Top Ten Tuesday: Traits I Like in Characters (Sorted by Character Class/Type)

TTT-NEW

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by  The Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is “Traits I Like in Characters,” but I decided to get a little more specific, because honestly, there are a LOT of traits that I like in characters.

And a couple of years ago I realized that there are specific trait + character class combinations that I like more than others. And traits that I usually find annoying in one class I love in another. For example–thieves (rogues) and sarcasm? Been there done that. But sarcasm in, say…a medic type of character? Much more interesting.

So these are some of my favourite traits for specific character classes/types.

 


🔪 Rogues 🔪

 

Pirate Captains (or any leader figures, really):

1. Courteousness

I have a **thing** with people–er, characters–who have power and status and aren’t good, per se, but are sticklers about manners and respecting personal boundaries.

Just because you rob innocents out in the sea and commit a murder or two or a dozen every now and then, doesn’t mean you have to be rude about it.

 

2. Casual, Confident Confidence

This is actually a trait I’m meh about in assassins and thieves. But give me a feathered hat, a parrot, and a show of authority and POOF, magic happens, I guess.

These characters are capable and dangerous–cross them and they’ll run you through with a knife without a hitch in their moral compass–and everyone knows it, including themselves. But the confidence isn’t a forced act they have to put on. It’s like a second skin for them, and they know exactly when to dial it down and when to blast it in full-force. That awareness and control is a sexy, sexy thing.

 

tumblr_nicyyjl6jV1qixu5go1_250-6951

maltair.tumblr.com

Favourite Example(s):

– Isabela (aka my video game wife) from Dragon Age 2

 

Assassins:

1. Kindness and Empathy

Because I’m a contrarian. And I fall hard for kindness in any type of character.

But genuine kindness in someone whose job is anything but kind–someone who deals out cold, calculated death on a regular basis–is something that’s especially attractive and fascinating to me. The fact that they’re able to retain their humanity when there’s so much blood on their hands is nothing short of incredible.

 

assassin.png

Favourite Example(s):

FitzChivalry (Realm of the Elderings series by Robin Hobb)
Girton (The Blood of Assassins series by R.J. Barker)

 

2. Spiritual

Nothing hotter than an assassin who debates religious philosophy with you and says a nice prayer for your passing after they stick a knife between your ribs, eh?

(I’m 100% serious here)

 

Thane_Character_Box

Favourite Example(s):

Thane Krios (Mass Effect 2 & 3)

 


🔮 Magic Users 🔮

 

Witches and Wizards:

1. Sarcastic

This is how I always want my sarcasm. Served with a big bowl of fireballs.

See, being a spellcaster is hard life, folks. You’re the easiest target in battle. You’re more often than not shoved into the role of a sidekick (when you’re not being burned at the stake, that is). And who gets most of the credit and glory at the end of the day? Yeah. The guy with the pointy stick.

So a wizardy or witchy type of character with a sarcastic, I’ve-had-enough-of-this-shit attitude is…cathartic? Satisfying? Something along those lines.

 

2. Brassy with Low Tolerance for Idiots

See above? I especially love female witches/wizards who are like this, because we can never have enough loud, outspoken women in fiction.

 

Penny_Dreadful_2x03_002

Favourite example(s):

– Joan Clayton (Penny Dreadful)

 

Seers/Prophets:

3. Childlike Wonder

I look at seerhood in most stories as more of a curse than a gift. And as with assassins, I think it’d be incredibly difficult to retain your humanity (or sanity) in this particular line of work. So, to me, a seer who possesses a kind of bright-eyed innocence, even with the weight of millions and millions of lives bearing down on them, is someone to be treasured.

 

9781633884922_528c2

Favourite example(s):

Quinn (The Tarot Sequence series by K.D. Edwards)

 


⚔️ Warrior/Fighter ⚔️

1. Shy/Introverted

This isn’t a character I come across all too often, and I’d love to see that remedied. Because people who enjoy charging into the thick of a fight, blades and guns drawn, don’t necessarily have to be extroverts. They may be anxious about socializing and quiet in a crowded room, which is perfectly fine and should be more normalized, in my opinion.

 


🤷 Normal People 🤷

 

Public Servants:

1. Unwavering Moral Conviction

Listen, I love vigilantes and anti-heroes as much as the next person. Characters who “break bad” because they believe society is rigged, and flirting with the dark side is the only way to achieve justice in the long run. They make for fantastic stories.

But I love the flip side of it even more: public servants who stay within the limits of the law because they believe, with every ounce of their being, that you can’t right wrongs with more wrongs. These characters never waver in their convictions, even when those around them–people they love and trust–are choosing to discard the law and societal order for personal gain. Or if they do waver, if they end up going through moments of crisis, they come out on the other side even stronger.

I may not always agree with them, but I find these characters admirable regardless.

 

Akane-Tsunemori-akane-tsunemori-39841098-1366-768

Psycho-Pass

Favourite Example(s):

Akane Tsunemori (Psycho-Pass)
Mulagesh (The City of Blades by Robert Bennett Jackson)

 

flourish

Sooooo, if there are any cocky pirate captains and good-hearted assassins reading this…*cough* My DMs are open

Diversity Spotlight Thursday: SFF Music Mania

Diversity-Spotlight-Thursday-Banner

Hmm? What’s that noise, you ask?

Well, that’s the sound of a dead meme rising from the ashes. Diversity Spotlight Thursday is back, baby.

So this is a weekly meme that was created by Aimal from Bookshelves & Paperbacks (though she’s not hosting it anymore), and the idea is that each week you come up with three books for three different categories: a diverse book you’ve read and want to recommend; a diverse book that’s already been released and is in your TBR; and a diverse book that hasn’t been released yet. And the topics–if you want to have them–are yours to choose.

This time, though, I’m gonna change the rules a bit and expand the categories to include all fictional media, not just books. And my chosen theme for this week is SFF stories that revolve around music.

Also, I feel like I’ve been kind of absent in terms of posting and replying and blog hopping, so I’m hoping to catch up and kick myself back into gear in the next couple of weeks.

 


What I Recommend

 

image-asset.jpeg

Dane, a spun-out musician spending the winter in Cleveland, Ohio, has two main goals: keeping his job at the Pepper Heights Zoo and trying not to waste all his time on Grindr. What he doesn’t expect is to get swept into a story about dreams, about forevers, about flickering lights, about unexplained deaths, about relentless change, and about the parts of ourselves that we wish other people knew to look for. Oh, and also a murderous zebra.

Reps: gay mc, queer side characters

Dreamboy is a fairly new fiction podcast (just started late last year as part of the Nightvale Presents group) and it is an atmospheric, psychedelic, sensual wonder of an experience unlike anything else I’ve listened to. And Dane Terry, the co-creator of the show, is a goddamn Renaissance man. He composes the score, writes the scripts, voices the main character, and he does it all with such skill that would almost make you angry if it weren’t for the fact that he’s also funny and charming and just an all-around genuine person.

The story itself is super weird (and, in that sense, definitely deserves the Nightvale badge) but it’s also one with a lot of heart and poetry. And the music, guys. The music is fucking everything–just as much of a character in the story as the actual characters.

It’s also very NSFW, so I don’t recommend blasting it on speakers at full volume during your next family gathering.

 


 

Released But Have Yet to Try

 

9781984802583_9e96c.jpg

In the Before, when the government didn’t prohibit large public gatherings, Luce Cannon was on top of the world. One of her songs had just taken off and she was on her way to becoming a star. Now, in the After, terror attacks and deadly viruses have led the government to ban concerts, and Luce’s connection to the world–her music, her purpose–is closed off forever. She does what she has to do: she performs in illegal concerts to a small but passionate community, always evading the law.

Rosemary Laws barely remembers the Before times. She spends her days in Hoodspace, helping customers order all of their goods online for drone delivery–no physical contact with humans needed. By lucky chance, she finds a new job and a new calling: discover amazing musicians and bring their concerts to everyone via virtual reality. The only catch is that she’ll have to do something she’s never done before and go out in public. Find the illegal concerts and bring musicians into the limelight they deserve. But when she sees how the world could actually be, that won’t be enough.

Release date: September 10th, 2019
Reps: a full queer cast

I’ve been slowly reading through Sarah Pinsker’s short story collection Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the See, and I’ve been loving it, so I’m hoping her first novel will be just as good, if not more. I was planning on getting to it last month but life had different ideas, so fingers crossed for September!

 


 

Not Yet Released

 

9780765378347_e1ee2.jpg

After a surprising upheaval, the nation of Tamryllin has a new ruler: Elissan Diar, who proclaims himself the first Poet King. Not all in court is happy with this regime change, as Rianna secretly schemes against him while she investigates a mysterious weapon he hides in the bowels of the palace.

Meanwhile, a civil war rages in a distant land, and former Court Poet Lin Amaristoth gathers allies old and new to return to Tamryllin in time to stop the coronation. For the Poet King’s ascension is connected with a darker, more sinister prophecy which threatens to unleash a battle out of legend unless Lin and her friends can stop it.

Release Date: March 24th, 2020
Reps: queer side characters

I have the motherlode of TBRs this month and I’m deliriously excited for so many on the list, but The Poet King in particular is special (“excited” doesn’t even begin to cover it). It’s one of my most anticipated releases of 2020, and it’s the conclusion to a fantasy trilogy that has skyrocketed to being one of my all-time favourites, and Ilana to an autobuy author. These books are steeped in music and artistry and the power of them, and they mean so much to me. Pre-reading offerings are probably in order.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday – Settings I Want to See More of in Fiction

TTT-NEW.png

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now being hosted by The Artsy Reader.

I’ve been telling myself that I’ll try out a TTT topic for over a year now, but I never actually took the plunge. But I saw posts for this week’s topic pop up in my inbox (at like 9 PM) and I just couldn’t resist. Because this is a topic I think about a lot.

So here’s a last minute list of settings that I’d like to see more of in fiction!

 


Underwater – Sea and Ocean

The incredible thing about these large bodies water is that they’re horror, fantasy, sci-fi all rolled into one. They inspire awe and fear and deep, deep curiosity, and really, they kind of do a lot the worldbuilding for you. Which is why it’s crazy that we don’t see more of them in stories. Especially underwater societies.

I do feel like we see them more in video games than we do in books: Bioshock, Sunless Sea: Zubmariner, Subnautica, and Soma, to name a few.

But these are several book examples (some not yet released), with two of them do featuring underwater societies.

ocean1.png

🐠 Low by Rick Remender (writer) & Greg Tocchini (artist): a jaw-droppingly gorgeous graphic novel with incredible worldbuilding and a protagonist who oozes optimism.

🐠 The Deep by Rivers Solomon (with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes): Releasing this fall, and I’m unreasonably excited for it. It tackles slavery from an angle that I’ve never seen before.

🐠  The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah: A story about a submerged London starring a protagonist who’s a submersible racer.

 


Inside of a Whale

SUPER specific, I know. It’s also kind of related to “Underwater” but not really because there’s no written law that says whales can only exist in the ocean. There could be sky whales! Space whales! And dream whales are definitely a thing. They’d be like these massive islands you encounter during your romps through the dream world, with each one housing….well, something. Maybe the inside of each one would be a different level of the dream court. Maybe they’re all home to different dreamscapes (like a cetacean Inception). And maybe there’s this one super illusive whale that all dreamers have heard of but never seen, and the legend goes that it’ll lead you to the place you most desire. So kind of like Moby Dick, but trippier.

But why whales, you ask? No special reason other than that I just really, really, really love them and they’ve always been the subject of fascination for me, both scientifically and narratively. They’re immensely complex creatures and I find their existence constantly astounding and humbling. And it’s so very easy to imagine a myriad of worlds just sitting inside their stomachs.

sampo-jumisko-flying-whales-final.jpg

 


Sky Islands

Because I want to see more airships in stories and because ground islands are so yesterday. And it’d be cool to see all the different creative methods of transportation that take you from island to island (other than airships). Plus, there’s the added thrill of knowing that one small misstep out on the garden or balcony can lead to a deadly fall.

Some of my favourite examples include Bioshock Infinite and An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (and a fairly recent YA series that I can’t remember the name of).

sky.png

 


Ice and Snow

I adore stories set in ice and snow and I can’t quite figure out why. Maybe because I dislike summer and latching onto cold things is something my brain does in retaliation. Or maybe because all the icy bits make the warm and cozy bits stand out more.

Whatever the reason, I want more of them. Books I can easily point to and say, “Hey, that’s one for my Winter TBR!” (pretending for a moment that curated seasonal TBRs is a thing I actually do). And movies/shows and games that I can consume during the summer to stave off the heat.

snow.png

 


Forest Cities

I’ve dreamed of living in a forest city since reading/watching The Lord of the Rings, and that dream sort of became a (virtual) reality when I played Lord of the Rings Online and got to actually frolic through Lothlórien. And I talk a lot about packing everything up and going to live with the bears in some remote cabin in the woods, but like…I don’t think the postal service does book deliveries (or any deliveries) to the interior forests of British Columbia. Also, wildfires are a thing. So I guess I’ll just continue to live out my wood elf dream via fiction.

 

12992026535_36a266e9bf_o.jpg

 


God Realms

I feel like most stories nowadays that feature gods take place in the mortal world, and it’s either a mortal protagonist getting caught up in godly affairs or a god/demi-god protagonist getting caught up in mortal affairs. We don’t often see modern stories about gods set exclusively in the world of gods. And when we do get it, more often than not it’s set in the Underworld.

So I’d like to see more variety. More breadth. I want to see mind-bending, cloying opulence rubbing elbows with decaying violence. I want to see how each territory interacts with another. What are the diplomatic relations like? What are the rules of  each kingdom? (goddom?)

The biggest examples I can think of is the God of War franchise and maybe the Sandman series (I know the Endless aren’t technically gods but their powers are god-adjacent).

gods.png
And for stories that are set in underworlds, Lost Gods by Brom is phenomenally rich and beautiful and The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall offers a quiet but vivid world of gods and demons.

gods2.png

 


Very Specific and/or Non-Murdery Schools

I’m talking beyond assassin and wizard schools. Schools for automaton mechanics. Aspiring griffin trainers. Time traveling spies. Schools specifically made for demi-gods, because for some reason their powers manifest in unstable ways and they need to learn how to control that shit. Or schools for killer nuns, as we see in the Book of the Ancestor series.

9177lf8SYEL.jpg

But I’d really love it if the school featured mostly non-murdery activities. Like a traveling culinary school that roams the entire realm or galaxy, and its students learn about sustainable foods and methods on how to catch and cook some of the more challenging critters that exist in the world/universe.

 


Steampunked Asian Countries

So back in 2015, the universe gifted the world a masterpiece of an indie game called 80 Days. It’s basically a retelling of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days (mashed up with his other famous works)except more steampunk and fantastical. And I’ve always loved steampunk as a subgenre, but I never realized how much I need Asian steampunk in my life until then. Steam-powered caravans pulling merchandise through the Silk Road. Asian aesthetics translated through the eyes of gears and cogs. And I want more of it. Badly.

imperialinventor.jpg

 


Big Space Stations or Ships

Because they’re large enough to be their own little ecosystem of human and alien society, which is always interesting and fun, and because these stories usually feature found families and characters who would cross the depths of deep space and back for each other. The Mass Effect series and Becky Chambers’ books being notable examples.

space.png

 


Literally anywhere in the world that’s not the U.S.

Close your eyes and stick a pin anywhere in the world map, and if it’s not the U.S. then I want a story about it (unless we’re talking about Native American stories). Even if it’s out in the middle of the Pacific. Nothing against the U.S! It’s just that the market is so saturated with them and I just want to explore more countries that I’m not familiar with. Or countries that I am familiar with but have not been given enough spotlight in media. And let’s face it, there’s a LOT of them out there.

 

outside.png

 

flourish

If you have recommendations for any of these categories–books, games, movies, anime–please, please, please do send them my way!

Fantasy Books & Games for Mental Health Awareness Month (Why I Need More Mental Health Rep in Adult Fantasy)

 

  • ww-2019-dragon-banner-all-caps

May is Wyrd & Wonder and mental health awareness month, so it only makes sense to celebrate the 31st by smooshing them together into one post.

I meant to write this on Wednesday for Top 5 Wednesday, but I’ve been zonked out on allergy meds all week (one day the pharmaceuticals will develop a formula that doesn’t hit me like a freight train) and going to sleep at 6 and waking up at 3 AM.

So apologies in advance if I sound scattered and tired (however tired sounds like in a blog post).

But before we get started, I want to address something.

Hey, mainstream adult fantasy–epic fantasy, if we’re being particular–can we sit down and have a quick chat? It’ll only take a sec.

This is a topic that’s been a growing source of frustration for me in the last handful of years, and I’m going to bring it up again in another post soonish (hopefully) so I’ll keep it short and blunt today: why don’t more of your characters deal with mental health issues? 

Why aren’t your Chosen Ones having panic attacks and breakdowns? Why isn’t your merry band of misfits dealing with the mental fallout from battles and murders and facing monstrosities and just the general “holy fuck” factor that comes with trying to save the world? It seems to be an unspoken rule that therapists can’t exist in fantasy worlds, so how are these people getting out of bed every morning holding determination in one hand and eagerness in the other?

Why is trauma a temporary roadblock that you can gently remove and set aside so that the heroes can go on with doing hero things?

I’m sorry if I seem frustrated and/or bitter but I’m tired and mental health is a topic that means everything to me, and when paired with fantasy, the resulting story can be powerful and validating. And while that isn’t to say I don’t love seeing mental health reps in contemporary and horror and thriller and scifi–because I do, I love it a lot–fantasy can explore mental health from angles that other genres can’t.

And I just–I don’t understand why that isn’t taken advantage of more often.

Writing multi-volume fantasy epics has never really been an aspiration for me when I was younger. I adore reading them, sure, but my projects always leaned more towards…Guillermo del Toro crossed with Markus Zusak.

I wouldn’t have guessed that the one thing that’ll push me into drafting an epic fantasy would be the lack of depressed protagonists in these stories.

Because at the end of the day, you try to create the things you want to see more of in the world and hope that by doing so you’ll help foster an ecosystem where more such creations can take root and grow and maybe become the norm.

So yeah…good chat, adult fantasy! Same time next week? 😀

 

The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth

The Light Between Worlds

Rep: PTSD, Depression

The Light Between Worlds is the portal fantasy I always wanted and finally got–a spiritual continuation of Narnia and every portal fantasy that has ever ended with the protagonists returning to the real world. The author doesn’t hold back on showing the ugliness of depression and the mental toll it takes on the people who have to watch you go through it.

One of the hardest and most rewarding books I’ve ever read.

 

 

The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller

The Art of Starving

Rep: Eating disorder

This book is important for several reasons:

1) It talks about eating disorders and body image from the perspective of a teenage boy, which is super rare in fiction.

2) It made me acknowledge things about myself that I never really wanted to acknowledge. You can read about the details in the review here, if you want. It’s a post I’m glad I’d written because the process was…cathartic, in a clobbered-with-a-sledgehammer sort of way. But occasionally I think back on it and get the urge to trash it because, holy hell, it’s so awfully personal. (Some good news, though: I’m 6 pounds up from last year. That doesn’t sound like much but considering where I started from, I’ll take it).

Also, I’ve seen complaints that Miller’s narrative romanticizes the act of starving. But I can’t imagine anyone who’s ever had an eating disorder to read this and be like, “Yeah, this is the handbook for getting skinny.” I think readers can recognize the mental gymnastics we go through to convince ourselves into self-harming (which starving ultimately is) and Miller makes it crystal clear that Matt’s actions aren’t ideal.

 

Realm of the Elderlings series by Robin Hobb

assassin's Apprentice2

Rep: Depression, PTSD, and more

If you want a prime example of how mental health can and should be addressed in high/epic fantasy, look no further. Depression, PTSD, self-esteem issues, suicide ideation–Hobb tackles all with absolute mastery (and I’m shocked and disappointed that the series didn’t spawn more high/epic fantasy books with similar themes). The series also has the best depiction of chronic loneliness I’ve come across in fiction. The kind that has no rhyme or reason and shadows you for years and years and years, waiting for moments when you’re most vulnerable. That’s a very hard thing get across in any story, and the fact that she does it in a fantasy one (across nine volumes) is remarkable.

 

The Hollow Folk series by Gregory Ashe

Hollow-Folk

Rep: Depression

I er, think I’ve actually run out of words to describe these books.

If you’ve read any of my dissertations reviews, you know how much the series means to me. Gregory Ashe draws on his own experiences with depression and slips them into his main character and the result is painful but so, so spot-on.

 

Arcadia Project Trilogy by Mishell Baker

512E6AicfFL.jpg

Rep: Bipolar Disorder and more

Ninety percent of the characters in this series is a mess and that’s what makes them so great.

Arcadia Project is an ownvoices urban fantasy, and the author does a wonderful job of explaining BPD through her MC while also crafting a unique and entertaining story about faes and Hollywood and the messiness of relationships.

 

The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace

51gquuK4yYL.jpg

Rep: Depression (I think)

I just realized I’ve never talked about this book before on the blog which is crazy because it’s one of my favourite YA books released in the last two years. Memory Trees is all about female relationships–mothers and daughters, sisters, best friends, girlfriends–and the story puts a spotlight the MC’s mother and her mental illness and the events surrounding her hospitalization, which I thought was explored really well.

And okay, calling it a fantasy book is kind of an eyebrow-raising move because for most of it the only fantasy is in the way that Wallace approaches the story–as a dreamy inter-generational fable. The rest of it is a mix of contemporary, mystery, and historical fiction. But I swear, the magical stuff does rear its head at the end; you just have to squint to catch it.

 

Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher

1365116618.jpg

Rep: The entirety of DSM-5

I’m uh, actually not too sure if this belongs here?

On one hand, I’m not kidding with the DSM-5 thing. Fletcher’s series has the most comprehensive exploration of mental illnesses–from kleptomania to schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder–I’ve ever seen in speculative fiction.

But I don’t know if I would call them representations, per se. In the Manifest Delusions world, your delusions give you power–so the more ill you are, the greater your control over reality. It’s similar to The Art of Starving in that sense, except this doesn’t address those issues from a positive, “This is how you can heal” perspective.

 

Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire

91sDvEmtpEL.jpg

Rep: PTSD and more

I’m two books behind on the series, but Wayward Children is another portal fantasy story that deals with the trauma of being sent back to the real world, and just the general hardships that come with…well, living, and being different.

 

Last Bus to Everland by Sophie Cameron

81q0pFFBI7L.jpg

Rep: Agoraphobia, Anxiety, and more

Oh look, another portal fantasy! Says something about the subgenre, doesn’t it?

What I really loved about this story is that it features a father who is dealing with severe mental health issues (agoraphobia) and that’s not something I often find in fiction; it’s usually the mother figures who are depressed and ill and on medication. And Sophie Cameron talks about his illness in a really empathetic light, which is even rarer, so massive kudos to her for that.

 

flourish

Now for the video games!

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Senua

Rep: Psychosis, Depression

Hellblade is many things.

It’s the most candid look at psychosis (with auditory and visual hallucinations) I’ve seen in any fictional media.

It’s an example of how to go about representing mental disorders you don’t have personal experience with–doing thorough research and consulting mental health professionals and people who do have experiences with them.

It’s the story of a woman who makes her descent into Hel (literally and figuratively) at a time in her life when darkness is all that is seemingly left.

It’s one of my favourite games of all time, and it’s the one game that made me cry from beginning to end. (I cried so, so much)

I can’t begin tell you how grateful I am that Hellblade exists and that I had the opportunity to experience it. Senua’s story is one I’ll carry around for the rest of my life and I 100% would have gotten this quote tattooed if it’d been a bit shorter:

Never forget what it is like to see the world as a child, Senua: where every autumn leaf is a work of art; every rolling cloud, a moving picture; every day a new story. We too emerge from this magic, like a wave from the ocean, only to return back to the sea. Do not mourn the waves, the leaves and the clouds. Because even in darkness the wonder and beauty of the world never leaves. It’s always there, just waiting to be seen again.

 

Night in the Woods

banner.jpg

Rep: Depression, disassociation

(Or as like to call it, Millenials: The Game)

I think there are three different lenses with which you can look at Night in the Woods:

1) A mystery/horror/fantasy story with cute (and queer) anthropomorphic animal characters getting caught up in strange happenings around town, all the while trying to navigate the murky waters of friendship, family, and romance.

2) A very pointed commentary on the state of capitalism suffocating small towns and older generations who would sacrifice their youth to maintain status quo and save their town from a broken economy that they helped dismantle in the first place.

3) A stark yet empathetic exploration of depression and existential crises from the PoV of young adults in their early 20’s.

…Or all three at the same time. That works too!

 

The Missing: J. J Macfield and the Field of Dreams

the missing

Here’s a crazy rundown of the first 15-ish minutes of this game:

You’re a college girl named J.J. and you and your best friend/maybe-girlfriend Emily are camping out on an island having a great time. But things black out and the next thing you know Emily has disappeared and you’re running through the island desperately searching for her. Then you get struck by lightning and die, but a moose doctor comes and resurrects you, so all’s good. Then you start getting text messages from the stuffed toy you’ve been carrying around (the stuffed toy that got destroyed in the lightning–so presumably it’s sending you messages from whatever afterlife toys get sent to). Meanwhile, Emily is still nowhere to be found.

…I’ll give you a second to soak that in.

Would it then surprise you to know that it offers one of most beautiful explorations of identity and self-acceptance I’ve come across in gaming?

The Missing is made by SWERY (aka Hidetaka Suehiro), and his games tend to be on the…trippy side. Bizarre and peppered with pop-culture references and off-beat humour, you love them or hate them.

I’m firmly in the former category. They’re not technical marvels, the controls can be wonky, the story dives into the nonsensical, but they’re never boring and there’s something incredibly endearing about them. (It helps that he’s an absolute sweetheart on social media)

swery-767x1152.png

Yes, that is SWERY. Yes, he is amazing.

Well, this jumps over “endearing” into “empowering” and “validating.”

The problem I have with media that explores mental health and LGBTQ+ issues is that they sometimes explore the pain side and kind of leave it at that. No closure. What stories like The Missing offer is that end piece–the sorely-needed ray of hope that yes, you can find peace and healing and come out on the other side stronger.

While I can’t personally speak for one of the representations that SWERY dives into (spoiler: transgender rep), other players can vouch that yes, he gets it right.

Please. Go play it. Or watch a playthrough/walkthrough of it.

 

flourish

Top 5 Wednedsay – BFFs in Fantasy (plus musings about intimacy, societal expectations, and friendships in western vs eastern media)

The prompt for this week is actually BFFs in SFF, but since this is Wyrd and Wonder month, I figured I’d just stick to fantasy. Also, a special shout-out to Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen who totally would have made the list, but things were turning into a bit of a sausage fest so I ended up replacing them with a female duo.

This post is brought to you by Wyrd and Wonder, a month of fantasy-loving for fantasy lovers by fantasy lovers.

Join us, friends. There’s plenty of love to go around.

(This sounds like I’m advertising a cult and I’m okay with that)

ww-2019-dragon-banner-all-caps

flourish

 

Fitz & Fool & Nighteyes – Realm of the Elderlings:

9780007444281.jpg

“I set no limits on that love.”

There are many reasons why RotE is my favourite series of all time, but Fitz/Fool/Nighteyes stands at the top of the list. I. Just. I don’t know how to explain how much this OT3 means to me without coming across like a crazy person. They have been the subject of too many poems scribbled out in the fury of 2 AM writing sessions. When the series ended, I had to sit my friend down to blubber about them for an entire afternoon because they were haunting my waking hours and it felt like my heart was imploding. It sometimes scares me how deeply I feel about these characters, because hell, they’re fictional. But then I think, “So what?”

And here’s an unpopular opinion for the RotE fandom: I’m perfectly fine with Fitz and Fool’s relationship being a platonic one, because their relationship is as romantic as you can get without actually being romantic and we need more examples of those in mainstream media (more on that later). Also, I don’t believe your soulmate has to be someone you’re romantically involved with. I just think it’s someone–anyone–who gets you right down to your marrow, and spending two days with them is equivalent to two lifetimes’ worth of connections. We’d all be very fortunate to experience that once in our life, and Fitz has had two of them. One with a wolf, the other with a prophet.

I’ve never come across a group of characters who throws so much of themselves into loving each other as these three, and I don’t think I ever will.

 

Agniezska and Kasia – Uprooted

A1MD6mu7v5L.jpg

I don’t think I realized how desperate I was to see good female friendships in adult fantasy until Uprooted came along. The romance with the Dragon wasn’t the highlight of the book for me (male love interest who’s broody for the sake of being broody  = been there, done that); it was Niezska and Kasia’s relationship that captured my heart. Their friendship is built on a foundation of mutual love and support, but also acknowledgement of some of the more negative feelings (jealousy in particular) that stand between them.

 

Felicity and Johanna – The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy

51j3V1E7DHL.jpg

I enjoyed Lady’s Guide far more than I did Gentleman’s Guide and I can thank Felicity and Johanna for that. What I love about their relationship is that it’s not all smiles and matching friendship bracelets. There’s several suitcases worth of resentment and misunderstandings that they need to sort out before they get anywhere, and I love that. I love seeing girls with vastly different personalities learn from each other, admit when they’re wrong, and come out of the whole kerfuffle with a more open mind.

 

Rune and Brand – The Tarot Sequence

the last sun

I rambled on about intimacy and the rigid preconceptions of romance versus friendship in my review for this a year ago, and I’m going to ramble about it again now, because this is something I feel very, very strongly about.

It so often feels to me that society draws a line in the sand when it comes to relationships and gives us a list of acceptable behaviours for each respective side–one for friendship, one for a romantic/sexual relationship. So two friends can kiss each other on the cheek, but kissing on the mouth is, like, a sexual territory, so watch out for that! And et cetera.

At best it’s annoying (in my experience, super invasive questions from family and acquaintances). At worst it contributes to toxic behaviours and insecurities about intimacy and affection, along with a horde of other mental health issues.

So I think it’s incredibly important for fictional media to portray the kinds of relationships that blur this line. Relationships that can’t be shoved into boxes and stuck with a big, fat label. This means friendships with the kind of emotional depth and physical intimacy that you find with romantic pairings.

And that’s exactly the kind of relationship that Rune and Brand has. Romantic without the romance. Intimacy without the sex. Snark without the underlying cruelty. Their friendship is by far the best one I’ve found since finishing Realm of the Elderlings, and if you read what I wrote above, you know I don’t say that lightly.

 

Frodo and Sam – The Lord of the Rings

204a8f989da49f430a7efc79abc1f670.jpg

No explanations needed, really. They’re Frodo and Sam. They’re the OG ride or die male duo. Their love and loyalty to one another kept the world from descending into darkness, and if that’s not friendship goals, I don’t know what is.

 

flourish

EXTRAS (Anime) | Western vs. Eastern?

So, I wanted to talk about these two anime series as a bonus because their friendship storylines are off-the-walls phenomenal and I couldn’t not include them. And then I got a bit sidetracked thinking about friendships in western versus eastern SFF media.

I always enjoy comparing North American and East Asian narrative works (Korean and Japanese, primarily) because I grew up on the latter and then partially migrated to the former, and while I adore both, there are some things that one offers that the other often doesn’t. And while the reasons for some of them are obvious, like the lack of non-fetishized LGBTQ+ and mental health rep in East Asia, others aren’t (for me, anyway). And that includes intense, no holds barred, I’ll-walk-into-the-depths-of-hell-for-you types of friendships–which I always found that Japanese and Korean media does a better job of than NA.

…And I’m not quite sure why.

I have some vague hypotheses but it’s something I need more than a few nights to think about. It’ll be a future post, maybe. And if you have any ideas, leave them in the comments! I love love love discussing these things.

For now, onto the anime!

 

Gon and Killua – Hunter x Hunter

1508516277637.png

Killua (left); Gon (right)

These two kids slay me. Watching Killua become best friends with Gon and go from an assassin-in-training with the social skills of a cactus to a kind-hearted, sensitive boy is honestly the best thing about this series.

And there’s this one scene where Killua breaks down into sobs in front of another character (in the middle of a friggin battle) and talks about how helpless he feels because his best friend is suffering and he doesn’t know how to fix that. It’s beautiful, heartwrenching, and startlingly vulnerable, and I would give my left arm to see more scenes like that in western fantasy.

 

Madoka and Homura – Puella Magi Madoka Magica

hot-anime-puella-magi-madoka-magica-characters.jpg

Back in 2011, Madoka Magica grabbed the magical girl genre by the throat and shook it into something we’ve never seen before. There have been many copycats since then but none with the same kind of presence as the original, and that largely has to do with these two characters. There’s a reason why I own six figurines of them.

Get yourself a friend who would travel back through a timeline again and again to save you from a terrible fate, only to watch the same tragedy played out in increasingly worse ways, and then swallow that pain and do it all over again because she believes you’re worth sacrificing everything for.

I would, no question, die for Madoka and Homura. And then reset the timeline and do it again.

 

flourish

Soooo this was meant for this to be a short and sweet post because I was on a mini break for the past week and a half and I wanted to write something that was easy.  I don’t know how it devolved into a rant about three different topics. 😂

Well, onto you! Who are you some of your favourite fantasy (or scifi) BFFs?

Top 5 Wednesday – Characters That Embody the Hufflepuff House

Happy Wednesday! I know I said I’d be back to a semi-normal schedule last week, but I’ve been suffering from a case of “Oh god, my reviews and posts are flaming piles of garbage” and “WHAT ARE WORDS????” which has had the added benefit of wreaking havoc on my reading pace.

Fun, fun times.

But more on that in my wrap up post! Because today’s a Wednesday which means it’s time for another rendition of Top 5 Wednesday! Or as I like to call it, “Top 5 Characters/Books/Things That I Can Actually Remember That Day Day.”

Today’s topic is: Characters that Embody Your Hogwarts House

71500a5b002662e5bd47b1a4ca552689.jpg

So Pottermore says that Hufflepuffs value hard work, patience, loyalty, and fair play.” And that sounds kind of vague. And bland. And…side-kick-y. Which is probably why I’d spent most of my childhood and teenagehood hating on the Hufflepuff House.

But I think, for me, the crux of Hufflepuffs is their value of deep emotional connections (humans and nature both) through love and passion and caring. So that’s the definition that I’ve based this list on.

Also, I’m pretty sure this is the first Harry Potter/Sorting House related post I’ve done (an absolute sacrilege, I’m sure, considering I mostly do fantasy-related posts), so allow me to take the time to rant about the sheer messed-upness of shoving pre-adolescent kids into groups based around personality and telling them “This is where you’re going to be for the next seven years of your life.” Because I’m pretty sure the Sorting Hat isn’t prophetic, so it can’t possibly predict the trajectory of someone’s character development from childhood to adulthood.

And I’m also pretty sure there’s an echo chamber thing going on. If a Gryffindor kid does remain a Gryffindor kid for the rest of their childhood, is it because they embody Gryffindor traits to their core, or is it because everything around them is telling them that this is who they are–they’re so brave and daring and wow, look at Harry Potter always being so brave and daring, don’t they want to be just like Harry Potter?–that they end up molding themselves according to that image?

I would love to see someone in the HP world do an extensive psychological study comparing the development of Hogwarts kids verses the development of kids from other magic schools. And then make an exposé documentary out of it–part of a series called “The Sinister Goings-On at Hogwarts.” Episode 139.

But I digress.

On with the show!

 

FitzChivalry Farseer – Realm of the Elderlings

519WCvb8SLL._SX303_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

No character, absolutely no character, in any other book goes through the amount of shit that Fitz goes through in the course of this series. Every horrible, tragic thing you can imagine happening to a person? You can bet he experienced them. Got T-shirts and all.

And yet.

Yet somehow, he never loses his ability to love and care and to just feel with every inch of his being. And while that leaves him vulnerable to so much pain, it also leaves him open to many, many incredible and beautiful connections. Connections that have shaped him–that he has allowed to shape him. And while he can never direct it towards himself, the love he has for others in his life can overflow thousands of oceans.

It’s literally impossible for me to write about him without crying and I’ll always be okay with that.

(Fun fact: adding Fitz to the list was what made me go, “Okay, fine, online quizzes. You’re right. I’m a Hufflepuff.” Because he’s pretty much me in character form.)

 

Auri – The Kingkiller Chronicles

Auri is one of the most beautiful, broken, egoless characters I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. While there’s still so much we don’t know about her, I think we know the most important bits. That she’s a kind and gentle soul who keeps her loved ones close (though there are very few of those in her life). And that she cares and comforts Kvothe in the rare moments when he’s unguarded.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things (Auri’s novella) is through and through a Hufflepuff book.

 

Samwise Gamgee – The Lord of the Rings

seanastinhobbit_0

Way back when, my friend said to me after binge-watching the movies for the first time, “Sam did all the work!” While that’s completely uncharitable to Frodo because being the ringbearer is a different kind of burden–an insidious, mostly invisible one–Sam is a force of love and hope and loyalty that stood toe-to-toe with evil and won. For that he deserves at least half the credit.

It’s getting late (why I’m writing this at 3 AM I cannot tell you), so I’ll just leave you with Frodo’s own words: “Frodo wouldn’t have gotten far without Sam.”

 

Gon Freecss – Hunter x Hunter

Reel-Honey_Hunter-x-Hunter-759x500.jpeg

I make no secret my love for HxH and this guy right here is what makes this masterpiece work. “You are light” is what another character says of Gon at one point, and I couldn’t have said it better myself. While Gon gains some super neat powers later on in the series, his greatest power is and always was his unwavering optimism and loyalty and the belief that good will prevail in the end. This kid will believe in you until you begin to believe in yourself and that’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

And we see how that’s so cruelly turned against him in the Chimera Ant arc, demonstrating how your strongest traits can easily become your greatest weakness.

 

Jesse Pinkman – Breaking Bad

fc3879e9ace9d180acb44e8bd94cf3f7.gif

Oh, Jesse. We first meet him as the drug dealer/meth cooker/comic relief punk that Walter White “enlists” to help make money for his family. Little did I know that he would become the heart and conscience of the series. Because Jesse cares. A lot. Too much, you could say, considering the line of work he’s in. For his friends. For the girls he dates. For the random people he meets out in the world. For, perhaps to his detriment, Walter White.

Jesse Pinkman is a character stuck in the wrong story and all I wanted was to pluck him out of this hellhole and into a sweet romantic road trip comedy.

 

flourish

And that’s it! These are obviously not set in stone (except for Fitz. He’s 1000% a Hufflepuff and you can fight me on that), so holler at me below if you disagree/agree with any of my choices and we can have a good ol’ debate! 😀

Top 5 Wednesday – Independent Ladies

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes in which you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic. This week’s topic is: independent ladies!

Favorite leading ladies who aren’t distracted from getting shit done by their love interest (they can still have a romance subplot – this is going to be subjective based on what you think would be ~too much~)

Yup, this is a day late! But it’s been a bit of a busy week, and my brain insisted on complicating the prompt by asking questions like:

“What’s the difference between ‘independent female characters’ and ‘strong female characters’ and ‘well-written female characters’?”

And “If a female character is involved in a romantic subplot and still gets shit done, isn’t that also a testament to how supportive the love interest is?”

Anywho, on to the show! (I tried to go for a variety of genres/subgenres for this one)

flourish

Vanessa Ives | Penny Dreadful

41h71hb.jpg

“I am nothing. I am no more than a blade of grass. But I am. You think you know evil? Here it stands.”

AKA my favourite female character in all media (despite the “ending” they gave her). You see, Vanessa Ives doesn’t walk around seeking romantic subplots. The romantic subplots seek her out, begging for a crumb of attention, because she’s a planet of her own goddamn making and her law of gravity is the only one worth obeying. For 3 seasons she does her own thing–a mesmeric combination of fearlessness and vulnerability, of kindness and unbridled anger–and the would-be suitors trail behind her with flowers, crying, “Please notice me!”

Vanessa has forever redefined the idea of a strong female character and I will live and die on her altar ’till the end of my days.

 

Anne de Vernase | The Soul Mirror (Collegia Magica 2)

51Yyj92vrCL.jpg

Anne is given what has to be the worst hand of cards that could be dealt to a female protagonist in fantasy: her father has been accused of treason and kidnapping and is now on the run; her younger brother has been thrown in prison; her mother has succumbed to insanity; and now she’s received news that her younger sister has died in an “accident.” Oh, and on top of it all, she’s about to lose her family estate.

Yet she remains on her feet, head held high. With logic, empathy, and sheer determination at her disposal, she carves out a place at the royal court, uncovers a dark conspiracy, and saves the world. Brava, Damoselle. Brava.

 

Julie (“Queenie”) | Code Name Verity

41H9QndlHFL.jpg

“I am a coward”

It’s kind of impossible to explain why she’s such an incredible character and why she belongs on this list without going into spoilers, so this is gonna be vague.

Julie is a WW2 British spy who gets captured by the Germans and is forced to write up a comprehensive confession detailing everything to do with the British war effort. Gorgeous, clever, and sophisticated, she’s always had the attention of boys. But it’s her best friend Maddie who’s had her heart. And it’s Maddie that she keeps in mind as she’s tortured and interrogated to a breaking point.

Julie’s choice isn’t an easy one, but it’s one she stands by…and there’s a lot to be said for that.

And “Kiss me, Hardy” remains three of the most devastating words I’ve ever read.

 

Flavia de Luce|Flavia de Luce Series

“I am often thought of as being remarkably bright, and yet my brains, more often than not, are busily devising new and interesting ways of bringing my enemies to sudden, gagging, writhing, agonizing death.”

Flavia de Luce–chemist extraordinaire, amateur sleuth, and precocious tween–has no time for your romance nonsense. Not when there are delicious murders to be solved and chemical experiments to conduct. I mean, she’s also 11 for most of the series (because the author seems to want to keep her as a preteen for the rest of her life) so romance isn’t really on the menu for her right now, but still. She has little patience for the foolishness of adults and since no adult in her life can seem to rub two brain cells together to solve a murder, it’s up to her to figure things out. Again.

 

Felicity Montague | Montague Siblings Series

51wXgWXzfwL.jpg

You deserve to be here. You deserve to exist. You deserve to take up space in this world of men.”

Felicity is one of the best female characters I’ve come across in the past couple of years and I absolutely adore the development she goes through in Lady’s Guide. This is a girl who knows she can go toe-to-toe with the men when it comes to medicine and science, and she will do what it takes to prove that–to herself and to others.

Top 5 Wednesday – Favourite Hopepunk Books of 2018

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes in which you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic.

This week’s a freebie so I made up my own prompt: Favourite hopepunk books of 2018.

And I kind of chose it to showcase books that I didn’t include in my Best of 2018 list (which is coming, I swear!) So think of it as a Special Mentions list.

Now, the term “hopepunk” was coined by SFF author Alexandra Rowland via Tumblr. You can read the entirety of her glorious post here, but the gist of it is that hopepunk is the antithesis of grimdark. A celebration of human resilience and empathy and love in the face of darkness. Giving apathy the middle finger as you ride off in your beat-up car bedecked with rainbows and protest stickers.

Because life is fhard and scary and lonely. And we need more reminders that, yes, it’s worth it.

(You can click on the titles for the full reviews. The ones that have them, anyway.)

 

Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

Record of a Spaceborn Few

I’d never been more engaged with a book that has so little plot and external conflict as I did with Chambers’ third Wayfarers book. I call it This is Us crossed with Mass Effect. It’s got the alien interactions and the cultural exchanges, but it’s also got the cozy, small-scale family stories and conflicts. Really, the story is just about a group of people who are trying to live their lives as best as they can through uncertainties and horrific tragedies. Human connections are at the heart of this book and Chambers shows so beautifully how they can bring a community together.

 

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe

This contemporary, maybe-speculative-maybe-not YA follows Cliff Hubbard, resident loner of Happy Valley High, as he tries to deal with the aftermath of his brother’s suicide. He’s joined by Aaron, resident cool kid, who went into a brief coma and got a personal mission from God (allegedly): make Happy Valley High more kind and, well, happy. And he can’t do it without Cliff’s help.

It’s ridiculous, it’s hilarious, and most of all, it’s such a heartfelt love letter to all the good we’re capable of doing–the changes we can make, the lives we can touch.

The last 40 pages is basically just a long rib-crushing hug (a Krogan hug, for you Mass Effect fans), and there’s this one particular passage that I want to bottle up and string around my heart like Christmas lights. Here’s a snippet:

“I’m not going to sugarcoat the situation. High school is messed up. Life is messed up. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it. And even WHEN you can’t, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Always try. Because the alternative is a world where people don’t. A world where people see no good, and they have no hope. They exist because that is the default state of life, and then they die because that’s what happens next. All the while, they let the world rot and fall apart around them.

But life is more than just existing. And its more than just a door with death and nothingness on the other side. Life is a series of doors. Every moment, every decision, is a door. And by opening them and stepping into the unknown, we are expanding and illuminating a world that we never knew existed. But if we don’t open those doors? If we stay put? We’ll be living in a world of walls.

Don’t you want to know what’s on the other side?”

Yeah. Just…yeah.

 

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

How to Stop Time

How to Stop Time is a lovely, introspective story about a man with a medical condition that allows him to live for a very long time (we’re talking many centuries here). And there are many like him in the world–collectively they’re called the Albatross Society. And the First rule of Albatross Society? Don’t fall in love.

Through a time-hopping narrative Haig reminds you that yes, the world can be foreign and frightening, but at the same time he dares you–very gently–to take a chance and rise above that fear and see what wonders you can accomplish.

And, just as it only takes a moment to die, it only takes a moment to live. You just close your eyes and let every futile fear slip away. And then, in this new state, free from fear, you ask yourself: who am I? If I could live without doubt what would I do? If I could be kind without the fear of being fucked over? If I could love without fear of being hurt? If I could taste the sweetness of today without thinking of how I will miss that taste tomorrow? If I could not fear the passing of time and the people it will steal? Yes. What would I do? Who would I care for? What battles would I fight? Which paths would I step down? What joys would I allow myself? What internal mysteries would I solve?

How, in short, would you live?

 

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

91mhfrdtkel

The only non-2018 book on the list, In Other Lands is part subversive portal fantasy and part coming-of-age tale starring a teenage boy named Elliot. And Elliot happens to be one of the most brilliant YA protagonists I’ve come across in the last handful of years–awkward, lonely and decidedly unhappy, but trying to hide all of that under a prickly exterior. And for most of the book, nothing’s really easy for him. On one side of this magical border is a world he never felt he belonged to, and on the other is one that seems hell-bent on perpetuating war and animosity. And on top of that, he’s having dealing with all the messy complications of relationships, romantic or otherwise.

But things do get better, if not easier. And I found his journey, of finding peace and belonging in a world that’s so often confusing and hostile, to be such a rewarding one.

 

A Conspiracy of Truths by Alexandra Rowland

A Conspiracy of Truths

Oh heeeeey, Alexandra. Fancy seeing you here!

A Conspiracy of Truths is a brilliant fantasy about a grumpy old storyteller who finds himself accused of various crimes (witchcraft and treason to name a few) and has to rely on his storytelling abilities to free himself. There’s politics, sweet lovestruck apprentices, and female characters who mean business. Ultimately, though, it’s about the power of stories to change worlds–like dismantling governments and getting to know another person better (and both are equally important)–and I can’t think of anything more hopepunk-y than that.

“People are not the same everywhere. They are astoundingly, elaborately, gloriously different.”

flourish

What are some of your favourite hopepunk books you read in the past year?

Top 5 Wednesday – Books at the Top of My TBR

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes in which you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic.

This week’s topic is: Top of Your TBR.

And…that’s it. No fancy rewording for this one; it’s what it says on the tin. (Though I did limit the list to books that are already published) See, mom, I can simplify things!

 

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

A1kDwYO7EvL.jpg

What’s an alternative phrase for “performance anxiety” to describe how you’re anxious about the performance of the other party because it’s been 10 long years of waiting–and you know it’s going to be good because they know exactly how to push your buttons, but what if it isn’t good?–so you keep putting it off and making half-hearted excuses like “Sorry, can’t today. I’m washing my hair” and “The stars aren’t aligned tonight. Not a good time”?

…Asking for a friend.

Right. Come February it’s gonna be you and me, Bridge of Clay. Show me what you got.

 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

51nT3I+plsL._SY346_.jpg

I’ve been announcing to myself every year since 2011 that I’m going to read this for sure. Why break a seven-year tradition?

So, ahem. *taps mic* This year. For sure.

 

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

91Ux7t8UU7L.jpg

I’ve been hearing so many incredible things about The Winter of the Witch from several bloggers whose opinions I wholly trust, so I figure now is the best time to continue with the series. It hasn’t been all that wintry here thanks to El Niño but at least I can live vicariously through Arden’s vivid descriptions.

 

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

91WalCe0LyL.jpg

I mean, firstly, it’s a Sanderson book (and I hear it’s great which is utterly unsurprising). Secondly, I have a feeling this might be a good sampler on what the third era Mistborn books might be like. Thirdly, it’s an overdue ARC and I really need to start chopping away at those.

 

Tower of Living and Dying (Empires of Dust 2) by Anna Smith Spark

51mLMFDyznL.jpg

Another one that I absolutely wanted to get to in 2018 but couldn’t.

A few tidbits on these books (because I never actually talked about them on this blog):

Despite my local bookstore’s propensity to stick this series in the YA display (because women can’t possibly write grimdark fantasy for adults, amirite?) it’s very much an adult grimdark and probably best I’ve read in the past couple of years, for several notable reasons.

One, it’s sexy, which I never thought I’d say about a grimdark story. Yet it doesn’t weaponize sex to fuel the grimdark aspect (a common complaint I have with these books)–so there’s no rape or attempted rape to be found here.

Two, several of its main characters happen to be queer which is definitely something I don’t see in this subgenre (the traditionally published ones, anyway).

Three, Spark’s prose is the kind that I want to roll around in for days–a gorgeous interplay of poetry, sensuality, and bloody violence.

And if you’re now wondering, “Hell, why is it taking you so long to get to it, then?” don’t worry, I’m right there with you.

 

flourish

What are some books that are at the top of your TBR right now?

Top 5 WedTuesday – Disappointing Books of 2018 That I Still Appreciate

“Kathy. I think it’s time for an intervention.”

“Uh, I have no idea what you’re talking about. As usual.”

“‘Top 5 WedTuesday‘? Published one day before the next Top 5 Wednesday?”

“Oh, get off my back. You make it sound like I do this every other week. This is literally the first–”

“And speaking of skirting deadlines, you still haven’t put up this month’s Discworld announcement post yet. Or your Best Books of 2018. Or your Best Indie Games of 2018. Or the reviews for books you read two months ago.”

“Listen, I’m running on a sleep schedule of my own devising right now. You know the Aussie Open started last week and you know their night matches go past 3 AM. What am I supposed to do, not watch them because I have blog-running responsibilities now?”

“Here’s a novel idea: you could do your blogging and watch the Open at the same time. I know, crazy!”

“Yeaaah, about that…”

*Looks over to the TV screen which shows tennis. Then at the the desktop screen which shows more tennis. Then at the tablet screen which shows, you guessed it, tennis.*

“…”

“Maybe a rich oil prince will get me another screen for my birthday. :)”

flourish

So while the other half of my brain is having a breakdown, I’d like to clarify that yes, this was supposed to go live last week, but due to reasons that uh, may or may not have to do with tennis-induced sleep deprivation, it’s going live now! Because this is a topic that I actually really wanted to tackle.

The original prompt was “Disappointing Books of 2018” but I put a bit of a spin on it. These are books that didn’t quite live up to the expectations I set for them, but ones that I still appreciate for x, y, z reasons.

(And I’m hoping to get all (er, most) of those overdue posts up before the end of this month. Knock on wood!)

 

Temper by Nicky Drayden

511+xjjdozl._sy346_

I loved Nicky Drayden’s debut Prey of Gods–a rollicking scifi-fantasy mashup featuring angry gods, drugs, and dik-diks (which belong alongside narwhals and quokkas in the “I can’t believe this isn’t a made-up animal” category). I could never really get a good foothold on Temper, unfortunately; I couldn’t connect with the main character and the rampant worldbuilding that I fell in love with in PoG I felt overwhelmed by this time around.

What I appreciate: I freaking adore Nicky’s imagination and her willingness to take the genre to batshit crazy places. Temper is even more weird and unconventional than Prey of Gods (which is saying a lot) and even though I couldn’t get into it, I still love the fact that it exists.

 

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

girls of paper and fire

This is one of those overdue reviews that I still have to finish. The TL;DR version is that I wanted to love this book so, so hard but it ended up being rather…underwhelming. The worldbuilding felt underdeveloped and Lei is one of those very reactive, blank slate protagonists that I’m not the biggest fan of. And the emperor, while a terrible person, kind of just starts and ends at “He’s a terrible person.”

What I appreciate: The heart and foundation behind this book is everything–an unapologetically Asian setting (the food descriptions are to die for), and love and friendship between two girls prevailing in the face of brutality.

 

Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor 2) by Mark Lawrence

nona

An unpopular opinion: I thought Grey Sister was a step down from Red Sister, mostly due to character reasons. I felt that Nona’s development had stagnated and secondary characters that I adored in the first book took a backseat in this one.  [Full review]

What I appreciate: I love Mark’s writing style and his ability to move from poignancy to snappy action with fluid ease. Also, this is one of the most female-centric adult fantasy I’ve read in recent years–women loving women, women befriending women, women betraying women. Books like this are the reason I created a Goodreads shelf called “Boom goes the Bechdel test.”

 

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

512tbfmt7al

I think this is one of those stories I would have enjoyed more as a TV show. I mean, I watched a quite a few scifi anime that deal with similar themes of alien evolution and ended up liking them all, but apparently if you stick it in book-form my brain just laughs and says “Nope.” (Maybe it’s flashbacks to all the evolution textbooks/articles I had to read in undergrad–by far not my favourite biology topic). It didn’t help that I wasn’t much invested in the human half of the story.

What I appreciate: This is probably the best example (textbook, if you will) of evolutionary scifi that I’ve ever read and my scientist heart will root for the success of any SFF book that explores biology to this degree. It’s also pretty dang cool that the author shares a name with one of my favourite composers.

 

Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton

Strange Grace

Okay, overall I wouldn’t really call this one “disappointing,” but considering the sheer amount of potential it showed in the first half, the second half proved to be a bit of a letdown in terms of character development and pacing (and now I’d give it a slightly lower score than what I originally gave). [Full review]

What I appreciate: Polyamory. In YA. Plus creepy forests and pagan rituals. Enough said.