Posts by: Nikki


Review – Waking Gods

Posted 2 June, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Waking Gods by Sylvain NeuvelWaking Gods, Sylvain Neuvel

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date was 6th April 2017

Wow. Sylvain Neuvel isn’t messing around. Waking Gods is the follow-up to Sleeping Giants, and it doesn’t pull punches. If you hoped that it’d end with everything being okay, well, certainly not yet. And there’s apparently more to come, if the ending of this book is any indication…

I don’t want to say too much about the plot, because it’s worth discovering it yourself. The structure is the same as in the first book, and if that annoyed you previously, then this isn’t going to be any better for you. If you found it simultaneously frustrating and intriguing, then that sensation will also pretty much persist. If you straight-up love it, well, again. The point is, the format hasn’t changed, and it’s roughly the same characters as well. However well those things worked for you in the first book is likely to be repeated.

If Mitchell could just, like, implode or something, I’d be pretty happy, I’ve gotta say.

The solution at the end of this book struck me as a bit convoluted and contrived, because of the constraints on it and the limited time to suddenly figure it out. All the same, hurrah for the character who figured it out making good.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Harrowing the Dragon

Posted 1 June, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia A. McKillipHarrowing the Dragon, Patricia A. McKillip

As you might expect from Patricia McKillip, this is a lovely collection — some of the stories are just beautiful, and her writing always is. ‘The Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath’ is a strong point, as you’d expect from the fact that the collection is named after it, and I enjoyed ‘A Matter of Music’, ‘The Stranger’ and ‘Lady of the Skulls’, too.

The lighter, more humorous ones like ‘A Troll and Two Roses’ and ‘Baba Yaga and the Sorcerer’s Son’ are still well written, but the tone doesn’t work for me. Mostly, it just doesn’t fit with the dream-like prose-poetry I expect from McKillip (and which she delivers, even with the lighter stories).

It’s a nice collection, but not a favourite by any means. It’s one of those I’ll keep because I enjoy the way McKillip writes rather than because I particularly want to revisit most of the stories. This sounds like faint praise, but McKillip’s writing really is beautiful.

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 31 May, 2017 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

The three ‘W’s are what are you reading now, what have you recently finished reading, and what are you going to read next, and you can find this week’s post here if you want to check out other posts.

Cover of Shanghai Sparrow by Gaie SeboldWhat are you currently reading?

I’ve decided to try and finish Within the Sanctuary of Wings (Marie Brennan) this evening — I’ve been putting it off, partially because I just don’t want the series to be over. I’ve also recently picked up Shanghai Sparrow (Gaie Sebold). I haven’t got very far into it; it feels kind of typical steampunky stuff, but it’s fun enough to pass the time.

I probably shouldn’t be reading this much, and instead should be swotting up on the hypothalamic-pituitary axis and the ins and outs of homeostasis, but if I close my eyes, my exams can’t see me, right?

Right?

What did you recently finish reading?

Dino Gangs (Josh Young), which is partly a biography of Phil Currie’s career and partly about his major theory: that dinosaurs were social, and tyrannosaurids in particular may have hunted as a pack. It’s a little repetitive, and honestly I’d stick to David Hone’s The Tyrannosaur Cover of Assassin's Apprentice by Robin HobbChronicles, if you’re not planning to just read everything in reach.

Before that, it was a reread of Death Before Wicket (Kerry Greenwood). Not my favourite of Phryne’s adventures, but I might actually have liked it a bit better this time than last. The mysticism stuff still makes me roll my eyes, buuuut… it’s not the first or last time that’s happened with Phryne.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m planning to read Lightning in the Blood (Marie Brennan). I’ve been looking forward to it for ages! That’s nothing but a nibble, though; after that, I think I’ll get started on my reread of Assassin’s Apprentice, since everyone else doing the reread is probably two books ahead of me by now. (Oops.)

There’s also The House of Binding Thorns (Aliette de Bodard), since my copy just arrived a day or two ago. I had a review copy on my ereader, but… sometimes I just get round to paper books better.

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Review – Where the Universe Came From

Posted 31 May, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 3 Comments

Cover of New Scientist: Where the Universe Came FromInstant Expert: Where the Universe Came From, New Scientist

These books are based on the Instant Expert events that New Scientist hosts on various topics. I’ve been to two of them (one on genetics, one on consciousness), and they’re pretty great: pitched at a level most educated people can understand, but delving a bit deeper into some of the latest events and innovations in whatever area of science they cover. They generally have a panel of experts and, honestly, some pretty good food… Anyway, so I was interested to read this one, even without the good food.

Sadly, it’s more relativity than Big Bang; it’s more worried about how to resolve the issues between quantum physics and relativity than about what we do know. That said, it’s pretty accessible and I did follow most of it, which is more than can be said for most attempts to educate me about relativity. However, it does contain repeated material from New Scientist collections and possibly also previous books; how much, I couldn’t say, since I haven’t read those exhaustively.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Sea of Rust

Posted 30 May, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Sea of Rust by C. Robert CargillSea of Rust, C. Robert Cargill

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 7th September 2017

The cover of this is gorgeous, no question, and the idea sounds pretty cool: post-apocalyptic robot Western, what’s not to love? Unfortunately, I didn’t finish this book, because it’s just too bogged down in tons and tons (and tons) of exposition via info dump. There are whole chapters where the main character, Brittle, does nothing but explain the history of her world. It’s first person narration, so to whom is she telling the story? Why wouldn’t they know?

(I credit, or curse, Lynn O’Connacht with my pickiness about first person narratives, these days. She’s the first one who really made me go, oh, right. Why is this person telling this story anyway, and to whom?)

That gripe and the exposition aside, I was also put off by the fact that at first, the robots were pretty much ungendered. Brittle didn’t seem to have a gender identity, and certainly there was nothing in the story to indicate one way or the other. (At least to a casual reader, and I’m not going back in to check.) Then all of a sudden, 20% of the way through, it turns out that robots do have gender identities, or at least there’s enough there that other robots still bother with gendered pronouns and distinctions between hes and hers.

That’s probably a very personal gripe, and it may not even have crossed the author’s mind — female robot, why not? But I just have to ask why, why would a robot cling to an outdated, human idea of gender in a post-human world?

Maybe that gets addressed later on, but I don’t have the patience to wait for it.

Rating: 1/5

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 30 May, 2017 by Nikki in General / 14 Comments

Oh dear, the theme this week is books you’re looking forward to in the second half of 2017, and I’ve no idea. But here’s some 2017 books I don’t have yet and really really want.

  1. Our Dark Duet, by V.E. Schwab. I got an ARC of the first book and read it instantly, so I have been waiting far too long now. Gimme!
  2. Shattered Minds, by Laura Lam. I have an ARC of this one and I’ve started it, but I can tell already that I’m going to want to talk about it. Get thee to a preorder, friends.
  3. The Thorn of Emberlain, by Scott Lynch. I don’t know if this is even scheduled for 2017. All I know is, I want it badly.
  4. Solutions and Other Problems, by Allie Brosh. Hyperbole and a Half is the best. Okay, Amazon says 2017, but the publisher says 2050 (i.e. delayed indefinitely). But I can dream.
  5. The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin. I should catch up with this series. The new book coming out is probably going to make sure I do.
  6. Provenance, by Ann Leckie. I didn’t even know this was coming before a week or two ago, but now I am definitely excited.
  7. The Witchwood Crown, by Tad Williams. Yessss. The original series were great epic fantasy, so I have high hopes.
  8. The Tiger’s Daughter, by K. Arsenault Rivera. This sounds awesome and has queer heroines. Gimme! (I’m making eyes at Tor on Netgalley, here; I haven’t been accepted or rejected for the ARC yet.)
  9. Taste of Marrow, by Sarah Gailey. Gimme, gimme, gimme! I loved River of Teeth a lot more than I expected.
  10. Lightning in the Blood, by Marie Brennan. Wait. This is out today

That’s me disappearing off to read, folks! But do comment and let me know what you’re looking forward to. I always try and return comments!

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Review – The Loveless Princess

Posted 29 May, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Loveless Princess by Lilian BodleyThe Loveless Princess, Lilian Bodley

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 3rd May 2017

There was a lot of potential for this to go really wrong, since it features an aromantic and asexual character in a typically heavily romance-is-your-happy-ever-after world. Princess Anette has to get married, and she’s not interested in the idea at all. It’s not the prince in particular: it’s the idea in general. She’s not interested in sex or romance at all; she doesn’t feel a lack of it in her life, she doesn’t even really feel curious about it.

But she has to get married all the same, to the son of Briar Rose, and everyone around her assures her that it’ll happen. She’ll find her happy ending with the prince.

Well, eventually she does, but not in the simple way they expect. Fortunately, she remains true to her stated identity throughout, without wavering; in that sense, the author deals with having an aro-ace character perfectly. And the setting is kind of cool, with various other fairytales popping their heads up to say hello — people are descending from a princess who could feel a pea through a hundred mattresses, witches can make jewels come out of your mouth whenever you speak, and three old spinning women have attended quite some weddings in their time as honoured guests. I liked all those references, and the way the story follows the logic of fairytales.

At times it does feel a little simplistic, but it takes a lot of work and space to build something really solid onto the fairytale base, and perhaps it’s wrong to expect it. The one thing that does feel wrong to me is that the antagonist is also aro-ace, and it motivates him to be a real ass to everyone. I get that bitterness and loneliness can really mess you up, but ugh.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Herding Hemingway’s Cats

Posted 28 May, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Herding Hemingway's Cats by Kat ArneyHerding Hemingway’s Cats, Kat Arney

I didn’t expect to get that much out of this, since it explores the subject of genetics — I read a lot about genetics, after all, and have done one or two modules focusing on it. And it’s true that the tone is very light and journalistic, quippy and light and funny, but it also has an extensive section for further reading and covers some fascinating topics I didn’t know about. The section on epigenetics was particularly interesting; I’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm for epigenetics, of course, but this was a more measured and conservative interpretation.

It’s the kind of book that left me turning to my wife and saying, “hey, did you know…?” a lot, and looking up things online (like Minoo Rassoulzadegan’s white-gloved mice). There’s a lot of complications and new things coming out about genetics, and this proved to be an excellent survey of that.

The only thing I disliked was the way the interviews were presented — almost like a dialogue in a novel, but without new paragraphs for new speakers. It made it a little difficult to follow, and I’m not all that interested in what kind of shoes the scientist in question was wearing during the interview.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Passion Play

Posted 27 May, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Passion Play, by Sean StewartPassion Play, Sean Stewart

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 14th June 2017

I wasn’t sure where this one was going, but it ended up darker than I expected. I kept waiting for something to happen, and then it got all messed around — saying it got turned on its head wouldn’t quite be true, because it made perfect sense and it was coming all along, but I wasn’t quite expecting that. It’s a powerful story, and that ending has a heck of a sting in the tail.

The whole Christian fundamentalist running the USA thing is, well, kind of close to home with someone like Mike Pence as the VP. But this is mostly not about that world; that’s just the backdrop. It’s about living in that world, and making your way if you happen to be an empath, or ‘shaper’. Diane, the main character, uses her skills to chase down criminals and bring them to justice, but she’s starting to burn out.

I don’t want to say too much about this, because it’s a mystery story and it works very well at getting under the skin, for my money. Definitely worth picking up.

Rating: 4/5

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 27 May, 2017 by Nikki in General / 26 Comments

Hi everyone! I’m back in the UK for a while, for my exams and the election and so on. I’m missing my bunnies, but I did have a lot of great books waiting for me here!

But here, have a picture of Breakfast meeting Captain America, first…

Right, now I feel better.

Received to review:

Cover of Scourge by Gail Z. Martin

I really need to read something by Gail Z. Martin. I’ve had a couple of her books on my list for a while. Oops.

Fiction books bought:

Cover of City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett Cover of False Hearts by Laura Lam Cover of The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury

Cover of A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas Cover of Caraval by Stephanie Garber Cover of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I’ve had my eye on… pretty much all of these for quite a while now. I’m still not sure about The Hate U Give — people love it so much, and recommend it a lot, but I’m not sure if it’s my thing. Still, gonna give it a try.

Non-fiction books bought:

Cover of Wonderful Life by Stephen Jay Gould Cover of Bones of Contention by Paul Chambers Cover of Evolution in Four Dimensions by Eva Jablonka Cover of How To Find A Habitable Planet by James Kasting

Cover of The Philadelphia Chromosome by Jessica Wapner Cover of One Renegade Cell by Robert Weinberg Cover of Life on the Edge by Joe Al-Khalili and Johnjoe MacFadden Cover of Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs by Lisa Randall

Quite the stack, I know! Some of these I’ve been meaning to read for ages, especially Gould’s book. I loved the exhibit on the Burgess Shale at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, but only just got round to picking up a copy of this book to go with the experience.

So yeah, plenty to keep me busy!

Books finished this week:

Cover of A New History of Life by Peter Ward Cover of The Emerald Planet by David Beerling Cover of How We Live and Why We Die by Lewis Wolpert Cover of The Worm at the Core Cover of Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Cover of River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey Cover of The Deeper Genome by John Parrington Cover of One Renegade Cell by Robert Weinberg Cover of The Ghost Line Cover of Raisins and Almonds by Kerry Greenwood

Sneak peek at ratings:
Five stars: The Emerald Planet and The Worm at the Core.
Four stars: Waking Gods, River of Teeth,  The Deeper Genome, One Renegade Cell,  The Ghost Line and Raisins and Almonds.
Three stars: A New History of Life and How We Live & Why We Die.

Reviews posted this week:

Being Human, by New Scientist. As with the other New Scientist collections, this is good if the topic interests you, and less so if it doesn’t. It does interest me! 4/5 stars
All Systems Red, by Martha Wells. Funny, but with some interesting serious touches too. I want more of the Murderbot. 4/5 stars
Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes, by Svante Pääbo. The science is fascinating, but I wasn’t always so sure about the personal details! It’s not so much about Neanderthals at all, really; just the process of extracting their genomes. 4/5 stars
The Builders, by Daniel Polansky. Redwall, but very red in tooth and claw. And other implements of destruction. 3/5 stars
The Vital Question, by Nick Lane. This is a wide-ranging book, almost impossible to summarise, but well worth reading on symbiosis, evolution, the origin of life… 4/5 stars
Sunbolt, by Intisar Khanani. Fun worldbuilding, and I definitely want to read more. ASAP. 4/5 stars
River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey. Hippos! A caper! A hero called Hero! I really enjoyed it. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer TBR. What it says on the tin.
WWW Wednesday. The usual Wednesday update.

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