Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Book Characters I’d Love to Be Besties With

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Book Characters I’d Love to Be Besties With. For me, this translates pretty much to characters I think are talented or cool or fun — just awesome people I’d want to spend time with (even though some of them are WAY out of my league in terms of supernatural abilities, but anyway…

 

1. Claire Fraser, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: Of course. A strong, passionate woman, who’s creative, smart, and scientific.

2. Sophronia Temminnick, The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger: A true friend, who’ll defend you to the death. With a bladed fan, if necessary.

3. Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery: Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have a friend like Anne during our childhoods?

4. Hermione Granger, Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling: I love Hermione, and I always felt a little bad that she didn’t have more girl friends at Hogwarts. I’d sign up in a second to be her partner for Herbology or Potions, or just to hang in the common room or the library.

5. October Daye, October Daye series by Seanan McGuire: Toby is all sorts of awesome, and I’d love to just live in her world for a while. And maybe hang out with May and the Luidaeg too.

6. Anna Cornick, Alpha & Omega series by Patricia Briggs: I love so much about Anna, especially her devotion to her loved ones, her inner calm, her ability to bring peace, and her fierceness when her mate and her pack are threatened.

7. Verity Price, Incryptid series by Seanan McGuire: A competitive ballroom dancer who’s also a master of weaponry and free running? Yes. Just all sorts of yes.

8. Lara Jean Covey, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han: Lara Jean is so sweet and fun, and would probably be hilarious to hang out with in high school.

9. Elma York, The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal: Elma is amazing! She’s got Ph.D.s in math and physics, loves to fly planes, and is determined to go into space. She’s brave, loving, and smarter than I can even comprehend.

10. June/Offred, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: If I had to live in a horrifying dystopian misogynistic society, it would be a good idea to have a tough rebel like June by my side! (I realize I may be combining the book and TV characters in my head, but so be it.)

What fictional characters would you want as your bestie? Please share your links!

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Top Ten Tuesday: My top ten auto-buy authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Auto-Buy Authors, a topic I did for TTT posts in 2013 and 2015. So what is an auto-buy author? For me, it’s a favorite author whose books I’ll buy pretty much on faith — no matter what the plot is about, if it’s by one of these favorites, I know I’ll want to read it!

Some of the authors on my 2013 list are included here as well (proving that fandom is eternal!), and there are several others whom I’ve only had the pleasure of discovering since then. Without further ado, my old and new auto-buy authors as of summer 2019:

1. Diana Gabaldon: Because of course Diana Gabaldon is — and always will be — at the top of my list! I’m an Outlander fan, through and through, and will never stop reading these wonderful books.

2. Patricia Briggs: I love the Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series so, so much. Give me more and more and more, and please don’t ever stop.

3. Seanan McGuire: Surely, if you’ve ever visited my blog before, you’ve seen me rave about the October Daye books, the InCryptid series, the Wayward Children series, and more… not to mention everything she writes as her alter ego Mira Grant. I will absolutely read whatever she writes!

4. Gail Carriger: I’m such a fan! True, I haven’t read her San Andreas Shifters books yet, but I’ve read everything else she’s written, and find her books just delightful.

5. Neil Gaiman: I mean, who isn’t a fan? Okay, I didn’t love American Gods, but I do love almost everything else, so chances are whenever a new book comes out, I’ll buy it.

6. Dana Stabenow: I fell crazy in love with her awesome Kate Shugak series (#22 comes out next year!), and I do plan to read her non-Kate novels too one of these days.

7. Sarah Gailey: Well, I’m three for three for Sarah Gailey — loved the two American Hippo stories, and loved Magic For Liars too. So yes, I’ve already preordered her next book!

8. Lisa See: Wow, what can’t she do to my heart? I love her characters and her exploration of cultures and societies that I’d otherwise know little to nothing about. Such beautiful writing.

9. Cat Winters: So creative! So expressive! I always enjoy her books, and even the ones that aren’t my favorites are still really great reads.

10: Taylor Jenkins Reid: I still need to read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo *hangs head in shame* — but I’ve read all her other books, and have loved every single one!

Do you have auto-buy authors? Do we have any in common? (And if so — which are your favorite of their books?)

If you wrote a TTT post this week, please share your link!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten favorite characters from recent reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is a Character Freebie, which means that we come up with our own topics on the subject of book characters.

I’ve done a whole bunch of character posts over the years, including…

  • Favorite fantasy characters
  • Best secondary characters
  • Frustrating characters
  • Characters I’d want with me on a deserted island
  • and more…

This time around, I thought I’d keep it simple, and just focus on characters from books I’ve read in the last year or so. Without further fuss, here are ten (um, actually, eleven) characters I’ve really loved from some of my more recent reads:

1. Billy Dunn, Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Reid Jones: Sexy lead guitarist, songwriter, and family man, whose electricity just crackles off the page

2. Tasheret, Competence (The Custard Protocol, #3) by Gail Carriger: A gorgeous were-lioness who’s afraid of nothing, especially not showing love

3. Young-sook, The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See: This story floored me, especially the bravery of the diving women and all they endured. Young-sook’s story is absolutely fascinating and so moving.

4. Lord John Grey, from various Lord John and Outlander works by Diana Gabaldon: Lord John isn’t actually new to me, but my book group has been re-reading all the Lord John-related novellas and novels in the Outlander world during the past year, so he counts as recent! Lord John is a sweet, smart, talented soldier and gentleman, who has a dry wit that’s a joy to behold. He also has great taste in men!

5. Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery: Where has Anne been all my life? I’m halfway through the series, and I adore Anne’s brightness and spirit as she grows from precocious tween to effervescent young woman.

6. Roger and Dodger, Middlegame by Seanan McGuire: Twins with unlimited power, with murky origins and incredible gifts, who are — despite all this — really interesting and complicated people.

7. Prince Peter, The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King: Ah, the good prince Peter! Everything royalty and nobility should be. He made me want to cheer as he struggled for redemption and to free his kingdom from evil.

8. Maggie Hoskie, Trail of Lightning and Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse: The lead character of these terrific books is a strong, kick-ass monster hunter, rooted in tradition and adapted to a changed world. Can’t wait for more!

9. Beka Cooper, the Beka Cooper trilogy by Tamora Pierce: Beka is such a great character! I loved all three books about her, and just wish there were more.

10. Veronica Speedwell, A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn: Gotta love a Victorian lepidopterist who enjoys science, adventure, and taking lovers.

What characters have you really loved recently? What theme did you pick this week? Please share your links!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2019

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2019.

I’m so excited for all of these… as you could probably tell if you took a peek at my pre-order list. A lot of these books are sequels or parts of series, and that’s just fine with me. Here are my top ten anticipated books — see the list below for release dates.

  1. The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell (release date 8/6/2019)
  2. Reticence (The Custard Protocol, #4) by Gail Carriger (release date 8/6/2019)
  3. Snow, Glass, Apple by Neil Gaiman (release date 8/20/2019)
  4. The Institute by Stephen King (release date 9/10/2019)
  5. The Testaments (The Handmaid’s Tale, #2) by Margaret Atwood (release date 9/10/2019)
  6. Wayward Son (Carry On, #2) by Rainbow Rowell (release date 9/24/2019)
  7. The Unkindest Tide (October Daye, #13) by Seanan McGuire (release date 9/3/2019)
  8. The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust, #2) by Philip Pullman (release date 10/3/2019)
  9. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (illustrated edition) by J. K. Rowling (release date 10/8/2019)
  10. Malorie (Bird Box, #2) by Josh Malerman (release date 12/3/2019)

Are you planning to read any of these? What books are you dying to read in the 2nd half of 2019? Please share your links!

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Top Ten Tuesday: A Selection of Favorite Fantasy Books and Series

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Books From My Favorite Genre. I bounce between genres quite a bit, but thought I’d focus here on fantasy. My list includes stand-alones as well as series, and because I’m sticking to just 10, I ended up not including three that pretty much go without saying: of course I love the Narnia, A Song of Ice and Fire, and Lord of the Rings books! (See? I managed to mention them after all!)

My top ten, in no particular order:

  • The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
  • Codex Alera (series) by Jim Butcher
  • The Immortals (series) (standing in for ALL Tortall books) by Tamora Pierce (review)
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik (review)
  • The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (series) by Patricia C. Wrede (review)
  • Wayward Children (series) by Seanan McGuire (review)
  • The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King (review)
  • The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner (review)
  • His Dark Materials (series) by Philip Pullman
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman

What genre did you pick this week? If you wrote a TTT post this week, please share your link!

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books Released In the Last Ten Years

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Favorite Books Released In the Last Ten Years, highlighting one favorite books per year. What a great excuse for a trip back through my shelves!

It’s really hard to come up with just one favorite per year, so some of these are chosen somewhat arbitrarily from among all my five-star reads. If I’ve reviewed the book here on my blog, the link is provided — check it out if interested!

  • 2018: The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah (review)
  • 2017: The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan (review)
  • 2016: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (review)
  • 2015: Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart (review)
  • 2014: Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
  • 2013: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald (review)
  • 2012: The Martian by Andy Weir (review)
  • 2011: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick (review)
  • 2010: Feed by Mira Grant
  • 2009: Under the Dome by Stephen King

What were your favorite books of the past 10 years? Do we have any in common? If you wrote a TTT post this week, please share your link!

The Monday Check-In ~ 5/13/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

It’s been another slow reading week — and not because I haven’t been enjoying my books! Just life getting in the way, I suppose. In any case, I read…

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon: Really enjoyable and diverse YA. My review is here.

Tortall: A Spy’s Guide by Tamora Pierce (and others): A “guide” to Pierce’s amazing fantasy world, as shown through notes and other documents written by the characters of Tortall. This is a nice-to-have for fans — not essential reading, but I can see it being handy as a reference and a side bit of entertainment. Excellent timeline too!

Heads Will Roll by Kate McKinnon and Emily Lynne: An absolutely perfect listening choice for me this week. Sublimely silly. My thoughts are here.

Bookish heaven:

I finally got to meet one of my all-time favorite authors, Seanan McGuire! She did a reading and signing at Borderlands Books in San Francisco, and it was amazing, of course. I felt like a total fangirl.

Fresh Catch:

So, funny story… I got to Borderlands about an hour before the event started. And what else would I do with time to kill in a bookstore? I bought books. Oodles. Piles. But hey — I’m a believer in supporting independent bookstores, so I get to feel good about myself AND come home with a bag full of books!

Stocked up on Seanan McGuire’s books (all of which I’ve read… and now I own!)

… plus, some new-to-me books

And meanwhile, a couple that I bought online arrived this week too:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs: The newest Mercy Thompson book! I’m surprised I haven’t finished it already, but it’s been a really distracting and distracted week.

Now playing via audiobook:

A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua: My book group’s pick for May!

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing reads at the moment:

  • Besieged by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection — we’re finishing our group read this week.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — my book group’s current classic selection. I’ve fallen a bit behind (sorry, it’s just not grabbing me yet!), but I’ll aim to catch up this week.

A pop culture footnote:

As I get ready to save and schedule this post late Sunday night, I’ve just finished watching the 2nd to last episode of Game of Thrones. Holy hell.

So many books, so little time…

 

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 5/6/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

Goodness, I’ve barely read or posted anything this past week! Well, okay, the main book I read was on the longer side, so maybe it just feels like I didn’t do much reading — I read A LOT, but all in one book!

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire: Weird and wonderful, and I loved it. My review is here.

I also finished the audiobook of The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King. Great story, with terrific narration by Bronson Pinchot. My review is here.

Pop culture goodness:

It had to happen sooner or later — I saw the new Avengers movie! And enjoyed it, although I do have some doubts and quibbles about various plot points. Ah well, despite that, it was a very entertaining way to spend three hours.

Fresh Catch:

Quite a splurge this week, I can’t figure out what got into me!

Some books I’ve already read, some that are new to me… I’m excited to have them all!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon: It’s been a while since I’ve read YA. I’m happy to be starting this one, since it’s a follow-up to When Dimple Met Rishi, which I really liked.

And meanwhile, I’m just waiting and counting the hours until Tuesday — release day for the newest Mercy Thompson book! I can’t wait for this book to arrive so I can dive in:

Now playing via audiobook:

Heads Will Roll by Kate McKinnon and Emily Lynne: I was going to start a serious novel as my next audiobook… but why do that when I have Kate McKinnon to listen to? I’m just starting today, but I have a feeling this will be exactly what I need this week!

Ongoing reads:

Three ongoing reads at the moment:

  • Besieged by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection — a group read for my Outlander book group, two sections of the story per week.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — my book group’s current classic selection. We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week.
  • Tortall: A Spy’s Guide –– I’ve had this on my nightstand for weeks now, reading it in teeny-tiny chunks. Maybe I’ll finish this week…

So many books, so little time…

 

boy1

Book Review: Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

 

Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.

Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.

Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.

Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.

Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.

Y’all know how much I love Seanan McGuire, right? I mean, I have gobbled up pretty much everything of hers that’s come my way, and I haven’t been disappointed yet. And I’m not now.

Which is to say… I thought Middlegame was weird and challenging, and I loved it.

Let me start by adding that the synopsis above doesn’t feel very accurate to me. Yes, Roger and Dodger are twins… kind of. But I don’t think the books itself refers to attaining godhood. So I’m glad I didn’t read the synopsis very carefully before starting, because it might have created some bizarre expectations that definitely would have gone unfulfilled.

In Middlegame, Dodger and Roger are creations, but they spend most of their lives not knowing this. They were created by a powerful alchemist, himself a creation of a powerful, game-changing alchemist, and they have a specific purpose in life — to manifest the alchemical concept of the Doctrine of Ethos.

Huh?

Yup, that was my reaction… but the confusion is part of the experience of this book, and I was happy to just go with it. Roger and Dodger each have a gift — language for Roger, math for Dodger. Raised on opposite sides of the country by adoptive parents, they discover a psychic connection as young children, and as they grow up, their bond develops, strengthens, and becomes powerful, dangerous, and more and more inexplicable. Meanwhile, Reed and his allies monitor the pair carefully, charting their progress toward manifestation, making sure to keep them apart when their progress threatens the greater goals of the project.

It’s all just so twisty and timey-wimey and mind-bending and GOOD. And as always, I love Seanan McGuire’s writing. Does she have a bit of Roger’s ability to create reality through her words? All signs point to yes.

I won’t go into a lot of detail, mainly because I just finished this long, complicated book and I’m still sifting through it all in my mind. There’s a lot to puzzle through and unravel. So rather than digging further into plot threads, I’ll share some lines and quotes that jumped out at me as I was reading:

…and she can no more conceive of failure than a butterfly can conceive of calculus.

Roger thinks that’s the trouble with grownups. The more effort they put into deciding what kids are going to do or think or be, the more things so wrong for them.

People who say “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” don’t understand how words can be stones, hard and sharp-edge and dangerous and capable of doing so much more harm than anything physical. […] Words can be whispered bullet-quick when no one’s looking, and words don’t leave blood or bruises behind. Words disappear without a trace. That’s what makes them so powerful. That’s what makes them so important.

That’s what makes them hurt so much.

You can’t skip to the end of the story just because you’re tired of being in the middle.

Everything is perfect. Everything is doomed.

On and on they go, the shorthand becoming more extreme, the air going hot and heavy around them, like an electric storm rolling in, like another fire getting ready to ignite, a fire that needs no flame but only the constant friction between the two halves of something which has never, in all the long years of their lives, been fully realized.

Roger has never understood the math that calls to her, but he feels it now, thrumming in his veins like a promise of miracles to come. Dodger has never grasped the need to put a name to the things she knows to be true, but she understands it now, and accepts the names he throws her way gladly, transforming them through the alchemy of her observations before she throws them back to him.

Here’s one that makes my brain ache:

She knows that, as surely as she knows that every second takes away more of her slim opportunity to escape becoming the future self of a girl she, as yet, never was.

And on a slightly lighter note:

“Wake up,” he says. “We need to let my terrifying ex-girlfriend tell us how we’re supposed to manifest a primal force of reality before asshole alchemists set us the fuck on fire.”

I really don’t think there’s much I can say or add that will do justice to the headlong rush of tragedy, violence, excitement, and true deep emotion that mixes together in Middlegame. So I’ll just wrap by saying that this is an awesome adventure of a read, and I’m sure I’m going to want to read it again after my mind relaxes.

Oh, and I love the fact that one of the super-powerful alchemists wrote a best-selling children’s fantasy book series, full of magical quests along the lines of a Narnia/Fillory tale — but that these stories really are code for alchemical inquiries into controlling the powers of the universe. Which made me wonder just a bit if there’s more to, I don’t know, Harry Potter? than meets the eye…

Extra gold points for great use of San Francisco landmarks (Sutro Baths!)… and how can you not love a book that includes the phrase killer death alchemists as if it’s a normal thing to say?

Seanan McGuire fans, rest assured — our beloved author strikes again, and it’s fabulous.

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The details:

Title: Middlegame
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: Tor
Publication date: May 7, 2019
Length: 528 pages
Genre: Science fiction/fantasy
Source: Purchased (and also, review copy via NetGalley)

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The Monday Check-In ~ 4/29/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

The Raven’s Tale by Cat Winters: Gothic historical fiction about the younger days of Edgar Allan Poe and his muse. My review is here.

Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs: I finished my audiobook re-read, and loved it so much!

Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse: The excellent sequel to Trail of Lightning. My review is here.

Fresh Catch:

Two shiny new books this week:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire: Yeah, I guess you might say that I’m a little obsessed when it comes to this author. As in, give me all her books. NOW. I’m excited to be starting her newest (although I’ll admit that I felt a little daunted when I picked it up to start reading and realized it was over 500 pages.)

Now playing via audiobook:

The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King: It must be over 20 years since I first read this book. The audiobook is narrated by Bronson Pinchot, and is just so, so good! I’ve listened to about 60%, should finished up this coming week.

Ongoing reads:

Three ongoing reads at the moment:

  • Besieged by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection — a group read for my Outlander book group, two sections of the story per week.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — my book group’s newest classic selection. We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week… and since this book is over 800 pages, we’ll be doing so for quite some time. Great fun so far!
  • Tortall: A Spy’s Guide –– a collection of writings and notes related to Tamora Pierce’s kingdom of Tortall. It’s pretty entertaining, but I prefer reading it in small pieces, since it’s not actually a novel to be read straight through.

So many books, so little time…

 

boy1