Books from the Past Edition
All right everyone, I’ll admit it, I’m behind on books. Of course everyone is- but it’s starting to make me feel guilty. So far I’ve finished six books this year, but there are so many great series out there I haven’t touched because I have an irrational fear of not loving them as much as things I have loved in the past. Look, I never claimed to be logical- OK?
I am especially referring to the fantasy genre- the one I write in and want to be published in. It’s a challenge though, because in times of revolution and change and in grappling with becoming more self aware I have been leaning towards fiction and nonfiction that I feel will widen my world view. But this world is exhausting and depressing, and sometimes I want a break- preferably on the back of a dragon. So, while everyone has already made their lists of things they are most looking forward to being released this year, I am making a list of things to catch up on. Fantasy things, maybe a few sci-fi things as well, but magic is usually what I’m looking for, in life and in writing.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland #1)
By Catherynne M Valente, Published May 10th 2011
Everything Valente puts out I want to read. And yet I haven’t picked up a single book yet. Is there something wrong with me? Probably. The names of the characters alone make me fall a little in love; something about September and Saturday make me wistful. A girl caught in an in-between month, never fully summer or fall, and a boy who exists perpetually on the best of days. Really, I could put almost every book written by Valente on this list, and they would all stand true, but this was the first that I noticed by her, indeed I think it’s the first that launched her into publication, so it shall be the representative.
A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1)
by Deborah Harkness, Published February 2011
The summary for this book is precisely what I wanted to happen to me every time I stepped into the vaulted halls of my local libraries. I’m a little leery of vampires in contemporary fiction (I haven’t enjoyed a vampire since Obsidian Butterfly by Laurel K. Hamilton and that came out seventeen years ago), and comparisons to Anne Rice don’t help as the last one I picked up by her I ended up throwing at the wall in sheer frustration (the first and last book I have ever done that with, Blackwood Farm). But I like the description of Diana, and even if I don’t actively seek it out in stories, I am a sucker for some well written romance.
by Ginn Hale, Published October 2007
I wanted to read this one the second it came out ten years ago- but I was nineteen and in the middle of finding jobs, moving out, and being an idiot. Well, I’m employed, settled, but still an idiot and I haven’t yet picked this up. Like I said before, I have a weakness for romance; and the summary reminds me of the beginning of the Nightrunner books by Lynn Flywelling, before the series became bogged down by weird necromantic children and constant guilt. I like as well that neither of the characters appear weak or helpless, I want my leads dangerous and capable of getting themselves into and/or out of trouble without the love interest around.
We’ll start by saying I adored the Redwall series by Brian Jacques- I have read every book multiple times and own most of them. I’ve also been a huge fan of Omar Rayyan’s art for many years, having discovered him on DeviantArt a long time ago. I was incredibly saddened by the death of Mr. Jacques six years passed and cherish my signed copy of Marl Fox, but it wasn’t till recently that I realized there is an entire group of people who grew up adoring those stories as much as I did. I’m curious to see how Miss McAllister handles her narrative, what she does to make it fresh and different. These tales were written for a slightly younger audience then the Redwall stories were, but also have been compared to Shakespeare in terms of story.
The Wild Wood (Brian Froud’s Fairyland #1)
By Charles De Lint, Published June 2004
Every single part of the the above should be a big flashing sign pointed directly at me that says “Read Me” in rainbow letters. The Wild Wood, yes, Brian Froud, oh god yes, and Charles de Lint, excuse me while a wipe the drool from my chin. Charles de Lint makes you believe in magic, even if you can’t see it. Jack of Kinrowan is one of my favorite fairy tale retelling, and the premise of this one sound delightful; an artist slipping away to a cabin to focus on her work only to find the denizens of the wood appearing in her paintings. Brian Froud invited four authors to write tales in his world, the others by Patricia A. McKillip, Midori Snyder, and Terry Windling, which I think is wonderful. They are all set in contrasting lands, though I do wonder at there not being Froud art used for the covers…
A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)
by V.E. Schwab, Published February 24th 2015
While not as old as some of the books on the list, that snappy cover begs for a read every time I glance at it. The premise is intriguing as well, four Londons, one of which no one speaks of, and the other three with their varying levels of magic. I want to be smuggled into Red London with Kell, take risks with Delilah, and be on the same page as people who claim to love the story so much it causes them physical pain.
Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales (Tortall)
by Tamora Pierce, Published February 22nd 2011
Oh, Tamora Pierce, how do I love thee, let me count the ways; Wolf Speaker, The Women Who Rides Like a Man, Briar’s Books, Magic Steps. It’s been a long time since I stepped back into the world of Tortall and it’s many surrounding kingdoms but I will never forget the lessons Tamora Pierce taught me. She was the start of a love affair of stories where women chose their place, instead of taking what is offered. Her stories are never weighty, but every character is so wonderfully human, full of fear and doubts and hopes and her world is masterfully created. You never get bogged down by exposition but you feel as though you know it well, as though you lived there for a time. I can see the bay at Carthak, the City of the Gods, the Dancing Doves common room; I have been in love with George Cooper since fourth grade. Just reading the short summaries for some of the tales in Tortall makes me smile, because there are call backs to things that occurred in the original stories, and I adore that.
The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Vol. 1 (Chrestomanci #1)
by Diana Wynne Jones, Published April 10th 2007
Diana Wynne Jones is one of those authors that other authors speak of like she is a beloved aunt or librarian, someone who gave comfort and advice while wrapped in a cardigan smelling vaguely of cigarettes and baked goods. She shares her humor and intelligence without ever being heavy handed or high minded. I love Fire and Hemlock and Howl’s Moving Castle, and Darklord of Derkholm was pure fun to read. I love how her characters feel so real, imperfect and grumpy like the rest of us. Rushing off to make rash choices and resenting the repercussions. I always feel a little more real and human after finishing one of her tales, and the sun shines a little brighter, even if it’s behind some clouds. It’s a shame more people don’t read Diana Wynne Jones, because her stories are fun and funny and just plain good.
Rivers of London (Peter Grant/Rivers of London #1)
by Ben Aaronovitch, Published January 10th 2011
A detective novel with a Ghost-Seeing investigator, London, and magic. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. It sounds funny, smart, and not too stripped of it’s London-esque attitudes for American audiences (please, localizers, I am capable of learning new words, even if it’s British slang- give us a chance!) Also Patrick Rothfuss says to read it, and while I haven’t picked up Name of the Wind yet- I watch him role play and trust him as a human. There is also the fact that I just find reading a crime series appealing. I recall devouring Sherlock Holmes over the course of a summer twelve years ago, and it was wonderful. And Peter Grant strikes me as a good guy to be following around on the streets of London.
Wildwood Dancing (Wildwood #1)
by Juliet Marillier, Published January 23rd 2007
The Twelve Dancing Princesses is not a fairy tale I am over familiar with, but it would seem this is a variation on that story. The lush cover art caught my eye initially- Kinoku Y. Craft has been taking my breath away since I picked up Winter Rose in ’97. I love retelling of fairy stories, and there also seems to be hints of old school vampyrism woven throughout. People sing Marillier’s praises, and I’m betting they aren’t confused. Her Celtic leanings are certainly right up my ally, and I’m always interested in stories where the sisters get along and don’t view one another as a burden.
Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop: And Other Practical Advice in Our Campaign Against the Fairy Kingdom
by Reginald Bakely, Clint Marsh (Foreword), Published October 1st 2012
I love a good faux self-help book, and stories presenting legend, myth, and fable as fact. This one makes me think of Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book, tongue firmly in cheek and delighted in it’s whimsy. The summary also contains a Pink Floyd reference that made me laugh. Told from the perspective of a possibly inebriated British aristocrat “cursed” with Second Sight, it seems like a fun read and a good way to familiarize yourself with some of the more “common” Fae.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (Dirk Gently #1)
by Douglas Adams, Published June 1st 1991
I’ve read the first three Hitchhikers and had a grand time, though I often wished to stay more with Arthur then the stories allowed. The title of the second in this series (The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul) was what got me interested initially, as that is generally how I feel about my life. I enjoy British Humor (yes it deserves capitols) a great deal, and the thought of a “holistic” PI running around London dealing with it’s many denizens is right up my alley.
The Half-Made World(The Half Made World #1)
by Felix Gilman, Published October 12th 2010
Oh Steampunk, how you took the world by storm for a couple years. I’ve read a few in the genre that I liked (The first two by Mike Hodder, White Chapel Gods by S.M. Peters), but mostly I picked up ones that seemed to want to cash in on the craze. I’ve also picked up Western/Steampunk cross overs that aren’t to my liking. So why did I pick out this one? I don’t know. I’m willing to give it a shot though; the premise seems fresh and interesting, not drenched in the usual tropes of fantastic air craft and great clocks.
by Neal Stephonson, Published August 2nd 2000
So, I started reading this and it was everything people said it was, fact paced, entertaining, inventive, and intelligent. I liked it so much I gave it away, with the intent of picking up another copy and continuing the story. Oh, but those good intentions never serve me well. Too many books, too little time. Everyone I’ve talked to who has read it loves it. I know I will too, I just have to believe. And with a main character named Hiro Protagonist, how could I not?
By China Maeville, Published June 29th 2010
When this came out I was so intrigued, I love giant squid, love them, but also fear them, it’s an interesting relationship. If there’s a new video of giant squid online, I am there in .5 seconds, if there’s a video game that lets me dive down to the depths of the sea and confront them face to face, I’m there, crying and laughing the entire time. The summary for this one makes me think Neverwhere meets Lovecraft, and that’s a wonderful combo. And it asks so many questions that I immediately want the answers for.
City of Dark Magic (City of Dark Magic #1)
by Magnus Flyte, Published November 27th 2012
Prague, Prah-haa, Praah-haaaag… I first found out about the city through a H.I.M. music video, the learned how beautiful it was through (of all things) an episode of Viva la Bam. If any place was going to hide magic in it’s streets it would be Prague. This book has it all, humor, sex, music, time travel, four hundred year old little people, and Beethoven, wait, that probably falls under music. I feel like I could go both ways with this one, it really depends on how the heroine is portrayed. But from what people say, the authors did an excellent job showing Prague, and since the city is what drew me to this book initially, that should be enough reason to give it a go.
Thorn Jack (Night and Nothing #1)
by Katherine Harbour, Published June 24th 2014
Another Tam Lin retelling. I already mentioned Fire and Hemlock, Diana Wynne Jones journey into the retelling of myth and legend. It will be hard one to beat, Jones wrote her characters so humanely and intelligently, and the resolution of the story was so fulfilling, I wonder how this one will compare. But, that’s an unfair way to approach any book. It’s almost frustrating how many books on this list are the beginning of a series, has everyone forgotten how to neatly wrap up a story? But, on the hand it’s a blessing, because if I like the first I’ll have something to look forward to other then devastating loss.
So, there they are. I left out a few that have come out more recently and ones that seem too obvious like Name of the Wind and The Lies of Locke Lamore. And, of course there are many other books I want to read, and authors I hope will produce another book soon (Erin Morgenstern, I’m looking at you right now). What about you? Are there books that you were initially excited about but never got around to reading? If so, which do you still hunger for?