman would drive me crazy if she was my actual mother. She’s so outlandish and neurotic most of the time, but man she’s entertaining to read about! The reason I added her to this list is because of the way she loves her children. She really does want the absolute best for each of them, even if it means she wishes they were different sometimes. She means well and her actions come from a good place, for the most part. Life with her wouldn’t be dull, that’s for sure!

Charlotte Branwell from The Infernal Devices series

Trained from a young age to be a leader, Charlotte is one of my favorite characters in the Shadowhunter universe. She’s so strong, but she can be gentle at times, too. She’s a mother figure to the young Shadowhunters within the Institute, providing wisdom and discipline, as well as love and encouragement. She paved the way for women in this world, too, serving as the head of the London Instutute and as the first female Consul. I love her bravery and strong will! She’s such a great “mom” character to read about.

Who are some of your favorite fictional mothers? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

Synopsis from GoodreadsPaulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and soul-stirring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried near the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles in his path. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.

Feelings: I read this book for the first time during my sophomore year of high school. It was one of our assigned readings in my English II class and I remember really loving it. I couldn’t remember WHY I loved it, though, so I decided to give it a second read.

It’s a good book. It’s definitely a more philosophical story, rather than a traditional structured plot. Santiago speaks to the wind, to his heart, and to the desert, digging deep into metaphors and symbolism. It’s not exactly an easy read until the end. As everything gets more interesting and the plot picks up, I felt the need to continue reading. Before then, though, I was easily able to put it down and not return to it for a while.

Issues: The book is certainly slow at times and a bit repetitive. Santiago comes back to various quotes that the old king said to him, but he says them word for word over and over again. At some points, it makes you want to say, “Yes, yes, we know.” They’re insightful thoughts that are repeated, but they just get a little old.

By the end, it still doesn’t necessarily feel like anything happened. Sure, he travels a far distance, meeting interesting people along the way and getting himself into tricky situations, but it still feels stagnant.

Characters: Santiago is an innocent boy and it is a sweet journey that we take with him. He just wants to find purpose and love as he travels for his Personal Legend. He makes simple decisions and thinks things through. He’s a very easy character to follow. I enjoyed seeing him discover ancient truths and get more in touch with himself.

Final thoughts: This book has a good audiobook version, as well, narrated by Jeremy Irons. His voice adds a lot of depth to the words and helps ground the storyline. Overall, I like this book. It’s one that I’ll probably come back to a few times over the course of my life.

Goodreads rating: 3.81/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.6/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

5 More Graphic Novels

Back in December, I wrote about some graphic novels I’d recently read. I wanted to update that list with a few more, as I really enjoy reading the occasional comic book or graphic novel. To me, they help break things up and shake up my normal reading routine. Here are 5 more graphic novels that I’ve read in the last few months!

NewsPrints by Ru Xu

I really enjoyed this story! I came across it in our school’s library and was instantly drawn in. The artwork and the color palette is really special and I found the storyline to be very unique. We find ourselves in a different kind of world, with different countries and a new war we’ve never experienced. We meet a young orphan girl who pretends to be a newsboy, a master inventor with a secret, and a mysterious boy that we aren’t sure what to believe about. I found this story to be surprisingly moving and more powerful than I expected going into it.

Saga, Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

I love this series a lot. It’s so very different from any other comic series that I’ve read before and since it’s a new set of worlds, there’s always something different and unexpected going on. This is definitely a more mature series, so be aware of that. The artwork and story situations are for a more advanced reader. I’ve gotten to a point where I preorder new volumes in this series, I enjoy it so much. In this latest addition, we see a very different tone from the ones before. It’s much more serious and intense, kind of a nice change up.

Redwall by Brian Jacques

This is a story that I’ve never read before. True story. I’ve heard about it, but haven’t ever picked it up. I enjoyed this first graphic novel adaptation, but I felt like maybe reading the full book would help me to understand exactly what was going on. There were some quick transitions where I felt like I’d missed something and new characters showed up left and right. If you’re already a fan of the series, this could be a great book to read. You can dive back into a story you love and see it in a different way.

March, Book 2 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell

I read the first book in this series back and January and found it to be enlightening. These books are mostly black and white with simple artwork. To me, it’s simple as in it’s really realistic with sketch style lines. I really love seeing history through this medium. It’s sharp and factual, while still crafting a story that makes you want to keep reading, even if you know how it all turns out. I learned so much more from this second book than I did the first. I kept writing quotes down and listing out new information.

X-Men, Volume 1: Primer by Brian Wood, Oliver Coipel, David Lopez

This comic book was on sale on the website Comixology.com, so I decided to give it a try. I’ve read some comic books about super heroes, but none about the X-Men. I love the X-Men movies, so I was interested to see these (and new) characters in a different way. This first volume was pretty good. New and old characters, cool artwork, and a storyline that sets up future volumes.

Have you read any graphic novels that you could recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

*This review will contain spoilers. Also, because of my role as an educator, I’m approaching this book from that perspective. I’m seeing it both as an interested reader and someone who works with teenagers every day.*

“Everything…affects everything.”

Synopsis from GoodreadsClay Jensen doesn’t want anything to do with the tapes Hannah Baker made. Hannah is dead. Her secrets should be buried with her. Then Hannah’s voice tells Clay that his name is on her tapes– and that he is, in some way, responsible for her death. All through the night, Clay keeps listening. He follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his small town. . .and what he discovers changes his life forever.

Feelings: I’ve been putting off writing this review because of all the hype surrounding both this book and the Netflix adaptation of it. I have read the book and seen the show, and quite frankly I see them as totally different stories.

In this BOOK, it’s very clear by the end, in my opinion, that Hannah is not seeking to place blame, but rather bring instances to peoples’ attention in the hopes that what happened to her wouldn’t happen again. Hannah shares her point of view on events where no one had previously cared about her input. She paints a different picture than Clay, and other characters, had seen before and she opens their eyes. The BOOK made me uncomfortable but in a good way. It made me want to see people a little bit better than I do now, to see their hurt and their feelings. And I’d like to think that was the whole point.

Issues: I really didn’t have issues with the BOOK. At first, I felt like it was all about casting blame and sending a message that the only way to be heard is once you’re dead. However, that narrative changed as the story went on.

Sometimes it got confusing, going back and forth between Hannah’s words and Clay’s thoughts. But I see why the author chose to write it that way.

Characters: I couldn’t put this book down. I needed to finish the journey with Clay and try and understand Hannah better. I was so invested after the first few pages. It’s different when you know what happens to a person from the very first page, then work backward to figure out how they got to that point. Clay was a great POV to read from; he’s kind and caring, hopeful and bright. He wasn’t whiny or annoying like some teenager perspectives can be.

The author doesn’t make it seem like Hannah only had one option, but shows us how she tried to reach out and never found what she needed, emotionally. He doesn’t try and justify her choice, just show her side of things. I think a lot of young people needed to see that and to feel what those left behind would feel after such a loss.

Comparisons: You guys, I honestly was upset while watching the Netflix SHOW. I wanted to throw up, it made me so physically uncomfortable. Unlike the BOOK, the uncomfortable feeling wasn’t a good thing. I didn’t feel motivated to help people. The characters constantly belittle Hannah and others going through similar feelings, they pity themselves and change the narrative to be about their own troubles, and we see struggling characters make the same desperate choices. There was no hope. No motivations to change our world. Just graphic depictions of suicide and more bullying. I can’t stress enough to parents to be careful letting your children watch this show. Reading the book is one thing. The show shouldn’t be targeted to a teenage audience. Parents, be in the know. And for the love, have conversations. The SHOW was just picked up for a second season and we have no idea what direction it will take, since the book is done. I know I’ll watch it because I’m so curious, but I also know that I won’t enjoy it. Parents, also be aware that people are now saying things like, “This will be on your tape,” when they get frustrated, referring to this book.

Final thoughts: I really respect what Jay Asher did with this story. He doesn’t glorify suicide or make excuses for something that’s so awfully realistic. If you’re a teenager in a situation similar to Hannah, know that talking to a trusted adult isn’t always a waste of time. Some of us are ready and willing to do anything it takes to help you. If one conversation fails, try another one. You’re worth the time and effort.

Goodreads rating: 4.04/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.7/5

My rating: 4.25/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

5 Hidden Gems

I’ll admit it. I love a book that’s surrounded in hype. I enjoy seeing what other people say and then adding my own thoughts. Sometimes, though, I like to find myself off the beaten path of reading and explore what else is out there. These are 5 books that I wandered up and that turned out to be worth it.

Jack & Louisa: Act 1 

I came across this book because of Instagram. I follow a lot of Broadway stars and show pages and someone mentioned this book series. Come to find out, it’s written by people with actual Broadway experiences and it follows 2 middle school students as they navigate their love of musical theatre. They audition for shows, go to musical theatre camp, talk and sing about shows, and more. It’s a really fun read and is great for both MTN (musical theatre nerds) and parents alike.

NewsPrints

I came across this book in our school library and just gravitated towards it. This is a graphic novel, but it’s unlike any other I’ve seen. The art style and the color palette is really unique and cool to read. Each panel is interesting and has something going on. There are a lot of moving parts to this story about a young girl (pretending to be a boy, so “he” can deliver newspapers) named Blue who makes new friends and gets in trouble. The ending is really moving; we see the power of friendship and sticking up for others. It was way better than I was expecting!

It Started With Goodbye

I mentioned this book in my recent post about Cinderella retellings, but I think it’s worth bringing up again. This Cinderella adaption focuses on family and friendship moreso than lovey dovey stuff. I haven’t heard much about this story on the book blogosphere, but I’d recommend it. This book is full of very real characters and I enjoyed it!

The Loose Ends List

When I saw this book at my local bookstore last year, I was in a major reading slump. Nothing sounded good, nothing motivated me…it was just a bleh time. This book’s cover is what drew me in. I mean…right?! So attractive. I read the inside cover, then the first 2 pages and headed for the checkout line. I read it as soon as I got home, then started lending it out to my reader friends, bragging about how great it was. I haven’t heard much about this book on the book blogosphere, so I wanted to share it with you all…again!

Listen, Slowly

Not only did I really enjoy this story, I love the audiobook. Anytime I read a book where there are bits of another language within it, I struggle with how to pronounce words in my head. I value authenticity, so that’s where I tend to lean on audiobooks. This story is so fun and full of grit, definitely worth a read.

What hidden gems have you come across? Let me now in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Jack & Louisa: Act 1 by Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead

Synopsis from GoodreadsA show-stopping series about life in the spotlight from Broadway actors and internet sensations Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead. Twelve-year-old Jack Goodrich was a Broadway star—until a sudden voice change cost him his dream role. Now he lives with his parents in Shaker Heights, Ohio trying hard to leave his acting past behind. But his new neighbor, Louisa—a self-proclaimed “musical theater nerd”—won’t stop until Jack auditions for a local production of Into the Woods.

Feelings: I bought this book for my classroom because I have a student who loves musicals, but doesn’t love reading. He was about halfway through it when I realized he was reading faster than I’d ever seen, so I immediately ordered the next 2 books in the series for him. He loved this book so much. He was able to finally find characters in a book that mirrored him. He encouraged me to read it as well, so I did and found it to be a really fun read. If you love musicals, this book is right up your alley.

Issues: At the end of the book, Jack is presented with an option. (No spoilers) But…why wasn’t this option made available to him sooner? This just didn’t make sense to me. If it really was a possible alternative, it would have been made known sooner…realistically.

Characters: I loved how different Jack and Louisa are. Sure, they’re both Musical Theater Nerds, but they both represent different types of theater fans. They love a lot of the same shows, but have different experiences that shape them. This makes sure the book doesn’t get boring or repetitive, even with all the theatre references, which I appreciate. If you aren’t a musical fan, the characters still have some depth to them. You don’t have to know musical theatre to understand these people, they’re very real. Their parents are good characters, too. We don’t always get strong parent and family relationships, so that was refreshing in this story. The parents are very supportive of their children’s interests and encourage them along the way.

Final thoughts: If you’re an MTN like me, you’ll really enjoy this book. There are so many references to various shows and places on Broadway that it makes for a fun ride. This is also a great read for parents of musical theatre nerds. You’ll get a little insight into their minds!

Pick this up if you liked:

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

Goodreads rating: 4.17/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.8/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

**The third book in this series came out TODAY! 

“My letters set me free. Or at least they’re supposed to.”

Synopsis from GoodreadsLara Jean keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her, these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she can pour out her heart and soul and say all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

Feelings: This book has had my eye for a while, but I have to be in the right reading mood for chick lit and high school love stories. I had a free Saturday and decided this book would fit the bill and BOY was I right! You guys, I read this book in a few hours, in basically one sitting. I was hooked in from the very beginning and was desperate to see how it would all unfold.

This story is not at all what I was expecting. I knew the basic premise, but I was thinking it would focus more on each of the boys who received letters, rather than zeroing in on two of them. But I found how different those two boys were was enough to keep me entertained.

Issues: The love triangle was annoying at times, but they have a tendency to be that way. Do we ever really enjoy love triangles? I certainly don’t. So the whole friend/boyfriend/like-a-brother thing went in circles a few times. But it wasn’t annoying enough for me to put the book down. Lara Jean was able to make a choice and run with it, so I was somewhat satisfied.

It was kind of hard to believe that some of those letters were written when she was in middle school. The language sounded older…and I would know, considering I teach middle school English.

I didn’t LOVE the ending; it was so abrupt! Boom – over. However, since the second book is already out, I know I can just grab it and move along with the story. If I’d read it before the sequel was out, it would have really annoyed me.

Characters: I was able to really connect with Lara Jean. I know a lot of people may not see themselves in her, but I have a lot in common with her – her personality, what she likes, how she acts around people, the way responsibility was thrust upon her. The relationship between the Song sisters was really fun, seeing how different they all were. They fight and argue, make up, and do it all over again. It came off as really realistic, which I appreciated.

Josh is a tricky character for me. I liked how he was basically part of the family and I can understand how his feelings were confused. Kitty may have been my favorite character in the book. She was so sure of herself and kind of in her own little world. By the end, though, you realize just how “in the know” she really is and how valuable she was to the plot. As for Margot, I was glad she was out of the country for the majority of the story. She needed to loosen up, even though I can understand the burden that she felt was on her shoulders and how she had to grow up a little bit faster. I didn’t really care for Peter at first because he just screamed douchebag, but by the end I could see that different side of him. I’m excited to see (hopefully) more development for him in the next book.

Final thoughts: I really enjoyed this book – more than I thought I would! I didn’t finish Han’s earlier book, The Summer I Turned Pretty, because the main character was too annoying for me. However, I’m glad I gave THIS series a chance because I’m excited to grab the next one! Hoping for some more character development and a more satisfying break between some of the characters.

Pick this up if you liked:

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Goodreads rating: 4.11/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.5/5

My rating: 4.25/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn