Tag: Marie Brennan

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Book Quotes

Posted September 29, 2020 by Nicky in General / 8 Comments

This week’s theme via That Artsy Reader Girl is “favourite book quotes” — which I’m pretty sure I’ve done before. So instead, I’ll put a tiny spin on it and pick out my favourite quotes from the last ten books I’ve read. I just skipped ones which aren’t very quotable… or which didn’t have Goodreads quotes yet, if I couldn’t immediately think of something.

Cover of Piranesi by Susanna Clarke Cover of Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez Cover of The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers Cover of Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman Cover of Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

  1. Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke. “Perhaps that is what it is like being with other people. Perhaps even people you like and admire immensely can make you see the world in ways you would rather not.”
  2. Invisible Women, by Caroline Criado-Perez. “It’s not always easy to convince someone a need exists, if they don’t have that need themselves.”
  3. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, by Dorothy L. Sayers. “Books… are like lobster shells, we surround ourselves with ’em, then we grow out of ’em and leave ’em behind, as evidence of our earlier stages of development.”
  4. Utopia for Realists, by Rutger Brenman. “You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you have no boots.”
  5. Nine Coaches Waiting, by Mary Stewart. “There was one thing that stood like stone among the music and moonfroth of the evening’s gaieties. It was stupid, it was terrifying, it was wonderful, but it had happened and I could do nothing about it. For better or worse, I was head over ears in love.”
  6. Driftwood, by Marie Brennan. “Paggarat was less doomed than they wagered, not because of how long it lasted but because of how it went out. Because of Aun and Esr, smiling at each other until the end of the world.”
  7. The Grace of Kings, by Ken Liu. “Do you see how much power you have when you act without fear?”
  8. The Priory of the Orange Tree, by Samantha Shannon. “I do not sleep because I am not only afraid of the monsters at my door, but also of the monsters my own mind can conjure. The ones that live within.”
  9. The Last Smile in Sunder City, by Luke Arnold. “I like books. They’re quiet, dignified and absolute. A man might falter but his words, once written, will hold.”
  10. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chamber. “We cannot blame ourselves for the wars our parents start. Sometimes the very best thing we can do is walk away.”

Cover of Drift Wood by Marie Brennan Cover of The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu Cover of The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon Cover of The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold Cover of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

I didn’t love all those books, but those quotes capture something that did work for me from each!

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WWW Wednesday

Posted September 9, 2020 by Nicky in General / 0 Comments

It’s Wednesday again! So here’s the usual check-in. You can go to Taking On A World Of Words to chat with everyone else who has posted what they’re reading right now!

Cover of Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline CareyWhat are you currently reading?

I’ve started rereading Kushiel’s Dart, to join in with the Wyrd & Wonder readalong. I’ve just realised my careful planning out actually has me a week behind, so I need to rejig that. Argh. Anyway, I’m enjoying revisiting this world — the writing always takes me just a little bit to sink back into, given how flowery it is… but it always sucks me in eventually. Damn, Phèdre is a brat at first.

Other than that, I’m reading The Fifth Season (finally), also as a readalong with one of my fellow Beeminder workerbees. I’m ahead on this one, though. From everything I’ve heard about it, I wonder if I’m putting two and two together correctly… but I hate being wrong, so I’m not going to admit to what I guess!

Cover of The Grace of Kings by Ken LiuWhat have you recently finished reading?

I just finished reading Marie Brennan’s Driftwood last night, and still need to ponder how to review it. It’s still settling in my brain at the moment.

I also finally finished Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings, and I’m just done settling my thoughts about that down. I don’t think I’m going to read the next book… unless it weighs on my mind, which it might. I just didn’t care enough, despite finding it compelling enough in and of itself.

What will you be reading next?

Probably I’ll return to Beneath the World, A Sea, by Chris Beckett, and try to finish it; I only got about 60 pages in, if I recall correctly, and I’m doing my best to go back to my half-read books and dig in.

I’m also curious about Utopia for Realists, by Rutger Brenman, and In Black and White, by Alexandra Wilson. So I’m not sure what will be next… and besides, I’m spending half my time beating my head against the basics of statistics and probability, because I let myself get complacent and I’ve forgotten half of what I ever drummed into my brain (with great difficulty). If anyone has good suggestions for books on the basics of biostatistics, let me know…

Anyway, being busy with that makes me inclined to read some fluffy fiction instead, but what I don’t know.

What’re you folks reading?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted September 2, 2020 by Nicky in General / 6 Comments

It’s Wednesday again! So here’s the usual check-in. You can go to Taking On A World Of Words to chat with everyone else who has posted what they’re reading right now!

Cover of Mudlarking by Lara MaiklamWhat are you currently reading?

Fiction: The Belting Inheritance, by Julian Symons. It’s heavy going compared to a lot of the other British Library Crime Classics; it’s very consciously literally, and it has a rather stodgy narrator (an older man narrating events of his youth, groan).

Non-fiction: I’m back to reading Afua Hirsch’s Brit(ish), having got my ereader all set up again after the replacement, and also got back to the front of the queue from the library. I’m finding it hard going, not because of the subject matter, but just something about the writing. I’ve never done that well with memoir, and that’s largely what this is, though it does also discuss society-wide issues.

I’m also reading Lara Maiklem’s Mudlarking, which is a very easy read. I love microhistories, so perhaps it’s not surprising that this exploration of mudlarking and the things you can find while doing it is working for me.

Cover of Unfit For Purpose by Adam HartWhat have you recently finished reading?

The last thing I finished was Adam Hart’s Unfit for Purpose, which I found a fairly obvious exploration of how human beings are ill-adapted to our modern environment because we evolved for a wholly different one. It never really dug into the issues enough to satisfy me.

Cover of Drift Wood by Marie BrennanWhat will you be reading next?

Most likely I will get back to work on The Grace of Kings, which I’ve been neglecting a bit too long. I have a whole shelf-full of books I’m partway through (or have been partway through at some point in the last… year-ish) that I want to pick back up, but there’s also a chance I’ll pick Marie Brennan’s Driftwood first.

What are you currently reading?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Make Me Smile

Posted July 14, 2020 by Nicky in General / 26 Comments

Tuesday again already! And this week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is “books that make me smile”. Which is… honestly, most books. Just being around books makes me smile — even books I personally wouldn’t enjoy, it can be really exciting to look at someone else’s books, or browse through a shelf… But there are some specific books that put a smile on my face for various reasons, so let’s do this!

Cover of The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer Cover of Band Sinister by K.J. Charles Cover of Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers Cover of Small Robots by Thomas Heasman-Hunt

  1. The Talisman Ring, by Georgette Heyer. Most Heyer novels have me giggling throughout, but this was one of the first I read, and the reread was just as good. The Reluctant Widow, too. She has some annoying heroes and some repetitive plots/themes… but in general, I’m always going to smile at a Heyer novel.
  2. Band Sinister, by K.J. Charles. Most K.J. Charles books would fit the bill actually… but Band Sinister is one of the rare ones that doesn’t also have a massive bodycount, so it’s the one that fits most readily on a list about smiling! Though A Fashionable Indulgence is also worth mentioning. And A Gentleman’s Position. Ugh, no, they all make me smile.
  3. Have His Carcase, by Dorothy L. Sayers. From the opening paragraph onwards, there’s so much cleverness and wit. And it features two of my favourite characters in fiction, Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. How could I not smile? Also, memories of the radioplays and BBC TV adaptations, and so many good conversations with my mum and my wife…
  4. The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. Alright, not all of it is happy or comfortable reading, but Maia is a delight and so are many of the characters who surround him. I’m trying not to reread it too often, but honestly, when I’m stressed it’s the first thing that comes to mind.
  5. Small Robots, by Thomas Heasman-Hunt. There’s a Small Robot for almost every occasion, and they’re so often so cute… or so apt for the moment. Check out their Twitter!
  6. The Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan. The series has been so much fun, and the accompanying art (including on the cover) is so good. Isabella and her deranged practicality really stick with me.
  7. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin. I can’t help remembering being sucked in and just ZOOMING through it, whenever I see this book! And so many great conversations about it, and just… yeah.
  8. Catching Breath, by Kathryn Lougheed. One of the many books about disease (like The Emperor of All Maladies, or Spillover) that a) helped me get over irrational fear through fostering curiosity instead, and b) really set me on my current path when it comes to studying. Of course I smile when I think about this one! There’s so much out there to learn, and I never have to stop. Plus, I wrote my dissertation on TB basically because of this book. I know a lot of people hate their dissertations by the end, but I did not; I’d gladly research and write several more chapters!
  9. This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story, by Kacen Callender. I haven’t actually read this yet, but it looks like fun and I’m really excited to finally get through my TBR pile to it. (Not that I am reading a set number of books before I pick it up, just that my brain is like a very crowded train station, and This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story has not — yet — managed to get on the attention-trains zooming through.)
  10. Red, White and Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston. Ditto the above! It looks and sounds so cute, aaahh.

Cover of A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan Cover of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin Cover of Catching Breath by Kathryn Lougheed Cover of This is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kacen Callender Cover of Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

I’ll be interested to see what books make other folks smile — and hopefully why! Leave me your links if you’ve done this TTT as well!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I’ve Read The Most Books By

Posted July 7, 2020 by Nicky in General / 11 Comments

It’s Tuesday again already? Gah. So this week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is “Authors I’ve Read the Most Books By”. This one’s always tricky because sometimes you can read just one series by an author and it swamps the handful of one-shots by authors you like more. What’s more, I think my stats might be messed up by all the rereads. So I’m going to ignore the actual statistics here and go with the authors I think I’ve read the most of.

Cover of The Books of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin and Charles Vess Cover of The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles Cover of Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates by Kerry Greenwood Cover Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn Cover of Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers

  1. Ursula Le Guin. She was pretty prolific! She’s got to feature on the list somewhere. I read Earthsea as a teenager and gradually moved through most of her science fiction and then her non-fiction essays… and no matter what she writes, it’s all so good. There are more memorable and less memorable forays (a lot of people discount or didn’t like Lavinia or the Gifts trilogy) but… in general, I’ve found something to enjoy in everything she wrote.
  2. K.J. Charles. Charles takes up a pretty good chunk of my shelf, and of course I don’t have all of them in paperback. I’m going to be willing to try just about anything she writes, and I’m a little sad I only have a handful to go. (Being Proper English, Rag and Bone, Slippery Creatures… and maybe some shorter stories? The Price of Meat and A Queer Trade, at least, and of course the crossover with Jordan L. Hawk’s Whyborne & Griffin.)
  3. Kerry Greenwood. On the strength of the Phryne Fisher series alone, she’s probably pretty high on my list.
  4. Carola Dunn. Same, only with the Daisy Dalrymple books — plus one of her romance trilogies. She’s hugely prolific and I really need to decide on a few more of her romances to read, because I really liked Miss Jacobson’s Journey et al.
  5. Dorothy L. Sayers. She’s got to be up there in the list, given I’ve read all the Peter Wimsey books, the short stories, and The Documents in the Case…
  6. Marie Brennan. I actually haven’t read all her books yet, but I’ve read one or two of the Onyx Court books, and all the Isabella Trent books, a couple of novellas and at least two short story collections. I’m willing to try just about anything with her name on it.
  7. Guy Gavriel Kay. He’s got a fair few books out and I’ve even read all but two of them, so I think he must be a contender here! I actually got hooked on his oldest books (The Fionavar Tapestry), but he’s got a beautiful way with words. Just… don’t put him in charge of who pairs up with who.
  8. N.K. Jemisin. I might not actually have read more of her works than some other authors, but she deserves a place on this list for intentions. I’m behind, but I will read everything she’s written and everything she’s going to write, most likely.
  9. Mary Robinette Kowal. At this point I’m just eyeing up my shelves and going “oh, that’s a sizeable chunk of books and I’ve read most of them”… But after not entirely loving Shades of Milk and Honey, I was entirely converted, loved that whole series, loved The Calculating Stars, greatly enjoyed a short story collection… Pretty solid pick here, I think.
  10. Jacqueline Carey. From my first introduction to Kushiel’s Dart, I’ve loved Carey’s work, and I’ve eaten up all her Kushiel universe books… plus most of her others as well. I’m a little behind, as always, but always gonna love her lush prose.

Cover of A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan Cover of The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay Cover of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin Cover of Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal Cover of Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey

I’ve no idea how that actually matches up to the numbers on Goodreads, but I haven’t been great about tracking that lately anyway! I think this is a pretty representative idea, anyway.

Who do you read most of? Do your shelves get dominated by never-ending detective series, or do you spread out your reading?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish I Could Read Again For the First Time

Posted June 23, 2020 by Nicky in General / 18 Comments

Ten years of Top Ten Tuesday! Wow. This week I’m turning to an old one… that I probably did before, knowing my interests. Here are the ten books I wish I could experience again with fresh eyes. I’m mindful that the suck fairy may have visited books I loved when I was less mature, so I’ve steered away from childhood favourites.

Cover of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin Cover of The Fellowship of the Ring by Tolkien Cover of Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates by Kerry Greenwood Cover of Band Sinister by K.J. Charles

  1. The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. Everyone knows I loved this one, I think! I wish I could read it again and then compare notes with myself. Did I love the same characters? Did I suspect the same characters? What different things would I focus on, being a different person now than I was then? Honestly, that goes for all of these, though: I’d love to know how things would stack up if I could experience them anew from where I’m standing now. The Goblin Emperor is a special favourite, though.
  2. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin. This book has been around for 10 years now, and had 12 reprintings! Whoooa. I remember the first time I read it, it was so compulsive — I had to know what happened, how everything was going to work out, why things we’re happening… I’d love to have that experience again.
  3. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. My mother made me wait to read this until I was eleven, to try and ensure I was mature enough to understand some of the subtleties. I know I didn’t get it all, and my readings of it more recently have been layered with those early impressions, and also with studying it. I’d love to be able to read it for the first time with all the stuff I know now about mythology and Tolkien’s intentions.
  4. The whole Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood. I’ve read all of the Phryne books now, some of them twice, and I’d love to be able to recapture the first time reading them and falling in love with the characters. Some of it’s getting a little too familiar now!
  5. Band Sinister, by K.J. Charles. It was just so sweet and funny and I laughed so much. I’m sure I’m going to enjoy reading it knowing what happens… but I’d love to recapture that breathless ack, how are they going to deal with this?!
  6. The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. I’m not sure I can take rereading it in full knowledge of where it’s going, but I remember being so blown away by it.
  7. Fledgling, by Octavia Butler. I feel like I’m better equipped to handle Butler and where her work was coming from now, but I know this book had a lot of impact on me because it was uncomfortable to read. I don’t know if it’s lost that uncomfortableness now… but I don’t feel like it should. I’d like to get uncomfortable all over again, as an older and wiser adult.
  8. A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan. The first time I read this book I didn’t love it, and that feels like a waste now. I’d also love to know if it’s something you have to read again to love, or if I was just a crankypants that day.
  9. Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal. Same! I ended up loving both these series, and yet… did not love the book first time through. I was just drawn back by something to give them another try. I’d love to give them another first try and see what happens!
  10. Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee. I feel like this one actually gains from rereading, because I felt like I understood it better on a second read, when I’d absorbed more of the world… but also I remember the way it completely grabbed hold of my brain the first time. I’d like to have a clear schedule and a rainy day, and just… give it a second first try.

Cover of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell Cover of Fledgling by Octavia Butler Cover of A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan Cover of Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal Cover of Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Some of these are probably obvious choices, but… it’s not just books I like to reread (actually, I’ve struggled to reread The Sparrow). It’s about recapturing that first impression, and I’ve no idea if I would love all these books the same way if one could do that… but I’d love to find out.

So if I’m ever found with a lost memory… you know what to sit me down with! What would you want to re-experience for the first time?

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Review – The Nine Lands

Posted April 9, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Nine Lands by Marie BrennanThe Nine Lands, Marie Brennan

The Nine Lands is an anthology of stories linked by the fact that they’re set in the same secondary world. Some of these I’ve read before, I think; there’s something very familiar about several of them, at least. The stories aren’t really otherwise linked, with different themes and characters in each one. Each works well as a short story, giving a little glimpse of the world around whatever plot or character is at the centre.

I do have some… qualms, I guess; I know Brennan is an anthropologist, and I do trust her to be generally respectful, but it feels a little weird to see shamanism and other religious practices and cultural traditions in what feels like a fairly typical fantasy setting in other ways. I don’t really know enough or come from the right background to know how well it’s done and whether it feels right, so I can’t really comment any further on this, but it is worth knowing that it’s definitely in play in these stories.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Turning Darkness into Light

Posted August 31, 2019 by Nicky in Reviews / 4 Comments

Turning Darkness into Light, Marie Brennan

Received to review via Netgalley

I wanted to get this reviewed before it came out, but I also didn’t want to do it a disservice and rush it. To be quite honest with you, I basked in having this world to dive into anew, after some time has passed in that world; I adore what Brennan does in the Lady Trent books with showing scientific progress and academic endeavour, and I had the same feeling here. Being both a biology graduate and a literature postgraduate (and one who focused on languages and translation fairly heavily for a while), this world has now reflected so much of my experience it makes me quite squeeful. I know Audrey is much better at translating Draconaean than I ever was at Anglo-Saxon or Old Icelandic, but some of the struggles in reading are similar — and the process of academic review and piecing things together across texts is even more familiar.

(I mean, nor am I as experienced and high level a biologist as Lady Trent is a naturalist; still, there are commonalities, and Isabella and Audrey’s struggle for status is still relevant for female-bodied folks in STEM today, soooo…)

The thing is, in conclusion, that Brennan is just so clever in the way she puts together the work. The way she invents these ancient texts: the structures of them, the lacunae, the difficulty in understanding things that rely on context. The way she understands the process is so clear — which makes sense, given her background in anthropology, but that doesn’t always mean one will be good at writing it. Brennan is.

And that only touches on half the book! There’s also an exploration of what it might be like to be the granddaughter of someone like Isabella, explorations of the developments in Draconaean civilisation since she found the Sanctuary… and delightful bits like Audrey causing a riot (of course) and Isabella dismissing someone as a potential partner for Audrey because he’s not a sound scholar, and all the politics which Audrey manages to entangle herself in… It all comes together very satisfyingly.

Perhaps my only criticism is that Audrey is very like Isabella; their voices are similar, and you can be pretty sure that whatever Isabella would have done in a situation, Audrey will do as well. Obviously, there’s reasons for that, and good ones, but it makes the book feel less its own thing and more like it’s more of the same. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I hope if we see more of Audrey, she does more forging of her own way. (I absolutely want to see more of Audrey.)

Rating: 5/5

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Review – Within the Sanctuary of Wings

Posted August 28, 2019 by Nicky in Reviews / 1 Comment

Cover of Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie BrennanWithin the Sanctuary of Wings, Marie Brennan

Within the Sanctuary of Wings is the last of these books, Lady Trent’s last memoir, and it’s a doozy. It delivers on tiny promises made throughout the other books, drawing everything together so it all makes a new kind of sense. I’m a bit baffled by people who think that the plot twist in this book comes out of nowhere and is not in keeping with what has happened before — we’ve been getting clues about this, hints about the importance of the Draconaeans to Isabella’s story even though she’s not all that interested in them. In some ways, I’m surprised I didn’t see this coming more. It fits exactly with what came before.

So what happens in this final novel? Isabella is told of the body of a new sort of dragon, found preserved in ice somewhere entirely unexpected. Naturally, Isabella has to embark on a hare-brained quest to find the body and record the new information it might bring, and Suhail and Tom are along for the ride. Of course they are.

And of course things don’t go entirely to plan. I fear to say too much even at this point, to avoid spoiling the surprise too much for anyone who still wants to experience it anew. Suffice it to say that this turn in Lady Trent’s career is great, and makes perfect sense.

And I cannot wait for the book following her granddaughter. In fact, I’m going to pick that up right now.

Rating: 5/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted August 21, 2019 by Nicky in General / 7 Comments

The three ‘W’s are what are you reading now, what have you recently finished reading, and what are you going to read next, and you can find this week’s post at the host’s blog here if you want to check out other posts.

What are you currently reading?

Most actively, I’m neck-deep in Turning Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan, the sequel to the Memoirs of Lady Trent series! Audrey is a delight, and I do so adore the way these books showcase the scientific and academic processes — coming from a background of both literature (with a lot of focus on translation) and later science as well, it’s just. Yay!

Cover of Magic Bleeds by Ilona AndrewsWhat have you recently finished reading?

I read Magic Bleeds on our flight back from Worldcon! (Well, half of it; I read the first half before — the flight isn’t that long/I don’t read that fast!) It has some of my pet peeves in fiction (miscommunication) and yet Kate and Curran are so extreme and stupid it ends up just being funny to me.

What will you be reading next?

I don’t know! I still have a crowded TBR for August, and I haven’t read even half of those books yet. I have a bunch of them half-finished, though. I know that the library really wants the book on the Aztecs back (in fact, the lady was reluctant to re-issue it at all) because someone shouldn’t have let me have it (it’s a reference book), so maybe I’ll get on with reading that!

What are you currently reading?

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