Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is ‘ten books I’d love to read with my book club’. I am a member of an awesome group for SF/F, so that’s easy — except that we’re quite particular about the sorts of books we end up reading for discussion. So hmmmm.

  1. The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison. This is kind of cheating, because we are discussing it. And actually, I’m supposed to be leading it.
  2. Mélusine, Sarah Monette. Because it’s so different to The Goblin Emperor! (It’s the same author under a pen name.) And it’s a bit more dark than I’d normally go for; I need some impetus to get on and read it.
  3. Century Rain, Alastair Reynolds. Or really anything by Reynolds; I used to like his work a lot, though I haven’t read any in a long time, and Century Rain was my favourite.
  4. Lock In, John Scalzi. We’re planning to read this anyway, but it does sound fascinating. We normally enjoy Scalzi, and this sounds like there’s a fair amount to chew over here.
  5. Captain Marvel: In Pursuit of Flight, Kelly Sue DeConnick. Because hey, I love this series and I want to share it. And talk about how it could be even better and all the places we wanna see Carol go.
  6. Just about anything by Octavia Butler. I think we’ve probably already discussed some of Butler’s work, but it’s all great to talk about (and sometimes problematic, too, in ways that would make it even more interesting to bat it back and forth).
  7. The Unreal and the Real: Collected Stories, Ursula Le Guin. It’s most often Le Guin’s short stories that I find I want to discuss and pick apart to make sure I really understand them.
  8. The Just City, Jo Walton. And we probably will, since we’re big fans of Jo.
  9. Under the Skin, Michael Faber. I’ve been convinced to buy it, so let’s discuss it. I think someone in the group actually suggested this one, too.
  10. Anything by Ian McDonald. I think they might’ve discussed one of his books without me at some point, but I’ve read a couple of his older ones that’re really interesting too.

What about you guys? Any reading groups online to recommend?

Stacking the Shelves – The Holy Crap Edition

Or, Stacking the Shelves: The Christmas Edition! I think I’ve probably had similarly large hauls before, but still… I had a very good Christmas, and if I could just tear myself away from my new game (Final Fantasy Theatrhythm: Curtain Call), I’ll show you all the details. Plus my giant literary giraffe, a gift from my dad.

Photo of me wearing a paper party hat, next to my five foot tall giraffe
His name is Charles Parker, after Lord Peter’s best friend.
He turns up when you least expect it.
Turn around…

So yeah, that was a Christmas. And this is a haul…

Comics

Cover of Batgirl: Silent Running by Kelley Puckett Cover of Batgirl: A Knight Alone by Kelley Puckett Cover of Batgirl: Death in the Family by Gail Simone

Cover of She-Hulk vol. 1 by Dan Slott Cover of Saga vol 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples Cover of Saga vol 4 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

The first four are from Mum and Dad — and don’t worry, I know it’s the first two feature Cassandra Cain as Batgirl, and the third Barbara Gordon — and the two Saga volumes are from my little sis. ❤

Non-fiction

Cover of Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay by Simon Napier-Bell Cover of Sex & Punishment by Eric Berkowitz Cover of The Reluctant Yogi by Carla McKay

Cover of Lucy: The Beginnings of Mankind Cover of The Trouble with Physics by Lee Smolin

One of you lot recommended me The Trouble with Physics, and Dad got me that and the book on Lucy. The other three came from the Kindle sale.

Pure geekery

Maps of Tolkien's Middle-Earth Cover of Tolkien: A Dictionary by David Day

Little sister knows me well! Or, you know, remembered what I did some of my master’s work on.

Fiction

Cover of The Sea Road by Margaret Elphinstone Cover of Sold for Endless Rue by Madeleine E. Robins Cover of The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine

Cover of Mitosis by Brandon Sanderson Cover of Heraclix and Pomp by Forrest Agguire Cover of The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff

Cover of The Future Falls by Tanya Huff Cover of Mélusine by Sarah Monette Cover of Mindscape by Andrea Hairston

Cover of Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly Cover of Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone Cover of Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

Cover of Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch Cover of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman Cover of Blue Remembered Earth by Alistair Reynolds

That’s a real mix of gifts, sales and randomness.

Audiobooks

Cover of Swordspoint audiobook by Ellen Kushner Cover of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (audiobook)

I had credits to spend.

I also got a £20 Waterstones gift card, which I’ll be spending today, so watch out for next week’s haul, too… What’s everyone else been getting?!

Thursday Thoughts: Novellas

This week’s prompt from Ok, Let’s Read is about novellas.

What are your general opinions on novellas or short stories in a series or otherwise? Have you read any novellas? Do you always make sure to read the novellas in a series? Do you read them where they belong (i.e. between the correct two books) or are you not too bothered about that sort of thing?

They can be interesting. Sometimes they drive me mad because they’re in some obscure anthology, which I only want for that one story. Or they’re just not available anymore. Still, they can add something interesting to a series, and I do try to read them where they belong in a chronological order. Sometimes, that really doesn’t work — I read The Assassin and the Pirate Lord, by Sarah J. Maas, for example, back before the first novel was released, and I didn’t really care enough. It’s an interesting method of trying to whet people’s appetites, but you have to make it really good if you’re going to do that.

I have a lot of opinions about short stories because I like to write them. You can’t just think of them as a watered down novel; they’ve got to have all the elements of a good novel, but concentrated. You’ve got to tighten up the writing until every word is important, every paragraph advances something. I don’t mean just plot-wise; a good paragraph could help build up the world, the characters, or yeah, the plot.

For sci-fi fans, I’d definitely recommend Alastair Reynolds. I loved Troikawhich is a 100 page-ish novella, and I remember being very enthusiastic about Diamond Dogs, as well. Reynolds has that knack of taking an idea that could fill a whole novel and focusing in on it, staying with it without getting distracted, and delivering something really powerful.

Throwback Thursday

Since I liked doing this last week, here it is again — a little highlight of some books that have been lurking on my shelves for a while.

  Cover of The Adamantine Palace by Stephen DeasThe Adamantine Palace, Stephen Deas

The Adamantine Palace lies at the centre of an empire that grew out of ashes. Once dragons ruled the world and man was little more than prey. Then a way of subduing the dragons alchemically was discovered and now the dragons are bred to be little more than mounts for knights and highly valued tokens in the diplomatic power-plays that underpin the rule of the competing aristocratic houses.

Dragons! Dangerous dragons! I’ve read some less than glowing reviews since I impulsively bought this book, but I’m still pretty hopeful. If nothing else, it’ll be interesting to see how this take on dragons works out.

Century Rain, Alastair Reynolds

Three hundred years from now, Earth has been rendered uninhabitable due to a technological catastrophe known as the Nanocaust. Archaeologist Verity Auger specializes in the exploration of its surviving landCover of Century Rain by Alastair Reynoldsscape. Now, her expertise is required for a far greater purpose. Something astonishing has been discovered at the far end of a wormhole: mid-twentieth century Earth, preserved like a fly in amber. Somewhere on this alternate planet is a device capable of destroying both worlds at either end of the wormhole. And Verity must find the device, and the man who plans to activate it, before it is too late – for the past and the future of two worlds.

I’ve actually read this before, but something like eight years ago. Eep. Now I feel old. Anyway, I picked this up again when I went to a signing by Alastair Reynolds, and it’s high time I got round to rereading it. It is, after all, the book that got my sister back into reading.

A Sudden Wild Magic, Diana Wynne Jones

Our world has long been protected by “The Ring” – a benevolent secret society of witches and conjurers Cover of A Sudden Wild Magic by Diana Wynne Jonesdedicated to the continuance and well-being of humankind. Now, in the face of impending climatic disaster, the Ring has uncovered a conspiracy potentially more destructive than any it has ever had to contend with. For eons, the mages of a neighboring universe have been looting the Earth of ideas, innovations and technologies – all the while manipulating events and creating devastating catastrophes for their own edification. And unless the brazen piracy is halted, our planet is certainly doomed.

It’s the words “kamikaze sex” later in the blurb that really get my attention. Diana Wynne Jones does a more adult novel, which sounds like a sexier version of her usual quirky worlds. It’s not gonna beat Fire and Hemlock, but it should be fun.

Review – Troika

Cover of Troika, by Alastair ReynoldsTroika, Alastair Reynolds

I love the “Big Dumb Object” trope that Reynolds uses here. It just seems so… possible. That something we don’t understand is out there, waiting for us to find it. Some almost unfathomable relic of an alien civilisation. I think Reynolds uses that trope pretty well in Troika: it’s a neatly executed little novella, with a good twist at the end. It may not seem much to look at — it’s quite a slim volume — but Alastair Reynolds writes well, and the structure is well-executed (much as I usually dislike stories where you go back and forth between past and present).

I’m not sure why Reynolds chose the idea of a Second Soviet to frame the story, but it worked well for me. It was a bit of a shock to go from the vague idea that this was Soviet Russia — the first Soviet Russia — to realising that this is a later Russia, post-internet, post-freedom.

I didn’t get the strongly pro-space travel vibes from this that other reviewers seem to have done. To me, the situation in Russia overshadowed the possible touches of commentary on that. If anything, there was maybe a criticism of using space as a means to an end (political, to show superiority, etc) rather than as an end in itself.

Nothing says I love you like a book

No matter what the occasion, I try to buy people a book. It means some adaptation, and buying books I don’t normally buy — paranormal romance for my sister, certain types of non-fiction for my dad, violent crime fiction for one of my ex-housemates — but I do like to think about it, to pick out something that just fits. (I have one major failure: my best friend since childhood, Laura. Craft books, yes, but anything you could settle down and read… she doesn’t have the time/patience for it unless she’s on holiday, and then her taste is for chick lit type stuff. Hm, an idea strikes…) Luckily, a lot of people around me share my taste: Amy, my partner, my mum, to a great extent my sister.

So yeah, you know I love you when I come home from the charity shop glowing with glee and a stack of books carefully picked out just to suit your taste. My former housemates should be pretty familiar with this situation.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a couple of my happily united book couple successes — and then, if you like, you can comment with a book and some facts about someone, and see whether I can think of something.

For Dad: You Are Not So Smart, by David McRaney. Because whether he likes it or not, some of it is very relevant to things he believes about himself. Granted, he probably didn’t see it that way, but he did carry the book around with him from Christmas to the New Year. He’s a non-fiction reader, gave up on fiction a long time ago, but his knowledge tends to be widespread and general, so I always try to aim for something like this, rather than something super-technical.

For Mum: The Lions of Al-Rassan, by Guy Gavriel Kay. The Fionavar Tapestry and Tigana came first, I think, but it was Lions that had her texting me at three in the morning from Italy or Spain or whatever fancy conference she was at. (This is reciprocal more than any other book-giving relationship I have: she introduced me to Isaac Asimov, Robin Hobb and Dorothy L. Sayers, among others.)

For Squirt (my sister): The most memorable occasion was when I handed over her first Alastair Reynolds book, Century Rain. She’s been a fan ever since, and it actually kickstarted her into doing a lot more reading. I think her trust for my taste began at that moment. We actually went to a reading/signing by Alastair Reynolds, and her knees were practically knocking with nerves — my fierce little sister’s knees were knocking!

For the girlfriend: Occasionally I try and break her heart with stuff like Civil War: Iron Man, but mostly I’m nice and push books like The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern) and A Face Like Glass (Frances Hardinge) her way. One of our oldest literary successes was The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper). There was also Robin McKinley’s Sunshine and Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry, and more recently Jo Walton’s work you can see we share very similar taste in books. On the other hand, Cherie Priest’s Bloodshot and Hellbent bored her to death, where I love love love loved them, so it’s not all perfect.

For Amy (former housemate): The biggest hit was Garth Nix’s work. It’s now become a yearly Christmas tradition: a Garth Nix book or series, every year. He’ll need to write more, soon, or I’m doomed. Given that Amy’s dyslexic, Spellwright by Blake Charlton could’ve gone either way, but she ended up liking it.

For Ruth (former housemate): This was a lucky one. She mentioned being interested in the Tudors and particularly Lady Jane Grey. I found Alison Weir’s Innocent Traitor a couple of days later in a charity shop.

For Lynn E. O’Connacht: I can’t actually remember anything specific here, but we’ve traded books fairly frequently, starting with her sending me King Arthur’s Death (trans. Brian Stone), which contains the alliterative and stanzaic Morte Arthure poems. Anna Elliott’s Twilight of Avalon is another Lynn sent me.

So… yeah. If I love you, expect a book this Christmas (if I can get you anything at all, which is a different matter).