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Books, Other People's Books

Ebook roundup time: all the Mary Stewart!

It’s ebook roundup time again! I’ve been backing off a lot on ebook purchases lately. But this week, sufficient motivation has inspired me to splurge! Namely: Mary Stewart’s novels have finally come out in digital format. And as covered over here at the Bitchery, goodness gracious, the covers on those are gorgeous. And I do love me some Mary Stewart.

Thunder on the Right

Thunder on the Right

Better yet, I haven’t read a few of these, still. Doublechecking my library, I find that I have print copies of ten of the fifteen titles that I just bought off of Kobo. I’ll be re-reading those, along with the new ones! Just because a Mary Stewart comfort reading binge sounds delightful to me right now–partly due to our heading into storm season in the PNW, but also due to the general state of the world.

So here’s a roundup of stuff bought lately, because the Stewarts aren’t all of it, either. First, picked up at Kobo, here is the full list of Stewarts I just nabbed:

The ones I haven’t read yet

  • The Wind Off the Small Isles and The Lost One (which is actually a novella with a bonus added short story)
  • Thunder on the Right
  • This Rough Magic (a title which amuses me, as there is a Russell Crowe film called Rough Magic)
  • Stormy Petrel (I feel like I may have read this one ages ago, but I do not remember it and do not own a print copy)
  • Rose Cottage (whose cover amuses me as there is a distinct lack of roses in otherwise nice art)

The ones I have already read

  • The Gabriel Hounds
  • Wildfire at Midnight
  • Touch Not the Cat (AW YEAH and this one in particular is the one that triggered the Stewart bonanza, as I have high-school-era memories of reading this one!)
  • Thornyhold
  • The Moonspinners (except the cover art says The Moon-Spinners, even though the text does not, so I wonder about the discrepancy there)
  • The Ivy Tree, which apparently differs between the UK and US editions; I’ll be particularly intrigued to find out how
  • Nine Coaches Waiting
  • My Brother Michael
  • Madam, Will You Talk?
  • Airs Above the Ground

Meanwhile, also picked up from Kobo

I grabbed Alan Doyle’s second memoir, A Newfoundlander in Canada: Always Going Somewhere, Always Coming Home, because Alan Doyle. Of course I’m buying Alan’s next book. 😀

Nabbed in print

The mass market paperback edition of Julie E. Czerneda’s The Gate to Futures Past, book 2 of her Reunification trilogy.

I’ve also gotten a new influx of ebook settlement credit, so I’ll be picking out some titles on B&N again soon. But for now let’s get this post up.

17 total titles in this post, and 50 for the year.

Other People's Books

Sudden ebook binge roundup post

The Seafarer's Kiss

The Seafarer’s Kiss

I went on a bit of an ebook buying binge on Kobo, because every so often I just gotta, y’know?

Here’s what I got:

  • The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker. Fantasy. Grabbed this because it was on sale, and because I’d heard quite a few good things about it when it came out. It seems like an unusual premise and I am here for that!
  • It’s a regular C.E. Murphy marathon, because as y’all know, I do love me some Kitbooks. She’s just released an honest-to-god romance novel, Bewitching Benedict, which I nabbed because “historical romance” does fall into the narrow category of “romance I like to read”. But I also went back and got her Roses in Amber, which is her take on Beauty and the Beast, and Take a Chance, her superhero graphic novel.
  • Stars of Fortune, by Nora Roberts. Paranormal romance, book 1 of her Guardians trilogy. I don’t quite like Nora’s paranormals (or, “ParaNoras”, as the Smart Bitches site likes to call them) as much as I like her standalone romantic suspense or the J.D. Robbs. But I do occasionally like ’em for potato-chip type reading, and hey, I haven’t read this one yet. Plus, I saw it mentioned on this recent post on the Bitchery, and thought okay yeah sure, that might be some silly fun.
  • Acadie, by Dave Hutchinson. SF. Nabbed this newly released novella from Tor.com entirely because of the title, and because I am curious as to how big a parallel it’ll have to Acadian history in real life.
  • The Seafarer’s Kiss, by Julia Ember. YA fantasy romance. Nabbed this on the strength of this review on the Bitchery, because if you say the words “f/f retelling of The Little Mermaid wherein the little mermaid falls in love with a Viking shield maiden” to me, the words I’ll be saying in reply are “GET THIS INTO MY LIBRARY STAT”.
  • Final Girls, by Mira Grant. Horror. Because “new horror novella by Mira Grant”, you say? Why yes I WILL have some.
  • And last but not least, A Study in Scarlet Women, by Sherry Thomas. Mystery. Nabbed this because while I’d already heard about it and had half an eye on it on the strength of buzz about “genderbent Sherlock Holmes”, I finally caught up on a Smart Podcast Trashy Books episode in which the author is interviewed. And I would totally not have guessed by a pen name like “Sherry Thomas” that the author is ethnically Chinese–and when she described how her writing style sometimes incorporates anglicized versions of idioms from Chinese, the language nerd in me just had to see what her style is like. Plus, genderbent Sherlock Holmes. SIGN ME UP.

Alert readers may note that that’s three, count ’em, three different books that are on this list specifically because of the fine ladies at Smart Bitches Trashy Books. They ARE a huge influence on my reading, it’s true! (Duking it out recently a lot with Tor.com, in fact.)

33 titles now for the year.

Other People's Books

Clearing the inbox before I go to Quebec book roundup post

Snarfed off the Tor.com ebook club:

  • Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacqueline Carey. Fantasy, rather renowned, and it’s been on my To Read shelf for a stupidly long time. Grabbed the ebook to up the chances I might actually eventually read this thing. ;D

And meanwhile my author friend userinfommegaera‘s got a lot of medical challenges she’s got to deal with right now, and selling books is hard enough when you’re NOT dealing with medical challenges. (She said, from experience.) So I grabbed everything of hers on Smashwords that I didn’t have yet, to wit:

  • Sojourn, Book 1 of her Tales of the Unearthly Northwest. Cop crashes his car and winds up in a ghost town–and his version of Brigadoon is not a carefree musical.
  • Much Ado in Montana. Contemporary romance. Which, I might add, has been previously featured on Boosting the Signal!
  • Cross-Country: Adventures Alone Across America and Back. Non-fiction. An account of the author’s travels across the country! If you like travelogues, you might want to check this out.
  • Homesick: A Time in Yellowstone Story. This is a novella, Book 4 of her Time in Yellowstone series.
  • New Year’s Eve in Conconully, another Tales of the Unearthly Northwest book.
  • Reunion, the third Tales book.

24 for the year.

Other People's Books

Re-reading the Silmarillion, Part 2

I finished my re-read of The Silmarillion over the long weekend, so here are some more thoughts about what I noticed this time through!

Tolkien Re-Used Names, Like, A LOT

Here is a short list of names I totally recognized from The Lord of the Rings, and which still to this day cause me a little cognitive dissonance when I see them outside that story:

  • Minas Tirith
  • Echthelion
  • Denethor
  • Glorfindel

And hell, even within this specific book, the name MĂ­riel shows up twice: once as the mother of FĂ«anor, and once as the last ruling Queen of NĂșmenor.

The First Age Was Surprisingly Short

A big chunk of the book is devoted to the Quenta Silmarillion proper, which is the part of it easily conflated with the overall title. It’s in this part that the big highlights of the book happen–notably, the tale of Beren and LĂșthien, and the tale of Turin. And, of course, the First Age is all about the Silmarils, as well as the smackdown eventually finally delivered to Morgoth.

But given this, if you look at the overall timeline of the world of Arda (which is what the world Middle-Earth is on is actually called), the First Age is surprisingly short compared to the other ages of the world. It’s only about 590 years long, compared to the multiple thousands of years that lead up to the First Age, and how the Second and Third Ages are both over three thousand years in length.

Yep, Still Love Me Some Beren and LĂșthien

This really goes without saying, but I’ll say it again anyway. 😀 Here are the things about which LĂșthien has zero fucks to give:

  • Her father trying to lock her up to keep her away from her man
  • The sons of FĂ«anor trying to lock her up to keep her away from her man
  • Morgoth himself trying to keep her away from her man
  • Her man trying to leave her behind on the mistaken assumption that he can handle going on a Silmaril-hunting quest all by himself
  • Death itself trying to keep her away from her man

And she is delightful from start to finish. It was a joy to be reminded as well about how friggin’ powerful she is–she uses her “arts” to grow her own hair Rapunzel-style to break out the high tree-house her father locked her up in, and then for good measure takes that hair, slaps a sleep-spell on it, and makes herself a cloak that she uses a bunch later to take down anybody in her way.

And she pretty much sings Morgoth’s crown right off his head, since she knocks him out with her power. Fuck yeah, daughter of MĂ©lian!

Speaking of MĂ©lian

I noticed and appreciated her more throughout this re-read. She’s on record as being the only one of the Maiar to fall in love with one of the Children of Iluvatar, enough that she bothered to physically incarnate herself so that she could be with Thingol. She is also on record as being the major power in Middle-Earth that Morgoth actually fears. Which is impressive, given that he’s a Vala on the order of ManwĂ« himself, and she’s a Maia, and in theory of “lesser” degree.

Shoutout to the Women of the Silmarillion in General

This time through I noticed way more women having active things to do than I really remembered. MĂ©lian and LĂșthien are obvious, as is Nienor/Niniel in the tale of Turin and Elwing in the tale of EĂ€rendil. But there are other women of note scattered all throughout the story, and who, even if they’re only passingly mentioned, clearly have an impact on the events that unfold:

  • Nerdanel, wife of FĂ«anor
  • Haleth, leader of the Haladin, who rules her people as a chieftain and who never marries
  • Morwen Eledhwen, wife of HĂșrin, mother of TĂșrin
  • Aredhel, wife of Eöl, mother of Maeglin
  • Emeldir the Manhearted, mother of Beren, who brings her people to safety at the urging of her spouse Barahir
  • Galadriel!
  • MĂ­riel Ar-Zimraphel of NĂșmenor, whose rightful place as Queen is usurped by her husband, and who tragically drowns in the sinking of NĂșmenor by Iluvatar

And Emeldir as well as Galadriel are examples of Tolkien’s making his bolder females get nicknamed in ways that invoke masculinity–Galadriel’s mother names her Nerwen, “man-maiden”, in reference to her height and strength. Part of me is irritated at this conflation of strength and masculinity, I must admit, and yet!

Let it also be noted that before it finally fell, some of NĂșmenor’s rightful rulers were in fact women.

Tuor and Idril Don’t Get Nearly Enough Camera Time

After the awesomeness of the tale of Beren and LĂșthien, the second recorded joining of an Elf and a Man, Tuor and Idril, seems regretfully anticlimactic. Tuor basically shows up in Gondolin, hangs out for a few years, and gets permission to wed Idril, Turgon’s daughter. But there’s very little there to show why these two characters loved each other to begin with, and Idril’s marrying Tuor is mostly contrasted to how she doesn’t want to marry Maeglin.

Plus, at least for me as a reader, their story is eclipsed by the fall of Gondolin in general. Maeglin’s part of this I get, just because it’s his being captured by Morgoth’s forces that leads to Gondolin’s location being revealed. Maeglin’s motivations aren’t exactly complicated, but in contrast to him, Tuor and Idril are even less well sketched out. And that does a disservice, I feel, to the second recorded joining of Elf and Man EVER, not to mention the parents of EĂ€rendil.

I do at least like that Idril had some agency in encouraging Tuor to make a secret way out, in case disaster befell. (Which it did.) And I also like that Tuor and Idril apparently eventually went into the West and were allowed to stay, despite Tuor being mortal, which I had forgotten. Tuor managed to get himself counted among the Firstborn, which, well done there.

Elwing: Also Pretty Awesome

EĂ€rendil gets a lot of the press in his tale, as well as repeated mentions over in The Lord of the Rings–but re-reading his tale this time through, I had renewed appreciation for his wife Elwing. This woman, rather than give up the Silmaril she possesses to FĂ«anor’s remaining sons, tosses herself into the sea to escape. At which point she is transformed into a great white bird, which lets her fly to Valinor and eventually catch up with her husband.

Thus she gets to carry on the tradition of women being awesome in the family tree of Beren and LĂșthien, as seems entirely befitting for the mother of Elrond.

More to Come

All of these thoughts are for events in the First Age–but I’ve got more to come regarding events in the Second Age. So I’ll put that into another post!

Other People's Books

Re-reading the Silmarillion!

So since I have this lovely new Beren and Luthien book to go through, it seemed to me that before I dive into it, it would behoove me to remind myself of the version of the tale I’m most familiar with: i.e., the one that appears in The Silmarillion. Which, of course, means that it’s TOTALLY time for a re-read of same!

(By which I mean, I’m just going to read it again–not actually do a Reread series of posts–at least for now. I may change my mind later! Persons who want to argue in favor of me doing a formal Silmarillion Reread, you are welcome to do so. I may hold on this though until I can score a French edition!)

I’ve just barely started but here are a few things I have been reminded of, or never really noticed before, now that I’m going through the book again:

  1. My ebook edition has additional intro sections that do not appear in my paperback: “Preface to the Second Edition”, and “From a Letter by J.R.R. Tolkien to Milton Waldman, 1951”. The Preface, which is dated 1999, is Christopher Tolkien discussing why he felt it appropriate to include the letter. And the letter itself is the one which, it turns out, includes this wonderful quote: “I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.” This is the very quote Dara and I have noted before as an argument in favor of Tolkien totally intending his world to be a mythos to which other people could eventually contribute. It’s delightful to see it here.
  2. There is a female equivalent of “Vala” (singular) and “Valar” (plural): “ValiĂ«” and “Valier”. I see “Valier” getting used exactly once in the initial chapters, so this is very easy to overlook. My amusement here though is that after several consecutive years of studying French, I totally want to pronounce “Valier” like a French verb.
  3. There isn’t much in the way of character development for any of the Valar, but hey, that’s okay, we’re operating at a mythic and epic level in the opening chapters, so it’s difficult to zoom in on specific characters. I am nonetheless amused at AulĂ« and Yavanna arguing about his creation of the Dwarves.
  4. For that matter, I’m amused once again at AulĂ« jumping the gun and making the Dwarves before he had any actual authority to do so. He’s all “Hey Eru I made these guys because I love you and want to be like you and also I wanted some friends OH SHIT Eru is mad should I smash them?” And Eru realizes AulĂ«’s not actually trying to be malicious, so he lets him keep the Dwarves, only with the caveat that they don’t get to really wake up and exist until after Elves and Men have shown up.
  5. So really, the TL;DR version of the entire Middle-Earth mythos boils down to “Eru and all his angels had a giant jam session, only Melkor got pissy because he wanted a solo”.
  6. There are more named female characters actually doing things even in the opening stretches of this thing than I remembered. Yavanna and Varda both have on-camera action, Yavanna creating the Two Trees and Varda lighting all the stars. MĂ©lian meets up with Thingol. And we even get a passing mention of Nerdanel, the spouse of FĂ«anor, who at least at first was the only person capable of restraining his more asshole-ish impulses.
  7. Nonetheless, FĂ«anor? Any way you slice it, total asshole. I mean, dude, c’mon. We get that you’re proud of your Shiny Holy Jewels and your artistic accomplishment, but Yavanna is asking you to your face if she can use them to resurrect the Two Trees. Which are the original source of the light you put into your Shiny Holy Jewels to begin with. And that’s only FĂ«anor just getting started on being an asshole.
  8. Galadriel! Ten chapters in and she’s not getting much in the way of on camera action, but she is totally there, and called out by name alongside her brothers. Note is made that her branch of the Noldor hang back from the Kinslaying, but Galadriel totes wants to go back to Middle-Earth and have her very own little realm to rule.
  9. I learned a new word: coĂ«val. Which apparently means “contemporary to/the same age as”, and it’s used in describing Melkor in relation to ManwĂ«. Because even after all this time I can still notice new words when reading Tolkien. <3

The ebook’s got some formatting issues for chapter titles, which is a bit irritating; I may have to crack into the ebook and fix those titles, just for my personal reading satisfaction.

Also, given that I’m about to go to Quebec next month, I may have to see if I can hunt down a French translation! Because I have French translations now of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, so clearly I need one of The Silmarillion for my collection. 😀

Books, Other People's Books

A tiny print book roundup with bonus complaints about ebook pricing

Noting this as I actually bought a couple of print books from Third Place the other day–things that fall into the general category of Authors Who Are Absolutely Vital For Me to Have In Print. The people for whom a lack of access to their books would make me sad, whether due to power outage or loss of reading devices or what have you.

The first of these purchases was In the Labyrinth of Drakes, Book Four in Marie Brennan’s excellent Memoirs of Lady Trent series. I’ve actually already read this and I did indeed love it immensely, but I definitely wanted the Lady Trents in print. And this one finally was available in trade now that the hardcover of Book Five is out.

Beren and Luthien

Beren and Luthi

Much more importantly, I acquired a hardback copy of the new Tolkien release, Beren and Luthien!

Y’all know my love of Tolkien, and you’ll probably also remember that I’m particularly fond of the tale of Beren and Luthien, which is hands down my favorite thing in the whole of The Silmarillion.

Relatedly, when Christopher Tolkien released the excellent Children of Hurin version of the other big tale from The Silmarillion–the tale of Turin Turambar–I nabbed that in hardback. I’ve said before how I had to have that in hardback just for the gorgeous illustrations, and out of general appreciation of the beauty of the work that went into putting that book together as an object.

So given all of these things together, you better believe I had to jump on the Beren and Luthien release.

Fair warning though to fellow Tolkien fans who may be covetously eying this release too: it is not cheap. (I got the hardback for $30.00, and while I could have gotten it for substantially cheaper at Barnes and Noble, I made a point of buying it from Third Place instead because local-to-my-house indie bookstores are love.) If you want that hardback and you’re more budget-pinched than I am, be aware you’ll get it for much cheaper on Amazon or with B&N, both of whom are showing prices for it around $18.

Likewise, the ebook is stupidly expensive right now. It’s clocking in at $16.99, and that price is the main reason I haven’t already nabbed this release as well in digital form. Do not mistake me: I will also be buying this book in digital form, because a) Tolkien pretty much would top the list of authors I require in both formats, and b) under no circumstances am I taking the hardback out of the house. But that price annoys me, as it’s yet another indicator of the return of agency pricing, and I have an ongoing gripe with the publishing industry seeming bound and determined to piss off digital readers by making ebooks as expensive as possible.

I’m genuinely torn, though, as to whether Tolkien is worth it to me to shell out for the ebook at that price anyway; if any author merits doing that out of all my favorites, it’s Tolkien.

Either way, the ebook edition will eventually be joining my collection too. And that’ll likely be the way I read it, just because I do most of my reading on commutes.

For now, that’s two additional book purchases to add to the tally this year, which has been quite small. (I’m actually trying to make an effort to put a dent in the backlog of books I actually own, doncha know.) 17 for the year.

Books, Other People's Books

Post-Orycon book roundup post

Picked up on Kobo last month, and it’s taken me this long to actually post about it:

  • In the Labyrinth of Drakes, by Marie Brennan. Book 4 of her Lady Trent series. Which I have indeed already read, and good lord I loved it. (heart)

Picked up in print at Orycon this past weekend:

  • The Venomsword, by Stephen Hagelin. Fantasy. Picked this up because the author was working a table in the dealers’ room two tables down from me and Madison Keller. And he was a friendly young fellow who also is writing books about the fey, which is Relevant to My Interests! Also, I have to admit that I actually rather liked his extremely minimalist cover design, which he said was influenced by his affection for Japanese design sensibilities in book covers.

Pre-ordered on Kobo, so even though this doesn’t actually release till next year I’m counting it as acquired in this year’s tally:

  • River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey. Alternate history SF, a Tor.com novella which will be released in 2017. Grabbed this because I’ve been following the author on Twitter ever since her delightful livetweeting of watching the Star Wars movies, and lately I have also seen her reaching out to her readers in constructive ways as we all try to find our way through the bombshell of the election. Also, I totally want to read about her hippopotamus wranglers. More data on this story here.

61 for the year.