Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s theme from The Broke and the Bookish is a freebie, so I’m gonna go with ‘top ten desert island books’. These are the books I’d take for when my ereader runs out of charge, which would happen all too soon…

  1. The Dark is Rising sequence, Susan Cooper. It comes in an omnibus, so this only has to count as one. I can’t imagine life without this series at least once a year.
  2. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien. I am positive I could read this over and over again and get different things out each time.
  3. The Earthsea Quartet, Ursula Le Guin. A long-term favourite of mine, and even better, it’s been a while since I read it.
  4. I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith. Another one I periodically reread; I love the development of Cassandra’s character, and I don’t know a first and last line that stick better in my head.
  5. Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay. I don’t think the Fionavar Tapestry books come in an omnibus, so I’d have this instead, although those might be my actual favourites.
  6. The Inheritance Trilogy, N.K. Jemisin. Just come out in an omnibus! I love these books so much, and I think they’d stand up to more rereading.
  7. Among Others, Jo Walton. This book means too much to me to be left behind.
  8. The Complete Brandstetter, Joseph Hansen. I think I’d enjoy rereading these, and there’s plenty of them in this omnibus.
  9. Good Omens, Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett. Because I think I’d need a touch of humour now and again.
  10. The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison. I’m taking a bit of a chance on this, as I’ve only read it once so far, but I’m pretty sure I could enjoy reading it over and over, imagining myself into the world, etc.

Looking forward to seeing what other people have done with the freebie theme, now!

Review – A Song for Arbonne

Cover of A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel KayA Song for Arbonne, Guy Gavriel Kay

I can understand people who don’t like Guy Gavriel Kay’s work. I think I’ve said it before, but there are definite quirks of style, ways he plots and deals with characters, that can drive even me mad in the wrong mood — which is why I first picked this up to reread in April, and now it’s November when I’ve finally finished. I do love most of Kay’s work when I’m in the right mood, though, and A Song for Arbonne is additionally up my street because of the Court of Love, the troubadours, all the stuff that’s part of the Arthurian legends as well once they hit France.

I don’t think, though, that I fell for this book quite as much as I have for some of the others. I’m not as attached to Bertran as to Alessan or Diarmuid; not held in sympathy with his rival and enemy, Urté de Miraval, as I am with Brandin in Tigana, not until the very end of the book; not really caught up in Blaise’s story, in his fight for a throne, as I am with Aileron’s or Alessan’s. There’s some good stuff here, but some promising background characters didn’t really come to full bloom for me — Valery, Rudel, even Hirnan — and despite the women-centric society, we didn’t have female characters as striking as Catriana or as pivotal as Kim. Rosala was probably the female character I was most interested in, but she comes somewhat late into her own, and I felt as though I should be more aware of the other female characters. They shadowed the story, they were behind it, and yet they weren’t the visible drivers. Not quite the story Kay was aiming to tell, I think.

Still, all of that sounds harsh, when I really do enjoy this book. When Kay gives you a scene, a character, a moment, he expects you to remember. He will use it. One character’s chance word reveals another’s secret, one introspective passage becomes suddenly important. It’s a rich world he creates, and some parts of it dance with life — and ache with sadness.

It’s just, it does pale when held up against some of his other books. Even the flaws of The Summer Tree and the other two books of that trilogy are brilliant. I was a little surprised to like this book possibly less this time than last, which may be some combination of mood and timing; normally I like Kay’s work better with each reread.

Regardless, there’s always something to treasure in Kay’s work.

Rating: 4/5

Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt from The Broke and the Bookish is “top ten characters you wish would get their own book”.

  1. Verity Farseer (Realm of the Elderlings, Robin Hobb). Or maybe his wife, Kettricken. Either way, they’re both great characters, I love the idea of “Sacrifice”, and I wish we’d seen more of Verity being awesome. I don’t think there’s really space for a Verity book in the series, and arguably his crowning achievements are in the Fitz books anyway, but for dreaming about, there’s all the time before Fitz is born, or the time Verity spends alone in the mountains before Fitz and company catch up.
  2. Faramir (Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien). I had the biggest literary crush on Faramir; I think he’s one of the strongest characters we see in Middle-earth. He’s as worthy as Aragorn in his way — both consciously resist the Ring — and he had pretty short shift from his father. He deserves more!
  3. Jane Drew (The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper). Arguably Greenwitch is her book, but it’s so short! She’s the only girl in the Six, and it’d be great to see more of her.
  4. Susan Pevensie (The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis). She deserved more than being dismissed as too interested in “lipsticks and nylons”. As of The Last Battle, she’s still alive and there’s room for redemption or reinterpretation of what’s going on with her. I don’t think Lewis could ever have really handled her with subtlety, but you can dream…
  5. Ysanne (The Fionavar Tapestry, Guy Gavriel Kay). We only briefly see what Ysanne is like and get hints of her history. A story set entirely within Fionavar that ties up some of that would be lovely.
  6. Mel (Sunshine, Robin McKinley). There’s so much mystery around that character that was never resolved. It adds an interesting background to Sunshine, but I think everyone wants to know more about him.
  7. Jasper (A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula Le Guin). He’s just a plot element, really, to set Ged on his path. He vanishes out of the story and we never really know why he leaves Roke, whether he ever gains some redemption. He’s presented a little too simplistically — I want to know more, even though he’s not a pleasant character.
  8. Calcifer (Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones). Because Calcifer.
  9. Anafiel Delaunay de Montrève (Kushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey). We know a little about his past, and enough about him to sketch in what we need to know, but I’d like to get to know the character close-up, rather than through Phèdre’s eyes.
  10. Prim (The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins). We see her through Katniss’ eyes, but it’d be fun to know what Prim’s thinking, what drives her — what little rebellions are in her, against Katniss and for her, as they’re growing up and Katniss is doing all this self-sacrificing. She’s presented as pretty much totally cute, but there’s gotta be more complex things going on.

What about you guys?

Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s theme is “Top Ten Books I’d Like to Reread”, which is a topic just made for me — the first one in a while I think I could talk for ages about — because I love rereading. Honourable mentions in advance to Chalice and The Hobbit, both of which I already reread recently! And I’m just going to leave it unsaid that I want to reread The Dark is Rising books, since I do that every year.

  1. Seaward, Susan Cooper. I’ve been meaning to reread this for a while. Heck, by the time this post goes live, I might’ve got round to it already. It’s beautifully written, a bit more mature than The Dark is Rising, and I love the characters a lot. I read it right through the day I got it, I think, at Christmas a couple of years ago. And then I made my partner read it, and my mother, and… everyone else I could get my hands on, really.
  2. The Lions of Al-Rassan, Guy Gavriel Kay. I think this might be the next book in my chronological-by-publishing-date reread of GGK’s work. I think it’s my mother’s favourite of GGK’s books, and my partner loves it too; I remember liking it, though it wasn’t my favourite, but it’s one of the few I’ve only read once so far (along with Under Heaven, which is too new for me to have reread yet).
  3. Sunshine, Robin McKinley. This is another I might’ve got round to already by the time this post goes live, because I’m tearing a streak through Robin McKinley’s work lately. Sunshine is one of my favourites; the world-building, the characters and their relationships, all the talk about food… And also, vampires done right, so that they’re genuinely fucking freaky, even Our Hero.
  4. Kushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey. And pretty much everything by Carey, actually. I love the richness of her writing, and the intrigues of the court in Terre D’Ange. Honestly, if it wasn’t for all the sex and BDSM in the book, I’d recommend it to everyone, because the actual world-building is really cool. But I’m aware it’s not something everyone can be comfortable with.
  5. The Fire’s Stone, Tanya Huff. I could swear I’ve already talked about wanting to reread this somewhere on the blog, but I can’t find it. I did start a reread recently, but then got interrupted. I’m particularly curious because just before I first read this, my partner and I were working on an original world/plot that was very, very similar in many ways. And I’m looking forward to the relationship between the three main characters, and the way the situation turns out for them all. It’s sweet, feel-good stuff.
  6. The Winter King, Bernard Cornwell. I’ve always loved the way Cornwell handles the legends. Okay, some of his characters really don’t fit with the legends, and I do like the legends, but at the same time he has one of the most likeable versions of Galahad, and a really interesting take on the magic/reality stuff where the narrator can view it as magic and we can dismiss it as trickery, or maybe not quite.
  7. The Thief, Megan Whalen Turner. And the rest of the series. It’s easy to read, fun, and does interesting things with the character, the world, etc. I’m less a fan of the most recent book, but I’m still going to try rereading it.
  8. The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula Le Guin. The whole series, really, but this one is my favourite. It marks a separation from the world of the first book, which is fairly conventional fantasy, and begins to shape a place for women and a different view of the world that’s more in line with Le Guin’s own beliefs. And she’s so good at writing the small clear moments of quiet that really shine (Ged’s hand and the thistle).
  9. Assassin’s Apprentice, Robin Hobb. It’s been a long time, and I miss Fitz, Nighteyes and Verity. (My mother never liked Verity nearly as much as I do, but I find him one of the most genuine characters of the lot — not subtle, not perfect for his job, but doing what he can and making good despite the difficulty.) And there’s a new Fool trilogy now, which I even got an ARC for originally, so I want to reread everything to get back up to speed for it.
  10. Sorcerer’s Treason, Sarah Zettel. I remember these being good books, using a less typically Western fantasy setting, with a lot of Russian influence and I think later Asian? I remember finding it very different, at any rate, and I do like Zettel’s work. So, soooon. I hope.

Any of these your own special favourite? Let me know! I comment back to everyone who comments here, both on my post and on your own if you’ve done one.

Readathon stack!

Readathon time! It doesn’t seem like it’s been long since the last readathon, but here we are again with the event coming up on Saturday-Sunday of this weekend. Naturally I’ve been working on my stack and trying to decide what to read. For once, I’m actually at my partner’s flat in Belgium for the readathon, which means a) I’ll probably be up for the whole thing because I have chronic insomnia here, and b) I only brought my ereader with me, no dead tree books. On the other hand, I have comics to borrow and a whole stack of library books too, so it’s not as though I’m short of reading material.

To reread:
-Robin McKinley, Rose Daughter.
Lois McMaster Bujold, Shards of Honour.
-Guy Gavriel Kay, A Song for Arbonne.
Mary Stewart, The Crystal Cave.

New:
Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park.
Keri Hulme, The Bone People.
-Robert MacFarlane, The Old Ways.
Kurt Vonnegut, Galapagos.

To finish: 
-James Morrow, This is the Way The World Ends.

Comics:
-Loki: Agent of Asgard.
-Thor.
-Winter Soldier.

Anyone else I know doing it?

Top Ten Tuesday

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.

  1. Middle-earth (The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien) — imaginary. I didn’t say I was exempt from that.
  2. Tywyn (The Grey King, by Susan Cooper) — real. And Cadair Idris, and… everywhere else that Will and Bran visit.
  3. The Lost Land (ditto) — imaginary. It sounds so amazing, and I want to look in their library.
  4. Fionavar (The Summer Tree, by Guy Gavriel Kay) — imaginary. Okay, it’d be a little bit like Middle-earth, really. But still.
  5. 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.
  6. Scotland (Five Red Herrings, by Dorothy L. Sayers) — real. My mother has actually traced the whole route of solving that mystery. I wanna.
  7. Everywhere (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor) — real. All the travelling Karou does…
  8. London (Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman) — real and imaginary. Okay, London Below sounds pretty dangerous, but also really cool.
  9. Wherever Moomins live (The Moomin comics/books, by Tove Jansson) — imaginary. Because Moomins are cool.
  10. 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.

Top Ten Tuesday

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Chime, Franny BillingsleyTo 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.”
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!

Top Ten Tuesday

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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Friday’s Child, by Georgette Heyer. Because I haven’t read it yet, and it’s Heyer.
  5. 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.
  6. Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie. Because it’s about bloody time.
  7. 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.
  8. Possession, by A.S. Byatt. Speaking of scholarship and stuff, I’ve been meaning to read this for a long time.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Throwback Thursday

It’s been a while since I did Throwback Thursday, which some book bloggers are using to highlight books they’ve had kicking around for a while and haven’t got round to yet. But there’s definitely tons and tons of books on the list for me. Each time I do this, I narrow it down to three… So far, it hasn’t got me to hurry up and read them yet, but I live in hope.

The Alchemist of Souls, Anne Lyle

Cover of The Alchemist of Souls by Anne LyleWhen Tudor explorers returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: skraylings. Red-sailed ships followed in the explorers’ wake, bringing Native American goods–and a skrayling ambassador–to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I’s capital?

Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is seconded to the ambassador’s bodyguard, but assassination attempts are the least of his problems. What he learns about the skraylings and their unholy powers could cost England her new ally–and Mal his soul.

It’s an Angry Robot book, so it’s pretty inevitable that I’ll get round to this in the end. And I do love alternate history scenarios, especially when they blend in magic. I’ve actually got the whole trilogy, so it’s really high time I got round to this.

River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay

Cover of River of Stars by Guy Gavriel KayRen Daiyan was still just a boy when he took the lives of seven men while guarding an imperial magistrate of Kitai. That moment on a lonely road changed his life—in entirely unexpected ways, sending him into the forests of Kitai among the outlaws. From there he emerges years later—and his life changes again, dramatically, as he circles towards the court and emperor, while war approaches Kitai from the north.

Lin Shan is the daughter of a scholar, his beloved only child. Educated by him in ways young women never are, gifted as a songwriter and calligrapher, she finds herself living a life suspended between two worlds. Her intelligence captivates an emperor—and alienates women at the court. But when her father’s life is endangered by the savage politics of the day, Shan must act in ways no woman ever has.

In an empire divided by bitter factions circling an exquisitely cultured emperor who loves his gardens and his art far more than the burdens of governing, dramatic events on the northern steppe alter the balance of power in the world, leading to events no one could have foretold, under the river of stars.

I love pretty much everything GGK’s written, so I’m excited to get round to this. That’s a while away, though, because I have a plan to read through all of his work, chronological order by publication, to watch his skills and themes developing. I’m on A Song for Arbonne.

To Ride Hell’s Chasm, Janny Wurts

Cover of To Ride Hell's Chasm by Janny WurtsWhen Princess Anja fails to appear at her betrothal banquet, the tiny, peaceful kingdom of Sessalie is plunged into intrigue. Two warriors are charged with recovering the distraught king’s beloved daughter. Taskin, Commander of the Royal Guard, whose icy competence and impressive life-term as the Crown’s right-hand man command the kingdom’s deep-seated respect; and Mykkael, the rough-hewn newcomer who has won the post of Captain of the Garrison – a scarred veteran with a deadly record of field warfare, whose ‘interesting’ background and foreign breeding are held in contempt by court society.

As the princess’s trail vanishes outside the citadel’s gates, anxiety and tension escalate. Mykkael’s investigations lead him to a radical explanation for the mystery, but he finds himself under suspicion from the court factions. Will Commander Taskin’s famous fair-mindedness be enough to unravel the truth behind the garrison captain’s dramatic theory: that the resourceful, high-spirited princess was not taken by force, but fled the palace to escape a demonic evil?

I’ve been meaning to try Janny Wurts forever, ever since I was reading Raymond E. Feist’s books and she did work with him. I’ll probably get to That Way to Camelot first, but I’ve read the first few pages of this one and was very nearly sucked in…

Top Ten Tuesday

It’s apparently a freebie week for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. I saw someone else talk about the top ten books/series they want to get round to rereading if they have time, which sounds like a good idea. I’m a chronic rereader, with some favourites I never get tired of, but I feel guilty doing it because I have so much I should be reading already!

  1. Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series. I’m actually trying to work on rereading this, since I have the new one as an ARC, but there’s so many books out there, it’s hard to find the time. I remember being utterly enchanted back when I first read the books, though, so I hope the shine hasn’t worn off.
  2. Tanya Huff’s The Fire’s Stone. I just recall finding this one really fun, and enjoying the romance plot.
  3. Cherie Priest’s Cheshire Red books. I love these. I have them to reread, it’s just getting round to it. Adrian is the most badass ex-navy SEAL drag queen you could wish for, and I love the unconventional family Raylene builds up around herself.
  4. Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series. I ate these up the first and second time, but it’s been a while now. I’m looking at the new, cheap editions as ebooks and thinking it might be about time. I’m not a big fan of Imriel’s series, but I adore Phèdre and Joscelin, and the politics of it all. “I’ll be damned in full and not by halves” is one of the more memorable quotes in any book I’ve read.
  5. Jo Walton’s Sulien books. Plus A Prize in the Game, which isn’t strictly about Sulien. Asexual protagonist who is a kickass woman in the Arthurian world, what’s not to love? Plus interesting relationships with the people around her. I remember this really fondly.
  6. Robin McKinley’s Sunshine. There’s something about Sunshine and the unrelated Chalice that pull me back again and again. It’s the characters, I think, the way people interact, the way magic works. And the focus on homely things as well, like Sunshine baking and the heroine of Chalice keeping bees.
  7. Guy Gavriel Kay, The Lions of Al-Rassan. Well, actually all of his books (I’m revisiting them in publication order, to watch the development of his style), but especially Lions because I think that’s the only one apart from Under Heaven and the latest that I haven’t read at least twice, and I invariably appreciate GGK’s work more on the second go.
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. This is more or less a permanent state of being for me. Having studied the books, I can see so many more layers and bits of interest than I ever did before. It’s also interesting because I’m exploring the world via a different medium, in Lord of the Rings Online, which no doubt will make me pay attention to different details.
  9. Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy. I have the ebooks, all ready for a reread, it’s just getting round to it. I remember enjoying these books a lot, and my partner’s just recently read them and feels the same, so I have high hopes.
  10. Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles. I loved Cornwell’s take on Arthur and his men, and this is another case where I’ve bought e-copies for my collection and for an excuse to reread, and… am taking forever to get round to it. Well, hopefully not forever.

So, what interesting top tens are you seeing around, people? Any you’d like to see me do?