Posts by: Nikki

Review – Dangerous Women (Part III)

Posted 19 May, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Dangerous Women ed. G.R.R. MartinDangerous Women, ed. Gardner Dozois & G.R.R. Martin

Overall, the whole collection is pretty disappointing to me. The stories might fit the theme of ‘dangerous women’ on a technicality, but few of them feel genuinely dangerous. Usually the twist is that, surprise! She’s not a good girl after all! Righto.

‘Some Desperado’, by Joe Abercrombie — One of the better ones in the collection. The main character is, indeed, a desperado, and things don’t go too well for her — but she defends herself and keeps on running.

‘City Lazarus’, by Diana Rowland — I’ve kind of avoided Rowland’s work since I saw her on a panel at a con and all she did was sell her work, and this didn’t really change my mind. The writing is okay, but lord, the set-up is so typical and the twist so obvious.

‘Hell Hath No Fury’, by Sherrilyn Kenyon — The title doesn’t even make sense, since the ‘woman scorned’ is actually driven out of a village she helped to found, not just scorned. She lays a curse on the land, people with cameras come in long after and try to film a paranormal exposé, she rips ’em to shreds. Yawn. Isn’t this an episode of Supernatural?

‘The Hands That Are Not There’, by Melinda Snodgrass — For a female author, wow does she cater to the male gaze. I didn’t get through the bar scene.

‘Caretakers’, by Pat Cadigan — This kind of… fizzled, for me. It was slow and it took a long time to get where it was going, and once it got there, it wasn’t such a shock at all.

‘Nora’s Song’, by Cecelia Holland — It’s Eleanor of Aquitane, it should be completely badass. Didn’t work for me, though.

‘Bombshells’, by Jim Butcher — Skipped entirely, with a side-eye at the spoiler for the Dresden Files in the intro. I get that it’s been out a long time, but maaaan.

Rating: 2/5

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Review – Killing Gravity

Posted 18 May, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Killing Gravity by Corey J. WhiteKilling Gravity, Corey J. White

Received to review via Netgalleypublication date was 9th May 2017

Basically: take River Tam, give her telekinesis, take away Simon Tam and the crew of Serenity, and send her off on her own. More or less. That’s what the main character, Mars, is like, except maybe a bit more mentally stable. Mostly.

I found this a lot of fun, and I’ll definitely read more in the same world. I’m a little disappointed about where it cut off, because I really wanted to see a particular character home safe — but at least it offers the promise of more of these characters. Squid and their chromatophores — and their casual gender neutral identity — particularly fascinate me: I want to see a lot more of them. And I want to see more of Seven… sort of. (It’s complicated.)

It’s a little bit Firefly, a little bit The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, a little bit witches in space.

Works for me.

Rating: 4/5

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 17 May, 2017 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

Cover of Sunbolt by Intisar KhananiWhat have you recently finished reading?

Words and Rules, by Steven Pinker, which had a lot of overlap with his other book, The Language Instinct. Interesting stuff, but mostly I let it wash over me unless he’s talking about brain structures, which is more my field. Once that was finished, I also promptly read Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani, all in one go. Fun, but the last half of it reminded me so much of Robin McKinley’s Sunshine that I’m tempted to revisit that now…Cover of New Scientist: How Your Brain Works

Oh, and then later today I finished up reading Sean Stewart’s Passion Play, which was powerful and disturbing and I need to sit with it a bit longer.

What are you currently reading?

The New Scientist Instant Expert book on the human brain. My kinda thing, obviously, so I’ll probably enjoy it, though it’s more basic than I might hope.

What will you read next?

Goodness knows. Whatever comes up next on my Kindle when I can’t sleep, probably!

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Review – Medical Frontiers

Posted 17 May, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Medical Frontiers by New ScientistMedical Frontiers, New Scientist

This is a bit different to the other New Scientist collections, in that it’s focused on the practical applications of science in one particular arena: medicine. I found it a fascinating look at medical technologies and theories, and how they might change healthcare. It’s the usual suspects, of course: stem cells, etc — and it touches on some of the past advances in transplantation, antibiotics and other drugs…

So it’s not quite the scale of relativity or dark matter, but to me it’s all the more fascinating for being relatable to everyday life. Like the other New Scientist collections, it’s a good way to catch up to and collect a bunch of articles on the topic.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Pinks

Posted 16 May, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Pinks by Chris EnssThe Pinks, Chris Enss

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 1st July 2017

I didn’t know much about the Pinkerton agency, other than that they were detectives. I didn’t know they protected President Lincoln and involved themselves in the events of the Civil War — that they worked as spies for the Union. I had no idea about the theatrical and psychological methods they used… and I didn’t know that Pinkerton employed women, before women were regularly employed, and considered them important and indispensable operatives. This book delves into all of that by presenting little case histories of various capers the women were involved in. I say capers because some of them really do seem like that.

It’s a little odd that the blurb mentions Kate Warne, the first woman employed by Pinkerton’s, in the context of an affair with Allan Pinkerton. Unless I somehow skipped a chapter, there’s no such evidence presented in this book. Likewise, it’s a little odd — and sexist — that the men are referred to by their surnames, while women are referred to either by their full names or, more commonly, by their first names. It seems disrespectful to treat them differently than the men.

Otherwise, this is very readable and undoubtedly interesting. I kind of want a whole stack of novels about Kate Warne, now.

Rating: 4/5

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 16 May, 2017 by Nikki in General / 20 Comments

This week is an [International] Mother’s Day freebie. Now the UK Mother’s Day was quite a while ago, but never mind. The thing with me and my mum is that we’ve always shared books, ever since I finally learnt to read — I went from children’s books to her shelves within a year or two. Rare is the letter or conversation that doesn’t involve books somehow, so here are ten books I’d like my mother to read already.

Cover of My Real Children by Jo Walton Cover of City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett Cover of A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan Cover of Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang Cover of Behind the Shock Machine by Gina Perry

  1. My Real Children, by Jo Walton. You might cry, Mum, sorry. Motherhood is quite important in this one, and it also handles dementia and how it effects families.
  2. City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett. I’m sorry I took my copy back; I’ll get you the ebook or something. It’s a great series, and it’s finished now, too!
  3. A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan. I think you’d enjoy this Victorian pastiche. It’s not as heavy-going as something like Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and the lead character is a lot of fun. Plus, dragons!
  4. Stories of Your Life and Others, by Ted Chiang. Mostly for ‘Stories of Your Life’, which the movie Arrival was based on. (I think you’d like the movie, too.) Warning, this will almost definitely make you cry, knowing you.
  5. Behind the Shock Machine, by Gina Perry. I’ve bought you this, so you have no excuse! It’s a fascinating exploration of Stanley Milgram’s experiments and conclusions, and very relevant to about two dozen conversations we’ve had in the last few years.
  6. Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Mostly to find out if you do enjoy it. I’ve been on the fence for years about whether you will. I think it’s very clever and very funny.
  7. The Carpet Makers, by Andreas Eschbach. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this one to you, but it’s a fascinating set of linked short stories. I have a copy, but I’m not sure if Lisa will let me lend it to you indefinitely. Maybe I’ll get you a copy.
  8. Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie. Rereading it recently, I enjoyed it a lot. People have emphasised the gender aspects of it, but there’s also a fascinating story about AI and individuality.
  9. The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin. I haven’t got round to reading it either, but we really should.
  10. Children of Earth and Sky, by Guy Gavriel Kay. We have the same opinions on most of his books, so you can tell me if I should be shuffling this to the front of my list instead of letting it languish!

Cover of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett Cover of The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach Cover of Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie Cover of The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin Cover of Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay

And for those who are not my mother, well, those are all good books anyway.

I love the kind of mother-child relationship I have with my mother, where we can discuss books and psychology experiments and space opera and the accuracy of portrayals of mental illness in books, and just about everything else under the sun. She always treated me as an adult in terms of my formed opinions, and that has undoubtedly enriched our relationship and conversation options greatly. I can recommend it as a mode of parenting pretty unreservedly.

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Review – Dangerous Women (Part II)

Posted 15 May, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Dangerous Women ed. G.R.R. MartinDangerous Women: Part II, ed. George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

This volume had more fantasy/SF than the first one, with just one story that wasn’t — and that was historical fiction, which often has the same sort of social structures and so on, and thus feels somewhat akin to fantasy. It’s a bit of a stronger collection than the first part, to my mind; I enjoyed it a bit more.

‘Neighbours’, by Megan Lindholm — Quite fun; I kinda called it before the end, but it still worked. I found the stuff with the elderly woman and her kids a bit harrowing, honestly; the trouble is, when someone gets to that point where everything seems to be going wrong, they’re no longer making clear decisions… what do you do? The kids in this book didn’t handle it great, of course, but they’re not wrong that at some point you need to take responsibility.

‘The Girl in the Mirror’, by Lev Grossman — I hoped this was unrelated to The Magicians and its sequels; I didn’t enjoy the first book that much, and didn’t read the others. Unfortunately it was, and given that Quentin appeared, I’m guessing it had some relevance to those stories? Eh.

‘A Queen in Exile’, by Sharon Kay Penman — Felt a little bit like a summary or a historical biography at times, but I enjoyed it; it’s nice to see a dangerous woman of history celebrated.

‘Pronouncing Doom’, by S.M. Stirling — Honestly… I get that modern Wicca is a thing, but the tangle of Irish words and Welsh mythology and modern Earth Mother stuff left me pretty cold.

‘Lies My Mother Told Me’, by Caroline Spector — This is from G.R.R. Martin’s Wildcards ‘verse, if I’m not mistaken; it’s pretty clear what’s going on, even if you haven’t read those. I liked it; weird powers and all.

‘Name the Beast’, by Sam Sykes — I’m… honestly not sure what was going on through half of this. Not a fan.

I didn’t read ‘Virgins’, by Diana Gabaldon; it’s set in her Outlander world, in which I have no interest.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Down Among the Sticks and Bones

Posted 14 May, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuireDown Among the Sticks and Bones, Seanan McGuire

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 13th June 2017

I was really looking forward to reading this, having loved the first novella, but I was a bit unsure about the fact that it focused on Jack and Jill. To me, their story was as important to Every Heart A Doorway as Nancy’s, and it was more or less resolved as well — not like, for example, Kade or, since Kade is so sure his story is over, Christopher. There was more to say about them, and I wasn’t sure there was more to say about Jack and Jill. And… in the end, I don’t think there was much more we couldn’t have gleaned already from Every Heart. It’s not a story that I felt cried out to be told: the contradictions of Jack and Jill’s relationship were maybe better for not being elucidated.

That being said, Down Among the Sticks and Bones is still entertaining and does provide more detail on the twins’ background and the world they visited. It’s especially nice to see more of Jack and learn about her girlfriend — and to wince along with her issues with germs and dirt, which hit home for me even though the origin of the phobia is different. It’s lovely seeing the way Jack’s girlfriend deals with the issues of dating someone with such intense phobias (even if part of me is shouting “but that’s the way to make your phobia worse, not better!”).

Again, the ending didn’t particularly surprise me, even the aspect that wasn’t explicitly referred to in Every Heart a Doorway. Overall, it’s enjoyable, but I don’t love it the way I do Every Heart.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Relativity: Einstein’s Mind-Bending Universe

Posted 13 May, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Relativity; Einstein's Mind-bending Universe by New ScientistRelativity: Einstein’s Mind-Bending Universe, New Scientist


That sound? Oh, that was just most of this collection going over my head. It’s still good for the same reasons as the other New Scientist collections: it collects articles and features on a theme into one slightly more durable collection, so you don’t have to keep every issue of the magazine ever that contained stuff that really interests you.

Unfortunately for me, this is physics. A lot of the time I’ll understand perfectly while reading it, but I couldn’t explain it to someone else. Some of the time I won’t understand at all, and I’ll just skim past the words. Despite the assurances of the New Scientist employee who sold me this, I’m squarely in the latter territory for large stretches of this. It’s probably great if you understand physics and are really interested in putting in the time to understand it. I’m… not, really.

It’s an interesting collection, worthy topic, yada yada. I’m glad I had a crack at reading it. But… nope. Not for me.

Rating: 3/5

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 13 May, 2017 by Nikki in General / 18 Comments

A good week! But deadline crunch time is approaching…

Books bought

Cover of Saga volume 7 Cover of Ruined by Amy Tintera

I forgot to include Saga a couple of weeks back — my wife bought me it on a whim. Yay wives! And I bought Ruined when it finally came in at Fnac, after Cait @ Paper Fury‘s review aaaages ago.

Received to review

Cover of The Beautiful Ones by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia Cover of An Oath of Dogs by Wendy Wagner Cover of Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill Cover of Dark Exodus by Thomas E. Sniegoski

A nice haul, though apparently Dark Exodus is a sequel, so I need to get on with reading the first book.

Books finished this week:

Cover of Dangerous Women ed. G.R.R. Martin Cover of Reinventing Darwin by Niles Eldredge Cover of Herding Hemingway's Cats by Kat Arney Cover of The Pinks by Chris Enss

Cover of Killing Gravity by Corey J. White Cover of All Systems Red by Martha Wells Cover of The Builders by Daniel Polansky

Four stars to: Herding Hemingway’s Cats, The Pinks, Killing Gravity, All Systems Red and The Builders.
Three stars to: Reinventing Darwin.
Two stars to: Dangerous Women (Part III).

Reviews posted this week:

Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie. This was the kind of reread that makes you appreciate a book even more. I enjoyed it the first time, but this time I was less distracted by the gender stuff and more focused on the story — which is darn good. 5/5 stars
Radiance, by Catherynne M. Valente. I didn’t expect to love this. I find Valente’s writing beautiful, but opaque. But for some reason, this grabbed hold of me — and kept a firm grip to the end. 4/5 stars
Other Minds, by Peter Godfrey-Smith. Fascinating account of octopuses, part scientific, part philosophical. 4/5 stars
The Bone Palace, by Amanda Downum. A stronger book than the first one, partly because it contains a character I can’t help but adore. Savedra steals this book entirely; the more time the narrative spent with her, the happier I was. 4/5 stars
Virolution, by Frank Ryan. Could use being a lot more tightly focused. Most of it doesn’t seem directly connected to viruses at all. Interesting stuff about symbiosis and epigenetics, though. 3/5 stars
Dangerous Women: Part I, ed. Gardner Dozois and George R.R. Martin. Some entertaining stories, but honestly, I found it remarkably weak for an anthology edited by such big names. 3/5 stars
Reinventing Darwin, by Niles Eldredge. Apart from some stylistic tics that drove me round the bed — “we naturalists” would have received some serious red pen from me — I don’t disagree with the scientific theories presented here. 3/5 stars

Other posts:

Top Ten Tuesday: Gimme More… A bunch of things I’d like to see more of in fiction.
What are you reading “Wednesday”. The weekly update. On “Wednesday”, also known as Thursday.

How’s everyone? Any exciting new books on your stacks?

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