Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Books for People Who Liked Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

1. The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner

These two talented ladies found inspiration in each other’s work, and it shows. There’s much of Howl in Gen, including an impossible wit and proclivity for temper tantrums. There’s also just enough fantasy to keep genre fans satisfied.

2. Nightrunner series by Lynn Flewelling

Flewelling’s series juggles numerous adult themes and so the tone is more mature than that of Jones’s classic children’s book. However, Alec and Seregil constantly snark at each other and get into hijinks reminiscent of Sophie and Howl’s adventures.

3. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

There’s decidedly less humor in Cashore’s series, yet fans of Diana Wynne Jones’ writing will surely find much to love in Cashore’s lush worldbuilding.

4. Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Unlike Howl, Unspoken is set in modern times, yet Brennan has infused her story with the same wry humor that Jones was so well known for. Had Jones decided to write a gothic romance novel, Unspoken surely would have been its doppleganger.

5. A Matter of Magic by Patricia C. Wrede

Mairelon reminded me quite a bit of Howl, though he was rather less prone to histrionics. A Matter of Magic is a slower read than Howl and rather less funny, but it’s a great example of a fantasy of manners.

6. Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Gaiman can turn anything into gold, and his attempt at an original fairy tale is no exception. Both Howl and Stardust excel at not taking themselves too seriously, which I believe is an important but oft-overlooked elemet to any humorous fantasy novel.

7. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

McKinley is the queen of fairy tale adaptations, yet her Damar stories are just as brilliant. While Howl fans should seek out McKinley’s entire catalogue of work, The Blue Sword is a good place to start.

8. The Princess Bride by William Goldman

If you’re after humorous fantasy, you can’t do better than The Princess Bride.

Some other titles that aren’t quite as similar yet that might interest Howl’s fans include: Chronicles of Lumatere series by Melina Marchetta, Study series by Maria V. Snyder, Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, and Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.

 

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Meandering Around the Interweb

In my various hours of wandering through book blogs far and wide, I’ve come across some pretty fantastic posts lately, so I thought I would spotlight my favorites. Hopefully I can make this a semi-regular feature, although my laziness will test the bounds of my determination to do so, so stay tuned for now.

While I’m drowning in the tears that can only be brought on by The Reichenbach Fall, perhaps I’ll drink away my sorrows with some of these delightful Sherlock blend teas. I’m particularly curious to try Moriartea.

Heroes and Heartbreakers had some interesting television news this week. Apparently, come fall we will have a new Beauty and the Beast adaptation, this time with an update of the classic 80’s TV show. I can’t help but be rather disappointed with the trailer (and not only because I was an adamant Lana hater during the Smallville years). I’m sorry, but a little facial scar does not a beast make, especially when the monstrous attitude is replaced with a penchant for altruism. From the snippets we get here, it looks like he might become a tad more beastly when he’s in angry mode…but, no, wait- scratch that, he’s still handsome. Oh, well. At least we still have time to hope that the Anne of Green Gables modern update is better. But honestly, I’ll take Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie any day.

The Piper’s Son happens to be my favorite Melina Marchetta, and Kat Kennedy over at the Cuddlebuggery Book Blog recently wrote a wonderful review that expresses all the reasons I love this book more eloquently than I could. In other Marchetta-related news, according to Goodreads, the fourth book in the Lumatere Chronicles has a name, and it’s…Ferragost. Thoughts? Do you think this the official title, as it doesn’t really fit in with the first three.

There’s some interesting discussion of late about just what dystopian actually means, and how it differs from post-apocalyptic fic.

I’m guaranteed to track down this Princess Bride-inspired wine pack for my next dinner party. And don’t worry, according to the website, the Inconceivable Cab holds no traces of iocane powder.

I can’t help but love reading Amber at Down the Rabbit Hole’s reactions to recently completing her first viewing of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While I don’t agree with everything in her post about why Buffy and Spike are meant to be, she makes some good points nonetheless. I’m even more interested to hear what she has to say about her foray into the world of Season 8 comics, as I’ve abstained from them myself. Personally, I love how Whedon ended the show, and while I’m somewhat intrigued by what I’ve read of the comic continuation, I’m also too apprehensive to delve in myself.

The world lost a wonderful writer last week. As always, Neil Gaiman’s words regarding the love he held for Ray Bradbury’s work are beautifully poignant and a lovely tribute.

A Spell of Vengeance by D.B. Jackson

I’ve been salivating for D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker since spotting the gorgeous Chris McGrath cover last year, and was so excited to receive an advance copy from NetGalley. The short story, “A Spell of Vengeance,” written for Tor.com makes me all the more excited to read it this weekend.

Once again, the scientific community has made a discovery that has gone shockingly unremarked-upon by the general populace. Bulgarian archaeologists have uncovered human remains from the Middle Ages with iron stakes protruding from their chests. These skeletons serve as evidence of actual vampire hunting back in the day. Beware, ye squeamish; the link leads to some relatively graphic images.

Jeaniene Frost and Ilona Andrews had a Twitter battle on behalf of their respective heroes, Bones and Curran. I think this speaks for itself.

Lynn Flewelling has written a short story in which Seregil from her Nightrunner series and Bast from Patrick Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind have a cage fight. I’ve never actually read Rothfuss (I know, I’m getting on it), but regardless, my money’s on Seregil every time.

And possibly one of the best things I’ve ever seen, Super Mercado has graced the world with Game of Thrones of Muppets. While they’re all super clever and fit in with the real cast surprisingly well, I think I stopped breathing when my eyes landed on Petyr Beakish and Dr. Varys Honeydew.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week we get to revisit a past topic, so I’ve chosen: Top Ten Dynamic Duos

1. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
Okay, confession time: I’ve never read any of Doyle’s work. In fact, the only exposure I have to this crime-solving team is the BBC miniseries (I tried watching the Robert Downey, Jr. films but couldn’t get into them). However, my unforgivable negligence in having failed to read the source material doesn’t stop me from recognizing the sheer awesomeness of this duo, and rest assured, I have Doyle’s work on my TBR list.
2. Cal and Niko (Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman)
These brothers never fail to bring a tear to my eye with the depth of devotion toward each other that they exhibit time and again. I can’t help but claim Cal as my favorite (Niko’s ability to kill you with a tubesock notwithstanding), yet both brothers hold such a soft spot in my heart.
3. Sal and Dean (On the Road by Jack Kerouac)
Kerouac’s star duo (modeled after himself and Neal Cassady) pretty much define the concept of dynamic. In their quest to burn, burn, burn like roman candles, they exemplified the chaotic energy of an entire generation and provided inspiration for the many generations that followed.
4. Harry and Hermione (Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling)
Sorry, Ron, but Harry and Hermione’s platonic friendship is the glue that held it all together. I’m sure many HP fans will lambast my decision to break up the golden trio. I’m unrepentant.
5. Kate and Curran (Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews)
This Alpha pair has been combustible since day one, and thankfully their playful antagonism hasn’t gone anywhere despite now being mated. Best of all, they are both still just as capable on their own as they are when they’re together.
6. Cat and Bones (Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost)
So Cat is still somewhat of a brat. Even so, she’s exhibited such character growth since Halfway to the Grave that I can forgive her the occasional temper tantrum. I adore these two together and, though married life has subdued them somewhat, they are still a fearsome pair to behold when the stakes are high.
7. Gen and Irene (The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner)
To list the convoluted history of this duo’s relationship would be to give away precious spoilers for a remarkable series that is never as it seems. Suffice it to say, they will satisfy even the pickiest reader’s definition of dynamic and then some.
8. Howl and Sophie (Castle series by Diana Wynne Jones)
I have a bit of a thing for couples who are as likely to snipe at each other as they are to kiss. Sophie has always refused to allow Howl to assuage his penchant for self-indulgent histrionics, and their interactions are as hilarious as they are sweet.
9. Seregil and Alec (Nightrunner series by Lynn Flewelling)
No list would be complete without by favorite pair of Nightrunners. They’ve endured more than their fair share of madness and mayhem throughout the years, with threats ranging from the supernatural to the political and familial. Though they began their story as master and apprentice, they have grown into true equals without sacrificing those qualities that defined them coming into their relationship. My love for these two is massive.
I’m afraid I’ll have to stop at nine this week. Let me know who you think deserves the last slot!

Author + Character Interview: Lynn Flewelling, with Seregil and Thero

I’m so pleased to have with me today Lynn Flewelling, author of the acclaimed Nightrunner series. It seems that Lynn has brought some friends along with her as well. Lynn, Seregil, Thero, welcome.

LYNN: Thanks Shortlatte, delighted to be here. Aren’t we, boys?

SEREGIL: Of course!

THERO: Will this take long? I’m really very busy . . .

It shouldn’t take too long, Thero, I promise. Lynn, you’ve been writing the Nightrunner books for a long time now. How has your experience writing the series changed over the years?

LYNN: As far as the writing goes? In the early, early days, before I was published, I was writing strictly for myself, and a few friends. Once I had an agent, a publisher, and eventually readers, there was a lot of outside expectation. I had deadlines to meet, and a lot of feedback, not always good. It’s a challenge to keep telling the stories I want to tell, and not always be looking over my shoulder, wondering what others will think. That’s not to say I don’t care about my readers’ opinions; it’s just that if I start trying to guess what will please, rather than writing what I am inspired to write, then it will all soon fall apart.

As for the series itself, though, it’s just been more and more fun exploring the boundaries of the places and people I’ve created. Because of the episodic nature of the series, I’ve been able to go lots of different directions. I’ve gone places I didn’t even know existed when I first started writing Luck in the Shadows and met people I could never have anticipated unless I wrote the next book. Time passes, and it’s been a real delight watching/making my characters grow and develop. And I really think they all have. Thero here is a great example. I really didn’t plan for him to be anything more than a secondary character—

THERO: Wait— What?

LYNN: Sorry, Thero, but it’s true. I just wanted to show that someone had taken Seregil’s place as Nysander’s apprentice. You took an instant dislike to each other as I went along, and that was fun, but that also seemed to light a spark in my imagination. I realized that I really liked you for your foibles as well as your amazing talents, and that it was a potent mix for character development.  And then there’s Alec.

SEREGIL: What about Alec? We’re the stars, the co-stars. How could you have Seregil without his Alec?

LYNN: I couldn’t, of course, but I had a hard time getting Alec clear in my mind at first. He was to be the Watson to Seregil’s Sherlock, but for well into the first few chapters of the first draft I just couldn’t get him fleshed out. He didn’t even have a name. I was writing one day and my cat jumped up in my lap. The cat’s name was Alec and I decided to use that as a place marker until I came up with something better.

THERO: You named Alec after your cat?

SEREGIL: Yes, but that cat was named after Sir Alec Guinness, so it’s really quite classy. So you can stop snickering now.

LYNN: How did you know that?

SEREGIL: Really now, are you of all people surprised that I know something I’m not supposed to?

LYNN: Anyway, characters have a way of suddenly blooming, the more I work with them. I think I was having trouble with Alec because I knew he was so important, both to Seregil, eventually—

SEREGIL: From the first time I saw him, actually.

LYNN: I suppose so. And for the story. But I have to admit, Alec gave me more trouble than any other character. Once I had him and the others in place, however, things just meshed together, inspiring more and more story.

Casket of Souls by Lynn Flewelling

What are some of the challenges of writing a long-running series?

LYNN: Keeping things fresh and different, for one. Because I chose to make the series a series of discreet adventures, I couldn’t just write the same thing over and over again. Ten books of them foiling plots in Rhíminee wouldn’t have worked. Because they are spies and detectives by nature, I had to find new mysteries for them to solve, and for that I had to take them to different environments to find new challenges.  I had to keep myself interested, too.

Have any of the characters surprised you along the way?

LYNN: Oh, most of the major ones, anyway. Alec and Beka Cavish grew up fast, and Thero matured into a real three dimensional character. Seregil has secret sorrows and old wounds that make him vulnerable at times in ways that perhaps your common garden variety “hero” isn’t supposed to be. But I never intended for him to be common garden variety, ever.

Oh, I don’t think any of us readers would consider him common. What is the first fantasy novel that you remember reading, what was the last one you read, and what is your favorite?

LYNN: The first one I remember was The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron. The one I’m reading, several pre published novels of friends and they are excellent.  My favorite fantasy novel ever? That’s a tough choice, as I’ve read so many good ones over the years. Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Illustrated Man are probably top of the list, along with Tolkien and William Kotzwinkle’s Fata Morgana.

Seregil, it’s wonderful to have you with us today, though we’re sorry to see that Alec isn’t with you. What’s the last thing you said to Alec before heading out the door this morning?

SEREGIL:  “Be careful. That could blow your hand off.”

Oh…my. Ah, Thero, delightful to see you as well. So tell us, what was it like inhabiting Seregil’s body?

THERO: When Nysander made us switch bodies? Bilairy’s Balls, do we have to go there?

SEREGIL: Oh admit it. You loved it.  All that taut muscle and smooth skin and big—

THERO: You do know I can turn you into a brick, don’t you?

SEREGIL: Heh!

What do you think of that, Seregil?

SEREGIL: He saved my life that night, and others, at considerable risk to his own. I’ll always be grateful for that, especially since he didn’t like me back then. But I do think that he got the better end of the deal in that trade. I hate to think what he got up to with my body while I was gone.

THERO: Uh, brick?

Thero, how accurate would you say Seregil’s otter persona is?

THERO: Surprisingly accurate, really. Otters are by nature playful and love their families. They also defend themselves and those they care about with a vicious bite if threatened. And they both like fish, lobsters, and the like.

Thero, any pastimes that Lynn isn’t privy to?

THERO: Well, I paint a bit, just for my own amusement, and dabble in manuscript illumination. I’m also writing a treatise on the preparation of beetle carapaces for use in the transmutations of certain metals—

SEREGIL: (yawn) And he’s writing love poetry.

THERO: You— You!

SEREGIL:  It’s rather good, too.

THERO: Oh. You really think so?

SEREGIL: I do, really. It’s very good.

THERO: You might have asked, though.

SEREGIL: Sorry. Old habits.

Seregil, what’s your favorite disguise that you’ve adopted?

SEREGIL:  Well, as you probably know, I carry off female disguise rather well. It’s wonderful how your average villain underestimates women. Off the top of my head, I’d have to say playing Lady Gwethelyn has been the most fun. I mean, when I can fool a randy hound like Captain Rhal, I know I’m doing well.

One more question, Seregil. Any thoughts on who would play you in the stage version of your life? What about Alec?

Glimpses by Lynn Flewelling

SEREGIL: I get asked that a lot. I’ve been around long enough that there have been a succession of actors who’ve aged out. I think Daniel Day Lewis was the first, back in the “My Left Foot” period when he was young and had long hair. Michael Praed was in there, too, at some point. More recently Johnny Depp. He has a great deal of depth and has played a huge spectrum of roles. He’s not getting any younger though.  Benedict Cumberbatch, of Sherlock  fame, would be another good choice.

As for Alec, that’s a tough one. Years ago there was a Finnish Olympic ski jumper who looked right, but overall I can’t seem to find anyone who’s just right, although the version of him on the cover of Lynn’s book of short stories, Glimpses, isn’t a bad likeness.

On that, I’d have to agree. Back to you, Lynn. What is one character that you’ve read and wished you had created yourself?

LYNN: Sherlock Holmes, of course!

You’ve been somewhat of a pioneer in your genre. What direction would you like to see fantasy fiction take in the future?

LYNN: I’d like to see more strong, believable female heroes.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

LYNN: Editing and revision are my absolute favorite parts. There’s no such thing as a perfect first draft and for me, the rewrites are where much of the magic happens. I come up with all sorts of new ideas and action, even new characters in rewrites. First draft can be a bit of a chore; revising is play!

Do you listen to music while you write? What might be a few songs on the Nightrunner soundtrack?

LYNN: I listen to music constantly while I work. It can set the mood, or just block out the world. I wrote Stalking Darkness  to Enya’s  Shepherd Moons  and Watermark albums. I wrote Casket of Souls to Apocalyptica turned up loud, and the soundtrack to Tim Burton’s Alice.  For the Nightrunner finale book I’m writing now, currently titled Shards of Time, it’s mostly classical and New Age so far, but that may change as I go. I need something really spooky.

Seregil’s friend, Micum Cavish’s theme song would be Sting’s “It’s Probably Me.”  Seregil’s song for Alec might be Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man.”  Thero’s song might be Enya’s “Cursum Perficio.”

You’ve always held open the possibility for further Nightrunner books. Any chance that you’ll be revisiting the characters from the Tamír Triad again in the future?

LYNN: The honest answer is that I’m not sure, but probably not anytime soon.

What do you find most fulfilling about being an author, and in writing Casket of Souls in particular?

LYNN: On a personal level, the process of crafting something new that no one has ever seen before is very fulfilling. But I’ve also gotten some remarkable, often touching reader responses. A number of young LGBT people have found Seregil and Alec to be heroes they can really identify with, and some have used the books to come out to family and friends.  One person said my books kept him from committing suicide at a dark time in his life. It doesn’t get much better than that.

SEREGIL:  If I might just add, Casket of Souls is one of my favorite adventures, and has a gorgeous cover. (And no, that’s not me on it.) You can read the first chapter for free here! http://www.sff.net/people/Lynn.Flewelling/excerpts/casket.souls.exc.html

And you can read the whole book on May 29!

Lynn, Seregil, Thero, it’s been lovely having you all here. I know I’ll be first in line come May 29 to see what adventures you have in store for us.

Check out the rest of the Nightrunner series using the links below, and be sure to buy your copy of Casket of Souls on May 29!

Luck in the Shadows: Amazon| Goodreads

Stalking Darkness: Amazon| Goodreads

Traitor’s Moon: Amazon| Goodreads

Shadows Return: Amazon| Goodreads

The White Road: Amazon| Goodreads

Glimpses: A Collection of Nightrunner Short Stories: Amazon| Goodreads

Casket of Souls: Amazon| Goodreads

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme created at Book Journey to catalogue everything read in the past week, what you’re working on now, and what you hope to get to in the coming week.

The Past Week

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

Casket of Souls by Lynn Flewelling

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Reading Now

Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found by Sophie Blackall

The Week Ahead

Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

His Heart’s Obsession by Alex Beecroft

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Showcase Sunday

Showcase Sunday is a meme created by Vicky at Books, Biscuits, and Tea to share new book acquisitions, whether bought, gifted, received for review, borrowed, or won.

Bought

  • Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found by Sophie Blackall
  • Casket of Souls by Lynn Flewelling
  • The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
  • The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
  • Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
  • Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
  • The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June by Robin Benway
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale
  • The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg
  • Illyria by Elizabeth Hand
  • The Demon’s Covenant (signed) by Sarah Rees Brennan

For Review

  • Good Bones by Kim Fielding (from NetGalley)
  • The Encyclopedia of Me by Karen Rivers (from NetGalley)
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (from NetGalley)
  • The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abé (from NetGalley)
  • The Amber House by Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed, and Larkin Reed (from NetGalley)
  • Asher’s Invention by Coleen Kwan (from NetGalley)
  • His Heart’s Obsession by Alex Beecroft (from NetGalley)
  • Scott Pilgrim Volume 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley (from NetGalley)
  • Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills (from NetGalley)
  • Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry (from NetGalley)

Won

  • For Darkness Shows the Stars ARC by Diana Peterfreund plus tons of bookmarks (I think some giveaways might be in order) (Thanks to Diana!)

Book Beginnings on Fridays

Book Beginnings on Fridays is a meme hosted at Rose City Reader designed to feature the book you are reading right now by sharing the first few lines of the story.

Today I’m reading Casket of Souls by Lynn Flewelling.

“Seregil hadn’t been sure what to expect- or rather, he hadn’t expected

Casket of Souls by Lynn Flewelling

much.”

Words can’t describe how excited I was to awake to an email from Barnes and Noble telling me that my copy of Casket of Souls was ready and available for pick-up. I guess ordering ahead was worth it this time!

Here’s the summary, taken from Goodreads:

The Nightrunners are back in this gripping novel full of Lynn Flewelling’s trademark action, intrigue, and richly imagined characters.
 
More than the dissolute noblemen they appear to be, Alec and Seregil are skillful spies, dedicated to serving queen and country. But when they stumble across evidence of a plot pitting Queen Phoria against Princess Klia, the two Nightrunners will find their loyalties torn as never before. Even at the best of times, the royal court at Rhíminee is a serpents’ nest of intrigue, but with the war against Plenimar going badly, treason simmers just below the surface.

And that’s not all that poses a threat: A mysterious plague is spreading through the crowded streets of the city, striking young and old alike. Now, as panic mounts and the body count rises, hidden secrets emerge. And as Seregil and Alec are about to learn, conspiracies and plagues have one thing in common: The cure can be as deadly as the disease.