This week’s topic is “Rainy Day Reads”, and like imyril, I can’t help reading that as books for a metaphorical rainy day. So here are five books I always turn to when I want a comfort read — and five books I’ve been saving for a rainy day.
Comfort Reads for a Rainy Day:
The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. I mean, come on, you knew I was going to say it. I adore the decency of Maia — he’s not perfect: he can be petty and waspish and he does things he regrets, and he’s not always the sharpest crayon in the box either, but he tries his damnedest and he wins hearts (including mine) because of it. <3
Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart. I used to be rather snobbish about these even as I enjoyed them, so here I am eating humble pie. There’s something about Mary Stewart’s ability with settings and her masterful heroes that works, even as I get annoyed with them — the hero of this book does not comport himself beautifully, to say the least. But there is some lovely stuff about grief, and learning to love again, and… I don’t know! It just works for me. It helps that Charity is a badass.
A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers. It made me cry in the bath, but it’s still a favourite. It’s all… warm and squishy, even as it’s occasionally upsetting and harrowing.
Strange Practice, by Vivian Shaw. It’s a newcomer to the list, I’m sure — I think I’ve written a comfort reads list before, at least — but I’ve been craving it when feeling down and ugh-y, so I guess it qualifies by now! I’ve read it twice, and I really kinda just want to read it again. Now.
A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan. Which is funny, considering I didn’t love it the first time I read it. But it grew on me, rather the same way that Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey grew on me. (And I read them both at around the same time, actually…)
Books I’ve Been Saving for a Rainy Day:
Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers. I’ve actually started it now, but for a while there it was just sat on my pile, gently tempting…
The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt, by Toby Wilkinson. I might have an odd idea of comfort, but… there’s something nice about having this waiting for me somewhere along the line. I hope it’s a good overview, and not too similar to John Romer’s volumes, but either way I’ll probably enjoy it for the familiar magic of Egyptian archaeology and history.
The Books of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin, illustrated by Charles Vess. Technically, the story isn’t new to me, but this illustrated version will be! It promises to be a real pleasure, which I’ve been putting off for the right moment, when I need it!
The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin. I did actually start this, got partway through it, got distracted, and then sort of ‘banked’ it to await the full series. Which is all out now and has been for some time, but I know it’ll be good, so… it just kind of waits there.
Republic of Thieves, by Scott Lynch. To the eternal frustration of Lisa and Mum. I’m in no hurry to be left hanging for the next book like I was after Red Seas Under Red Skies, people!
And an honourable mention to The Tethered Mage, which imyril has been tempting me with on Litsy all this week…
It’s been a while since I did a Top Ten Tuesday post, almost since That Artsy Reader Girl started hosting, but this theme was irresistible to me. This week, the prompt is Ten Things That Make Me Pick Up A Book. The first five relate to what makes me buy a book in the first place; the second five refer to what makes me read the book in a particular moment!
Getting a purchase
An author I love. You say “N.K. Jemisin”, “Marie Brennan” or “Guy Gavriel Kay”, and I say “now plz”. I’m not saying that these authors are infallible (why Ysabel, GGK?) but they have a good track record with me, and at the very least I know I enjoy their writing on a mechanical level.
A series I love. Even more so than #1, this is key! I was devouring Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent books, and I will pounce on the latest in a series I’m loving.
It caught my eye. Mostly due to the cover. I mean, that’s what they’re designed for; I’m not ashamed of that! A bad cover won’t put me off, but a good one might just pique my interest. It won’t be the only factor, but it’ll definitely prompt me to give the book a longer look. One book I picked up on that basis was Max Gladstone’s Three Parts Dead! Hell of a cover.
Enthusiasm from certain friends and bloggers. I don’t think there’s a person in the world who shares my taste exactly (my wife isn’t a fan of Cherie Priest; my mother didn’t get why I love The Goblin Emperor so immoderately) but there are definitely people whose opinions will prompt me to check out a book. They include Mum, Lisa, my sister (though the influence mostly goes the other way), Calmgrove, imyril, Mogsy, anyone I know from of old in the Alternative World book club, and Jo.
It’s on a topic I’m currently interested in. Right now, if it’s about embroidery, fabric, sewing, Egypt, Byzantium, mummies, CRISPR, tuberculosis or flu, I want it! Honestly, if I don’t know much about the topic, I might well want it anyway (I love learning new things!), but my current preoccupations have an even better chance.
Time to read!
So, book. You’ve made it past the purchasing filter. How do you get me to read you? Well… some or all of the above should be true, and then it’s down to:
The first few pages. I’m terribly prone to picking up a book, reading a couple of pages out of mild curiosity, and then ending up reading the whole thing.
Book club pick. I run a book club based on my own total whim. There’s usually no voting on the exact book (though at the moment I’m asking for guiding votes on the genre to pick), and mostly I just pick up a book off my shelf that I would like to have read. Sometimes it’s something I’m hesitant about for no real reason, or something huge. Whatever it is, the book club pick usually persuades me to get on with it and read the book. Same goes for other book clubs — if I was a member of any at the moment — and readalongs. Which reminds me that I want to join the Wyrd and Wonder readalongs!
Comfort. This is mostly a reread thing, though there are some authors I’d read for comfort just on principle. If I’m reaching for Earthsea or The Dark is Rising, or particularly The Goblin Emperor and Dorothy L. Sayers, I might well be going through a rough time.
Mood. I don’t quite mean the same thing as #3, here. It’s more like what theme or tropes I’m in the mood for. Space opera, fantasy, non-fiction… I tend to go on a spree reading books of a certain genre or on a certain topic.
Contrariness and whim. If I’m not supposed to be reading it — say I’m supposed to do a readalong next month — I’ll probably read it now. Because… because I’m me. So there.
This week’s theme is Top Ten Books of the Year So Far — so armed with my statistics spreadsheet, let’s jump into mine: books I’ve read this year for the first time and rated four or five stars! I’m going to skip the non-fiction books, as I think people are less interested in those. I’ve also stuck to the first book if it’s a series, because I think it’s hard to judge a second book on its own and I think this list kind of works as recommendations!
A Matter of Oaths, by Helen C. Wright. I’m so glad I finally got round to reading this, because it really worked for me. If you’re a fan of Ann Leckie or Yoon Ha Lee’s work, I think this’d be right up your street. Becky Chambers, too.
In Other Lands, by Sarah Rees Brennan. Okay, Elliot is a dick but he’s a dick who tries to do the right thing, and I love his relationships with his closest friends. I think it’s a good one if you’re a fan of Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On.
Arabella of Mars, by David Levine. This isn’t groundbreaking in any way, but it’s such a lot of fun. There’s a need for that when everything seems like crap around you, and I think a lot of people feel that way at the moment.
The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang. This is just adorable and fun. I mean, unless you have a problem with a prince who likes to wear dresses and for whom things turn out great. If you are, you might not enjoy this blog in general and you definitely won’t enjoy this graphic novel.
War for the Oaks, by Emma Bull.A classic of fantasy literature, and one I found a heck of a lot of fun. Kinda like hanging out with the cool grandma of Kate Daniels and Toby Daye, this was an introduction to Where It All Began for urban fantasy.
It’s been a long time since I did a TTT post, I know! But this week’s prompt is a summer TBR (it says beach reads, but everything is a beach read for me or nothing is), and I thought I could use the chance to reflect on that. So here goes…
Blackout, by Mira Grant. I finished Deadline yesterday and I’m already itching to get onto this one. WHAT IS GOING ON.
Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee. I’m partway through it already, but I really need to shuffle it to the top of the pile and finish devouring it. I got a little dangerously into it during my exam period and put it aside for a while, but now I’m freeeee.
The Divine Cities trilogy, by Robert Jackson Bennett. I haven’t read the last book, despite being absolutely desperate for it at the time. I wanted to reread the first two, and time kept on catching up to me… bleh. But now I can!
Foundryside, by Robert Jackson Bennett. I got an ARC of this, and I’m very excited by the sound of it, so here’s hoping Bennett will wow me again. (Spoiler: pretty sure he will.)
Starless, by Jacqueline Carey. I don’t think this is optional in any way. I have to read it. It’s Jacqueline Carey!
Only Human, by Sylvain Neuvel. The end of this trilogy! I grabbed it on release and… got busy, of course. You might be sensing a theme in my life.
Before Mars, by Emma Newman. Another one I got on release, but then got distracted from. Though I am at least partway through my rereads of the previous books in this case!
The Lost Plot, by Genevieve Cogman. Actually, I can’t believe I haven’t got to this one already. Again, I want to reread the previous books, though, and do it in a glorious binge.
The Testament of Loki, by Joanne Harris. I am still kicking myself that I didn’t buy a signed copy when I was shopping with my sister, but hey, I have the ebook! More glorious Loki twistiness incoming.
I Only Killed Him Once, by Adam Christopher. I’ve been a great fan of the Raymond Electromatic books, and I can’t believe this one has been sitting on my ereader awaiting me so long already.
Let’s face it, I have too many awesome books: my head might just explode. But I’ll be happy.
Top Ten Tuesday has moved homes! You can now find it at That Artsy Reader Girl‘s blog. Since I did want to post something about this topic — “bookish resolutions/goals” — I thought I’d join in again, at least for this week!
Read for joy. I still keep on reading books I think I “ought” to read, or picking up something from my backlog just because I was interested in it once and I no longer am. There’s space for that, when it’s a topic I want to learn about or something I’d like to comment on, but this year my resolution is definitely to read primarily for joy.
Write reviews within 24 hours of finishing the book. I used to do this, and then I fell into bad habits. No more writing of vague reviews because the book didn’t leave much of an impression and it’s been three weeks…
Keep up my practice of commenting on at least one other blog per day. I’ve been doing this almost every day for two years now, and it might not be ideal for my reading list — argh, so many books I want — but it’s a great way to keep in touch with other bloggers.
Earn my book purchases. Me and my wife have a system we call “Adulting: The Game”. We get stars for stuff we do towards various goals like keeping up with chores, eating more healthily, keeping up with class, taking care of our finances… I get to buy one book per twenty stars I earn. (But it’s okay for me to use Amazon vouchers, etc; that counts as gifts.)
Read from my backlog. Last year’s goal was 200, and I didn’t make it. This year… we’ll see. But I’m doing well so far, with eight of the ten books I’ve read being from my backlog.
Catch up with ARCs. I’m going to try to stop looking at Netgalley and requesting stuff. Of course, that’s partly fuelled by the fact that I can only “wish for” books from a lot of publishers on Netgalley now, but it’s also because I have one heckuva backlog there.
Give up on Goodreads. I used Goodreads to catalogue my books for years, but now I’m just using it as a way to get some book recommendations from reviewers I’ve known for years and to post my own reviews for them. Gone are the days of making any obsessive searches to get all my lists to agree.
Reread when I want. This kind of goes with “read for joy” — I love to reread, but I haven’t been doing it as much as I’d like because I feel like I should only be providing “fresh” content for my readers. Pffft, half the time people don’t even know that I’ve posted a review for a particular book before; there’s no drop in interest for my reviews of books I’ve reread. I think enthusiasm is more valuable to readers anyway.
Go to bed a little earlier than necessary to get in some time to read. Or, as me and my wife put it, “bookbed”. We did that a lot before Christmas, and it was nice. Time to resurrect it, if only because it’s entertaining to watch Lisa gasp and cuss as she reads James S.A. Corey’s books.
Read things that scare me. Whether that’s reading books about bugs, physics that turns my brain inside out, or just massive fantasy tomes that would squash my bunnies flat if I dropped them, it’s always good to challenge yourself. There’s a big place for comfort and familiarity in my reading repertoire, but it’s also important to step into the unknown.
It’s been a while since I participated in Top Ten Tuesday, but I always planned to do so again if any of the themes caught my attention and this one did. I’m not American, so Thanksgiving as a holiday isn’t my thing, but there’s always space for thanksgiving as far as I can see. Without further ado, here are the books I’m grateful for.
The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. I bet everyone could’ve predicted this one would make my list. It’s just a piece of hope and goodness in a world all too full of grimdark fiction and grimdark politics. It makes me happy, and it’s so clever too with the use of language and worldbuilding.
The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper. I think I’ve actually finally got to the point where I know these books too well to read them again any time soon, but for the joy they’ve inspired, the bookish conversations, the gifts they’ve enabled me to give, and my fascination with Old English (from the simple line “liht mec heht gewyrcan”, inscribed on one of the Six Signs)… so many reasons to give thanks.
The Summer Tree, by Guy Gavriel Kay. Not only do I love this book and the rest of the trilogy, but everything by Guy Gavriel Kay I’ve read since. The friend who gave me it hasn’t spoken to me in years, but his influence lingers in my love of Guy Gavriel Kay and Firefly.
Tales of Bold Adventure, by Enid Blyton. I know, I know, Enid Blyton. But I inherited two copies of this, both obviously well-read — one from my mum, and one from my dad! Reading about Robin Hood and King Arthur was totally formative for me, as the course of my first degree demonstrated.
Cat and Mouse and the Dinosaurs, by Graham Round and Ray Gibson. Without these books, I wouldn’t be a reader. I was refusing to learn to read, until my mother brought these into my life…
Spillover, by David Quammen. For igniting my curiosity about infectious diseases at least as much as it scared me, all the thanks in the world. I probably wouldn’t be so fascinated by microbiology now if it weren’t for this book.
Tutankhamen, by Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt. As a kid, this was my gateway to wonder — an exhaustive description of everything found in Tutankhamen’s tomb. This too was formative for me.
Century Rain, by Alastair Reynolds. I rather enjoyed it, but this one I’m thankful to for another reason: it got my sister interested in reading again after years of disinterest. She sat on my floor for hours on end, captivated, when I first lent her a copy. Now she might not be quite as voracious a reader as me, but she’s pretty darn voracious, and Century Rain was the gateway.
A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin. This book has been a source of enchantment for years and years, and my understanding and interpretation of it has grown with me. If I haven’t written up how I relate to Ged’s journey now as someone who suffers with anxiety, I really should.
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. For simple hours of enjoyment alone, this book deserves thanks. But also for a really fascinating semester of my Master’s degree, studying it, and for time spent listening to the radioplay with my grandma and my sister, and all the discussions and thinky thoughts it opens the door to.
And that’s it for the list, though honestly all books get my earnest thanks for giving me another, safer world to live in at times.
Hey everyone! This is possibly my final regular Top Ten Tuesday post because, great as some of the themes from The Broke and the Bookish have been, it’s starting to feel like work to participate. The themes are quite often repetitive or just not applicable to me. I’ve done 164 previous Top Ten Tuesday posts; perhaps it’s no surprise that my inventiveness is running out. I still plan to check back and participate when I’m interested in the theme, but I’m not going to schedule posts ahead anymore.
That said, here’s a look at my Top Ten Top Ten Tuesdays!
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is gleaned from the old prompts on the page. Here’s ten books I was forced to read — which I loved! I’ve a vague feeling I’ve done this before, but I can’t find it by searching back, so why not?
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. It’s a classic, of course.
War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. I even had to read it in a week, thanks to a dare with my dad.
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. I didn’t get far with this when I tried to read this as a kid, but when I finally had to read it for school, I fell in love.
Troilus and Criseyde, by Geoffrey Chaucer. I didn’t have high hopes for this because I wasn’t a fan of The Canterbury Tales, in general. But I really got into dissecting it, in the end.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Is this cheating? I read a translation, of course, but I had to read it in the Middle English for my BA, and that was revelatory. The playing with language is gorgeous.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman, by John Fowles. In style and content it’s not at all what you’d expect me to enjoy, but I really did.
Postcolonialism Revisited, by Kirsti Bohata. I was never much of a fan of actually reading theory, in my lit degrees, preferring to closely analyse the texts. But this was pretty revelatory, discussing Welsh fiction as postcolonial fiction — because in many ways, the Welsh experience was like that of colonialism.
Richard III, by William Shakespeare. I was never a fan of Shakespeare, but I ended up having to take a class on his history plays for lack of other modules that interested me. And I loved this one.
Country Dance, by Margiad Evans. Or indeed, all the other Welsh fiction I read for that particular class. I’d never even been fully aware there was Welsh fiction like this out there.
The Annotated Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien et al. I love The Hobbit, of course, but I’m not really a fan of annotated texts. Still, the annotated version of The Hobbit was fascinating for its insights on Tolkien’s process.
There’s probably dozens of others I should think of — at one point, my mother bought me a whole bunch of classics she said I had to read before I went to university, for example! (She wasn’t wrong in suggesting they were important to know. Should’ve included more Oscar Wilde, though, Mum, and insisted I read more Shakespeare. Now you know!)
There’s still no official theme from The Broke and the Bookish, so this TTT is again of my own devising. This time I’m going to look at bookshops I have loved!
Waterstones (Wakefield). I’ve had plenty of nice chats with the people working there, and some of the same people still work there from when I was a kid. They’ve held some great events — I attended a talk by Robin Hobb back when Fool’s Fate came out, for example — and though the shop is a little small for my tastes, the SF/F section has typically been good enough that I can find what I want.
Waterstones (Manchester). One of the biggest bookshops in the north of England, I think? Nice little cafe, and so many books. And they have baskets you can grab at convenient intervals, which is useful because I’ve never got out of there without needing a shopping basket. A really great non-fic selection as well as a good amount of SF/F.
Paramount Books (Manchester). When I last went, it was still tiny and inaccessible for someone in a wheelchair or possibly even on crutches, but it was a great place to browse, with all kinds of second hand books.
Hatchard’s St Pancras (London). I’m not a huge fan of their fiction section, which isn’t divided up into genres. They have some SF/F books, but it’s not always easy to pick them out. I love how convenient it is to drop in on my way to or from the Eurostar, though, and their non-fiction section has pretty much always been worth the browsing.
Forbidden Planet (London). Signed books, American books, new releases… I’m not sure what I haven’t been able to find there. And even though it’s Forbidden Planet, I don’t just mean comics. They have a great selection of SF/F books, and I’ve seen some really good bargains there as well.
Wellfield Bookshop (Cardiff). It might be small, but I always felt at home there and perfectly welcome to browse. They’re very helpful and would always offer to order in anything I wanted.
Sterling Books (Brussels). They’ve moved to a smaller location, which is a crime as far as I’m concerned, but they still have a reasonably good selection of English books, both fiction and non-fiction. Also, free bookmarks!
Chapters (Dublin). New and used books, and tons of them. The staff weren’t the friendliest, but the selection more than made up for it.
Fair’s Fair (Calgary). They have a couple of stores, and nearly all of them contained some delights for me. Seriously recommended, if you’re in Calgary.
Troutmark Books (Cardiff). A treasure trove to me when I was a student — and apparently served my grampy with bags of books before me. It’s conveniently in the centre of Cardiff, and too many people miss it because it’s tucked away in one of the arcades. Well worth going to — great selection and great pricing.
That’s not all of the bookshops I’ve ever loved, of course, but I thought I’d share a little bit of the joy!
There’s still no official theme, so this week I’m going to take a chance on being curmudgeonly. Here’s ten things that annoy me about being a book blogger!
When people don’t comment back, ever. Sometimes, there just isn’t something that they want to comment on, or they’re too busy for a week or two. I totally get that. But if they never drop by in return, it feels totally one-sided — like I’m a number that helps them get ARCs or whatever, but they’re not willing to put in any effort to make a real link between us.
When people comment without reading. I know that when it’s a big link-up like Stacking the Shelves or whatever, people mostly drop by to get visits in return, so they often copy/paste “looks like a great haul!” and a link to their own post. Or “looks like you got a ton of books!” I can get that, but I wish people would put at least a little effort in — don’t tell me I got a ton of books when the text of the post says clearly that those are the books I read this week. I always try to say something about the books they’ve got, or the life updates in their post!
Snobbery. It’s okay to have reading preferences, obviously, and even to comment about why you don’t enjoy x or y. But if you’re only coming by to link your blog, and you say things like “I never read fantasy, it’s all too childish”… well, it doesn’t sound good (and you look silly, since there’s a ton of adult fantasy).
Spam. Why do I get so much spam?! The number one target review seems to be one of my Susanna Kearsley reviews, and I don’t get it at all.
When I get spammed by my own copy. I mean, I’m a copywriter. It makes sense that sometimes I might run into stuff I wrote the advertising for. But it just feels beyond rude when it shows up in the comment spam on my WordPress. One, hey! I didn’t write that for you to spam with! And two, oi, spam filter — are you saying my writing looks like spam?! And three, this is a book blog, so why are you targeting it with copy about picture frames and saving whales?
People making assumptions. When a blogger assumes I’m not a writer, or I don’t read x genre, or that I’m a certain age… Don’t assume, guys, you know who it makes an ass out of.
“I prefer real books.” Ebooks are real. They’re different, and maybe they don’t work for you, but hey. Ereaders help all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons.
People who openly tell authors they’ve pirated their books. Why? Why would you do that? Authors have a right to earn a living, and “exposure” doesn’t pay for food.
People tagging authors in bad reviews. Unless there’s some prior relationship there or the critique is something they might benefit from, why would you do that? And don’t do that even given that if the person who wrote the review doesn’t say it’s okay. Some people don’t want to interact with the author.
Authors commenting on my reviews of their book to argue with me. Most often, it’s male science writers who feel the desperate need to tell me I’m wrong about their book, so you’ll have to excuse the sinking feeling I get when I realise a given comment is from an author. I’ve had some great interactions with authors I’ve critiqued — Tony Hays, author of The Killing Way and the rest of that series, would be one example. But mostly it just doesn’t work out.
I’m sure that I could be hoist by my own petard for some of these, because I can be a cranky snob as much as anyone. I try and keep a lid on it, though.