This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is “Ten Places Books Have Made Me Want To Visit (whether fictional or real)”. I suspect we’re going to see a fair amount of agreement on this one? I’m betting there’ll be plenty of “Hogwarts”, “Middle-earth”, etc.
- Middle-earth (The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien) — imaginary. I didn’t say I was exempt from that.
- Tywyn (The Grey King, by Susan Cooper) — real. And Cadair Idris, and… everywhere else that Will and Bran visit.
- The Lost Land (ditto) — imaginary. It sounds so amazing, and I want to look in their library.
- Fionavar (The Summer Tree, by Guy Gavriel Kay) — imaginary. Okay, it’d be a little bit like Middle-earth, really. But still.
- Camelot (Arthuriana) — somewhere in between. Possibly even both the imaginary courtly version to see the knights of legend, and the nearest real equivalent to see what it was really like.
- Scotland (Five Red Herrings, by Dorothy L. Sayers) — real. My mother has actually traced the whole route of solving that mystery. I wanna.
- Everywhere (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor) — real. All the travelling Karou does…
- London (Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman) — real and imaginary. Okay, London Below sounds pretty dangerous, but also really cool.
- Wherever Moomins live (The Moomin comics/books, by Tove Jansson) — imaginary. Because Moomins are cool.
- The Clangers’ moon (Clangers, by Oliver Postgate) — imaginary. Because I can totally communicate in whistles and I wanna know what blue string pudding tastes like.
This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday is “Ten Books For Readers Who Like Character Driven Novels”. I thought this one would be easy, initially, since characters are really important to me when I read, but it’s actually tougher than I thought.
- Pretty much anything by Guy Gavriel Kay. Even where his writing was less polished, more derivative, I fell completely in love with the characters. He’s one of the few authors who can reliably make me cry.
- The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb. Sure, there’s a lot of plot too, but Fitz’s voice is the most important aspect of the story, and you just want to reach in and bang his head against something to force the sense in, sometimes.
- Sunshine, Robin McKinley. Not only is it vampires-done-right, but it’s first person narration, and everything Sunshine is as a character shapes the way the plot turns out.
- The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern. If you count the circus as a character almost on its own (I do), then yeah, this one definitely counts.
- Seaward, Susan Cooper. I need to reread this soon. I loved it so much, and despite the shortness of the book, Cooper built up a relationship between the two main characters that I genuinely loved and wanted to follow.
- The Nine Tailors, Dorothy L. Sayers. Actually, as far as being character-driven goes, you’re best reading the whole series chronologically, to get a feel for the way everything fits together, for the way the characters develop. I don’t even think I’d necessarily say I’d start with this one. But it’s the one that really made me understand Lord Peter.
- Chime, Franny Billingsley. To say much about this would be to spoil it. A brief excerpt from my review: “Briony isn’t an easy narrator, and she isn’t reliable either, as she constantly tells us. The narrative isn’t a straightforward quest, it’s a maze, it’s full of funhouse mirrors.”
- Heart’s Blood, Juliet Marillier. This is the book where me and Marillier really clicked — I tried some before this one, and wasn’t impressed. But I got really involved with this, with the characters and their problems.
- The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin. The narration is brilliant, the way it all slowly comes together, and I love what Jemisin does with her main character, and with the characters of the gods around her. Particularly when it comes to the child-god, Sieh, who has to act in accord with his nature, or he suffers.
- Among Others, Jo Walton. I strongly connected with this because I connected with Mori. Watching her grow up and begin to understand her world better over the course of the novel is a delight.
Wow, that actually took a lot of thought. Veeeery keen to see other people’s picks for this one!
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is “Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Me To Read”. Which… it should be an easy one for me, because I get embarrassment squick really easily, and there are various topics that don’t do my brain any good. My mind’s gone blank as I type this, but let’s see what I can do.
- Assassin’s Quest, Robin Hobb. Stop hurting Fitz! That’s pretty much a universal in Hobb’s books, but still. The books are great but oh my god, stop hurting Fitz.
- Hold On, Alan Gibbons. I read this way back because my sister asked me to. Both of us were bullied pretty badly in school, so it was difficult to read both because it’d happened to me, and because I knew it was still happening to my sister.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling. Yeah, I doubt this one is going to show up on many other people’s lists. But it’s true. I’ve studied it 2-3 times in English Lit, and between that and the massive hype, I have difficulty picturing myself enjoying it now. Or I did: I think I’m starting to feel like giving the series another go now.
- Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Solely because I read it too much.
- The Mermaids Singing, Val McDermid. Rape, torture, gore, violence, suicide, all kinds of triggers. It upset me very much back when it was a set text for a Crime Fiction module, to the point where I actually requested in the end of term feedback that the lecturer put a warning about it on the syllabus, particularly for the benefit of people who have been raped or have the kind of gender issues described. (The lecturer said no and called me a fragile flower in front of the entire lecture hall, but that’s another story.)
- The Farthest Shore, Ursula Le Guin. I never used to like going past the first two books of the Earthsea series. I didn’t like how Le Guin developed the world, and the way her concerns within the world changed from fairly typical fantasy tropes to something much more examined. I’d like them better now, I think, particularly now I’ve read the final book and seen how it all comes together.
- The Double Helix, James Watson. I have actually enjoyed more recent work by Watson, but this memoir of the discovery of the structure of DNA drove me nuts. He’s so dismissive and awful about Rosalind Franklin and her achievements, with numerous comments on her appearance and how a bit of makeup would improve her. Ugh.
- The Innocent Mage, Karen Miller. I loved what Miller did with building up characters, even with world-building. But it was so slow, and her villain was practically a cartoon. I expected him to say “mwahahahaahaaa!” any moment.
- An Evil Guest, Gene Wolfe. Gene Wolfe is a really clever writer, but this book seemed like a mess. I can’t even really remember much about it; I certainly didn’t enjoy it. Sadly!
- Revealing Eden, Victoria Foyt. It may be possible to do justice to this idea, in the hands of a very good writer. Flipping racism around so that white people are the ones without privilege… it could make for a really interesting story, I guess. But oh man, did Foyt not think it through.
Looking forward to seeing what other people pick!
This week’s top ten list prompt from The Broke and The Bookish is “Top Ten Books On My Fall To-Be-Read list”. Which is a little difficult for me, because I don’t really sort my books into appropriate seasons or anything. I just have a perpetual, massive, glorious to read list. But here are some books I’m looking forward to getting round to…
- Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal. This is actually a reread of a book I wasn’t wild about the first time round, but now I have this urge to reread it and read the rest of the series, and I suspect I’ll like it more this time around. We’ll see, but I’m hopeful.
- Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett. This is a reread, too. I know I’m going to love this one because I always have before, though I somewhat over-read it so that I could virtually quote it, and thus have given it a couple of years’ rest.
- River of Stars, by Guy Gavriel Kay. I’ve had this since it came out, but it’s at the end of a long list of rereads of GGK’s work, so I can watch his craft developing. I started pretty well but stalled on A Song for Arbonne, which is funny, because I do like that book and it covers exactly the sort of historical period I’m very familiar with and have done work on. So hopefully I’ll get through them all and get onto this new one sometime this fall.
- Friday’s Child, by Georgette Heyer. Because I haven’t read it yet, and it’s Heyer.
- Blindsight, by Peter Watts. Because it’s been recommended to me a couple of times, I got a free copy, and it’s been mentioned quite a bit in one of my book groups.
- Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie. Because it’s about bloody time.
- Tam Lin, by Pamela Dean. Ditto. And the opening, with starting at university and settling in and all of that, it seems a good time of year for that, even if I’m not a student this time.
- Possession, by A.S. Byatt. Speaking of scholarship and stuff, I’ve been meaning to read this for a long time.
- Little, Big, by John Crowley. I’ve had this book around far too long, and I’ve been meaning to read it. I just… never seem to have found the time. About time I fixed that.
- Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson. I generally enjoy Sanderson’s work, and this one includes superheroes. So very sold.
What about everyone else? Comment, link me, you know the drill.
This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday is “Top Ten Authors I’ve Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More”, which… I’m not quite sure if I can do, since I tend to go on sprees. Let’s see what I can manage.
- Steven Brust. I’ve only so far read Jhereg, though I know I’m gonna read the rest of the series.
- Laura Lam. I’ve read one of the short Vestigial Tales, but not the main series.
- Phyllis Ann Karr. I loved Idylls of the Queen (and wrote part of my dissertation on it). Lucky for me, I have a few more of her books waiting in my queue.
- Steven Erikson. I’ve got almost the whole Malazan series to go. I might have to reread Gardens of the Moon by the time I get round to that, though.
- Philip Reeve. I’ve read Here Lies Arthur, and have a bunch of others on my list.
- Jorge Luis Borges. This is more because, much as I wanted it to, The Book of Imaginary Beings didn’t wow me.
- Italo Calvino. Same goes, with Invisible Cities. There’s a lot I wanted to love.
- James Morrow. I haven’t actually quite finished This is the Way the World Ends yet, but it fascinated me the way he managed to draw me in, despite my usual aversion to comic novels of any kind.
- Kameron Hurley. I’ve actually only finished reading her book of essays. I really need to read God’s War and Mirror Empire.
- Lucius Shepard. I’ve only read The Dragon Griaule, and that was just fascinating, the weirdness of the world and the way he built it up.
Oh, I could manage after all. What about everyone else?
This week’s theme from The Broke and the Bookish is top ten underrated authors/books from [X] genre. I’m going to go with what I know and the really specialised topic of Arthurian fiction. You may choose to view this as an offshoot of fantasy…
- The Table of Less Valued Knights, by Marie Phillips. I actually read this recently, and it’s pretty new, but still, I think it deserves some attention. It’s a bit Gerald Morris-ish in tone, I think, but more mature.
- Idylls of the Queen, by Phyllis Ann Karr. I loved this. It gives pride of place to a more minor character (Sir Kay), and gave me a whole ton of evidence for my dissertation topic. It’s a fun read, and I think it adapts Malory really, really well.
- The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, by John Steinbeck. I should repost some of my reviews of this here sometime. He’s one of the very, very few writers that can make me sympathetic to Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere, all at once. Possibly the only one who really made me feel that love triangle. He never completed his work on this, and it shows in the early parts, but some of the writing is amazing and breathtaking.
- The Killing Way, by Tony Hays. A solid murder mystery using an Arthurian setting, trying to be authentically historical rather than fantastical in this case. If you liked Bernard Cornwell’s Arthurian trilogy, this is definitely worth a go. Plus, I’ve had some good conversations with Tony Hays, and he’s sent me some signed copies of his books — I really, really need to get round to catching up with reading them.
- Camelot’s Honour, by Sarah Zettel. There’s actually a whole quartet of these, and it does make more sense to read them together, but I loved this book for going to the Welsh roots of the tales to pick out some less used elements. The books are very much romances, in both the medieval and the modern sense. They also have strong female protagonists.
- Under in the Mere, by Catherynne M. Valente. Another one which pulls a lot from Welsh sources, particularly in the portrayal of Kay/Cei. It’s very distinctively Valente’s work, and if you know what I mean by that, you’ll know whether you’re going to like it in advance, I suspect.
- Exiled from Camelot, by Cherith Baldry. Okay, I had some problems with this one where it came to the portrayal of women, and it’s definitely not culturally accurate to just about any pre-modern stage of Arthurian literature, but it’s fun, and if you read for characters and relationships, it’s all about the strong bonds there. Kay is a key figure, again.
- Hawk of May, by Gillian Bradshaw. I’ve enjoyed most of Bradshaw’s work, so I guess this recommendation is no surprise. It’s Gawain-centric, with pretty human characters all round — very few complete villains, and fewer complete heroes.
- Child of the Northern Spring, by Persia Woolley. Sort of in the Mists of Avalon tradition as regards portraying women’s lives and Celtic culture, but much less awful and more readable. Guinevere is central.
- The King’s Peace, by Jo Walton. Sort of alternate Arthuriana, focusing on a female warrior in Arthur’s band. Looking for the correspondences is interesting, though it can get in the way of the story.
So! Link me yours, especially if they’re on fantasy or SF. I’m waiting!
This week’s theme from The Broke and the Bookish is apparently the back to school edition: top ten characters I’d have sitting at my lunch table. Given I was the deeply unpopular kid in a tiny school, I rarely ended up sitting with anybody except the other deeply unpopular kid, so I’ll choose to believe that I get to pick who is at my table and they can’t say no, even if they’re way cooler than me.
- Mori, from Among Others. Because she actually is one of the less popular ones, and we have a lot in common.
- Bran, from The Dark is Rising. Because being Welsh and an outcast, he has plenty in common with me and Mori.
- Cath, from Fangirl. I haven’t actually read all of this yet, but Cath’s anxiety issues and fangirlishness mean we have plenty in common too.
- Harriet Vane, from Dorothy L. Sayers’ Peter Wimsey Mysteries. Because omg, Harriet.
- Peter Wimsey, from Dorothy L. Sayers’ Peter Wimsey Mysteries. Because he’d be hilarious and wouldn’t give a fig about me being unpopular.
- Steve Rogers, from Captain America. In skinny!Steve mode, he fits in with this group pretty well. Post-serum, he’d sit with us anyway because arbitrary stuff about cool/uncool people is not fun.
- Bucky Barnes, from Captain America. Because how exactly you’d have Steve without Bucky following somewhere behind, I don’t know.
- Peeta Mellark, from The Hunger Games. Because he seems pretty nice.
- Katniss Everdeen, from The Hunger Games. Silent, glaring, and sticking close to Peeta.
- Susan Pevensie, from The Chronicles of Narnia. Because she gets a raw deal from her family in the end, who dismiss her for not fitting in with the rest of them. God knows I don’t have much in common with Susan, but she went to Narnia once. She must be a good person.
Okay, what’s everyone else thought of that will undoubtedly make my list look uncool?
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a la The Broke and the Bookish, is “top ten books you really want to read but haven’t got yet”. Which is difficult, for me: I tend to pick up what I want right away, because I am terribly prone to needing instant gratification. Still, I’m doing better lately, and there’s some books I haven’t got as ARCs despite all my hankering after them.
- Maplecroft, by Cherie Priest. I’ve enjoyed most of Priest’s work, and even when I haven’t loved it, I’ve thought it was interesting. So I’m very much looking forward to this one.
- The Just City, by Jo Walton. I love the sound of it; the whole concept of setting up Plato’s Republic for real and seeing how it works? Yeaaah. Plus, it’s Jo Walton: I’ll read anything she puts out.
- The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin. I don’t even know what it’s about, I just know I want it when it comes out. Jemisin’s never let me down yet.
- The Galaxy Game, by Karen Lord. I wasn’t totally bowled over by The Best of All Possible Worlds, but I did enjoy it, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Lord develops the minor characters of the first book, and where she goes with developing the universe she’s set up.
- Dreamer’s Pool, by Juliet Marillier. I generally enjoy Marillier’s work, and this sounds like an interesting one. In a way, I think I can kind of predict what’s coming, but I still think it sounds interesting, and Marillier’s writing and characters are an important part of the package, too.
- A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab. This is the first one on this list where I haven’t read anything by the author before! I’m intrigued by the summary, the various parallel Londons it mentions. I may be kind of a sucker for alternate Londons like Neverwhere and Un Lun Dun.
- Batgirl, vol. 1: Silent Running, by Scott Peterson & Kelley Puckett. I like Gail Simone’s run on Batgirl with Barbara Gordon; I’m interested to dig into other characters, though, particularly as Cassandra Cain has specific limitations. Although, what’s with Batgirl having disabilities and being magically healed?
- Heraclix & Pomp, by Forrest Aguire. I’ve been interested in this since reading Dan’s review.
- Dangerous Girls, by Abigail Haas. Everyone makes this one sound amazing. I’m hoping to win a giveaway for this book sometime soon, but otherwise, I’m definitely looking to pick it up somewhere.
- Hammered, by Elizabeth Bear. I like the idea of the middle-aged heroine, the world sounds interesting, etc. I may not end up picking this one up if I don’t like the work by Elizabeth Bear I’ve already got somewhere, but for now I still have my eye on it.
What about everyone else?
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is “Top Ten Books I’m Not Sure I Want To Read”, which is an interesting one. Here goes…
- The Firebrand, Marion Zimmer Bradley. I’m fairly sure I don’t want to read this anymore, with all the stuff that’s come out about Bradley’s child abuse, enabling of paedophilia, etc. And I know I loathed The Mists of Avalon. But it’s Cassandra of Troy, and that gives me this tiny spark of hope, because I haven’t read enough about her… but yeah, probably a bad idea.
- So You Want to Be a Wizard, Diane Duane. For no big reason, it’s just — they’ve been on my to read list for so long, and have never yet caught my attention and said “read me, now”.
- The Angel’s Game, Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I know I’ve read books of his before, but the ones in this series haven’t really stuck in my mind, and I’m not sure I have the interest anymore.
- The Body at the Tower, Y.S. Lee. I read the first book ages ago and thought it was okay, but… the fact that I never went on to the second or third books, and I mean not even within two or three years, doesn’t really encourage me to go back and try them.
- Snobbery with Violence, M.C. Beaton. Did noooot get on with her Agatha Raisin books.
- Avempartha, Michael J. Sullivan. I liked the first book well enough, but it’s another where I just didn’t pick up the next.
- Empress, Karen Miller. I loved what she did with characters in the Innocent Mage duology, but some of the plot was just… argh, cartoon villains and such slow development of events. And other people have said they didn’t think she did a good job with the characters here.
- The Many-Coloured Land, Julian May. I tried these when I was younger and never got into them… Sorry Mum.
- The Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker. Mostly just because it’s so dauntingly long.
- Lord Foul’s Bane, Stephen Donaldson. Sorry again, Mum! This is just one that’s never appealed to me that much, especially because of the way the character behaves very early on. (The description of his leprosy, etc, didn’t bother me at all; while others think that’s a slow beginning, I liked the way it set him up. But his behaviour? Ughh.)
So, what about everyone else? And if you tell me The Lord of the Rings, we need to have words. (You are allowed not to like it, I swear.)
This week’s theme from The Broke and the Bookish is “Top Ten Books I’d Give To Readers Who Have Never Read X”. This is kind of a tough one, because I’m not really sure what to go for. My taste is pretty broad, but I know most people’s isn’t, so… (On the other hand, if I picked comics, it’d be Batgirl, Captain America, Spider-man and Young Avengers, and then I’d be running out.) So instead I decided I’d go for ten different values of X.
- Regency romance: The author is unquestionably Georgette Heyer, but which book…? Well, I started with The Talisman Ring, and adored it: I was a convert on the spot. I also enjoyed The Grand Sophy very much.
- Superhero comics: Ultimate Spider-man. It’s fun, you don’t need to know any back story, and it does start to bring you into the Marvel universe, with appearances from other characters like Daredevil, the X-men, Human Torch, etc.
- LGBT YA: David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy. So bloody adorable.
- Medieval-ish fantasy: While I love Tolkien, I think I have to award this spot to the more accessible Robin Hobb. She has a great narrative voice and a knack for characters you will love. Start with Assassin’s Apprentice; you may wish to skip the Liveships trilogy entirely, as I found that more uneven and full of characters I didn’t want to spend time with.
- Renaissance fantasy: Yep, ha, a technicality. Scott Lynch is my recommendation here, especially if you like the loveable rogue. Main downside is how long it takes for us to even see the most important female character of the series: she isn’t in the first two books.
- Golden Age crime fiction: Dorothy L. Sayers is my pick, without a doubt. I found that I needed to read a few books to get really into the character of her detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, which may be a problem. I might almost suggest beginning with a later book, perhaps Strong Poison. But if you’re willing to let a character grow on you, start at the beginning with Whose Body?
- Alternate history: Jo Walton’s Small Change trilogy wins hands down. Farthing is, for bonus points, a loving pastiche of Sayers’ work, although it is also a serious and harrowing tale of appeasing the Nazis and the world that creates.
- Speculative fiction: I’m going to go for something a little off the beaten path here. Try The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach. It completely enchanted me.
- Cheesy space opera: Philip Palmer. Or at least, Debatable Space, Artemis and Version 43. High octane fun! I found a lot of fault with these, but I also had a whale of a time.
- Non-fiction (science/history): The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The ethical issues this raises are well worth grappling with.
Somewhat random list, I know…