Monday, December 28, 2015

My Imaginary Friends | Favorite Characters I Met in 2015

One of the the things, if not the thing, that I love most about books is being able to to be immersed in other peoples' lives.  Am I nosy?  Hell yes.  Am I trying to get away from my own life for a bit? Sometimes.  These things are true but the real value for me is what I learn from these imaginary people.  I learn that I am not alone, I learn a different perspective, I am inspired and every once in a while I gain a little crumb of wisdom. 

The list below are some of the imaginary people I learned the most from this year and that I was most pleased to meet.  They are in no particular order except that I do think Gus was my absolute favorite this year.


Augustus "Gus" McCrae
From: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Gus is a famous retired Texas Ranger who runs a somewhat lackluster cattle operation with his partner Woodrow Call.  Saying that he runs the cattle operation is an exaggeration - Call does all the work and Gus adds....color. And signage. When you first meet them, Call seems to be the one who has it together and all figured out but it quickly becomes clear that it is Gus who is the wiser of the two.  And definitely the funnier.  I can in no way do him justice without going on for pages.  He is one of my favorite characters of all time.  

Penryn Young
From Angelfall, World After and End of Days by Susan Ee

One of the dangers of reading YA literature as an adult is that it can sometimes be impossible to connect with the teenage protagonists, so when one comes along whom I love, it is something of which I take special note.  Penryn had to grow up way before her time and not because she grew up an orphan or some other fantastical trope but because her mother suffers from a severe mental illness and she has a disabled younger sister who she feels like she has to shield.  So when Armageddon is laid on her plate, Penryn faces it.  She is not particularly heroic - her aim is the survival of herself and her family - but she manages to be both bad-ass and believably 17. Gave me Buffy feels. 

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache 
From Still Life by Louise Penny
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is the primary detective in this Canadian based mystery series and unlike the many jaded sleuths that have come before him, he is incredibly well-adjusted and down-to-earth.  He's the type of person that I think everyone would wish for as their mentor and/or boss - demanding but also genuinely nurturing and caring.  Thoughtful and very smart, he is able to  delve deep into the people he investigates while still managing to have faith in the world and mankind. 

Walt Longmire
From Cold Dish and Death Loves Company by Craig Johnson

Walt Longmire, also the primary detective in a series of mysteries, is quite different then Gamache but equally interesting to know.  He's more cynical about people and prone to moodiness but he keeps things rolling with a clever sense of humor and a belief in the role he serves as Sheriff of Absaroka County, WY.  I met Walt on the page but also on the small screen in the TV show Longmire and the two versions of him are not quite the same but I loved them both. 

Constance Kopp 
From Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

Constance is the oldest Kopp sister in this wonderful historical crime novel set in 1914 that fictionalizes the historical events leading up to her being named one of America's first female deputy sheriffs.  All three of the Kopp sisters are great but Constance is special.  Or she's not special.  She's very ordinary.  But when a circumstance comes along that threatens their independence and even their lives, she refuses to be bullied.  I would love to hang out on the Kopp farm and learn about self-sufficiency and how to stand up for myself from Constance.

From Jackaby and Beastly Bones by William Ritter

Jackaby can best be described as the possible product if Sherlock Holmes and the Doctor (Doctor Who) ever had a child together.  Given this description it is no surprise that I loved him.  I am always attracted to the absent-minded professor type characters -  a scattered and goofy personae that conceals a keen observer, a brilliant mind and unsuspected wisdom.  Jackaby is definitely of this type and I am envious of Abigail who gets to be his assistant.

Penelope Lumley

Penelope is what I imagine Mary Poppins may have been like as a young governess just starting out at the age of 15.  Plucky, nerdy, nurturing and stern in equal measure, and unflappably practical in the face of any crises.  She's also charming and delightful with her child-like adoration of her Alma Mater's founder, Agatha Swanburne whose quippy sayings help guide her and her pupils.  Sayings such as: “To be kept waiting is unfortunate, but to be kept waiting with nothing interesting to read is a tragedy of Greek proportions.”   You said it, Agatha!

Sunny Nwazue
From Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Sunny is a twelve year old, albino witch (aka leopard person) living in Nigeria.  She has many admirable qualities; she's tough, brave and clever.  What I love most about her, however, is that she is a rule follower.  Oh, she'll break the rules when it's important and she gets in trouble but she is not a rebel without a cause.  Her instinct is to be a good citizen and defying her parents does not make her happy.  Since I too grew up (and still am really) a goody two shoes, I really identified with her and appreciated the fact of her sheer normal-ness. 

From Three Parts Dead  by Max Gladstone

Tara is the quick thinking, endlessly adaptable heroine of the first book in Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence.  I think hanging out with Tara would make me feel incredibly uncool but I definitely wouldn't mind indulging in a little heroine worship. After standing up to a bully of a teacher and getting thrown out (literally) of her Craft school she tries to blend in with society and live a normal life but her love of the Craft is just too strong and she jumps at the chance to start a career.  Her first on-the-job test is to resurrect a god, so, no biggie.  I enjoyed her character so much that I'm bummed that the nature of how this series is structured means that at least two of the next four books will not include her.  :(

From Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

I wasn't quite as crazy about this graphic novel as most folks were but I did like it a lot and was especially fascinated by the character of Nimona who is very hard to pin down.  In the guise of  a young girl she presents herself as a sidekick candidate to the resident Super Villain Lord Balister Blackheart.  Soon it becomes clear that despite her innocent appearance Nimona is much better at being evil than Lord Blackheart.  I don't want to say much more in case you haven't read it yet but it's safe to say that Nimona is a super interesting character.

Lady Philippa Marbury 
From One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean

Lady Philippa Marbury is my favorite romance heroine certainly of the year if not of all time.  The blurb on the book begins by describing her as odd and MacLean delivers on that promise.  Philippa is a science nerd who loves dogs and has trouble feeling comfortable in a ball room all of which is decidedly odd for a lady in Regency Era England.  I like her for those things alone but I love her for her forthright, very scientific exploration of love, her dry sense of humor, and the awkward things she says without thinking.  I would definitely enjoy hanging out with Philippa and geeking out over plant breeding.

Tyrannthus Slaughter
From Mister Slaughter by Robert McCammon

Tyrannthus Slaughter is not a man that I ever want to meet or even be on the same continent with for he is intensely, disturbingly, deliciously evil.  It's the kind of evil that hides itself behind a sheen of false charm and good manners and is augmented by a massive amount of brains.  He is almost supernatural in his abilities and the battle of wits and brawn between he and series' protagonist Matthew Corbett is epic.  By FAR, the best villain I've encountered in a very long time!

Sunny Mann 
From Shine, Shine, Shine by Lydia Netzer

Sunny is a deeply strange and unique woman trying to mold herself into the very picture of normality in Shine, Shine, Shine.  A series of life events cause her to come to terms with how much she no longer cares about fitting in with "normal" suburban life.  Her liberation prompts the revelation that no one is truly "normal" and that everyone is hiding something about themselves.  Riding along with Sunny on her journey back to her own unique weirdness was one of my favorite rides of the year.

The Disreputable Dog 
From Lirael and Abhorsen by Garth Nix

The Disreputable Dog is the only non-humanoid on the list and considering how much I like dogs as a general rule it is not surprising to find her on here.  She is not, strictly speaking, a dog but that is her form and most of the time she acts very much like a dog.  A wise, loyal, goofy, brave, loving dog and while I really enjoyed meeting Lirael as well, it was The Disreputable Dog I was most sad to say goodbye to at the end of Abhorsen.


Interestingly, to me at least, quite a few of these books' covers feature a picture of the main character highlighting that character is a very important element in these books. I guess it is not surprising that I found myself caught up in these imaginary peoples' lives!

What are some of the fictional people you most enjoyed meeting in 2015? What made them so special?


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