Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s theme is auto-buy authors! I think I did this topic the last time it came round, but these things are prone to change. It’ll be interesting after I’ve made the list to look for the old one!

  1. Scott Lynch. Even seeing a short story of his is in a collection is enough to prompt me to at least consider picking it up.
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m not sure he’d even approve of the state of the stuff Christopher Tolkien is putting out for him is in, but I will always be fascinated with every word the guy wrote.
  3. Jo Walton. If I can’t get the ARCs, at least… Jo is my friend as well as a favourite author.
  4. N.K. Jemisin. I think I knew she’d be an auto-buy author from the first page of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.
  5. Jacqueline Carey. I’ve seen her deal with stuff I wouldn’t be that interested in ably, in a way that comes out fun. Yeah, I’ll buy anything.
  6. Guy Gavriel Kay. Person most likely to make me cry at his work, except possibly Jo.
  7. Garth Nix. I haven’t even read all his backlist yet.
  8. Patricia A. McKillip. It took me a while to get into some of her books, but I think I’m securely hooked now. I’m glad there’s still a whole bunch of backlist titles I haven’t got to yet.
  9. Neil Gaiman. Okay, I’m not 100% a fan of everything the man says, and the title of his latest collection of short stories didn’t work for me, but if he writes a book, I’ll probably get it. Maybe not immediately. But in the end.
  10. Rainbow Rowell. It surprised me, but I just preordered Carry On and realised that yeah, I probably will automatically buy anything by her. Something about her style just… works for me.

What about you guys?

Stacking the Shelves

And another week gone! This year is flying by already… which in a way is fortunate, because I was excited for the two books I picked up this week, both out on 03/02 (coincidentally, my mother’s birthday). Now it’s just A Darker Shade of Magic to go and then I’ll have the books I’m most eagerly coveting…

Bought

Cover of Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear Cover of Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

The cover of Karen Memory is just perfect. I’m already partway through — might even have finished it by the time this goes live — and enjoying it very much. I’ve already finished Trigger Warning

Library

The Periodic Table Cover of Stonehenge by Mike Parker Pearson

Guess who’s onto the chemistry section of their Open University textbook? And Stonehenge, well, who can resist archaeology about Stonehenge?

For review

Cover of The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis Cover of The Errant Prince by Sasha L. Miller Cover of Gates of Thread and Stone

Cover of Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas Cover of Nightshade by R.J. Scudiere Cover of The Adventures of Monkey Girl and Tiger Kite by Kai Schalk

I still haven’t read a single book by Ian Tregillis. I have them. I just need to, you know, read them. Oops.

Comics

Ms Marvel Operation Sin #2

Peggyyyyy. I really need to watch Agent Carter, too. Mind you, I still really need to watch Agents of SHIELD and, uh, Norton’s Hulk (though really Mark Ruffalo is the only Bruce Banner for me, sorry).

Anyway, this was quite a big haul for me, but I’m still keeping to my resolutions! For now, at least. I do need to hurry up and get reading my review copies, though. How’s everyone else been doing? Any massive hauls?

Review – Trigger Warning

Cover of Trigger Warning by Neil GaimanTrigger Warning, Neil Gaiman

It’s difficult to rate a book of short stories, for me. They can be so different from each other, so that one is totally to your taste and another is not. Throw in some poetry too, and there’s even more opportunity to leave people cold (I don’t know many people who aren’t picky about poetry). So the good, first: this is pretty typically Gaiman’s work, wry and dark and twisted, rich with implications and things lurking in the shadows. His stories all flow well, so that it all leads logically on to the ending (which is not to say that the endings are predictable, though familiarity with Neil Gaiman’s imagination might give you a pretty good idea).

The bad: I did find it a mite too familiar. That might partially be because I read the introductions to each story first — always something of great interest to me, but it does flavour how you’re going to experience the story. Secondly, Neil Gaiman’s poetry pretty much doesn’t do it for me. And thirdly, the opinions on “trigger warnings”, from which Gaiman took his title, were… fairly typically as though he had not actually discussed them with anyone. I’m a big advocate for them, and I think most quibbles against them are nonsense; sure, life itself doesn’t have trigger warnings. And? Why should that stop us from giving other people notice when we can? “Here be bad things” is something, but triggers are so different for different people… Stick a label on the story like you do nutrition information on food: not everyone will read it, but those who can benefit from the additional knowledge and preparation. And not “this product may contain nuts, soy or dairy products”, but “this product does contain nuts” or “this product was manufactured in a factory which also processes nuts”. Actual, precise information about common triggers. It’s not going to cover every eventuality, and we can’t pretend it will, but it would make sense to try.

And not just by saying “these stories end badly for at least one person in them”.

All in all, that sounds very critical. I did enjoy reading the stories, though, and I think Gaiman does clever things with the form. I’m just a bit too used to his kind of cleverness.

Rating: 4/5

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 – Stardust

Cover of the Illustrated Stardust, by Neil Gaiman and Charles VessStardust, Neil Gaiman, Charles Vess
Review from April 17th, 2009

I just finished rereading Stardust, this time in the illustrated edition. The art is all by Charles Vess, and it’s gorgeous. He has his own style, but the art is all accessible and pretty. I particularly liked the illustration of Tristan and Yvaine kissing, on page 202, and the design of Lady Una. I like the way he’s portrayed all of the characters, really. It brings them to life in a lovely way, and the art is arranged nicely — not distracting from the story, but adding to it.

I’ve always loved the book, and the movie is the movie I watch when I need comfort, so rereading was a happy occasion. I forgot how different the book and the movie are — the movie is definitely an adaptation. Not that it’s a bad thing: the way things happen in the book simply wouldn’t translate to the screen.

The best things about Stardust, the book, are the tone in general and Yvaine’s voice. The tone is kind of dryly humorous, gently mocking the fairytales it comes from and improves on, with fun conversations and great lines. Yvaine herself is awesome, with her grumpy sharpness and her angry obligation and her not-at-all-saccharine love. Compared to the movie, the realisation scenes are maybe a bit dry, and I wish there had been more with the boat in the sky, as in the movie, but all in all, I do love the book so much, and I think it’s one of my comfort-books the same as the movie is my comfort-movie.

Perhaps my favourite part of all is the note Tristan and Yvaine leave, though: “Unexpectedly detained by the world.”

Rating: 5/5

Review – The Sleeper and the Spindle

Cover of The Sleeper and the Spindle, by Neil GaimanThe Sleeper and the Spindle, Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell

The Sleeper and the Spindle is a gorgeous book: the illustrations are all in black and gold, and there are some really beautiful pages. Riddell was just the right illustrator to bring the story to life, I think. The copy I have is really great: the dust cover is transparent, with the pattern of roses on it; the cover of the book itself is the sleeping woman.

If you know Neil Gaiman’s work, the rest of this is perhaps not surprising. It takes both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, and puts them in a unified world that is a little darker, a little different, a little more mature than the sanitised stories we see so much of now. This ain’t Disney. It’s still a fairytale, but it’s something different, too — something a little bit creepy, even.

The LGBT representation that I have seen this book being lauded for is… not exactly. There’s one kiss which appears to be so if you see the illustration on its own — and it’s a gorgeous illustration — but it doesn’t mean what it seems to mean, in context. Which is a little bit of a cop-out, really, since there’s excitement around this book on the back of it.

But really, romance isn’t at the heart of this fairytale. A search for autonomy is really what’s going on; a shrugging away from the familiar fairytale ‘happy ever after’.

Rating: 4/5

Stacking the Shelves

It’s been a very acquisitive week for me, even though I keep telling myself I mustn’t go over 365 books bought this year. Not that my book-buying urge has ever listening to such logical things, so there y’go. There’s been a fair amount of yarn buying, too, so I am predictably pretty broke already, even though it’s just the first week of November. Anyway! Some awesome stuff, this week.

Review copies

Cover of The Just City by Jo Walton Cover of Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers Cover of Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

Cover of Myth and Magic, ed. Radclyffe and Stacia Seamen Cover of World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters Cover of The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston

I was actually kindly lent a print copy of The Just City, which is in my Top Ten Books I Don’t Own and Want To Read post, by Robert. Then naturally Tor approved me for the ARC on Netgalley as well, even though they’ve never approved my requests before… Ah well, I’ll probably read the print copy anyway. I’ve heard mixed things about Robin LaFevers, but I thought I’d try. And queer fairy tales are right up my street.

Print books

Cover of What Matters In Jane Austen? by John Mullen Cover of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North Cover of Dark Entries by Robert Aickman

Cover of Fearsome Magics, ed. Jonathan Strahan Cover of The Sleeper and the Spindle, by Neil Gaiman Cover of Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir

Cover of Drunk Tank Pink by Adam Alter

I couldn’t resist getting The Sleeper and the Spindle, especially because of some of the art I’ve seen inside it. Claire North is apparently another pseudonym of Catherine Webb/Kate Griffin, whose work I’ve been following since she published her first novel. Excited! The other stuff is a mixture of random choice and stuff I’ve been meaning to pick up. I had an ARC of Elizabeth of York, and my guilt induced me to finally just buy it…

Anyway, as this goes live I’ll be heading out to the local Comic-Con. Looking forward to seeing what the dealers have! What’s everyone else been getting?

What are you reading Wednesday

What have you recently finished reading?
Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell, which I mostly enjoyed with some mixed feelings, and The Sleeper and the Spindle, by Neil Gaiman, which has really beautiful art. Reviews of both will, of course, be forthcoming.

What are you currently reading?
The Just City, by Jo Walton. I’m about a third of the way into it now, and very engrossed, although it is driving me to want to find my old copy of The Republic and read up on what it says about art, given the art-focus of several characters. (I mean, I distinctly recall it being rather dismissive of any mimetic art, and sculpture and painting of the human form are definitely that?) Also, I keep peeking at the back for the list of who the characters were as historical figures, and poking through their Wikipedia pages. I feel rather history-deficient about some of them, and I studied Classics and Philosophy!

What are you going to read next?
I should get on with Mary Stewart’s Merlin books, so that’s The Hollow Hills. I’ve also got endless amounts of ARCs to catch up with, of course, so there should be something from that list — Alan Bradley, perhaps.

Comics-wise, I still have Ms Marvel: No Normal and Captain Marvel: Higher, Faster, Further, More to read, so I’m sure they’re coming up soon. And the Black Widow comic, and the Kate Bishop as Hawkeye comic, and… yeah.

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.

Review – Good Omens

Cover of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry PratchettGood Omens, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett

It’s been a while since I read Good Omens, since I rather overread it when I was about seventeen. It kept my spirits up during boring free periods at school, and let me feel like I was really cool by reading it (as cool as I ever got at school, which wasn’t very, because I read too much and answered questions in class — you know the type). It was fun returning to it now: the jokes and puns are familiar by now, and I greeted each character like an old friend. I still adore Aziraphale and would now like to crochet him a sweater, and perhaps I would give Crowley a pot plant to terrify.

Generally, this is an inventive and funny novel, and I love the way they choose to portray angels, demons, and the general struggle between them. I also love the way they choose to wrap things up: Adam’s moment of choice is perfect, his decision, the small ways the world changes afterward. The two authors worked well together, for my money, and created something that is more than either of them would be apart. Some parts are obviously one or the other, but not many.

In the latest ebook edition, there’s also a short interview with them and a piece from each about how they met the other. They didn’t write those blind, without talking to the other, and so somehow those bits still have a bit of the style of the other, and they tend to agree on events. I love the image it gives of them, though, ringing each other up excitedly to contribute bits of the story — there’s a kind of joy in creation here that I find it impossible not to appreciate.

Maybe one thing I could do without is the constant harping on Aziraphale being ‘a Southern pansy’ and the like. It might be funny once or twice, illustrative of the type of person (angel) Aziraphale is, but this time through I started rolling my eyes at the gay jokes. Particularly as I recall Gaiman and Pratchett kind of denying the undercurrent between Crowley and Aziraphale that becomes completely apparent if you start taking notice of how often everyone assumes it.

It’s like someone said to me in university: “You know when people keep saying, ‘oh, if we keep doing this people will think we’re a couple?’ Most of the time, it really means, ‘I wish we were a couple and I want people to think that’.” Crowley and Aziraphale’s relationship is highlighted so many times that that’s the effect, for me.

Rating: 5/5