This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday is a topic you’ve missed over the years and want to revisit… and strangely, when I did a couple of searches on my blog, I didn’t find any posts about my bookish pet peeves. So here goes!
- Miscommunication. I think y’all know I hate this one, but it’s especially bad when it’s a couple or something, and you know they should trust each other — they’ve even given each other countless reasons to trust in the past. It’s the most annoying plot device, even if it really does happen in real life, because I just don’t want to spend time with characters who make the same stupid mistakes over and over.
- “I like you just as you are… so I’ll make sure you never change.” That’s not actually love, guys. People change and grow and make free choices, and make mistakes, and you have to let them. It’s creepy as fuck when one character decides that they get to say what another character will do for the sake of their purity or whatever.
- Insta-love. Unless there’s a reason, like you’re the reincarnation of Guinevere and he’s the reincarnation of Arthur and when you meet you feel the weight of your history, or… whatever, just something that explains it, something that gives it weight. Else it’s just a cheap way to add drama.
- People are the real evil. I think this is true in many respects, but I hate it when a horror novel or something over-focuses on people being awful. I’m here for witches and ghosts and monsters, and not the human sort.
- Privilege flipping. It’s been done well by someone, I’m sure, but most of the time it’s really tone deaf, and in some cases just wouldn’t work — e.g. a whole world where gay relationships are the only sort allowed. If that’s the case, then you have to address the issue of procreation, and then also deal with the way that changes society. If there are artificial wombs, fine, but it changes things as well.
- Changing just one thing. In reality, it’d be like the first in a chain of dominoes. That’s why we have the whole ‘butterfly beating its wings’ saying; a small change here or there will change something else, which will change another thing, which will have a cascading effect. I don’t think there’s any choices we can make that don’t affect something. If I wear my purple socks today, I can’t wear them tomorrow, and I can’t have a conversation about my hedgehog socks today.
- Stories where women apparently don’t communicate. Like somehow there’s all these housewives who just stay in their houses the whole time and never even cross paths to borrow a cup of sugar, or… It just makes no sense. Even if all your main characters are men (why?) then the female characters in the background will still interact with each other, and if not, there’d better be a good reason.
- Narrators. Okay, narrators in themselves aren’t a pet peeve, but if you have someone narrating a story, I kind of want to know why they’re telling it. I love it when a story gives you context for the narrator narrating: this was an interview with x, this is y’s diary, etc. Otherwise, who the heck are they talking to? Themselves? And if they are, then why do they need to explain what their favourite colour is and how tall they are?
- Just one exception. A character can read everybody’s mind… except one. No reason, it just complicates their relationship. If there’s a rule in your fictional universe, every exception needs to have a purpose. How does it drive the story?
- Inquits. You really don’t have to look for a gazillion alternatives to “said”. They stick out like a sore thumb when you have characters yelling, bawling, crying, shouting, whispering, choking, gasping… “Said” is perfectly useful for attributing dialogue. If you’re using another word, it needs to be doing twice the work.
So there’s my somewhat random set of pet peeves! Share any? Disagree? Feel free to chip in!
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a theme after my own heart: what ten books would you buy if someone handed you a fully loaded gift card right now?
- Ultimates: Omniversal, by Al Ewing. I’ve never much liked the sound of the Ultimates as such, though I enjoy Ultimate Spider-man, but this line-up just sounds straight-up amazing. America Chavez and Captain Marvel? Sign me right up.
- Captain Marvel: Rise of Alpha Flight, by Tara Butters. Okay, I love DeConnick’s run on Captain Marvel, but I love the character too, and I’m excited to see what a new writer has done for her.
- Tower of Thorns, by Juliet Marillier. Because I don’t have a physical copy, and I haven’t got round to reading it yet either.
- A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan. I’ve read this twice now, but I still don’t own a physical copy. What’s wrong with me?
- Gunmetal Magic, by Ilona Andrews. I’m jolted by the gap in Andrea’s story that Kate’s books just bridged in a matter of sentences. Gimme more Andrea!
- The New Avengers: Everything Is New, by Al Ewing. The number of Avengers teams is going to get confusing but excuse me is that Hulkling on the cover? And Wiccan?
- The Dragons of Heaven, by Alyc Helms. I got intrigued by Robert’s review.
- Wake of Vultures, by Lila Bowen. I borrowed it from the library, but didn’t get round to it before I had to return it. And now I’ve seen it in a bookstore here…
- Blackout, by Mira Grant. I apparently don’t have this third book of the trilogy? And nor does the library? Arghh.
- Ghost Talkers, by Mary Robinette Kowal. It’s not out until the 13th, but I’d totally put in my preorder now.
What’s anyone else dying to get their hands on?
This week’s theme from The Broke and The Bookish is “top ten things books made me want to do or learn”. Now I’m sure if I thought about it I could come up with some serious answers (like the way The Grey King by Susan Cooper always makes me want to learn to play the harp — or the way books on archaeology really make me reconsider my childhood dream of working with Time Team), but it’s waaaay too warm here, so you get the silly version.
- Uprooted, by Naomi Novik. Magic! Obviously! I want to be able to dress myself or cook a meal with a word. That’d be really handy.
- Magic Breaks, by Ilona Andrews. I want to be able to sword fight like Kate. I mean, okay, I am a total wuss about pain in reality, but I’d be badass anyway.
- Hawkeye, from Marvel. Or countless other archers in my reading past, like Katniss. Because archery looks fun.
- Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I want to know when people are lying, like Lying Cat. Okay, that would probably actually really suck. Some lies really do smooth the way between people.
- Whose Body?, by Dorothy L. Sayers. I want to rock a monocle like Lord Peter. And say things like “I’ll make a noise like a hoop and roll away.”
- Tooth and Claw, by Jo Walton. I want to be a dragon. That counts for this list, right? And I want to wear really cute hats. As a dragon.
- The Sudden Appearance of Hope, by Claire North. Maybe not all the time, but I’d love Hope’s ability to be forgotten. Especially when I’ve just embarrassed myself.
- A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan. Studying dragons would be really super easy if I was a dragon (see #6).
- The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente. The title says it all.
- Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie. I want to know how to make tea. No, really, I suck at it. Nobody likes my tea.
Anyone else done a silly version…?
This post is a little later in the day than usual, because apparently I suck at timekeeping. Sorry! This week’s theme is “books set outside the US”. Which does actually cover a fair old number of books I know, since I come from the UK, but I’ll see what I can do to make an interesting list!
- Cocaine Blues, by Kerry Greenwood. This is the first book in the Phryne Fisher series, set in Australia. It’s a lot of fun, has LGBTQ characters, found families, and a proactive, capable female lead.
- The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff. This is a solid historical fiction, based on real findings about Roman Britain, and suitable for just about all ages. The protagonist, Marcus, is injured seriously, early in the book, and throughout the book there are also excellent depictions of how he deals with the pain and disability.
- Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch. Urban fantasy, but set in London and the surrounding environs, this is the start of a series which features Peter Grant, a police officer who turns out to be able to use magic and thus solve magical-related crimes.
- Midnight Never Come, by Marie Brennan. This is historical fantasy set in Elizabethan England. I might not love it quite as much as the slightly-alternate-reality in Brennan’s Lady Trent books, but it’s awesome nonetheless.
- The Sudden Appearance of Hope, by Claire North. This hops all over the place, but it starts in Dubai and spends a good portion of the time there and in other countries round the world.
- Century Rain, by Alastair Reynolds. Most of the action takes place in an alternate version of 1940s France; some takes place in the future, in floating habitats in Earth’s atmosphere. (Guess who managed to mess up the environment.)
- The Perilous Gard, by Elizabeth Marie Pope. Very fine historical fantasy, set in the reign of Mary Tudor. It’s partly based on the ‘Tam Lin’ story, but it also becomes something very much its own.
- The Girl from Everywhere, by Heidi Heilig. Noticed how many of these are fantasy set in our world? It’s my thing, sorry. This one, too, set mostly in Hawaii and using mythical aspects of life in Honolulu.
- Glamour in Glass, by Mary Robinette Kowal. I’m not a huge fan of the first book of this series, but the second book took off for me. Alt-Regency, with an interesting form of magic…
- Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. This one is pretty popular, but I must put it in the list anyway because I love how very British it is (though it does feature other places in Europe). It’s a huge tome, but worth it, I promise.
Now let’s hope I find some time to visit other people’s posts for more bookshelf inspiration!
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about me. Well, by that I mean, the theme is ten facts about me. As in, ten facts about the blogger writing the post.
Yes, I am this awkward in person, too.
- I can read in a lot more languages than I can speak (with some help from a glossary, dictionary or simultaneous translation, in some cases). I can read modern English (obviously), French, Anglo-Saxon, Middle English and Old Icelandic. I can only really speak English, though my French is starting to become usable. (I’m also learning Welsh and Dutch, but I am very, very far from being able to read in either. Though I do know how to say “I’m reading a book” in both.)
- I can taste words. I’m a lexical->gustatory synaesthete. So, in fact, is my mother. I did not know this was not a thing until I read a book which included synaesthesia as a character trait. The word “torture” tastes of dark chocolate. The Hobbit as a whole tastes like Werther’s Originals. The associations do not necessarily make sense, but sometimes they really do. (Among my favourite words to say: steps, stepped, swept, slept, crept, leapt, crypt… I don’t even know what they taste of, but I like it. When I say words in French or Dutch, they do not have a flavour. Welsh does, though. Brains are fascinating!)
- I still can’t pick a career, and I’m 26. Nearly 27. I mean, at this point I have an MA in English literature… but am now partway through a BSc. I read a non-fiction book and promptly want that to be my career. Microbiology, genetics, archaeology, psychology, neurology, literary theory… Can’t I do it all?
- I couldn’t read until I was seven. So please stop talking about how real bookworms teach themselves to read at two, people.
- If I can’t buy you books, I don’t know what to do with you. There are some great people in my life who just don’t read, and I cannot figure it out at all. What on earth do I buy you for presents???!
- As a piece of geeky silliness related to #3, I once came up with a genetic cross which shows why I’m such a bookworm. It is, of course, entirely spurious and unlikely (though of course there’s probably genetic influence in me being an introvert, the synaesthesia, etc, which all contribute to making me a reader), but I had fun. TAHDAH.
- I read to my house rabbit. She likes it and has been known to bite me if I stop before she’s ready.
- My imagination is completely non-visual. My memory also. I remember things in text; I can’t picture things the way other people seem to. Instead, I have word-pictures, and sometimes that means I have more of a ‘feeling’ about a character than a mental image. So Faramir in the LOTR movies is wrong not because he looks wrong but because he is not as noble and capable of resisting the Ring as the real Faramir. (Even though the reasoning for changing that for the film completely made sense.)
- The only thing I recall my parents banning me from reading as a kid was The Lord of the Rings. This was purely for the reason that my mother wanted me to be old enough to properly appreciate it, not because they ever policed the content of what I read.
- My biggest library fine on a single book was something like four times the actual value of the book. It would have been cheaper to just pay for a replacement. And it was on my mother’s library card. Whoops. (The book was The Positronic Man, by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, and I note with distress that I cannot find my copy. Which is doubly annoying as my partner bought it for me early in our relationship, after I mentioned reading it from the library a gazillion times but never seeing another copy since then.)
Welp, I hope that was a suitably entertaining set of facts!
This week’s theme is ‘Top Ten Underrated Books’ — books with less than 2,000 ratings on Goodreads. Some of these only have a handful of ratings, though some are more popular; I tried to pick a range, because if I just picked the most underrated books it’d all be Welsh fiction, and y’all probably wouldn’t be that interested. (But if you are, go forth and read Kate Roberts, Rhys Davies, Menna Gallie, Margiad Evans…)
- The Man Who Went into the West, Byron Rogers. A biography of R.S. Thomas, this was a lovely mix of fact and rather chatty character portrait: it makes R.S. Thomas come alive, as a man of contradictions and contrasts.
- The Hidden Landscape, Richard Fortey. Or any of Fortey’s books, really; something about his style made even geology fascinating to me, and I’m not actually that interested in geology. There’s a poetry to the landscape and the long shaping of it which Fortey sees and communicates very clearly.
- Cold Night Lullaby, Colin Mackay. Only read this collection of poetry if you want your heart to be ripped from your chest. It covers the poet’s experiences in Sarajevo as an aid worker, and inspired Karine Polwart’s song ‘Waterlily’. The video here includes Polwart’s introduction to Mackay’s life and work.
- Dead Man’s Embers, Mari Strachan. Painful in a different way, this book follows the recovery of a man returned to his Welsh village after the Great War. There’s a touch of magic realism, but the emotional heart of the story is very real.
- A Sorcerer’s Treason, Sarah Zettel. I haven’t read this in ages, and in fact need to reread it, but I remember it very fondly — and remember passing it round to various friends and relations, hence why my partner has a stack of this series tempting me to reread now…
- A Taste of Blood Wine, Freda Warrington. I really didn’t expect to fall so in love with a gothic vampire romance, but it’s so unapologetic about examining the effects of the vampires and the way they choose to live on the people around them that I fell for it all the same. I think fans of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel books would probably be a good fit.
- Iron and Gold, Hilda Vaughan. A classic fairytale situation, in a Welsh setting; it humanises the fairytale, making the pain of it really hit you, while also examining human relationships and how they work.
- The Complete Brandstetter, Joseph Hansen. I’ve been amazed at how little I’ve ever heard about these books since my housemate wrote a dissertation on gay detectives in crime fiction. It deals with so many issues — AIDs, racial issues, homophobia, and beyond that into aging, relationships in general… and also delivers solid story after solid story.
- Exiled From Camelot, Cherith Baldry. I read this for my own dissertation, which probably accounts for how fond I am of it. It’s not perfect, but the bond between Arthur and Kay is painfully real (and something often neglected in other modern fiction). It’s also an interesting mixture of materials, with stuff straight from both the Welsh sources and the much later Continental tradition.
- The Fox’s Tower, and Other Tales, Yoon Ha Lee. I love microfiction, and this is one of the few collections I can think of which I would fairly whole-heartedly recommend. Yoon Ha Lee gets the art of the really short story.
I’ll be interested to see what other people have picked out this week — especially if you talk a bit about why. Link me!
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a freebie week, so I mined the past topics for something interesting, and grabbed “Top Ten Books I Was ‘Forced’ To Read”. Which I shall interpret as meaning books read for class, rather than books people pressed upon me in a friendly manner…
- The Decameron, Boccaccio. Technically I don’t think I had to read this, but doing so definitely helps to understand the context of stuff like Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. And it is, in fact, a darn good read; some of the stories get repetitive, but there’s a lot of fascinating stuff going on.
- The Annotated Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien and Douglas A. Anderson. Normally I probably wouldn’t be interested in an annotated edition, but this has some really fascinating stuff.
- Cwmardy, Lewis Jones. Or basically all the Welsh literature I read for class, because it was all pretty eye-opening for me.
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. My love affair with this poem didn’t really begin until I read it in the original, at a painstakingly slow speed, with a really intelligent tutor at the helm.
- Njal’s Saga. I just love that you can sum it up as “John Grisham for ancient Iceland”.
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie. No, really! It was a class on crime fiction and it was awesome, and while Christie’s writing could get formulaic, reading this one alone was pretty awesome.
- Country Dance, Margiad Evans. Or was it Turf or Stone? Either way, this deserves a special mention alongside Cwmardy because the introduction just hit me in the gut with oh, I recognise this… I forget who it was, but someone wrote about not knowing anything about Welsh literature as they grew up, and thinking there was none, and yeah, I’ve been there.
- The Mabinogion. Else what kind of Welsh person would I be? But I didn’t really ‘get’ it or dig into it until I had to read it and relate it to other texts and dig into research and scholarship.
- Postcolonialism Revisited, Kirsti Bohata. The birth of my understanding of Wales as a colony, and our literature as postcolonial. Not that non-Welsh classmates tended to appreciate this point of view.
- Richard III, William Shakespeare. I honestly did not ‘get’ Shakespeare at first, so never bothered to read the history plays. Which turned out to be my favourites.
English Lit degree: useful for something, at least.
This week’s theme is “Top Ten 2016 Releases So Far”. And I’m not sure I’ve read ten yet… But let’s have a shot.
- This Savage Song, by Victoria Schwab. I had this as an ARC and it’s finally out; it’s awesome, and possibly my favourite of her books so far.
- The Sudden Appearance of Hope, by Claire North. Fascinating core idea and well-executed. I think I like it more than Touch or The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, and I did like those too.
- The Raven and the Reindeer, by T. Kingfisher. Fun lesbian retelling of ‘The Snow Queen’. No, I’m not kidding.
- In the Labyrinth of Drakes, by Marie Brennan. Enormously satisfying for fans of the series, and it keeps on bringing the awesome.
- Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire. For a novella, this was very satisfying, and it’s definitely encouraged me to get on and read more of McGuire’s work.
- The Winner’s Kiss, by Marie Rutkoski. Picked right back up again after I disliked some things about the second book, and gave us an excellent end.
- The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All The Way Home, by Catherynne M. Valente. A lovely end to the series, and avoided the trope I was really scared of.
- City of Blades, by Robert Jackson Bennett. Give me mooooooore…
- Kingfisher, by Patricia A. McKillip. I suspect I’ll appreciate this more if I ever come back and reread it. It has her usual magic all the same.
- The Girl From Everywhere, by Heidi Heilig. Fascinating setting (Hawaii, 1884) and some awesome characters. By which I mostly mean Kash.
Well, that was surprisingly easy! I guess I’m keeping up better than I thought.
This week’s theme is “Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of the Year”, which is always a difficult topic for me as I have no real clue what’s upcoming. I know, I’m rubbish. So here’s a bunch of books that I don’t think are out yet, which I want to get.
- Ghost Talkers, by Mary Robinette Kowal. I’ve been in love with the cover since it was announced, and I’ve enjoyed Kowal’s previous books.
- This Savage Song, by Victoria Schwab. I’ve actually read this already, but I love it and I want more people to read it. You can check out my review here!
- Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor. I might not have got round to reading Dreams of Gods and Monsters yet, but that’s definitely not Taylor’s fault. I’m excited for her next book!
- The Reader, by Traci Chee. I can’t remember where I first saw this, but I know it’s been in my mind as something to check out for a while now.
- Den of Wolves, by Juliet Marillier. I haven’t actually read the second book yet, but I enjoyed Dreamer’s Pool a lot, so I’m looking forward to this.
- The Burning Page, by Genevieve Cogman. I found the second book really entertaining and better than I expected, so I’m actually quite impatient for this one!
- Necessity, by Jo Walton. It’s Jo, ’nuff said.
- The Obelisk Gate, by N.K. Jemisin. Hopefully it’ll give me the kick in the butt to read The Fifth Season, ahaha…
- City of Miracles, by Robert Jackson Bennett. Okay, technically I think it’s January of 2017, but shush, I want it noooow.
- Ruined, by Amy Tintera. Because Cait @ Paper Fury made it sound awesome.
I’m surprised — quite a few of these actually leaped to mind! What’s everyone else looking forward to? Have I forgotten something obvious?
This week’s theme is “Ten Reasons I Love X”, and for a minute I couldn’t think of a thing I wanted to gush about — or I could, but nothing I thought I could come up with a whole list for, or which might be interesting to anyone else.
Then it struck me. So here are ten reasons I love fairytales (and fairytale retellings)!
- Something about them has spoken to people for a long, long time. These are really old stories that have been told by consensus, basically — by people deciding on the bits they like and adding new parts and ditching things which don’t make sense anymore. They’re like a well-worn shirt.
- They’re still variable. We can still change them. Every day, if we want to. We can tell the same story with different characters (and even read the same stories with different characters) and explore all the little ways we can tweak the meanings, the messages.
- They contain all kinds of magic. It doesn’t matter what magic you need, you can probably find it in fairytales. Alchemy? Ask Rumpelstiltskin. Fairy Godmothers? True love’s kiss?
- We can use them to ask questions. Like, why would you love a Beast? What’s going on with this story?
- They’re suitable for any age. These stories are timeless, and it’s because they contain stuff that appeals to children and adults alike. The child wonders about what’s there to find in the wood, other than the Big Bad Wolf. The adult knows the anxiety of Red Riding Hood’s mother, or the patience of the grandmother, or the hunger of the Wolf…
- They can be universal. We could go around collecting dozens of variations on a fairytale, or collect them together and call it an archetype. There’s versions of these stories in so many cultures — doesn’t that say something?
- They can be specific. Robin Hood lives in Sherwood Forest, and you can go there and walk where he walked. Or walk past a lake where a fairy came out of the water to marry a human man. This or that glade or grotto, somewhere you know and can visit and touch, has a secret magic.
- You always know what’s coming. Once upon a time. A wicked witch. True love’s kiss. Happily ever after.
- But they can surprise you all the same. It doesn’t have to happen the same way every time. Sleeping Beauty can fall in love with the Wicked Witch or a stableboy or serving maid. The important part is the kiss, the happy ever after. Cinderella can be an android.
- We can make new fairytales with the old formulae. We know how it goes: sets of three, a stepmother, a tiny house in the forest…
For two writers who do really good takes on fairytales, try T. Kingfisher and Robin McKinley… Sarah Pinborough’s retellings are also interesting. And there’s a lot more out there.