This week is an [International] Mother’s Day freebie. Now the UK Mother’s Day was quite a while ago, but never mind. The thing with me and my mum is that we’ve always shared books, ever since I finally learnt to read — I went from children’s books to her shelves within a year or two. Rare is the letter or conversation that doesn’t involve books somehow, so here are ten books I’d like my mother to read already.
My Real Children, by Jo Walton. You might cry, Mum, sorry. Motherhood is quite important in this one, and it also handles dementia and how it effects families.
City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett. I’m sorry I took my copy back; I’ll get you the ebook or something. It’s a great series, and it’s finished now, too!
A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan. I think you’d enjoy this Victorian pastiche. It’s not as heavy-going as something like Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and the lead character is a lot of fun. Plus, dragons!
Stories of Your Life and Others, by Ted Chiang. Mostly for ‘Stories of Your Life’, which the movie Arrival was based on. (I think you’d like the movie, too.) Warning, this will almost definitely make you cry, knowing you.
Behind the Shock Machine, by Gina Perry. I’ve bought you this, so you have no excuse! It’s a fascinating exploration of Stanley Milgram’s experiments and conclusions, and very relevant to about two dozen conversations we’ve had in the last few years.
Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Mostly to find out if you do enjoy it. I’ve been on the fence for years about whether you will. I think it’s very clever and very funny.
The Carpet Makers, by Andreas Eschbach. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this one to you, but it’s a fascinating set of linked short stories. I have a copy, but I’m not sure if Lisa will let me lend it to you indefinitely. Maybe I’ll get you a copy.
Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie. Rereading it recently, I enjoyed it a lot. People have emphasised the gender aspects of it, but there’s also a fascinating story about AI and individuality.
The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin. I haven’t got round to reading it either, but we really should.
Children of Earth and Sky, by Guy Gavriel Kay. We have the same opinions on most of his books, so you can tell me if I should be shuffling this to the front of my list instead of letting it languish!
And for those who are not my mother, well, those are all good books anyway.
I love the kind of mother-child relationship I have with my mother, where we can discuss books and psychology experiments and space opera and the accuracy of portrayals of mental illness in books, and just about everything else under the sun. She always treated me as an adult in terms of my formed opinions, and that has undoubtedly enriched our relationship and conversation options greatly. I can recommend it as a mode of parenting pretty unreservedly.
Good morning, everyone! This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday is “things you want to see more of”, which sounds easy enough…
Asexual and aromantic characters. I have no idea how many asexual/aromantic folks there are in the population, so it’s hard to gauge how much representation we “should” have. But I think we could do with fewer books with love triangles and more with complex platonic relationships, and exploring the way aces and aros negotiate relationships could be fuel for some pretty fascinating stories. Also just casual inclusion of people who aren’t interested in sex or romance.
No dead/absent parents. You get portal fantasy where kids just disappear for ages and nobody cares much, because they don’t have parents or their parents don’t care or whatever. Take the parents with! Have a mum who has to deal with the fact that her kid is the chosen one and she can’t just write them a note excusing them from it.
Boundary setting. We’ve all got to learn it: when we say no. Let’s have some characters turning round and saying, “No. This is where I stop.” Whether it’s relationship drama or the Chosen One trope, let’s have way more acknowledgement that people can say no.
Diverse characters in general (especially on covers). Here is my confession: I have ghostwritten romance books. The plot, characters, all of that was my choice; I just had to produce and then turn in a manuscript with which my employer could do what they wanted. So I had some diverse leads — about whom I’d best not say too much because of an NDA — and, guess what? They were white on the covers. Let’s utterly trash this, guys. I want to see diverse characters being impossible to ignore.
One volume fantasy. You don’t all have to do The Lord of the Rings, guys. There are epic stories which don’t need trilogies. (And they especially don’t need trilogies of trilogies.)
Disabled detectives. This one goes out to the lecturer at my university who was going through the list of diverse detectives you might see now: “Gay detectives, cat detectives, dog detectives… Really scraping the barrel here, disabled detectives…” Here’s to scraping the barrel.
Nuanced depictions of mental illness. There’s as many ways to be mentally unwell as there are people, I think. Let’s skip the guy who turns serial killer after a host of obvious signposts, stereotyped because we see it play out in fiction all the time.
Fully fleshed out worlds. Do you know what your character’s first memory was? It might never be relevant to the story, but if you know, it shows — knowing exactly how your world and characters are built gives them depth even when those details don’t make it into the story.
Surprise me. Turn the tropes upside down.The court mage is a lady. The senior advisor is a female knight. The biker guy runs a bakery.
Practicalities. Okay, sometimes it just doesn’t fit — I can’t imagine and don’t want to know what Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas did about going to the loo while running across Rohan. But what are the arrangements if your astronaut needs to pee? What is your character eating while lost in the woods — you know berries don’t keep body and soul together in the long term, right? These little details make your world.
Whoops, got all rambly. Looking forward to seeing what other people post for this!
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is complementary to last week’s list, which was about the top ten things that will instantly make me want to read a book. This is about instant turn-offs. This is a little harder for me, actually, because I read so eclectically. Let’s have a go, though…
“The X’s Y” titles. So often it’s stuff like The Mapmaker’s Daughter or The Sin-Eater’s Daughter, and I’m honestly tired of protagonists being defined in terms of other people. I have picked up some of these books and will probably continue to, but it does give me a moment’s pause.
This Will Change Your Life. I don’t like feeling like you’re selling me something. Obviously you are, but if all of these books could change my life, I wouldn’t be the same person day to day. (And in another sense, every book will change your life for the period that you’re reading it, at the very least…)
The new Tolkien. I liked the old one, actually. And the new ones just don’t seem to have J.R.R.’s attention to detail. Same goes for the new anyone, really. I don’t want to read the same books over and over again — or rather, if I do, I’ll go back and read that book.
“Inspired by [x] culture.” Translation: “I took the stuff that interested me and ditched the rest.” This is rarely done well and with attention to detail, although some authors like Guy Gavriel Kay can produce something very satisfying from that starting point.
White saviours. If your cover copy hints that your white character is going to save the poor and downtrodden through their special sympathy and understanding, I’m going to be very sceptical right from the word go.
The real King Arthur revealed! Just stop it with that, please.
The real Robin Hood revealed! That too.
The real Sheriff of Nottingham revealed! Come on…
The real Will Scarlet! Aren’t you reaching at this point?
So yeah, as you can see, I was running out of ideas toward the end of this… Doubtless I’ll think of a dozen more just as soon as this goes live.
This week’s theme is ten things that immediately make me want to read a book. I’m pretty eclectic, so there’s a lot…
A really pretty cover. I was hooked by the idea of Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone just from that cover.
A unique-sounding magic system. Or combinations of magic systems that feel different, like Robin Hobb’s the Wit and the Skill.
Genetics. Mostly if we’re talking non-fiction, but a good fiction plot around the topic works too.
Non-traditional heroes. Like Kamala Khan as Ms Marvel, or the Jewish gay Billy Kaplan as Wiccan (originally Asgardian). Same goes outside comics, but they were the examples that sprang to mind.
Non-traditional family structures. Like in Jo Walton’s Lifelode, for example.
Not entirely humanoid aliens. Like the people on Winter in Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, with their temporary genders and non-constant breeding cycles. I love it when aliens are genuinely alien in some way, even if it’s only a small twist.
Found family. I’m thinking of Cherie Priest’s Bloodshot and Hellbent, but also the Phryne Fisher books and… goodness knows how many others. It just gets me, people making a family out of whatever they have, whoever they can find.
Dead gods. Something about that concept just… intrigues. I’m reading Ben Peek’s The Godless at the moment, for example.
This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday is “unique books”. I’m not sure these books are unique, but they felt like a breath of fresh air when I read them.
The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. A complete antidote to all the grimdark fantasy out there, this felt like a message of hope. It’s about building bridges rather than walls. Apt for the current political climate, I’d say.
The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch. I’m not sure why, but this practically leapt off the page for me when I read it first.
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers. Character-focused, thoughtful, touching. Small scope, huge heart.
The Bone Palace, by Amanda Downum. The first book didn’t blow me away, but this one did, particularly with the character of Savedra.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin. I went in sceptical; I came out dazed.
This Savage Song, by Victoria Schwab. Or perhaps Vicious — either way, there’s some vital spark about Schwab’s work that made it feel genuinely exciting.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor. I picked it up with quite a bit of scepticism, and then devoured it. Something felt new.
City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett. One of those books that made me go, wow, you’ve gotta read this.
Among Others, by Jo Walton. It’s set after the character’s great calamity — it’s about moving on (and the way life doesn’t stop throwing new stories at you).
Assassin’s Apprentice, by Robin Hobb. I read it when I was fourteen and was totally hooked. The magic systems were just fascinating.
Kinda dreading looking at other people’s lists today — as if I need to expand my TBR more! By which I mean: gimme.
This one is a “fandom freebie”, which I’m going to spin to being about asking which comics I follow (or try to follow), because I’m not so much into fandom, especially book fandom, lately.
The Wicked + The Divine. It’s gorgeous, for one thing. And I’m kind of hooked on the story too, even if the third volume didn’t really advance it.
Young Avengers. And any/all of the characters from that series — Hulkling, Wiccan, Speed, Ms. America, Hawkeye… I love that they’re starting to appear in the adult Avengers teams now.
Captain Marvel. Because Carol’s pretty amazing and the series has had some gorgeous art. I wasn’t totally wowed by Rise of Alpha Flight, and Civil War II sounds like a nightmare of a crossover event, but I’m still here for Carol.
Ms Marvel. Because Kamala Khan is badass.
Captain America. Kind of… I love Cap, but mostly the MCU version.
Spider-woman. Because who doesn’t love Jessica Drew and her, uh, sismance(?!) with Carol Danvers. Speaking of which, who noticed they stuck Jessica Drew’s wings on Spiderman in the trailer for the new one? Ugh.
Silk. Because I love the starburst of spiderwomen we’ve had lately.
Thor. Mostly the Jane Foster version, mind you.
Avengers. Sort of. Mostly I love the MCU version, but I’m very much here for the new team-ups like A-Force in principle. I need to catch up, though…
I’m in a tearing hurry and the theme for this week didn’t excite me madly, so instead, have a Top Ten of books I’ve pulled from the depths of my TBR to take back to Belgium with me to read. Some of them are more recent than others…
Nova, by Samuel R. Delany. I haven’t read any Delany. I know, I know. I’ve just started reading this one, and I’m all at sea, but with how important a work it has been to the SF/F community, I have no doubt it’s going to be interesting.
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, by Christopher Moore. I was assured I would enjoy this, but heavily doubted it — while I’m not very religious and definitely not Christian, I still have a certain respect for stories as foundational to culture as the story of Christ. But, I’m 100 pages in and… yeah. I am actually really enjoying it.
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, by James Tiptree Jr. I keep meaning to read it, and I think I mentioned it in a recent TBR, so I loaded it in.
Darkwalker, by E.L. Tettensor. I forget who I follow that read this and sold me on it, but I do recall that it went straight on my TBR after reading their review, so I grabbed it.
The Godless, by Ben Peek. You’re going to groan at me, but this is another one I’ve picked up recently without finishing the others I’ve already started. I’m not in love with the characters, but I’m fascinated by the world-building.
The Beacon at Alexandria, by Gillian Bradshaw. I still need to finish reading Cleopatra’s Heir, but I do love Bradshaw’s work. If you like Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novels, it has a similar flavour, though it’s more adult and dense in style. The Beacon at Alexandria features a woman pretending to be a eunuch so she can learn medicine and become a doctor! How can that not appeal?
Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond. I have realised that I never finished reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee, recommended to me by a wise English teacher who just happened to be ten years too early to catch my interest in non-fiction reading. So I want to read this and then maybe I’ll revisit the other book!
Reality 36, by Guy Haley. From the depths of my TBR, truly — I was given this copy when I visited Angry Robot way back just before I started this blog. I’m a little lost so far, but starting to catch on. (And yes. It is another one I’ve picked up and started recently, but not quite finished. That makes four in this post alone.)
The Family Trade, by Charles Stross. I’ve never yet got on with a book by Charles Stross, but I keep on trying. Technically I have the omnibus containing the first two books of the series, which I think has some changes from the original separate novels.
The Days of the Deer, by Liliana Bodoc. I don’t remember anything about this or why I picked it up, but it happened to be the right size to fill a corner of my suitcase. So in it goes!
Knowing me, I won’t manage to read any of these before I travel back again. It’s the thought that counts…?
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is “Read in one sitting”, and given that I am a fast reader, this is not too rare for me. So I’ll do my best to pick the cream of the crop…
Vicious, by V.E. Schwab. I expected to read 50 pages and put it down to do something else. I did not.
The House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard. When I started it, my wife had just handed me my dinner and gone out to class. When I finished it, she was heading home from class and my dinner was cold.
On Basilisk Station, by David Weber. Whatever faults this series may have, I sat in a cooling bath to read the whole of the first one in one go. And the books aren’t that short.
Liar, by Justine Larbalestier. Man, it’s been ages since I read this, but I really didn’t stop when I was reading it. So satisfying.
The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. If you feel like getting your heart ripped out, this isn’t a bad way to go.
Assassin’s Apprentice, by Robin Hobb. Or, more accurately, the first time I read it I tried to read it in one sitting, but I was 15 and my mother came and confiscated the book so I’d sleep.
Among Others, by Jo Walton. And I never wanted it to end, either. I had the same experience with Farthing, but that felt less personal.
Planetfall, by Emma Newman. I was even on my honeymoon at the time. Sorry, dear.
The Grand Sophy, by Georgette Heyer. Heyer’s books are just funny and sweet and perfect when you’re in the right mood.
The Winter Prince, by Elizabeth Wein. I don’t remember the plot of this very well, but I know I read all the books of the series in the space of two days. Not bad.
Good morning, all! Looks like Top Ten Tuesday is back, and the official theme is what’s coming up on your spring TBR. Well… ten books is far too few, plus when I make these lists I never end up following them. But let’s just say there’s a good chance I’ll read some of these soon. And to spice things up, I’ll give you two books I’m planning to reread, two review copies I need to get to, two books from my backlog I want to read, two books that everyone else wants me to read, and two books I don’t own yet but would rather like to read.
To reread: Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Lions of Al-Rassan. I’ve been meaning to reread this for a while, and it’s one of my mother’s favourites. I don’t even remember it that well, so this should be good.
To reread: V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic. It’s time to read the whole trilogy!
To review: John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire. His books are always a good time, and this one’s been sat waiting for a while. Time to get to it.
To review: Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Binding Thorns. Again, this one has been waiting for me a while. It’s high time, especially since the first book made me forget to eat my dinner.
From the backlog: Gene Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer. This is the Tor.com book club choice, which means it feels rather like a kick in the butt to actually go ahead and read these books… which have been waiting on my backlog for literally years.
From the backlog: James Tiptree Jr.’s Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. It’s a classic, and I feel terrible that I haven’t read it — and now I’m here at my parents’ house for a while, there’s a copy staring me accusingly in the face…
Please read it, Nikki: Scott Lynch’s Republic of Thieves. Um. I know. I have no excuse. I’m sorry.
Please read it, Nikki: George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. My sister really wants me to read this series sometime. Sometime.
Wishlist: Melinda Salisbury’s The Scarecrow Queen. I haven’t uncritically loved this series, but I do want to know where it goes. There’s something very compulsive about it!
Wishlist: Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer. Give. It. To. Me.
So there y’go: the TBR I almost certainly won’t complete in the spring… Heh. What about all of you? Can you stick to a TBR?