My Desert Island Reads!

Posted 12th May 2021 by Sia in Blogathons, Lists / 4 Comments

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I remember Desert Island Discs from when I lived in London, so when Imyril over at There’s Always Room for One More adapted the premise for Desert Island Reads??? I pounced on it!

The Rules

Wyrd & Wonder castaways are permitted

  • Eight books or audiobooks
  • A podcast, TV show or movie
  • One ‘luxury’ item you just can’t do without
  • Medication etc have thoughtfully washed up on shore with you!

Even if this weren’t Wyrd & Wonder, I feel pretty confident in saying that all my Desert Island reads would be fantasy books! Although some kind of survivalist guide would probably be more practical…

Anyway, although we are not allowed a stocked-up ereader, I am going to fill this out as if I had an almost-empty ereader, as my fibromyalgia means I can’t physically handle paperbacks. And since this is a happily idealised version of being castaways where we get to keep our meds, I’m assuming I get to cater for disability too.

The Reads

This was NOT EASY. It’s not just about favourites – although I’d have a seriously hard time trying to decide what my eight favourite books are! But I have many favourites that I would not want with me on a desert island. I don’t want anything too grim or depressing – these books have to be seriously escapist. And ideally, I’d like books that are massive tomes – I’m going to be doing a lot of rereading while I await rescue, I don’t want some 300 page book that’s over and done with in a flash. These have got to be books that give me plenty to think about, with layers to them.

And they have to be good enough to hold my attention even if I’m feeling quite miserable about being on a desert island!

In the Night Garden (The Orphan's Tales, #1) by Catherynne M. Valente, Michael Wm. Kaluta
Genres: Fantasy
ISBN: 0553384031

A Book of Wonders for Grown-Up Readers

Every once in a great while a book comes along that reminds us of the magic spell that stories can cast over us to dazzle, entertain, and enlighten. Welcome to the Arabian Nights for our time a lush and fantastical epic guaranteed to spirit you away from the very first page.

Secreted away in a garden, a lonely girl spins stories to warm a curious prince: peculiar feats and unspeakable fates that loop through each other and back again to meet in the tapestry of her voice. Inked on her eyelids, each twisting, tattooed tale is a piece in the puzzle of the girl's own hidden history.

And what tales she tells! Tales of shape-shifting witches and wild horsewomen, heron kings and beast princesses, snake gods, dog monks, and living stars each story more strange and fantastic than the one that came before. From ill-tempered mermaid to fastidious Beast, nothing is ever quite what it seems in these ever-shifting tales even, and especially, their teller.

Adorned with illustrations by the legendary Michael Kaluta, Valente's enchanting lyrical fantasy offers a breathtaking reinvention of the untold myths and dark fairy tales that shape our dreams. And just when you think you've come to the end, you realize the adventure has only begun.

In the Cities of Coin and Spice (The Orphan's Tales, #2) by Catherynne M. Valente, Michael Wm. Kaluta
Genres: Fantasy
ISBN: 055338404X

Catherynne M. Valente enchanted readers with her spellbinding In the Night Garden. Now she continues to weave her storytelling magic in a new book of Orphan’s Tales—an epic of the fantastic and the exotic, the monstrous and mysterious, that will transport you far away from the everyday….

Her name and origins are unknown, but the endless tales inked upon this orphan’s eyelids weave a spell over all who listen to her read her secret history. And who can resist the stories she tells? From the Lake of the Dead and the City of Marrow to the artists who remain behind in a ghost city of spice, here are stories of hedgehog warriors and winged skeletons, loyal leopards and sparrow calligraphers. Nothing is too fantastic, anything can happen, but you’ll never guess what comes next in these intimately linked adventures of firebirds and djinn, singing manticores, mutilated unicorns, and women made entirely of glass and gears. Graced with the magical illustrations of Michael Kaluta, In the Cities of Coins and Spice is a book of dreams and wonders unlike any you’ve ever encountered. Open it anywhere and you will fall under its spell. For here the story never ends and the magic is only beginning….

I almost feel like this is cheating, because the Orphan Tales duet is really a thousand different stories all twined together. You could reread these forever and always discover something new – and Valente’s prose is just so beautiful! To say nothing of her imagination. I will never know how she dreams all of this up, but I’ll never stop enjoying it, either!

Kushiel’s Legacy: (Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen, Kushiel's Avatar) by Jacqueline Carey
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Epic Fantasy
Representation: Bisexual MC, bisexual love interest, queernorm world
ISBN: 076539653X

The first trilogy in Jacqueline Carey's sprawling—and darkly sensual—New York Times bestselling series.

The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassed beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good...and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt. Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a tale of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies.

Kushiel’s Dart
— Phèdre nó Delaunay is sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with a very special mission...and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Kushiel’s Chosen
— The hands of the gods weigh heavily upon Phèdre's brow, and they are not finished with her. While the young queen who sits upon the throne is well loved by the people, there are those who believe another should wear the crown...

Kushiel’s Avatar
— Phèdre and Joscelin journey on a dangerous path that will carry them to fabled courts and splendid vistas, to distant lands where madness reigns and souls are currency, and down a fabled river to a land forgotten by most of the world. And to a power so mighty that none dare speak its name.

Listen, I am absolutely taking the advantage of ebook omnibuses, okay? And all three books of the first Kushiel trilogy? That’s a no-brainer.

The Touchstone Trilogy by Andrea K. Höst
Genres: Science Fantasy

The complete Touchstone Trilogy, containing "Stray", "Lab Rat One" and "Caszandra". Rescue is only the beginning...

On her last day of high school, Cassandra Devlin walked out of exams and into a forest. Surrounded by the wrong sort of trees, and animals never featured in any nature documentary, Cass is only sure of one thing: alone, she will be lucky to survive.

The sprawl of abandoned blockish buildings Cass discovers offers her only more puzzles. Where are the people? What is the intoxicating mist which drifts off the buildings in the moonlight? And why does she feel like she's being watched?

Increasingly unnerved, Cass is overjoyed at the arrival of the formidable Setari. Whisked to a world as technologically advanced as the first was primitive, where nanotech computers are grown inside people's skulls, and few have any interest in venturing outside the enormous whitestone cities, Cass finds herself processed as a 'stray', a refugee displaced by the gates torn between worlds. Struggling with an unfamiliar language and culture, she must adapt to virtual classrooms, friends who can teleport, and the ingrained attitude that strays are backward and slow.

Can Cass ever find her way home? And after the people of her new world discover her unexpected value, will they be willing to let her leave?

The Touchstone trilogy is one of my favourites, but more to the point, Cass also ends up lost and very, very far from home. If I were stuck on a desert island, reading Cass’ adventures would make me grateful for how easy I had it, and also help keep my hopes up – if Cass can be rescued, so can I!

(And yes, it’s very sci-fi, but it’s Science Fantasy, I promise.)

The Last Sun (The Tarot Sequence, #1) by K.D. Edwards
Genres: Queer Protagonists
Representation: Gay MC, M/M or mlm, queernorm world
ISBN: 1633884236

Rune Saint John, last child of the fallen Sun Court, is hired to search for Lady Judgment's missing son, Addam, on New Atlantis, the island city where the Atlanteans moved after ordinary humans destroyed their original home.

With his companion and bodyguard, Brand, he questions Addam's relatives and business contacts through the highest ranks of the nobles of New Atlantis. But as they investigate, they uncover more than a missing man: a legendary creature connected to the secret of the massacre of Rune's Court. In looking for Addam, can Rune find the truth behind his family's death and the torments of his past?

The Hanged Man (The Tarot Sequence, #2) by K.D. Edwards
Genres: Queer Protagonists
Representation: Gay MC, M/M or mlm, queernorm world
ISBN: 1633884929

The last member of a murdered House tries to protect his ward from forced marriage to a monster while uncovering clues to his own tortured past. The Tarot Sequence imagines a modern-day Atlantis off the coast of Massachusetts, governed by powerful Courts based on the traditional Tarot deck. Rune Saint John, last child of the fallen Sun Throne, is backed into a fight of high court magic and political appetites in a desperate bid to protect his ward, Max, from a forced marital alliance with the Hanged Man. Rune's resistance will take him to the island's dankest corners, including a red light district made of moored ghost ships; a surreal skyscraper farm; and the floor of the ruling Convocation, where a gathering of Arcana will change Rune's life forever.

I know I said no 300-ish page books, but these are the exception – I can analyse the hell out of every tiny detail and they always end up meaning something. Maybe by the time I’m rescued, I’ll have figured out the plot of book 3! And besides… I just love these books. I’m willing to trade two spots on my list for Rune, Brand, Addam, and their kids!

Okay, that’s my rereads handled, but I’m definitely going to need something new to read too!

City of Refuge by Starhawk, Jessica Perlstein, Diane Rigoli
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Queer MCs of colour, queernorm world
ISBN: 0996959505

Every city needs three things: a plaza, a hearth, and a sacred tree... In the violent, desperate world of 2048, eco-catastrophes and societal breakdown have left the country splintered. Yet amidst the ruins stands a green and flourishing city where four things are sacred--Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. When the ruthless Stewards of the Southlands invade, the people of Califia defeat them using nonviolence and magic. But they'll be back, unless the northerners can liberate the Southlands first. Healer Madrone struggles to repair the wounds of war and deprivation. Soldier/defector River leads an Army of Liberation to the south. Bird, musician turned guerrilla, longs to return to the fight, but now he's pledged to deeper powers. How can they build a new world when people are so deeply wounded by the old? Madrone has a dream... Build a city of refuge in the heartland of the enemy.

City of Refuge is the sequel to my beloved The Fifth Sacred Thing (which I’m determined to review before Wyrd & Wonder ends this year!) It looks good and long, so hopefully it would keep me busy for a while!

Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists, Science Fantasy
Representation: Trans MCs of colour
ISBN: 1250789060

Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in this defiantly joyful adventure set in California's San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts.

Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six.

When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka's ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She's found her final candidate.

But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn't have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan's kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul's worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline.

As the lives of these three women become entangled by chance and fate, a story of magic, identity, curses, and hope begins, and a family worth crossing the universe for is found.

Now I’m just flagrantly cheating, I know, but I’m using my final spot on my arc of Light From Uncommon Stars, please! A cross between The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and Good Omens? Sounds like exactly what I’ll need to keep my spirits up while I’m stranded on this island!

TV, Movie, or Podcast

Well, I don’t listen to podcasts – I’d like to, but audio-anything is for when I’m travelling, and I don’t even commute now that I work from home – so it’s going to have to be a TV show or a film. Hmm.

I guess since Sense8 is sci fi more than fantasy, I’ll take Motherland: Fort Salem, please! I wrote about this show for last year’s Wyrd & Wonder, and I stand by my love for it. (Also, the next season is out in June, just in time for Pride Month! Just saying.)

My ‘Can’t Do Without’

Since our meds etc are already covered, and I’m not allowed my fully-stocked ereader (*weeps*) I guess my luxury item would be…hmm…how about a tablet+stylus I can write with??? No apps or internet access or anything, but I can’t write on paper (fibro again). A desert island might be just the thing I need to get some of these story ideas out of my head and into text… Although I guess it would need to be a solar-powered rechargable thing, since I don’t think I’m getting electricity on a desert island!

That’s me done! I’m going to go read everyone else’s answers now – this was fun!

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4 responses to “My Desert Island Reads!

  1. Orphan’s Tales and Touchstone Trilogy are awesome, all on board with taking them to the desert island! And while I did like Kushiel’s Legacy series, I did find them a bit melo-/ over- dramatic, so maybe not those. I’m curious about Light from Uncommon Stars though!

    • !!! YOU KNOW TOUCHSTONE??? I’ve never run into anyone else who’s read them! Have you gotten to the sequels???

      I’m enjoying Light From Uncommon Stars a lot so far, but I’m reading it very slowly to make it last. Pretty sure my review will be glowing by the end of it, though!

      • Wow, I’m looking forward to your review of Light then. And it’s such a pity that Andrea Host is not better known, she used to be one of the fewer female authors writing SFF in those earlier days. I haven’t read all of her books/ sequels — I liked And All the Stars a lot, and that led me to Stray.

        • It is honestly criminal that all her books aren’t bestsellers! And All the Stars is wonderful.

          But there are a couple of sequels to Touchstone – Gratuitous Epilogue, which is just sweet, and then In Arcadia, which is about the life Cas’ mum makes for herself after the trilogy. Also very sweet and lovely!

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