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).

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?

Reading Raves: Author recommendations

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

You know what I love? When an author has a page on their website devoted to recommendations. I’m not saying that this is something all authors should do, but it sure is nice. It caters to my nosiness – what books do you like in the genres you write? Peering at someone’s bookshelves is similar – I want to know what you read, but to have a list of recommendations – I can find out what your favorites are. If I find myself agreeing to an author’s picks I’m inclined to try them out if I’ve never read their books before. I also like how it gives me yet another place to find new-to-me books (as if there aren’t enough places).

The Winter of Enchantment

I have tried out some books based on author’s recommendations on their websites. Sherwood Smith is why I  tried Greensleeves by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Neil Gaiman is why I read The Winter of Enchantment by Victoria  Walker (I read the book before I had a book blog, so the review is only on paperbackswap and goodreads – Goodreads). I  thought The Winter of Enchantment was very lovely imagewise, only OK plotwise, but I’m glad I read it. And  Greensleeves I recommend heartily, but it’s sadly out of print and not cheap to find used online.

Here are some Author Recommendations:

The Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1) Nine Coaches Waiting His Dark Materials Trilogy: "Northern Lights", "Subtle Knife", "Amber Spyglass"

Kristin Cashore recommends Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Cynthia Voigt’s Novels of the Kingdom, Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia books, Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting, and others.

The Blue Sword The Changeling Sea The Warrior's Apprentice

Rachel Neumeier recommends 14 books including The Changeling Sea, by Patricia McKillip, The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley, Cukoo’s Egg, by CJ Cherryh, The Warrior’s Apprentice, by Lois McMaster Bujold, and A Certain Slant of Light, by Laura Whitcomb

Song of Scarabaeus In the Company of Others Foreigner

In 2009, Linnea Sinclair recommended in her fan forums Sara Creasy’s Song of Scarabaeus, Julie Czernada’s In the Company of Others, and C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series and I’ve put those all on my to-read-one-day list.

Howl's Moving Castle The Dark Is Rising (The Dark Is Rising Sequence) Madeleine's A Wrinkle (A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (Paperback - May 1, 2007))

Holly Black‘s Suggested Reading List has Lloyd Alexander, Madeleine L’ Engle, Mary Stewart, Peter Beagle, Tanith Lee, Susan Cooper, Diana Wynne Jones,and Michael Moorcock on it, to name a few (she’s also yet another one who recommends Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia books)

Riddle-Master The Westing Game [WESTING GAME] Red as Blood or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer

Shannon Hale has a lovely long list of recommendations on her website. So many. I love it. She recommends gems like Riddle-Master: The Complete Trilogy, by Patricia McKillip, and Tales from the Sisters Grimmer, by Tanith Lee. (I must say I like her husband’s recs at the bottom of her list too).

Bitter Night: A Horngate Witches Book Nine Layers of Sky Mr. Impossible

Ann Aguirre sometimes posts about books she loved on her blog, and I pay attention. She’s recommended Diana Pharaoh Francis’ Bitter Night, and Liz William’s Nine Layers of Sky, both on my TBR, as well as Jeri Smith-Ready and intriguing romances with idiot heroes.

The Once and Future King Devil's Cub Moominsummer Madness   [MOOMINSUMMER MADNESS] [Paperback]

Garth Nix also wrote a long list of recommendations (ah, quite delightful), called “Books Remembered: An Alphabetical Remembrance“.  He also has The Winter of Enchantment listed, along with Georgette Heyer, Tove Jansson, Ursula Le Guin and T. H. White’s The Once and Future King (which really should be required reading).

Dull Boy Make Me Yours (Harlequin Blaze) Beastly

Diana Peterfreund is really an author I should be reading since Angie keeps recommending her books and Angie tends to be right (How annoying. Gives my TBR pile grief). This thought is backed up with recommendations that look good, like in her post “Why isn’t Everyone reading…?” where she recommends Sarah Cross’ Dull Boy, Betina Krahn, and oh there it is (again!), the Attolia books. I think she also shares my opinion on retellings (basically I ♥ them mucho).

I know I’ve seen more lists on author’s websites, but let’s stop there. Are there lists that you recommend I look at? Do tell!

Reading Raves: Matte and Glossy covers

moon called
There seems to be a debate on what looks classier – a book cover with a matte finish, or a cover with a glossy one. In bookstores here in the U.S,  I see a combination of both on the shelves, but I am not sure what the norm is elsewhere. In my searches about the topic I discovered posts discussing how in Canada, if the book is a trade paperback and glossy, people are more inclined to think that it is self published (apparently because of artist subsidies there, more self-pubbed books are found in bookstores? If the book is mass market paperback, the glossiness vs. matte thing doesn’t seem to matter as much). Meanwhile, I remember seeing a lot of matte or satin finished books in Europe, but I may be wrong. I found comments to the contrary, but I didn’t really spend much time searching. If you know, please comment.

Where do I stand? Give me a combination of matte & glossy! If there is one thing that I have a weakness for, it’s that feeling of smooth against rough and the reflection of a glossy image or embellishment against a matte background, or vice versa. It’s sadly not something I often see in the genre books I read, although I see it more often in young adult books. It just makes me go a little wide-eyed and “Oooh, pretty!” when I see a cover where more than just the art is considered. The extra little something like raised lettering and this finish adds to the experience (and I don’t know if an e-book could ever replicate it). I tell you: be still my beating heart!

I spent some time trying to figure out what this combination was called by the printers, but I still have no clue. Is it Matte with: varnish? Laminate? UV coating? Aqueous coating? The more I googled, the less I knew.

blood of the demonI raided my bookshelves to try to show you my favorite covers, but they are really difficult to photograph. There’s the Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson series (the US covers), that have a metallic sheen and Mercy in slightly raised glossy relief. (Cover illustration by Dan Dos Santos, cover design by Judith Lagerman).

Then there is of course the Kara Gillian books by Diana Rowland. The symbols on the cover you can see when you tilt it are so pretty. I just love it! (Cover illustration by Juliana Kolesova, cover design by Dreu Pennington-McNeil)

Other books and series I own with this effect (there are sadly not many. Although I have a bunch with shiny fonts against a matte background, I’m not counting those):

  • The Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks (this is a reverse of the usual. It has a shiny cover with the character image in matte)
  • The Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs
  • The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle
  • Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd anthology

detail of Geektastic cover

Ranting and Raving at Janicu’s book blog

Part of being a book reviewer is having opinions. Many of them! And sometimes I feel like I encounter things in books or about books that I either want to rant or rave about but it doesn’t really fit into the context of a review. It feels like something to put in a separate post.

I’ve been storing a few rant and raves so I’m starting a new “feature” in this blog, where I will ramble happily or um.. possibly crazily about something.I’ve been prettying up my wordpress (I changed the font on the header and added a byline), and since I’ve been having fun making pretty things, I made a couple of little banners to signal my rant or my rave.

Reading Raves! Things that make janicu as giddy as a schoolgirl.

Pet Peeves! Things that make janicu a crazy lady on the internets.

ETA: The images I used are Pandora by John William Waterhouse and the image from the cover of The Emerald City of Oz, illustrated by John R. Neill. The fonts are Ozone and Neogrey Medium.