Reading Raves: Floating Islands, A Trope I Like

Ranting & raving is something I do periodically on this blog. Look for the “rants and raves” category for past rants and raves.
flying city by bzzz88 on deviantart
Image is by Bzzz88)

While reading The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells I was reminded of how much I enjoy stories with a floating island in them. It doesn’t seem to be a really common trope, and it got me digging into my bookshelves to find instances of it.

Endless Blue by Wen Spencer:

(There’s a floating island on the cover, but it’s obscured by the author and title)

A newcomer sees a floating island for the first time:

Floating landmasses, like the one they had hit, dotted the sky. One plowed through the clouds, roiling the white into a gray. Lightening flickered in the tight knot of polarized air, like a storm inside a bottle. That island was a wedge of stone, perspective obscuring its topside. An island farther in the distance, though, showed a crown of thick green. He would only see the top of the island if it was traveling up a curve.

A local worries it will destroy her boat:

“Orin, have you figured out which vimana it is?”
“It’s — Icarus — I think.” He pushed his work towards her to confirm. “This is where we are.” He tapped the glass covering their chart, their position marked in grease pencil. “There are twenty vimanas on this orbit band. Only one crosses zero around this time. Icarus.”
She turned the book so she could read the detailed listing. Like most vimanas Icarus was roughly boat-shaped with the tapered bow cutting the wind. It was the stern of the landmass that they needed to worry about. Icarus was sixty miles wide and a hundred miles long — one giant sized rain-collector. the overflow poured down off the back end of the vimana in a mile high waterfall. If they were hit by it, nothing on the Rosetta would survive.

The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells:

the cloud roads by martha wells
(nice floating islands behind the Raksura on the cover of The Cloud Roads)

The floating islands of The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells hold mysterious ruins of old civilizations on them:

Moon turned back toward the sky-island where it floated in isolation over the plain. He pushed himself higher until he was well above it.
He circled over the island. Its shape was irregular, with jagged edges. It had been hard to tell how large it was from the ground; from above he could see it was barely four hundred paces across, smaller than the Cordans’ camp. It was covered with vegetation, trees with narrow trunks winding up into spirals, heavy falls of vines, and white, night-blooming flowers. But he could still make out the round shape of a tower, and a building that was a series of stacked squares of vine-covered stone. There were broken sections of walls, choked pools and fountains.
He spotted a balcony jutting out of curtains of foliage and dropped down toward it.

The Death Gate cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman:

(the floating islands can only be seen on the back side of this cover, which you can check out here– it took a lot of googling to find that online)

In the Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman has several worlds created by a Sundering.  Arianius, Realm of Sky, is where the first book, Dragon Wing is set. It has floating islands all over, on three different levels – the High realm, the Mid realm, and the Low realm. These islands are vast, and dragons or flying ships are used to fly between them.

All the floating isles in the Realm of Sky are composed of coralite. The secretion of a small, harmless, snake-shaped creature known as the coral grubb, coralite is spongelike in appearance. When it hardens, it is as strong as granite, though it cannot be cut and polished. Coralite forms very fast; structures made out of the substance are not built so much as grown. Coral grubbs give off a gas that is lighter than air. This keeps the isles suspended in the sky, but can be a nuisance when attempting to construct buildings. The magic of first-house land wizards is necessary to remove it.

Coralite gives off a faint blush of light, causing strands of forest to show up black against the silvery radiance of the ground. Landmarks were easy to locate. Castles or fortresses made of coralite that have not been covered over with a paste of crushed granite gleam softly. Towns, with their shining ribbons of coralite streets, show up easily from the air.

Can you think of other books with this trope in them? I already have my eye on The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier, but I don’t know what else is out there.

Just to be clear: the floating island is different from say a floating castle or other man-made floating thing (like the moving castle in Howl’s Moving Castle or airships in many books).

Pet peeves: derogatory names for genres

Ranting & raving is something I do periodically on this blog. Look for the “rants and raves” category for past rants and raves.

Man it is hard to muster up some blogging mojo this week, but if one thing fires me up it is this: ridiculous nicknames for genres that essentially put down the people who read them. Am I wrong in thinking the people who COME UP with these names have never read the genre they’re generalizing?

“bodice-ripper” – I don’t recall the last romance I read with an actual bodice in it, nor the last one where a bodice was actually ripped. This name irritates me so much. And everyone uses it. People I know use it and I wince. I know it conjures up covers like the one above, but romance is a genre that encompasses a lot MORE than that.

“Mommy porn” – Thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey, this awful label has suddenly appeared out of nowhere to describe.. whatever Fifty Shades is – light erotica? I don’t know, I just know I hate the term. Yes, lets define a genre with an assumption of who is reading it. And I don’t think “porn” is the right word there either.

I’m trying to think if there are terms like this for other genres that AREN’T usually associated with female readers, and all I can come up with was the one time I saw someone call SF&F fans “airship captains” and not in a very nice way. Hmm. There’s also the people who say they only read “real books” about “real people”, as opposed to fake books about fake people.  Am I missing some annoying little turns of phrase?

Reading Raves: Author recommendations (part 2)

Ranting & raving is something I do periodically on this blog. Look for the “rants and raves” category for past rants and raves.

A little while ago (Gasp! Almost two years!), I did a Reading Rave post about how I love book recommendations by authors. I like a good list of recs, and in that post I found recommendations by Kristen Cashore, Rachel Neumeier, Linnea Sinclair, Holly Black, Shannon Hale, Garth Nix, Ann Aguirre, and Diana Peterfreund. I thought it would revisit the idea with some MORE recommendations.

More Author Recommendations:

the land of green ginger by noel langley once upon a time by a. a. milne the dolls house by rumor godden
Franny Billingsley lists her favorite books as a kid in her FAQ. These include the funny (like The Land of Green Ginger by Noel Langley and Once on a Time by A. A. Milne) and the more serious (like The Doll’s House by Rumor Godden and Mistress Masham’s Repose by T. H. White). I have not heard of any of these, but they all look charming and old-school in a good way. I’m very curious.

a college of magics by caroline stevermer fall of a kingdom by hilari bell
Tamora Pierce is the official QUEEN of recommendations. I hit the motherload on her site when I found.. am I counting this right? THIRTY? lists broken down into categories and year! Looks like Chachic pointed this out to me the last time I did this author rec post and I guess I forgot. Anyway – mind happily blown! There’s Recommended SF/F for Teens, Gifted 8-Year Old Booklist, The So Not White Medieval Europe Booklist… it goes on and on people. I’m focusing on her Ultimate Ever Fantasy List at the moment, where I’m eying Caroline Stevermer’s A College of Magics and A Scholar of Magics, Fall of a Kingdom by Hilari Bell, The Gods In Winter by Patricia Miles, A Sorcerer’s Treason by Sarah Zettel, and Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, but there’s so many more books on here.

the spellman files by lisa lutz lord of scoundrels by loretta chase Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale
Susan Elizabeth Phillips recommends “Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels, Laura Kinsale’s Flowers in the Storm, Jill Barnett’s Bewitching, and Pam Morsi’s Simple Jess” in the historical romance genre. She’s a “big fan of Kristin Hannah, Patricia Gaffney, and Sarah Bird”, enjoys the Spellman series by Lisa Lutz (looks interesting to me), and Margaret Watson, Cathie Linzand, and Jayne Ann Krentz in the romance genre. She reads non-fiction as well and has some recs there too.

the magicians and mrs. quent by galen beckett dealing with dragons by patricia c. wrede blood and iron by elizabeth bear
Marie Brennan has a lot of fantasy recommendations on her site (if you go to this link, her list is clickable – each title takes you to her review). I agree with her recs that I’ve read, like War For the Oaks by Emma Bull and Sunshine by Robin McKinley, but there’s a lot here I haven’t read that I’m interested in, like The Magicians and Mrs Quent by Galen Beckett, Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, and Blood and Iron by Elizabeth Bear.

the drowning girl by caitlin r kiernan the lies of locke lamora by scott lynch Throne of The Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
Speaking of Elizabeth Bear, she has book reports on her blog where she recommends Caitlìn R. Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl: A Memoir, Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora and its sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies, Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon, and more.

the game of kings by dorothy dunnett moomin the catalogue of the universe by margaret mahy
Juliet Marillier answers a question about influences in her FAQ with a list of some of her favorite books: “these include the Lymond Chronicles (Dorothy Dunnett), John Crowley’s Little, Big, a young adult book called The Catalogue of the Universe by Margaret Mahy, and Women who run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, which examines the power of story in terms of women’s psychology. And Tove Jansson’s Moomintroll books!”

Phew! That’s a lot of recs. Any books up there you agree are good books people (and maybe me in particular?) should read? Any lists I missed and should be aware of?

Pet Peeves: eBooks only available in one format and one place

Ranting & raving is something I do periodically on this blog. Look for the “rants and raves” category for past rants and raves.

It is currently my review policy not to accept self-published books for review, but if I’m interested enough, I will go buy a self-published book.

What’s driving me crazy is I’m noticing that sometimes an eBook is only available in one place, in one format. Usually this one place is Amazon, and in their .azw format, which is incompatible with oh, most of the other eReaders on the market. Now, I don’t know anything about how difficult it is to sell your book elsewhere and provide different formats, but as a customer, I really don’t care. That’s a lost sale. I’m NOT going to buy a Kindle if I already have an eReader that isn’t a Kindle. And I’m not going to read the book on my computer or phone or some other device because I have an eReader to read my eBooks on! It doesn’t make sense to me to download something and then NOT read it on my eReader, so I won’t do it. I’m not going to go trying to convert an .azw file into what I want – I heard Calibre could do it but stripping the DRM is illegal, so there’s that pickle.

Limiting a customer’s choice of format and expecting a customer to jump through hoops in order to read a book is wildly optimistic, given all the other books I could be reading. It’s even more optimistic when you are a completely new-to-me author, and thus a risk in the first place.

Please, please, if you are self-publishing an eBook, make sure that you reach more readers by making it available in different formats! And while you’re at it, if you’re offering your book for free or discounted on Amazon, consider making the same offer for the other formats too, because that’s another rant.

Reading Raves: Red Riding Hood Photography

Ranting & raving is something I do periodically on this blog. Look for the “rants and raves” category for past rants and raves.

When I was looking for Little Red Riding Hood pictures last week I was overwhelmed by how MANY they were. These are ones from photoshoots based on fairytales.

Eugenio Recuenco

Into the Woods: US Vogue Sept 2009.

Photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott via Persephone Reads
(do click the link, lots MORE of this one)

Dakota Fanning in Vanity Fair, Jan 2007. Photographed by Karl Lagerfeld
(link has huge images)

Eva Mendes for the 2008 Campari Calendar

Jade Rodan from America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 6:”The Girl That Kissed the Roach”

Reading Raves: Red Riding Hood Illustrations

Ranting & raving is something I do periodically on this blog. Look for the “rants and raves” category for past rants and raves.

I cannot BELIEVE how many pictures of Little Red Riding Hood there are online! I could do TWO posts about it. Actually… I think I will.

Walter Crane

“Red Riding Hood” (1865) by John Everett Millais

German Post, 1962

Tyler Garrison

George Sheridan Knowles

James Sant

Paul Woodroffe

Jesse Willcox Smith

Vanessa Elms

Warwick Goble

American McGee concept art (Luis Melo)

American McGee concept art (Ken Wong)

Nao-Tukiji Saikusa

[many many more images!]

Reading Raves: Beauty and the Beast Illustrations

Ranting & raving is something I do periodically on this blog. Look for the “rants and raves” category for past rants and raves.

I finished Beastly and I’m writing up a review for it, but because I’m visiting my parents I keep getting interrupted mid-thought (hmm).  So while I edit my review here’s some lovely Beauty and the Beast inspired images that I found online.

Angela Barrett

Annie Leibovitz for Vogue Magazine (via Once Upon a Blog)

Rebecca Guay


Marianna Mayer

Allen Williams

George Barr

Eugenio Recuenco

Hilary Knight

Anne Grahame Johnstone

Pet Peeves: Spines in

Ranting & raving is something I do periodically on this blog. Look for the “rants and raves” category for past rants and raves.

This has been a peeve for a couple of years. I think that’s how long it’s been since I started noticing  bookshelves in certain furniture catalogs with the books shelved spine in. There is uniformity and the furniture can stand out.  This makes sense when you want a consumer’s attention to be on the furniture, not to be distracted by what’s on it, but this trend in decorating is annoying otherwise:

  • Unless you know all your books and where they go by heart, or you are going to have a hell of a time finding a book.
  • There is no way a guest could come in and discover a book.  No way to have a conversation about a book on those shelves.
  • It implies that a books function is as a design element rather than to be, you know, actually read.

Images are from Apartment Therapy. I am pleased to see from the comments that I am not alone in my dislike of the spine in thing.

A trend in the same vein, (but at least you can label the books in this case) is wrapping books in covers to display them:

Reading Raves: Alice in Wonderland Illustrations

Ranting & raving is something I do periodically on this blog. Look for the “rants and raves” category for past rants and raves.

I love illustrations for Alice In Wonderland. I remembered a livejournal community I used to watch (storybookalice) and spent some time happily looking at pretty pictures today. Wonderous whimsy.

Kim Minji

Sergey Tyukanov


Alison Jay

Ester Garcia Cortes

Angel Dominquez

In which I console myself by buying stuff

I’m having not so good luck lately.

First I find out that vox is closing, which is not good because every book review I’ve made in the last 3 years uses vox as the host for my image files. I had a little mini breakdown contemplating having to manually backup all my pictures somewhere and then laboriously editing all my posts so that the img tag pointed at the new source.

Then I found out that I could import all my vox posts to wordpress and if I clicked on the Download and import file attachments checkbox, it would download all my images to wordpress and automatically link them properly in all my posts. Fine, good. There was just the problem that I already had a years worth of the vox posts mirrored here. So I decided – backup my current wordpress blog (check), import vox to a temporary wordpress blog (check), remove all the overlapping posts (check), import the rest to the temporary blog (check after some issues). This took about 4 hours, I won’t go into the things that went wrong there.

Then I tried to import that back over to this blog. Well. First it imported everything to just July. I’d try over and over. Just up to July, not September. And then I noticed I had about 2500+ media files from trying to import it over and over. This was about 2000 files more than necessary. So I went in, deleted alllll the media files, all the blog posts. Tried again. But when I went to try again, strangely my import page was stuck on “processing” . So I opened a ticket with support.  Waited about 12 hours. Support deleted the import and asked me to try again. I tried again. Looked OK.

Oh wait. I clicked on the Download and import file attachments checkbox, but all these images are still hosted on vox! OK…. try importing again. I DEFINITELY clicked the checkbox there. Nothing changed. OK. Let’s try deleting all the posts and retrying the import. OK.. deleted posts. Go to import.. what, it is stuck on “processing” again! Emailed support that I’m still having import issues. Waited another day. My blog is an empty wasteland in the meantime, but I figured, oh well, it will just be a day.


Waited waited. Think to myself, “Strange, support hasn’t replied to me and it’s been 24 hours?”, hmm. Then I see.. THIS!!!

“Support is currently closed as staff meet offsite brainstorming ways to make better. We will be dropping into the forums regularly during the hiatus, and we’ll formally reopen on September 19th.”

Support is all gone .. for 11 days.

Oh by the way, I’ve been having parallel issues at work. All this stuff with wordpress? Yeah, same crazy not working crap of a different variety over there too!

(No. It is NOT me!)

Seriously .. it’s like the stars aligning to wreck havoc ON MY LIFE!! (See: Sneaky Hate Spiral)

Allie Brosh / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Anyway, my solution is that I deserve presents which I buy myself.

Luckily, I bought myself stuff before the latest debacle so I’m only Crazy and not Enraged.

I have had a book buying ban and didn’t buy anything for almost 3 months (fine, I did break when the book was less than a dollar at a library sale but I’m not counting those). On Monday, I went into Barnes and Noble and bought:

I ordered:

A month ago I also bought the whole President’s Daughter series by Ellen Emerson White because The Book Harbinger pointed out that there was a sale at BookCloseOuts and it was “$0.99 US dollars for each of the the first three books and $3.99 for the fourth.” – P.S  that price is still in effect today.

Yesterday I saw that there was a $9 t-shirt sale at Threadless so I bought some pulp science fiction type t-shirts (I already own this one, after all):

Today I bought myself this artwork (also on sale for less than $5):

And… in the mail today? Fed-exed over?

I feel better.