Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Fictional Characters who Would Make Great Leaders

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic was characters that would make excellent leaders. This proved to be very interesting, and in picking characters I also thought about 10 traits that are important for leaders.

I tried to pick characters that weren’t filling traditional leadership roles (i.e. no monarchs, and that were fictional and not real-life people).

Here are 10 attributes of great leadership, and 10 characters who fit them:

 

Intelligence—Professor Higgins from Pygmalion

It’s great to be able to command a room, but strategy and thoughtful leadership requires intelligence. Professor Higgins might be a little obtuse at times, but he’s nevertheless a successful teacher who is quite accomplished at research.

Practicality –Ruby from Cold Mountain

In desperate times,  you need someone who is sure and level-headed, who has vision for day to day necessities and can get things done. I can’t think of anyone who does this better than Ruby. She works hard and doesn’t get bogged down in niceties.

Inventiveness—Hugo from The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Inventiveness or resourcefulness are essential to leadership–how else can you make a bad situation better? Hugo may be young, but his ability to fix intricate clock workings and to find ways to better his solution would make him a great leader under the right circumstances.

Sacrifice—Cyrano from Cyrano de Bergerac

A great leader must make sacrifices, and Cyrano knows this all too well. As his friend dies on the battlefield, Cyrano knows he can’t tell Roxanne the truth and he sacrifices his own happiness to help her stay true to a great man’s memory.

Charisma—Emma from Emma

It definitely helps get your point of view across if you’re likable, engaging, and charismatic. Emma is a great example of this, and she sways many people to her causes with less logic than affability and persuasion.

Risk Taker—Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

A true leader does not sit idly by; she takes risks. Alice is a natural risk taker. There are few others who would follow a rabbit down to a magical kingdom–most people would convince themselves they hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary and wouldn’t give the rabbit a second glance.

Bravery—Wesley from The Princess Bride

Being a leader means standing up for your cause, often in the face of others who would like nothing better than to pull you down. So being brave in the face of skilled swordsmen, giants, and Sicilians when death is on the line, like Wesley, is imperative.

Eloquence—Temeraire from His Majesty’s Dragon

Temeraire is a dragon, and he actually fulfills many of these qualities, but when push comes to shove, it’s his ability to speak well that persuades other dragons to take up his cause.

Idealistic—Princess Mia from The Princess Diaries

If you have no vision for the future, how can you lead anyone into it? Princess Mia sort of breaks my rule about rulers, but since she’s not really a ruler in any of the YA novels, and since she doesn’t even know she’s royal until she’s in high school, I put her on the list. Really, there’s no one who fits this virtue better. Though she may not always go about things the right way, she’s always interested in a better version of her country–one that’s more environmentally and economically sound.

Persistence—Bee from Where’d You Go, Bernadette

You’re not likely to realize all your goals on day one, so leadership is all about trying and trying and trying again. Bee will stop at nothing to find her mother, traveling to the very ends of the earth to bring her home again.

 

Now over to you. What quality do you think is most important in a leader?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Freebie

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature, brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.

Happy Halloween!

It’s so strange–as a kid you’re excited about Halloween no matter what day of the week it falls on, but as an adult I feel like I’m usually more excited about the weekend closest to it. This year, our friends threw a party and everyone dressed up as their childhood dream job. I dressed up as an archaeologist a la Indiana Jones, and Paul dressed up like a fighter pilot.

The atmosphere of disguise and pretending to be someone else is my favorite part of Halloween, so in honor of that, here are 10 memorable costumes from my childhood and 10 books to go with them.

Archaeologist—Lost in Translation by Nicole Mones

This book is probably the best (as well as only) book that I’ve read recently that features archaeology as its subject. The protagonist acts as a translator for the dig, helping them secure permission from the government. Also a great love story

 

Esmerelda—Anne Frank Remembered by Miep Gies

Oh I loved this costume. My mom didn’t make it, but it was homemade by someone. The cotton fabric had this rich, watery quality to it.

Anyway, I think of Esmerelda as a character who stands up for those in need, even at great personal cost. I can’t think of anyone who exemplifies that more than Miep Gies, who helped hide the Franks with her partner at great personal risk.

 

Belly Dancer—Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher

My family did make this costume. It felt like everyone had a hand in it. Unfortunately we lived in Oregon, which meant I had to basically ruin the costume with layers or I’d get wet from the rain.

This YA book was one of my favorites around this time in my life (5th grade or so). I loved the emphasis it placed on storytelling and the intrigue. The life it depicted was as enchanting as it was disturbing.

 

Cleopatra—Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff or watch the movie with Elizabeth Taylor

This was probably one of my more memorable costumes. My hair was the right length and the right color to fit all the images you probably have in your mind of the Queen. My makeup was a bit sloppy, but that didn’t matter because I felt incredibly regal.

I like this biography of Cleopatra because it tries to rescue the woman from behind the legend created for her. I also love the movie with Liz Taylor because it does exactly the opposite.

 

Delores Umbridge—Matilda by Roald Dahl

It would be too easy to choose a Harry Potter book for this character. Instead I chose one with another despicable school administrator.

 

Bumblebee—Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

I don’t really have any memories of this costume, but it’s featured in lots of toddler pictures, so it definitely existed. I chose a book that’s sweet but also stings.

 

Pink Power Ranger—Bossypants by Tina Fey

Not that Tina Fey would have ever dressed up as a Power Ranger, but the message behind the costume is I will clearly kick your butt while defying all of your expectations–hence Tina Fey’s book.

Did the Power Ranger costume not say that to you? Maybe it’s just me.

Alice—Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

This book seems like the perfect counterpart to Alice in Wonderland. Not only does it have a quintessentially English feel (complete with footnotes), there’s also some traveling via mirrors going on. I will rave about this book more later. But it and the show are perfect Halloween reading.

 

50s housewife—Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell

This book is a really interesting look into the mind of a woman who seems to be a perfect 50’s housewife, but is really a person with her own complications, flaws, and concerns.

 

Snow White—The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

I didn’t actually consider this costume to be a costume for Snow White. My mom and I found a bunch of these pretty German-style costumes at the thrift store, and the three of us (Mom, me and my best friend) went around dressed up as Bavarian beauties or something–we never quite settled on that. But I went dressed up that way to the preschool where my aunt worked, and all the kids called me Snow White, which was flattering.

Anyway, Angela Carter’s not-so-fairy tales are perfect for Halloween or really any time of year.

 

What was your most memorable costume? Let me know in the comments.

Top Ten Tuesday: 5 Unique Book Titles

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.

Today’s topic is unique book titles. And what sets a book apart more than a crazy title?

Here are 5 books from my TBR list that have intrigued me on the basis of name alone:

  • Stalking the Wild Asparagus–Euell Gibbons
  • The Mouse-Proof Kitchen–Saira Shah
  • The Fishing Fleet: Husband Hunting in the Raj–Anne de Courcy
  • The Blind Assassin–Margaret Atwood
  • The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing–Mira Jacob

 

Have you read any of these? What’s your favorite book with a weird title?

 

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I’ve Enjoyed on My Blogging Hiatus

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish.

Hello, dear reader. It’s been a while.

I was moving, so I stopped writing. I was planning my best friend’s wedding, so I stopped writing. I was planning my own wedding, so I stopped writing.

But now, it’s time to start writing again.

Now, I won’t be continuing with my reading challenge posts (or at least, I won’t be making up for the ones I missed). I’ve been wondering about that lately. Whether you can make up for lost time, lost sleep. In this case, I think it’s better to just move forward.

I know that the topic for today is boyfriends in literature (as in ones you’d want), but instead I’m going to write about the 10 books I enjoyed the most while I haven’t bee writing.

  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

This book is a bit of an undertaking, since its size alone was daunting. But in my case, the size worked out. I didn’t feel the need to bring any extra books on my honeymoon, which in turn made me feel free to pick up a few on our trip.

This book has been on my TBR list for a long time. Every time I went looking for it at a bookstore I couldn’t find it. And then one day, I was in a bookstore looking for something completely different and it was staring at me on the shelf.

As for the book itself, it is quite special. The magic is used as a tool, and not as a way to solve every problem. The protagonists are interesting, flawed characters, and the writer has obviously done her research–she puts you right into the time period, dense footnotes and all. It’s not the fastest moving story, but it’s certainly satisfying and well worth reading.

  • Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat by Chrissy Teigen

I do not like canned tuna. I have never liked canned tuna. But the tuna noodle casserole in this book had me rethinking that long established viewpoint. This book is full of delicious recipes, and it’s one of my favorite cookbooks at the moment even though it is missing the all-important category of dessert. Beyond the recipes, it’s also hilarious. Teigen writes with great humor and irreverence and makes you fall in love with her and her food.

  • The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

This book is not necessarily my favorite of Allende’s novels, but it is certainly worth reading nonetheless. The love story against the background of the Holocaust in America and the heartbreaking history of Japanese internment is sweet and special.

  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore

My honorary aunt Jen recommended this book to me (she recommends this book to everyone. She thinks it’s hilarious, and she’s right). If you need a pick me up for any reason, I have a feeling this book will help.

  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

This book was a present from one of the Christmas exchanges that The Broke and The Bookish put on, and the blogger who gave it to me told me it was one of her favorites. I can definitely see why. It’s sort of un-put-down-able. The subject of the book is a little challenging, since it deals with a young man listening to the tapes one of his classmates recorded right before she committed suicide. Rather than being depressing though, the book has a strong sense about what responsibility and justice means and the arguments it presents are quite compelling.

  • The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman

I’m not going to lie, this book to me a while to get into and I had a few false starts before I finished it. But it was so worth it. This book was intricate and touching, bittersweet in all the right places and with just the right amount of mystery.

  • The Revolution of the Moon by Andrea Camilleri

So women of history were badass. This shouldn’t be all that surprising though, because modern women are badass as well. This book is based on the true story of the woman who, for a brief time, ruled Sicily as a governor on behalf of the King. Highly capable and extraordinarily clever, she was able to implement all kinds of positive changes before being taken down by conservative, powerful men and the Church. A fascinating story.

  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

There aren’t many people who can write nonfiction as if its fiction, but Berendt does. The picture that he paints of Savannah is mesmerizing as are the characters he populates the city with. That the story is all true is just icing on the cake.

  • The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley

I’m not sure how a book set in the middle ages manages to feel so modern, but this book does.  It tells the story of a man who procures relics for collectors–bones and mementos of canonized saints involved in the purchase of indulgences and what happens when he gets on people’s bad sides.

  • Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan

Did you know that there’s a substantial Jewish population in Ireland? Me neither. But this book tells some really amazing stories about them.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read In a Day

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish.

Let me just say that I’m not really good at reading books in one sitting. I’m not even very good at reading one book at a time. If I’ve “lost” my current book around the house, I’ll just pick up another one. This usually leads to a lot of library books nestled in strange corners of the couch or atop precarious laundry piles or hidden under papers I just took off my desk. I’m also not that focused as a reader, reading for an hour before getting up to do something else and then coming back to my book. Or I’ll switch a chapter on and off with one book with another book or another task. So reading a book in a day for me is very unusual. Here are ten (recent-ish books) that overcame all the odds. Or were very short.

 

Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the English Countryside by Andrea di Robilant

I’ve talked about this book before on the blog, but it sticks in my mind. I read it years ago now, but it was one of the first books in a long time that I felt utterly consumed by. If you’re interested in Italy (and why wouldn’t you be), and you like people who chase down weird family history and/or roses, you should read this.

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher

I sat down to read a few pages of this at the library, and didn’t look up until the whole thing was finished. Fun and clever.

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl

I was just captivated by the stories along with the recipes. One of the better cookbooks I’ve read in a while.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

This book is pretty depressing, but it’s very short and well-written. So that’s something.

Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt

I really liked Possession, so when I saw another book by Byatt at the book sale, I knew I needed to read it. It’s definitely nothing like her other work, but it was really interesting and immersive (even if maybe you didn’t want to be immersed in it)

Butter Celebrates! Delicious Recipes for Special Occasions by Rosie Daykin

I read this book quickly, as there wasn’t much to it besides the recipes. I’ve only tried one so far and it didn’t really work out. This is why I get cookbooks from the library instead of buying a bunch of them. But I have hopes for the next recipe anyway.

Patience by Daniel Clowes

Read it fast to get it over with–I didn’t feel like I could not finish the graphic novel since it takes such a short time to read them, but it wasn’t my favorite by a long shot.

French Milk by Lucy Knisley

Another graphic novel, which I read quickly because it was very good.

A-Z of Wedding Style by Kate Bethune

Another very short book, with lots of pictures and white space. I really enjoyed the illustrations though. A good book for people who like fashion.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I’ve done a lot of ranting and raving about this book, but it definitely deserves it. In addition to being a great book, it was also a very quick read.

 

So there’s 10 recent book I’ve managed to complete in a reasonable amount of time without getting too distracted by anything else. What’s the last book you read in a day or in a single sitting? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 of My Favorite Fictional Couples From Literature and Film

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I hope you are feeling the love today. Valentine’s Day has never been a really big deal to me. My fiance and I tend to do little things. He usually picks up flowers for me, usually some colorful daisies or pretty mums–something cheery–several days early so that I can enjoy them for a while. We like to go pick out chocolates at one of the places around town. Here in Boise our favorite spot to do that is Chocolat Bar, which makes the most amazing truffles. We also cook dinner together. It’s very mellow. Let me know if you have special plans for today in the comments!

Today’s topic is all about romance. So I thought I would share some of my favorite couples with you from literature and film. Here they are:

Literary Couples

  • Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley from Jane Austen’s Emma” I cannot make speeches, Emma. If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. You hear nothing but truth from me. I have blamed you and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it.”

Why they’re great: Knightley calls Emma out when she’s behaving selfishly and forces her to acknowledge what she’s doing. He’s also quick to praise when he approves, and he’s always acting on behalf of others. Emma meanwhile never just accepts Knightley’s opinions at face value and challenges him. This is a couple that will challenge each other to do good for other people. They have good communication established, and their relationship is founded on friendship and mutual respect.

  • Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter:  “Just because it’s taken you three years to notice, Ron, doesn’t mean no one else has spotted I’m a girl!”

Why they’re great: What makes Ron and Hermione good people is what helps to make them a good couple. Ron is loyal, brave, and true, while Hermione is strong, idealistic, and clever. Together they challenge each other. Ron tries to get Hermione to think outside the box and she helps bring him down to earth again. Even though they argue, their relationship is ultimately based on years of friendship that have been strengthened through the trials they’ve gone through together.

  • Arthur and Molly Weasley from Harry Potter“What do you like me to call you when we’re alone together?…Mollywobbles.”

Why they’re great: Arthur and Molly may not have much money, but that hasn’t interfered all that much with their relationship. Each is always concerned with the other’s welfare and takes their thoughts and feelings to heart. They don’t always agree or always understand each other’s position, but they are a united team.

  • Benedict and Beatrice from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing“I do love nothing in the world so well as you- is not that strange?”

Why they’re great: It takes them a while to figure out they’re the perfect couple, but it’s obvious to everyone else. No one can keep up with their wit and intelligence; they’re the best sparring partners. They keep each other on their toes. And in the end, Benedict is able to go beyond talking about his feelings and proves his love, challenging his dearest friend to a duel.

  • Cyrano de Bergerac and Roxanne from Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac“And what is a kiss, specifically? A pledge properly sealed, a promise seasoned to taste, a vow stamped with the immediacy of a lip, a rosy circle drawn around the verb ‘to love.’ A kiss is a message too intimate for the ear, infinity captured in the bee’s brief visit to a flower, secular communication with an aftertaste of heaven, the pulse rising from the heart to utter its name on a lover’s lip: ‘Forever.’”

Why they’re great: Roxanne longs to hear beautiful words and Cyrano longs to tell her them. Though I have to admit the fact that they’re cousins kind of weirds me out, their devotion and intelligence carries them through. The ending is tragic, but it’s so poignant.

Film Couples

  • Lucky Garnett and Penny Carroll in Swing Time“Listen. No one could teach you to dance in a million years. Take my advice and save your money!”

Why they’re great: They’re sometimes at cross purposes, but you know they’re going to get together, which means plenty of dancing and singing. I don’t know of a more wonderful couple than Fred and Ginger in whatever movie they did together. Astaire is full of grace and Rogers is full of fun and together they are amazing.

*I do think that as much as I really like this film I find the “bojangles” scene really racist and disturbing, and I think that’s really important to acknowledge. Even though it was the 1930s, and times were “different,” the caricature is prejudiced and unnecessary.*

  • Wesley and Buttercup in The Princess Bride“This is true love–you think this happens every day?”

Why they’re great: True love. Love deep enough and true enough to never be stopped by anything–not death, not distance, not time, not kings and queens and princes. Nothing.

  • Hubert Hawkins and Jean in The Court Jester: “The real king is on the throne, Jean is my very own, and life couldn’t possibly better be.”

Why they’re great: They’re relationship turns traditional gender roles on their head. Hawkins minds the child, the future King of England, and the Captain is off rallying new recruits, training, and leading them. She’s sharp and warm, he’s eager and funny. Together they show huge amounts of bravery and devotion, both to each other and their cause.

  • Don Lockwood and Cathy Seldon in Singin’ in the Rain: “You were meant for me/ and I was meant for you/ nature patterned you/ and when she was done/ you were all the sweet things/ rolled up in one”

Why they’re great: It may have started off in desperation (Lockwood fleeing from his over-eager fans), but it ends in love. Cathy’s talent, beauty, charisma, and good nature can’t help but win Don over and I think the same qualities are what let her put down her walls and fall for him.

  • Han Solo and Princess Leia in Star Wars“I love you. I know.”

Why they’re great: Both of them are strong characters in their own right, and together they make a pretty impressive pair. These rebels are meant to be together.

Top Ten Tuesday: A Conversation About What Makes For Good Books

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from The Broke and The Bookish.

I’m not going to lie–this week’s topic was really difficult for me. There are sometimes books where I wonder what this would have been like with more female characters, or wished a book had a little more resolution or a different ending. But these feelings are so few and far between, so fleeting, that I wouldn’t even have enough of them to make any sort of cohesive list.

My mom and I were talking about this topic on the phone. I told her I’d given up on this week’s post because I had no idea what to write about. We started talking about books and what makes a book good and what makes a book enjoyable. I wanted to share some of our thoughts with you instead of a normal list-type post. These thoughts aren’t all that organized, so I hope you will excuse my rambling.

In general, I abide by the rule that there is always more to read. So, if I don’t like a book, I don’t sweat it and I just set it aside. But I also know that there is a book for every reader and a reader for every book. If I two-star a book on Goodreads that someone else gave five stars to, does that make either of us a bad reader? I don’t think so. We just have different tastes.

A lot of reading is subjective. What do you enjoy, and how do you find books with those attributes? Everyone has individual preferences. But writing is not just something done for entertainment. It has its “low” and “high” Art sides, but any way you slice it, literature is an art form. Every book is a cultural artifact, striving to teach us something about humanity and our own times or times past.

Sometimes I’ve felt pressure to feel certain ways about books by peers or by professors. Ulysses, for example, is not my favorite book. Not even close. But how do you tell that to a professor who has spent his whole academic career grappling with a single author? I appreciate James Joyce’s brilliance–and I understand he deserves acclaim and readership. He created a masterwork. He’s a Michelangelo of the written word.

But here’s the issue: we can agree Michelangelo was a master and not like his work. Even the not-so-subjective ways we have of judging art (and books) are, in some ways, subjective. We can agree that there are certain things we look for in books: character development, plot, description and narrative style, etc. But there’s no gold standard or formula for great literature, and in the end art is judged individually. Hopefully critics understand the context and are well-versed enough in their area to give a good opinion, but ultimately appreciating art is about values. Do you value characters over plot the way that I do? Do you value experimentation? Description or word play? In other words, what do you put up on a pedestal?

Chances are, the books that you feel are missing something are simply books that don’t value the same things that you do. Not every book can do everything at 100%. In art, some aspects take a back seat to give others emphasis. Whether you agree with those decisions or not decides in a large part whether you’ll like the book.

I think it’s always important to read with an open mind. If we’re always trying to make a book something that it’s not, we miss out on what it is. Sometimes maybe it’s better to miss out, and that’s okay. But I think it’s important to remind ourselves that someone took the time to put those words on paper, to create a part of culture. Whenever I read I try (and this is not always easy) to think not what does this book need, but what does it already offer?

 

What do you think makes a book great? Let me know in the comments.