Feb 10

What I Love/Hate About Romances in Books

Romance, Top Ten Tuesday 27

Hello Bookworms!

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is a great topic, and perfectly appropriate for Valentine’s week. The ladies of The Broke and the Bookish have challenged us to list what we love and/or hate about romance in books. Hoooo boy, I’m excited about this one!

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I’m a softy, really I am. I do love romance in books. However, I can be a little picky about it. I’m going to start with a list of a few things that drive me bonkers in bookish romances. And follow it up with what I love. Ending on a happy note is important, no?

The Hate List

1. Insta-Love: I am firmly in the Elsa camp on this one. No, little sister, you are NOT going to marry the dude you just met today. You are NOT in love with this person after 10 minutes and a musical interlude. You do NOT abandon your entire life to follow your latest infatuation. Just. No.

2. Girls without Identity- I like my romantic heroines to be a little spunky. I’m not saying that every heroine has to know exactly who she is, but girls with no sense of self who just throw themselves into crazy relationships and morph into femme-bots who only like what their boyfriends like? Not cool. (I’m throwing some serious shade at you, Ana Steele. Hmph.)

3. Poorly Executed Love Scenes- Book Riot put together a list of some hilarious (and horrible) euphemisms used in romance novels to describe human anatomy. It’s pretty much the best thing ever. If a love scene makes me giggle, it’s not a good thing. (Well it kind of is a good thing, because I like laughing, but it’s unlikely that’s what the author intended so… Yeah.)

4. Secret Keeping- I read a romance novel once in which the male character tried to convince himself not to get too close to the female character because (get this) there was a CHANCE he had an incurable (but non contagious) blood disorder. He’d basically convinced himself he was going to die without getting confirmation from a doctor and therefore couldn’t selfishly start a relationship. REALLY? “We can’t be together because SECRETS” is a terrible plot device. Stop using it, please! (The character in question turned out NOT to have said disorder, he married the heroine and I think they had babies. I didn’t want to leave you in suspense.)

5. Gorgeous People Who Seem Unaware of their Hotness: I’m all for humility, but the prevalence of women who find themselves revolting despite hoards of men falling at their feet are tiresome. Nobody is that deluded, unless they have serious psychological issues. If that’s the case, they shouldn’t be in a romance novel, they should be getting the fictional help they need from a fictional therapist. Sheesh!

allyouneedislove

 

Well, now that I’ve got that vitriol off my chest, let’s talk about some of the things I love about love in books. Loooove!

The Love List

1. Awkward People Finding Love: Some of my favorite love stories are all about the weirdos. Suave debonair gentlemen with all the right lines bore me. Give me a cantankerous bookseller with a heart of gold or a case of verbal diarrhea on a first date. That’s the good stuff.

2. Witty Banter: Inside jokes, pop culture references, and trivia make my world go round. Having had a number of these sorts of goofy conversations with my husband, I realize they don’t often translate easily (I’m pretty sure nobody would find our nonsense charming who wasn’t us) but I appreciate the effort. Yay for witty banter!

3. Well Executed Love Scenes: I’m not a prude when it comes to love scenes. I enjoy them when they’re thoughtfully put together. I’m not sure there’s a great way to define what separates the cheesy from the steamy, and it’s likely all in the opinion of the reader. Still. When done well, love scenes can be a great addition to a novel.

4. Love for the Non-Traditional Body Types: Rainbow Rowell has written some of the best plus size romantic heroines ever. I just get really happy when someone who isn’t the media standard of beauty finds love. Tall, short, heavy, thin, buxom, tattooed, birth-marked, pale, and what have you. Real people in normal life aren’t usually breathtakingly beautiful. That doesn’t mean they aren’t appealing, and that sure doesn’t mean they shouldn’t find love.

5. Historical Romance: Wait, did I just admit to digging bodice-rippers? I might have. And it might be true. Eeep!

Talk to me Bookworms! What do you love and hate about romance in books?! 

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Feb 09

The Fellowship of the Worms: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Book Club, World War II 9

Happy Monday Bookworms!

smarty-mcwordypants-199x300It’s time that time again, y’all! The Fellowship of the Worms is in session! Today we’re going to be chewing on the brain food that is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. WARNING: We will be discussing the WHOLE book. This will no doubt include SPOILERS. If you did not read the book and would like to participate, pick up a copy of All the Light We Cannot See and give it a read. This post will be here waiting for you when you finish. Now that the particulars are out of the way, I’ll remind you of the premise here. I’ll pose questions in bold and answer them in regular type.  If you don’t want your opinions influenced by my rantings, stick to the bold first. Feel free to answer questions in the comments, or if you’re so inclined, leave a comment linking to your review or discussion of All the Light We Cannot See on your own blog! I fully encourage shameless self promotion, so don’t hesitate to get your link on. Let’s do this!

1. Marie-Laure is stricken blind at a young age. Despite her disability, she goes on to do some pretty amazing things. Were there any instances in Marie-Laure’s experiences that surprised you?

I am amazed at the way the human mind compensates for a compromised sense. Marie-Laure’s acute senses of smell and hearing were impressive. Of course, I think she’d have been in much rougher shape were it not for her AMAZING father. Oh that Daniel LeBlanc! Creating a miniature model of their neighborhood in Paris? Teaching Marie-Laure to navigate? The lengths he went to protect her? Their relationship was so incredibly sweet.

2. Werner has, without question, a brilliant mind. Unfortunately, being raised an orphan he is afforded few opportunities. When he is accepted into the prestigious Nazi school, his sister Jutta is opposed to his attending. What would you have done in Werner’s shoes?

Oh goodness, how I felt for Werner! And for Jutta! Seriously, there were so few options. Could Werner have declined the invitation to join the school? Maybe. Without consequences? That’s hard to say. I mean, did you SEE what happened to Frederick? The Nazi regime was really effing scary. I’d like to think I’d be noble and amazing, but I think I’d have taken Werner’s route. He had the best of intentions to make a difference from the inside, but it proved impossible. Luckily he managed to hold on to his humanity in the end, poor kid.

3. When Etienne and Marie-Laure are working for the resistance and broadcastingallthelightwecannotsee coded messages, Etienne frets that his actions will certainly get people killed. Marie-Laure tries to console him by telling him that they’re “the good guys.” Etienne expresses that he hopes so. Do you think there are ever any clear “good guys” or “bad guys” in war?

Ooooh, Katie, GOOD QUESTION. There’s nobody who would argue that the Nazi regime was a good thing. (Well, nobody who isn’t horrible on a fundamental level.) However. How many Werners were there in that army? How many innocent civilians would be caught in the crossfire? How many Allied soldiers did awful things of their own accord? War is such a big nightmarish sticky mess. Could we maybe stop having them already?! Gah!

4. That doggone Sea of Flames! It’s got quite the tale attached to it, what with its curse and all. A number of people believe this to be true, Von Rumpel among them. In fact, it’s almost as though the curse of the diamond started the whole dang war. Do you think it was cursed and/or brought protection to the one who held it?

Yeah I’m not big on superstitions, but wouldn’t it be nice to blame WWII on an evil diamond? I think Von Rumpel’s buy in was based directly on the fact that he was dying of cancer and desperate. You can’t deny that Marie-Laure, despite some super dangerous extra-curriculars survived. I doubt that Doerr really meant for the reader to believe a supernatural stone had all kinds of power, but it provided a nice narrative element.

5. Do you think if Werner hadn’t succumbed to illness, he and Marie-Laure might have had a future together?

Hi, I’m Katie and I want people to be happy! It would have ruined the book and I’d have hated it for having a cheeseball ending, but there’s a significant part of me that REALLY wanted Werner and Marie-Laure to have a happily ever after! They could move to Switzerland and she could have studied things and he could have made scientific breakthroughs and had babies. Jutta and Etienne could have lived with them in their modest ski chalet and they could collectively have worked to heal all their various broken psyches. Siiiiiiiiigh.

Sound off, Bookworms! I want to know your what you thought of All the Light We Cannot See. Tackle some of the questions in the comments, or if you’ve written a post on your own blog (discussion or review, anything goes!) LINK IT UP! 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Feb 06

Confession Friday: I’m a Historical Figure

Confession Friday 11

Hey Bookworms!

It’s Friday! I haven’t been to ye olde confessional in a long time, but there’s something I need to get off my chest. It’s no secret that I adore historical fiction with an intensity that likely isn’t healthy. Sometimes I get so swoony over Jamie Fraser (or something totally unrelated to Jamie Fraser. I mean, not EVERYTHING is about Jamie Fraser, right?!) that I put on a wistful face and forget how RAD it is to live right now.

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Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

Sometimes I’ll just sit around thinking, “can you imagine life before electricity?!” Or, “wouldn’t it be weird to grow up with horses and then CARS happen?!” Or, “Indoor plumbing is the bomb diggity. I’m glad it’s a thing!” Recently I had a revelation. I AM A HISTORICAL FIGURE.

Yeah. What’s as life changing as electricity, indoor plumbing, and cars?! The friggin INTERNET. I’ve lived on both sides of it! The digital age, y’all. Someday our grandchildren are going to goggle at us the way I goggle about the pre-electricity, horse riding, stink fest I love so dearly. I’m my own historical fiction heroine now, y’all. Watch out!

 Now that I’m basically my own American Girl Doll, I simply must know. Have any of y’all pondered how history will view our little sliver of now?

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Feb 05

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Psychological 21

Greetings Bookworms,

There’s little that drives me as crazy as when EVERYONE is raving about a book and I haven’t read it yet. Right now, that book is The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and heck yes I read it! How could I not? I mean, everyone is calling it the next Gone Girl (review). I wouldn’t necessarily go there, but it’s still a good book, so let’s get to it!

thegirlonthetrainSo there’s this gal named Rachel. She commutes into London on the same train every day. She’s a bit of a sad sack, mourning the loss of her marriage and drowning her sorrows in booze. (Uh, side note. Since when are pre-mixed gin and tonics in a can a thing? Is this only available in England? I love G&T but I don’t drink often so my seltzer always goes flat before I use it up. I need these in my life.) She spends her commute fantasizing about a couple she often sees out on their terrace, as one does. One day, she sees something that shatters her view of the perfect couple and a whole lot of crazy goes down.

You know thrillers aren’t normally my thing so I don’t have a much in the way of grounds for comparison, but I thought The Girl on the Train was pretty great. I wasn’t wouldn’t say I was fully gobsmacked at any point during the book, but I certainly didn’t see where things were going until Hawkins was good and ready for me to know where things were going. It really irks me when I figure things out way ahead of time, so this was a HUGE factor in me digging this book. Well played, Ms. Hawkins! If you’ve got a hankering for a little psychological thriller goodness, you need to check out The Girl on the Train

Talk to me, Bookworms! Do you ever make up stories for people you regularly pass? Perhaps people watch and make up lives for folks? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Which I will spend in my quest to find canned Gin and Tonics stateside!*

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Feb 03

Burn, Baby, Burn: Idiosyncratic Lit List

Idiosyncratic Lit List 18

Howdy Bookworms!

Y’all know I live in the Midwest, so snow in winter is pretty much a given. That said, after I’ve been out braving the elements, pretty much the only thing I want to do is curl up next to a toasty fire and read a book. This (of course) got me to thinking about a list and books with flaming titles. Shall we?!

idiosyncraticlitlist

 

1. Foxfire by Joyce Carol Oates: The book is subtitled “Confessions of a Girl Gang.” I’m not sure more description is completely necessary.

2. The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon: It is my mission in life to include an Outlander book in every list I make. Okay, so that’s kind of a lie, but it seems to happen often enough for me to claim it.

3. Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier: Because SOMEBODY needed to write a historical fiction novel with William Blake as a central character. Tyger, tyger indeed.

4. Cinder by Marissa Meyer (review): It’s everyone’s favorite cyborg Cinderella, y’all! Speaking of which, I think there’s a new installment of The Lunar Chronicles floating around out there. I need to check it out.

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5. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris: I love David Sedaris. There is nobody as bizarre and delightful and dark and hilarious.

6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: Of course I went there. The temperature at which books burn? I mean, who hasn’t read this one with the “firemen” and the HORRORS?

7. Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire by JK Rowling: You know you wanted to put your name in the Goblet of Fire. Even if it meant battling a dragon and/or certain death. You’re reckless that way.

Got any more fiery titles burning a hole in your brain, Bookworms?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Feb 02

Top Five Things I Loved About High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

Contemporary Fiction 28

Happy Monday, Bookworms!

I’ve been on a reading bender which is AWESOME because I was slogging through some slumpiness at the beginning of the year and I’m just beginning to feel like I’m getting my reading mojo back. In order to get that mojo back, I made a concerted effort to pick up books I was pretty sure I’d like. I needed to get back to my roots. And my roots? Well. Beneath this facade of well-adjusted adult who is totally functional an normal (STOP LAUGHING) lives an angsty teenager listening to late 90s grunge music. (In the dark. And probably crying.) This is why High Fidelity by Nick Hornby was the perfect choice for a slump busting read.

highfidelityquote

I can’t pin the teen angst on the music, I’m pretty sure that’s the fault of puberty, but the quote speaks to me!

Instead of doing a proper review for this one, I’m going to take a page out of Rob’s book and hit y’all with a Top Five list of stuff I dug in High Fidelity. It will be fun, dangit!

1. Britishness: Confession. I saw the movie version of High Fidelity ages before I read the book. I love John Cusack, what can I say? I was, therefore, rather surprised to find that this book is NOT set in Chicago, but in London. I love British things. I mean, I loved what they did with setting the movie in Chicago, but it was fun to go to London.

2. Top Five Lists: Yes, I just put “top five lists” on a top five list. It’s getting very meta up in here. Rob and his pals are constantly challenging each other to list their top five songs/albums related to any given topic. Really, y’all. You KNOW how much I love lists. A book with all sorts of lists? Yes, please!

3. The Art of the Mix Tape: Alright, the book totally dates itself with the making of cassette mix tapes, but I don’t care. My teenage self LOVED making mix tapes for people. LOVED. I’d try to find the more obscure tracks on albums from my favorite bands and create pretentious themes and cover art and everything. I wasn’t cool enough to have imports and b-sides and all that jazz, but I had aspirations. Weird, lame, 16 year old aspirations, but aspirations none the less.

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4. Love/Hating Rob: The main character in this book, Rob, is reeling from a breakup with his live-in girlfriend Laura. I loved this guy. I hated this guy. I wanted to shake this guy and tell him he was 35 and not 16 and to stop being an immature prick. I wanted to hug him because he was hurting and didn’t know how to deal. It’s all very complex.

5. Getting In Touch With My Inner Teenager: A guy who is way too into his music who walks around bleeding heartbreak all over the place? My 16 year old self is doing a dance of joy and singing “Someone Finally Gets Me!” Not that I really had a whole lot of heartbreak going on at that age, mostly unrequited crushes, but still. FEELINGS.

Talk to me, Bookworms! Is there a book that speaks to your inner teenager? I want to hear about it! 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jan 29

I’m WILD about Cheryl Strayed

Memoirs 38

Howdy Bookworms!

Remember back when we read Tiny Beautiful Things for The Fellowship of the Worms and all I wanted to do was hug Cheryl Strayed? I picked up her memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, and the desire to hug her has only intensified. (No, I have not seen the movie. I kind of want to, though, since Reese Witherspoon and I share a birthday.)

wildFour years after the death of her mother, Strayed’s life was spiraling out of control. A series of poor decisions led to the collapse of her marriage and descent into drug abuse all while desperately mourning for her mother. One serendipitous day, Strayed comes across a book about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and despite having absolutely no experience with punishing long distance hiking, Strayed decides to tackle the PCT. What follows is her tail of the trail, self discovery, and the world’s sorriest pair of feet. (Seriously, my feet WEPT in sympathy.)

I adored WildI typically dig memoirs, and this was no exception. I goggled at Strayed’s endless moxie in taking on the PCT hike, but I spent a lot of time cringing just the same. I am NOT a risk taker, so my inner monologue kept yelling things like “Just ask for help! I’ll buy you a Snapple Lemonade!” and “For heaven’s sake stop accepting rides from strange men!”

I also appreciated that she explained the fact that she changed her last name to Strayed post divorce. For years I’ve been mentally saying “Stray-Ed” all Shakespearean-like because I assumed it was her birth or married last name and as such would be pronounced slightly differently than the regular word. It is NOT. It is actually JUST the regular word. Enlightening. (I mentally pronounce Jojo Moyes as “Moy-Ez” which is probably wrong, too. I’m still having trouble hearing Rainbow Rowell as “Row” like “WOW” and not “Row” like, your boat, despite having heard a very nice NPR interview.) These aren’t even DIFFICULT names. The things wrong with me are many and varied.

Tell me, Bookworms, do any of you grossly mispronounce author’s names by accident? Just me?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jan 27

Sensational Selections For Your Book Club

Book Club, Top Ten Tuesday 39

Howdy Bookworms!

You know that feeling when it’s your turn to choose a book for book club and you’re freaking out because you don’t know what to pick? I’ve got you covered! I’ve made a list of fool proof choices for your next meeting, thanks to a prompt from The Broke and the Bookish. It’s Top Ten Tuesday time, y’all!

sensationalselections

1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett- This was the book choice for the very first book club meeting I ever attended. This was pre-movie and largely pre-hype, and we spent all kinds of time really talking about the book. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some unrelated-to-the-book book club chatting, but it’s rather novel when the conversation stays on topic.

2. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (review)- I didn’t actually read this with any book club, but it’s just SO GOOD and SO FULL of great discussion topics that it would be fantastic in a book club setting.

3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (review)- My experience with discussion of this book is from an English class in college, but I love this book so much. How great would it be to talk about with your book club? There’s so much MEAT.

4. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (review)- We read this with The Fellowship of the Worms and it was utterly delightful. It’s like catnip for book nerds, you can’t resist the charm.

5. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls (review)- I discussed this book with two different book clubs and it provided excellent material both times. There’s just so much that’s jaw-dropping and crazy in this memoir that you can’t help but talk about ALL THE THINGS.

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6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (review)- This was another Fellowship of the Worms selection and it was great fun. I’m a sucker for books about book clubs, and reading it IN BOOK CLUB? So meta.

7. Still Alice by Lisa Genova (review)- I never discussed this one with a book club (though I have read Left Neglected by Lisa Genova with two book clubs and it’s another great choice) This book is SO powerful and heartbreaking. It’s utterly discussable.

8. The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick (review)- Let’s face it. Sometimes it’s easier to convince a group to read a book if the movie version stars Bradley Cooper. This book was charming and chock full of things to talk about, so the Bradley Cooper factor is really just a means to an end.

9. Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi- I went back and forth trying to decide whether to include this book or The Book Thief (review) on this list. They’re both great and both tackle the fascinating subject matter of how ordinary Germans lived and felt during WWII. I went with Stones from the River because I feel like it’s less exposed and so incredible that more people ought to be reading it.

10. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (review)- Post apocalyptic novels always make for interesting discussions, and this is one of the best novels of its type I’ve read in a good long time. I think it would make a fantastic book club selection.

ss2I know there are zillions of wonderful book club appropriate books out there, what are some of your favorites, Bookworms?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Jan 26

Lost & Found by Brooke Davis

Contemporary Fiction 23

G’Day Bookworms!

I was engaging in a little behind the scenes book chatter recently (it is every bit as glamorous as it sounds, I assure you) when some serious raving began over Brooke Davis’s debut novel Lost & Found. I am highly susceptible to peer pressure, so naturally, I clicked my way on over to NetGalley to see if I could snag myself a copy of this novel. Fortune smiled, and I was granted access to a complimentary copy of Lost & Found for review consideration. No worries, though, my review will still be honest. I’m a little like Agatha Pantha that way, but you’ll have to keep reading to get that reference…
9780525954682_medium_Lost_&_FoundMillie is a 7 year old girl living in Australia. After her father passes away, her mother slowly withdraws until one day she takes Millie to a department store and abandons her in the lingerie section. While hanging around said department store, Millie joins forces with an unlikely elderly ally, Karl the Touch Typist. He engages in air stenography and makes friends with mannequins. The odd little duo is soon joined by Agatha Pantha, an elderly widow and shut in. She has spent the years since her husband died shouting vitriolic honesty out her window and listening to TV static. Can you think of a better trio to go on a cross country quest to chase down Millie’s mother?

I really wanted to LOVE this book, but my feelings are rather conflicted. On the one hand, I loved the quirky characters. Precocious children and eccentric elderly folks are a pretty irresistible combination. That said, the subject matter was unbelievably heartbreaking. The book is well written, but seeing as it’s January and I’m in the midst of the winter blahs, I had hoped it would be a little more uplifting. When I finished it, I didn’t have a life affirming feeling, it was more of a vague foggy sadness. It makes me wonder if I’d feel differently had I read the book in the summer, seeing as I’m less of a moody basket case when the sun doesn’t set before I leave work. Even though this wasn’t a super fantastic 5 star read for me, I can see a lot of y’all loving it. Seriously, if you like oddball characters and laughter-through-tears Lost & Found might be a big winner for you.

Talk to me, Bookworms. Do you ever think that the timing of when you read a book affects your opinion of it?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I’m going to put it toward a pair of red gum boots because Millie has killer fashion sense.*

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Jan 22

No Leg to Stand On: An Idiosyncratic Lit List

Idiosyncratic Lit List 21

Greetings Bookworms!

It’s been about a year since I launched the Idiosyncratic Lit List feature, and I’m still endlessly entertained by it. My first list had to do with characters who were missing their arms, so OBVIOUSLY I’m going to celebrate this unofficial anniversary by making a list of characters who have lost their legs. Fictional appendages for everyone!

idiosyncraticlitlist

1. Ian Murray from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon: Poor Ian lost his leg thanks to some nasty grapeshot he encountered while fighting as a mercenary in France. Luckily, he had Jenny Fraser waiting for him back in Scotland, which I think he’d agree was a pretty good consolation prize.

2. Gus from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: One of the most articulate teenagers ever, Gus lost his leg to a bout with osteosarcoma. Cancer is complete crap, but it can’t stop teenage luuuurve. There’s a venn diagram involved, but suffice it to say Gus is all about making the best of a hard situation. Yes. I went there. I think I just lost my “grown up” card.

3. Captain Ahab from Moby Dick by Herman Melville: This list would be incomplete without a sailor with a peg leg! I actually hated this book, but I wouldn’t resist including crazy old Ahab on this list. I really can’t blame the guy for wanting revenge on the jerk of a whale who bit off his leg. (Seriously though, since when do whales bite off legs? Orcas are penguin eating bastards, but your typical whale? Ahab must have REALLY pissed him off.)

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4. Mad Eye Moody from The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling: Mad Eye’s auror duties landed him in a lot of battles with dark witches and wizards and he came out rather worse for the wear as a result. In addition to half his nose and his left eye, the poor dude lost half a leg as well. He still fought the good fight, though!

5. Cormoran Strike from The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith: It’s everyone’s favorite curmudgeonly detective! Cormoran lost his leg in Afghanistan, which totally sucks, but he’s still a total badass. (Interesting that Rowling has written two distinct characters missing legs… I wonder if there’s some kind of connection there. Maybe she’s got a pal rocking a prosthesis?)

I’m sure I’ve left someone out, Bookworms. Got a favorite character who just happens to have lost a leg? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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