Tag: Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Colours in the Title

Posted August 4, 2020 by Nicky in General / 16 Comments

Sorry I missed last week, folks! It was a heckuva week, for sure. Anyway, this week is a bit like a scavenger hunt for me, because I’m not sure I can actually think of books I like with colours in their titles… so I’m going to survey my shelves for whatever I can find.

Cover of Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston Cover of The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff Cover of The Boy in the Red Dress by Kristin Lambert Cover of Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James Cover of Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

  1. Red, White & Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston. I haven’t read this one, and I really really want to.
  2. The Silver Branch, by Rosemary Sutcliff. This I have read, of course, though I wish I could find the editions I had as a kid. I read ’em to pieces, though The Eagle of the Ninth was my favourite.
  3. The Boy in the Red Dress, by Kristin Lambert. A recent acquisition, so one I haven’t read yet. It looks so fun, though!
  4. Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James. I haven’t read it yet, and I’m not entirely sure it’s going to be my thing based on reviews… but I’m eager to give it a go.
  5. Black Sun, by Rebecca Roanhorse. Okay, this is actually on my wishlist and not on my shelves because it’s not out yet.
  6. All Systems Red, by Martha Wells. Oh, Murderbot. <3
  7. Redemption in Indigo, by Karen Lord. I’ve been meaning to reread this, I remember loving it but not much about it.
  8. The Black God’s Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark. Loved this novella so much!
  9. The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle. I was less of a fan of this Lovecraft retelling, but it kinda sticks in my head!
  10. A Pale Light in the Black, by K.B. Wagers. Another one that’s on my TBR but which I haven’t read yet…

Cover of All Systems Red by Martha Wells Cover of Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord Cover of The Black God's Drums Cover of The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle Cover of A Pale Light in the Black by K.B. Wagers

As you can see, I have a TBR problem, insofar as that can be considered a problem!

How’d everyone else do with the scavenger hunt? Or could you think of enough books with colours in the title that you could pick out your favourites? I’m looking forward to seeing all the obvious ones I’ve missed…

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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: Upcoming Releases to Get Excited About

Posted June 30, 2020 by Nicky in General / 16 Comments

This week’s theme from That Artsy Reader Girl is about upcoming releases for the rest of 2020! There’s so much to look forward to, but let’s see if I can remember some of the highlights…

Cover of A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik Cover of Seven Devils by Elizabeth May & Laura Lam Cover of Ring Shout by P. Djeli Clark Cover of Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles Cover of Master of Poisons by Andrea Hairston

  1. A Deadly Education, by Naomi Novik. I just got an e-ARC in the last couple of weeks, so this one leapt to mind. I always find Novik’s work enjoyable and unputdownable (even when I have serious reservations about it as well), and a magical school story hits a spot for me.
  2. Seven Devils, by Elizabeth May and Laura Lam. I’ve been looking forward to this since I first heard about it… and I have an e-ARC of this, too. Yep, I’m spoiled! Feminist space opera — seven resistance fighters against the Empire. Classic.
  3. Ring Shout, by P. Djèlí Clark. I’ve loved his novellas, so I am super excited for this. It’s dark fantasy woven into the history of the US; I worry I might miss some stuff because I’m not American and not particularly interested in American history, but I’m ready to be schooled!
  4. Where Dreams Descend, by Janella Angeles. Compared to Phantom of the Opera with a touch of The Night Circus? I’m innnn.
  5. Master of Poisons, by Andrea Hairston. I’ve been meaning to read Hairston’s work forever, and this apparently uses a lot of African folktales? Sounds fascinating!
  6. The Relentless Moon, by Mary Robinette Kowal. I will shame-facedly admit that I haven’t read The Fated Sky, because my brain is just a stupid place sometimes, but I let my wife read my ARC of The Relentless Moon and she outright tore through it.
  7. Cemetery Boys, by Aiden Thomas. Trans Latinx teen accidentally summons the wrong ghost! I’m in.
  8. The Lefthanded Booksellers of London, by Garth Nix. A Garth Nix book is always a good time, and anything to do with books is a winner to me.
  9. Black Sun, by Rebecca Roanhorse. I don’t actually know much about this yet, but though I have some problems with Trail of Lightning and the sequel, they made for really addictive reading. I’m looking forward to this!
  10. Boyfriend Material, by Alexis Hall. It sounds so deliciously tropey and fun, and it’s out very very soon!

Cover of The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal Cover of Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas Cover of The Lefthanded Booksellers of London by Garth Nix Cover of Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse Cover of Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

How about you? What’re you looking forward to?

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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 / 17 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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Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Summer TBR

Posted June 16, 2020 by Nicky in General / 8 Comments

Greetings folks! I’m all caught up with my backlog of comments and so on and excited to get back to visiting more blogs. This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is books on your summer TBR… and while I’m really bad at picking out what I’m actually going to read, I love lists and planning what I’m going to read so I can ignore it, so… here goes! Links go to the GR page so you can read the summaries.

Cover of Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch Cover of Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid Cover of Pet by Akwaeke Emezi Cover of Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran Cover of Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

  1. Brit(ish), by Afua Hirsch. I’ve been wanting to read more books focused on the experience of being a person of colour in Britain; so much of the discussion on racism focuses on the situation in the US, and my feeling is that while there are commonalities, there are bound to be differences as well. I’d like to get a better feel for that (though Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book was a good starting point).
  2. Daisy Jones & the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo — or at least, I tore right through it, even if I had some more ambiguous feelings at the end. I have actually started Daisy Jones, but it hasn’t really hooked me yet.
  3. Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi. I’m super curious about this one, based on the blurb, so I picked it up recently. It’s a relatively short read, too, which is quite attractive for my easily distracted brain right now. There’s just so much that sounds awesome, though reviews from people I know have been a bit mixed. Still, a world where badness has been defeated… I’m really fascinated to see how the book deals with that.
  4. Queen of Coin and Whispers, by Helen Corcoran. This has been on my TBR for a while and my preorder finaaaally made it. I’m willing to bet it’s something my sister would love, too, but I get it first. Mwahaha, etc.
  5. Red, White & Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston. It sounds like so much fun and so cute. And like a world I want to be in right now, to be honest, where the biggest problem in US politics is apparently that the female President’s son falls in love with a fictional British prince.
  6. The Covid-19 Catastrophe: What’s Gone Wrong and How to Stop It Happening Again, by Richard Horton. On the other hand, obviously this is super-topical right now, but I think it’s going to be a really interesting take on it. Current affairs + public health, it’s right down my alley.
  7. This Is Kind of An Epic Love Story, by Kacen Callender. This is something I picked up recently as well, and it sounds really cute. Also, romance with a hard of hearing character? Awesome!
  8. Catherine House, by Elisabeth Thomas. This sounds creepy-weird! It was actually a rec in a Twitter thread and I kind of just went for it, so it’ll be interesting to see what I make of it.
  9. Boyfriend Material, by Alexis Hall. I have an ARC, and I really need to dig into it. It sounds so fun — fake dating is a great trope to play with. I’ve been eager for this since I first heard about it.
  10. Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders, by Aliette de Bodard. I really need to reread the first two books of the Dominion of the Fallen so I can read the third, but this stands alone and should be a lot of fun. I loved Asmodeus and Thuan, even is Asmodeus is… well, he’s Asmodeus; you’ll know what I mean if you’ve read The House of Binding Thorns. I have an ARC, and it’s probably close to the top of my TBR right now.

Cover of The Covid-19 Catastrophe by Richard Horton Cover of This is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kacen Callender Cover of Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas Cover of Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall Cover of Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders by Aliette De Bodard

So that’s one version of what I might be reading this summer. How about you?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books from the Backlog

Posted June 9, 2020 by Nicky in General / 11 Comments

This week’s theme is “books you added to your TBR and forgot why”. I’m not quite sure how to answer that, because the reason I added books to my TBR is always that they were interesting. Often someone or other has recommended them, but equally often it’s just that I stumbled across them somewhere. The precise reason is lost in time for almost everything on my TBR.

But I think a look at some books that have been on my backlog and almost been forgotten there might be instructive!

  1. Retribution Falls, by Chris Wooding. This was bought for me in a LibraryThing Secret Santa! I think that must’ve been in about 2012? It’s a good pick for me and people have compared it to Firefly and it just… hasn’t made it up the pile yet. I’m a mood reader! This… will be a theme.
  2. Daughter of the Forest, by Juliet Marillier. Oh gosh, this has been on my list for even longer. I didn’t entirely get along with it when I first tried it, and stalled out somewhere in the middle; I decided to try again, sometime after I read and loved Heart’s Blood. I still intend to!
  3. Memory and Dream, by Charles de Lint. A friend of mine loves Charles de Lint’s work; I’ve only read a couple, and I remember coming across this one in a charity shop and deciding, hey, why not? It’s something I kept in the big clear-out, but I think it might be from 2011 — one of the oldest books on my TBR, in other words.
  4. Ammonite, by Nicola Griffith. This is a classic, and I know I should’ve read it already. Mea culpa?
  5. Republic of Thieves, by Scott Lynch. I inhaled the first two books, and then this one just… didn’t come out, for ages. Once it finally did, I was sort of reluctant to read it and then have to wait again. It really does have to happen someday soon, before my wife and mother both explode.
  6. The Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey. I’ve had this since it first came out in paperback, I think. It’s not quite my thing, which is part of why it’s lingered — but I do enjoy the right kind of zombie novel, as Mira Grant’s Feed demonstrates, so it’s sort of waiting for the right mood.
  7. The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin. I am a big fan of N.K. Jemisin, and when I got this on the release day way back when, I started reading it, read 200 pages in one go, and then… somehow never touched it again. I remember that some life thing threw me off, but I don’t remember what.
  8. The Iron Ghost, by Jen Williams. I really liked The Copper Promise, but by the time I picked up The Iron Ghost, I didn’t remember it well enough. I love supporting ongoing series, but it does drive me nuts that if I read a series as it comes out, I’m at risk of forgetting what was in the first book before the next comes out. I’ve always been a big reader, so this didn’t always bother me… but with so many books and so many series to love, it’s a bit overwhelming.
  9. City of Miracles, by Robert Jackson Bennett. Yep, that’s another case of the above! I loved City of Stairs and enjoyed City of Blades. I really have to get to this soon.
  10. Two Serpents Rise, by Max Gladstone. This is sooort of the same deal, but also because I wasn’t totally sure I “got” Three Parts Dead, and meant to reread that first. And then… time passed, and moodreading is a thing, and here I am ‘fessing up, years later.

So what about you guys? Do you actually forget why you’ve added books to your TBR? Or are you more like me and it’s just a fierce fight for any particular book to get to the top?

Just FYI, I’ve been struggling a bit with mental health and tiredness, and it might be a couple of days before I can visit back if you comment… but I always do my best and totally commit to doing so this time (even if I call amnesty on past weeks).

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books by Black Authors

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

This week, I’ve gone off-piste to talk about some books by non-white authors. For no apparent reason.

I’ve picked out books I love: four and five-star reads. I’ve picked ten different authors and some different genres, in hopes that everyone can find something that sounds interesting if they go exploring and try to pick up one of these.

  1. Redemption in Indigo, by Karen Lord. I don’t remember this book well enough and reading my old review leaves me itching to reread it. I loved it and the fable-like structure and narration.
  2. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin. The whole trilogy is great, and I’m sure her later books that I haven’t read are great, but this is where I started and I was totally riveted.
  3. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. This got a lot of hype, but I really felt it was worth it… and it’s topical as hell right now.
  4. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge. If you want to read a more British examination of racism, this is a great starting point.
  5. The Black God’s Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark. This is a novella, and when I finished I was dyiiiing for more.
  6. Fledgling, by Octavia Butler. This was a disturbing and difficult read, and it left a huge impression on me. Kindred is being recommended a lot, and I rated it higher at the time, but Fledgling is the one that stayed with me.
  7. The Colour Purple, by Alice Walker. Okay, this one is totally and absolutely obvious, but I took so long to read it. Still, it got my rare accolade of five stars, and I couldn’t leave it off the list. It’s moving and beautifully written, making such great use of dialect and the epistolary form.
  8. Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. Same here. This is such an obvious one — but I have to say that nobody ever really sold this book to me, and the same thing happened with The Color Purple. I was told I should read it and not why, beyond “it’s important”… and that isn’t always the most enticing. I found it genuinely riveting, though, so definitely don’t dismiss it because it’s viewed as a classic.
  9. Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly. This book is obviously pretty well known by now, but when I read it, I was completely boggled by this history of women that I’d never heard of, never dreamed of. And from what I hear, the movie bears only a glancing resemblance to the truth, so if you’ve only seen the movie… do yourself a favour!
  10. The Salt Roads, by Nalo Hopkinson. My memories of this book are full of sense-memories, tastes and smells and colour. And while it isn’t as topical as The Hate U Give, for instance… you’ll find it has a lot of resonance.

Aaand in the process of this I realised that I still have a few other books by some of these authors that I haven’t even read, which is a lovely thought.

I think all of these are in the US, but Twitter has a list of Black-owned bookshops you can order from going around, if you’d like to order any of these.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Opening Lines

Posted May 26, 2020 by Nicky in General / 26 Comments

This week’s prompt from That Artsy Reader Girl is “opening lines”, and I definitely have some favourites to share, ranging around my shelves! I’m sure I’ve done a favourite first lines before for TTT, but it’s been so long — and I have some new answers.

Cover of Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers Cover of The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by K.J. Charles Cover of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab Cover of The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien Cover of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

  1. Have His Carcase, Dorothy L. Sayers: “The best remedy for a bruised heart is not, as so many people seem to think, repose upon a manly bosom. Much more efficacious are honest work, physical activity, and the sudden acquisition of wealth. After being acquitted of murdering her lover, and indeed, in consequence of that acquittal, Harriet Vane found all three specifics abundantly at her disposal; and although Lord Peter Wimsey, with a touching faith in tradition, persisted day in and day out in presenting the bosom for her approval, she showed no inclination to recline upon it.”

    This one gets me every time — it’s funny and playful, and though the mystery at the heart of this book is rather sad and pathetic, there are some amazing bits playing Peter and Harriet off against each other for wit and banter, and I adore it.

  2. The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, by K.J. Charles: “I am, my friends agree, a fairly easy-going sort of chap, not quick to anger or to fear. Thus, when I came to live in Caldwell Place, I paid no mind to the screams in the night, which could well have been foxes or cats (never mind that they sprang from the empty air of my bedroom). I scarcely objected to the muffled moans, which could have come from a neighbour’s pleasures (if the house had not stood alone, with no neighbour for a mile to either side). But I did feel it was a bit much when the walls began to bleed.”

    Bahahaha. This is not technically quite the opening lines, but shush.

  3. A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab: “Kell wore a very peculiar coat.
    It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible.”

    Had me at hello.

  4. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

    It’s not just that I love the book, but also that I love the story of that opening line (scribbled on a student’s exam paper during marking) and I love the way it immediately begs a whole bunch of questions.

  5. The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell: “The Jesuit scientists went to learn, not to proselytize. They went so that they might come to know and love God’s other children. They went for the reason Jesuits have always gone to the farthest frontiers of human exploration. They went ad majorem Dei gloriam: for the greater glory of God.
    They meant no harm.”

    Technically not the opening lines, but from the very brief prologue, and a complete oh shit what — …which the book amply lives up to!

  6. I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith: “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”

    I will never be over this book, though it’s been a long time since I read it. “Only the margin left to write on now. I love you, I love you, I love you.” Opening and closing lines are burned into my heart!

  7. The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente: “Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parents’ house, where she washed the same pink and yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog. Because she had been born in May, and because she had a mole on her left cheek, and because her feet were very large and ungainly, the Green Wind took pity on her, and flew to her window one evening just after her eleventh birthday. He was dressed in a green smoking jacket, and a green carriage-driver’s cloak, and green jodhpurs, and green snowshoes. It is very cold above the clouds, in the shanty-towns where the Six Winds live.”

    Whimsical and fairytale-like and yet also with unusual details. Sign me up!

  8. All Systems Red, by Martha Wells: “I could have become a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites. It had been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering, but probably, I don’t know, a little under 35,000 hours of movies, serials, books, plays, and music consumed. As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure.”

    Murderbot, your style speaks to me from the very first moment.

  9. The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin. “Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things.”

    I still haven’t read this book properly, but this opening line still sticks in my head.

  10. The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff: “From the Fosseway westward to Isca Dumnoniorum the road was simply a British trackway, broadened and roughly stalled, strengthened by corduroys of logs in the softest places, but otherwise unchanged from its old estate, as it wound among the hills, thrusting further and further into the wilderness.”

    This is perhaps a more personal choice than the others: not the most compelling opening for someone who doesn’t know the delights that lay ahead (Marcus! Cottia! Cub!) — this book is a window into my childhood, when this was one of the books I read to bits, and one of the ones that has stood up best because of Sutcliff’s careful sketching in of the Romano-British world as she understood it. I have no visual imagination and yet there are some scenes in this book I could almost draw.

Cover of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith Cover of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente Cover of All Systems Red by Martha Wells Cover of The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin Cover of The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff

So there you go! What are your favourite first lines? Did you do something different for this week’s theme, if you joined in? Link me!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons Why I Love Romance

Posted May 19, 2020 by Nicky in General / 15 Comments

It’s time for another Top Ten Tuesday, and this time the prompt is “reasons why I love X”. I chose to talk about the romance genre, because I think most people here originally followed me for my SF/F reviews, and my taste has been expanding a lot in the last couple of years. I still love SF/F, but I’ve tried to abandon any snobbery about any genres and just give more things a try, and now I read about the same amount of romance as I do SF/F! So… why is that?

  1. There are happy endings. It’s not the ending, it’s the journey. I know that the couple are going to be happy at the end, but I don’t know exactly how they’ll get there. This really appeals to me, especially lately: I don’t really like not knowing the ending. I don’t really like sitting with anxiety about how things are going to turn out. I don’t need to know all the details, but I need to know everyone will be safe and happy at the end.
  2. It’s often a quick read. I love the fact that there’s so much available that I can read in the space of one bath or in one sitting. I’ve lost my attention span for 6-book epics, I’m afraid. There are shorter mysteries and fantasies and SF novellas and so on, I know! But I’ve tapped into a pool of just-short-enough novels here and it’s perfect.
  3. There’s a lot of diversity. I know there remain huge problems with romance fandom when it comes to diversity, but I know exactly where to turn for the sort of characters I like. I was overjoyed when I first dipped my toes into actually reading romance and the first thing I received to review was An Unsuitable Heir, by K.J. Charles. Finding Pen Starling at that moment was wonderful.
  4. There’s so much out there! Okay, this is actually true of every genre, but it’s a relatively new genre for me, so there are so many surprises and new stuff waiting!
  5. Romance pairs with so many other genres. A lot of the romance I read is actually also fantasy, or mystery, or historical fiction, and sometimes all three at once. You don’t have to stick with just one flavour!
  6. It’s usually focused on characters and relationships. I love some amazing world-building, I really do. But I usually need characters I can get invested in, and by its very nature romance tends to focus on that dimension of the story.
  7. There aren’t usually world-ending stakes, or they aren’t the forefront of the story. Okay, in e.g. Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk, there’s a kind of world-in-peril thing… but mostly you end up wanting to know if Whyborne and Griffin end up making friends again. This is a feature and not a bug for me and my current tastes!
  8. Self-publishing is really strong in this genre. I don’t know if there are pockets of self-publishing out in SF/F where everything’s going really well, but I don’t know of them, and it feels like romance authors have got it down. Often amazing covers, great support for one another, good editing… and well-formatted ebooks at a reasonable price (honestly, I’d pay more for them).
  9. Trope-y goodness. Sometimes it’s really fun to see an author take on a clichéd idea and play with it. I’m here for your enemies-to-lovers, your there-was-only-one-bed, your last minute realisations. Do it — and surprise me!
  10. It really annoys some people. Okay, this is petty, but after someone had a meltdown about me being too “smart” to read romance (having three degrees only makes you a certain kind of smart, as anyone who has ever watched me fumbling through adulthood can attest), I can’t help but really enjoy existing to confound people’s expectations of what a romance reader looks like.

So there you go! Excited to see what other people have been gushing about this week — and don’t worry, if you comment here, I’ll visit you back as soon as I can!

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