I am a huge fan of the awesome ladies of the Reading Glasses Podcast hosted by Maximum Fun. Every Thursday, the fantastically funny and extremely entertaining Brea Grant and Mallory O’Meara turn up on my feed with their bookish discussions, tricks and tips to improve your reading experience and recommendations for days. My TBR list is groaning from the weight. They have great guests on an amazing range of topics from how the publishing industry works, the cover design process, book awards, how to tackle genres like Horror or Non-fiction.
One of their favourite discussions is what is in someones “Bookish Wheelhouse” i.e. what aspects if mentioned in a books synopsis will make you grab it straight off the shelves. Every time the ladies ask their guests what is there wheelhouse I always think about mine and its a bout time I put those thoughts down. Warning, its going to be a long one!
Magical Incarnations of London.
I have discussed this before in detail in my previous book babble of Urban Fantasy so I wont discuss it more here but if there is magic and London I am sold.
Give me a building filled with magic and mystery and I will buy your book.
The magical library and bookshop
Give me a book that has some form of library and I am sold. There is nothing better than a good description of a library, especially if you can almost smell the books. I just find something so comforting about a library especially if it is an ancient one with towering shelves of books for the mysteries and magic to take place in. Some great examples of these are:
The Invisible library series by Genevieve Cogman – A steampunk-esque fantasy series based around a mysterious Library that sits in the interstitial space between parallel worlds and collects all the important works from all those universes. The staff are a cross between cat burglars and scholars, capturing new works for the library while also studying all they can about these parallel worlds. The library has its own language and magic system. These books also have a plethora of magical creatures that add to the mayhem facing our librarians.
The Great Library Series by Rachel Caine – This series resurrects the Great Library of Alexandria and asks what would happen if it ruled the world, keeping all the knowledge for its self, outlawing others from owning books. The first book “Ink and Bone” follows the initiation of a new recruit to the Library Jess Brightwell. However, he is a double agent previously working as a book runner in his families illegal book trading business and though various antics with fellow initiates has to decide if knowledge or life is more important.
Mr Pendumbra’s 24hr bookstore by Robin Sloan – Set in the modern world this is a contemporary with a mystical twist set in a 24 hour second hand bookshop with a strange secret. It follows a recently out of work main character that finds himself taking on the night shift in this interesting bookstore. He starts to realise very few people are buying but instead are borrowing these strange looking Tomes from an unusual section in the back of the shop prompting him to explore the mystery for himself. It combines both technology and books into a great little mystery.
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – Laini Taylor not only gives us a beautifully described mystery filled library but also a whole magical city filled with creative mythology all its own. It is so difficult to describe the beautiful lyrical descriptions that would do them justice but I would love to visit both the library and the city of Weep again and again.
There are many many more fictional libraries I could mention. Even the flesh eating ‘Vashta Nerada’ in Dr Who could keep me away from the Library Planet. There are also those books whom feature real libraries turning their own magic up to 11. For example, the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovich contains so many libraries including the fictional Mundane and Magical libraries of the Folly as well as a free audio story set in the British library and many mentions of a secret magical department of the Bodleian library of Oxford. The Bodleian is also central in A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness adding even more to the magic.
The Magical or mysterious School
Anyone who loves libraries must want to visit the Hogwarts library from Harry Potter. The description of the school library in Truly Devious by Maureen Johnston is magical. Both of these schools are at opposite ends of the spectrum but both have their own magic.
For Hogwarts that magic is literal, I cant resist a book with people learning magic and this is by far the go to example of a magical school. This really needs no discussion and its magic is clear to most. Also from my youth was The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy very similar to Hogwarts but aimed at a younger audience it also makes you want to grab your cauldron and your cat and get studying.
Truly Devious on the other hand contains no magic but Ellignham Academy is the centre of a magnificent mystery that occurs in the corners of this isolated and unusual school. i have recently reviewed Truly Devious with a larger description of this wonderful institution.
Magical Circuses and Games
This has to be one of my most read Wheelhouses. Give me a book set in a circus and I am delighted and a magical duel or battle of wits and i will happily fill my shelves. Starting with Magical Circuses, they seem to have evolved into a genre all of their own.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – This has to be one of my favourite books, It is just filled with wonderful world-building that gives you the complete description of all the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of this circus. The visuals it creates are stunning with the description of the completely black and white circus with the hints of red worn by its devoted patrons creates a surreal beautiful atmosphere. The book focuses mainly on the description of the circus which is truly the books main character, it is not wholly filled with plot but to me that doesn’t matter. The story itself is also a magical duel with the circus as the battlefield with each magical creation adding to the circus itself. If you want to be absorbed by a mystical world this is the book for you.
Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody – This was one of my favourite books of 2017, although not originally on my radar. I received it in the Fairyloot subscription box as a present from my husband and it was an amazing surprise. This book is a Murder mystery that takes place in the magic filled travelling circus/city of Gomorrah. The focuses on the inhabitants of the Freak-show, a magically created family who should be impervious to death. Again like the night circus this book is so atmospheric that I swear I could smell the smoke that wreaths the city. It just makes you want to explore the tents and market stalls, loosing hours in amongst the inhabitants and their shows. It is dark and delicious as well as a little heartbreaking.
Pantomime by Laura Lam – This is a true run away with the circus book. more focused on the characters than the previous books mentioned, instead of the magical circus it is a found family and home for our runway main character as they deal with all the issues that face them. Our main character is intersex being raised as a girl by their well to do parents but when finding out they mean to make this a permanent situation surgically without their knowledge our MC runs away with the circus. The circus allows them to explore their male side, romantic side establish their strength and become themselves. It is a fantastically emotional and different coming of age story with a slightly mysterious and magical twist.
Moving from the circus to magical battles these are also aplenty on my shelves a couple of my favourites have to be:
The Crowns Game series by Evelyn Skye – I have recently just finished this duology and will be reviewing it soon so I will not say much. This book is similar to the night circus where it is a magical duel filled with beautiful description of delicate magical works as well as the sights, sounds, smells and tastes each magician creates. Set in a snowy, fantastical version of Russia it really adds to the true magic of the series.
A Gathering of Shadows by V.E Schwab – This is actually the 2nd book in the shades of magic series where our characters from the first book cross paths again, and the introduction of new characters, to really explore the magic system of the world. It is action packed and great fun with a bit of ‘Schwab Sass’ thrown in for good measure. I am re-reading it in June to annotate it so will include a more full review at some point.
We also can’t talk about Magical games without mentioning Caraval and Legendary by Stephanie Garber, my review of both will go live on Sunday!
Dark humoured Character-focused Sci-Fi
I really enjoy character driven sci-fi. I have never been one for war heavy classic sci-fi instead loving those books that have characters with a sense of humour where the story revolves around them.
Everything John Scalzi has written! Scalzi’s work basically sums up what I love in Sci-fi. From his Old Man’s War series to Lock in and Redshirts his characters feel real and human, filled with flaws. His type of humour appeals to me greatly and I often find myself bursting out laughing. A big big plus about his work for me is his Science is well researched, as a Scientist myself I cant stand badly stuck together science especially when most scientists will happily answer hypothetical and muse with you to find a scientific explanation for your imaginations. The description of the spread of Hyden’s virus in Lock In is fantastic and makes his work so much more immersive to me.
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – I grew up with this. Introduced to the radio series at a young age this set the bar for humour filled Sci-Fi that plays with words and images in a way very few have managed to emulate. It really is a masterpiece in comic writing that has never been done justice when moved to the screen. The books just added to the wordplay of the original radio scripts giving more description to the world.
A Long way to a small angry planet by Becky Chambers – This is a purely character driven novel with a diverse range of alien races and human relationships all bundled together in close quarters. the book explores the relationships between them all into a slow yet fascinating work. You fall in love with them all, though my personal favourite it Cass the quirky engineer who in my mind I have fan cast as Kirsten Vangsness (who plays Penelope Garcia in Criminal Minds).
The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – These books are unusual and fantastic. A YA series told in the most unusual format I have encountered the companion stories are told in a series of files from transcripts of CCTV camera footage to emails and text messages, audio transcripts and the musings of a very philosophical AI they are a fun filled action packed read focused on those on board the fated spaceships. The formatting of these books truly make them. Again I recently finished the 2nd, Gemina, in this series and am hoping to read the 3rd, Obsidio, in August so keep an eye out for the series review in September.
Talking Animals – with a touch of Sass
This is a recent addition to the wheelhouse and I whole blame Mogget (I know you are most likely fed up of hearing about him) from Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series. The Abhorsen series not only gives us the sheer joy that is Mogget in all his catty sassy glory but we are treated to the despicable dog who has its own brand of sarcasm on top of the expected doggy unconditional love. A review filled with the details of my love of Mogget is due to go live this month, if you haven’t had enough already!
A more recent discovery has been Spellslinger by Sebastian de Castell. This book treats us to a pull no punches, take no prisoners Squirrel Cat named Reichis, who adds a humorous note to the book. Check out my review on Friday to learn more.
Wow! that was a lot longer than I anticipated. Well done for getting all the way to the end.
What is in your Wheelhouse? Do you have any in common with me?
Do you know any books that you think fit in my Wheelhouse that i have missed?