Posts by: Nikki

Stacking the Shelves

Posted 18 February, 2017 by Nikki in General / 18 Comments

Happy Saturday! It’s been a busy week around here, and I should probably be in the digital lab right now, looking at sections of rat tissue. But hey, books!

How’ve you all been?

Received to review:

Cover of Chalk by Paul Cornell Cover of Brother's Ruin by Emma Newman Cover of Agents of Dreamland by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Yay, thank you, Tor!

Finished this week:

Cover of Britain BC by Francis Pryor Cover of Britain AD by Francis Pryor Cover of Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages Cover of This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart

Sneak peek at ratings:

4 stars to… Britain BC and Wicked Wonders.
3 stars to… This Rough Magic.
2 stars to… Britain AD.

Reviews posted this week:

Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates, by Kerry Greenwood. A reread, again already? Yep. And it remains a lot of fun — I don’t know why I didn’t enjoy it the first time. 4/5 stars
The Prince of the Moon, by Megan Derr. A sweet queer fairytale, though a little rushed for my taste. 3/5 stars
The Celtic Revolution, by Simon Young. Interesting history, but where it touched on Arthuriana it rather annoyed me, alas. 3/5 stars
Monstress, by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda. Beautiful artwork, but I kept losing track of the story. 3/5 stars
Flying Too High, by Kerry Greenwood. Gotta love all the references to other detectives which, for some reason, I’m only just picking up now. Hurrah Phryne! 4/5 stars
Miranda and Caliban, by Jacqueline Carey. As beautiful as you would expect coming from Carey, and as heartbreaking. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Why haven’t you read ____ yet? The short answer is: I’m terrible. Sorry.
Top Ten Tuesday: Couples That Weren’t. Literary couples I was really rooting for, or who I didn’t get enough of.
What are you reading Wednesday. The usual status update.

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Review – Miranda and Caliban

Posted 17 February, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline CareyMiranda and Caliban, Jacqueline Carey

Received to review via Netgalley; release date 14th February 2017

I’ll probably give anything by Jacqueline Carey a chance. I’m not a huge Shakespeare fan, and I wasn’t really sure if I’d like something retelling The Tempest. But it’s Jacqueline Carey’s work, so I requested it anyway. And… I loved it quite a bit. I wasn’t sure about the narration: honestly, Miranda sounded rather like Phèdre in many ways, and far too mature considering the narration is present tense, even when she’s a small child. I wasn’t sure about Caliban’s narration either, because I’m not a fan of broken English portrayed in fiction — it quite often comes out sounding like mockery.

But all the same, the writing has grace to it, and it’s certainly easy to read and absorb, despite the tendency to thee and thou. (I wish Ariel didn’t say “Oh, la!” like he was from Pride and Prejudice or something, though. It always sounds far too comical for me.)

The relationship between Miranda and Caliban, their tenderness for each other as each helps the other, is well done. The portrayal of Prospero as a somewhat abusive father who sometimes nonetheless shows tenderness for his daughter makes perfect sense, and so does the way his behaviour pushes the two together. Ariel’s capriciousness and ambivalence works, too.

The only problem, really, is that you know how it’s going to end. I found myself hoping all the same that it would end differently — it’s a retelling, after all. But at the same time, there’s always that sense of inevitability: you know what’s going to happen. I don’t think there’s anything revolutionary about this telling, but it humanises Caliban and makes of him much less of a monster, and more of a lover. The ending gave me a lump in my throat: his hope, despite Ariel’s warnings, despite Miranda’s doubts. It’s so tender and naive.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Flying Too High

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

Cover of Flying Too High by Kerry GreenwoodFlying Too High, Kerry Greenwood

I can’t believe I didn’t notice, first time round, that Phryne manages to move into house number 221… and then adds a B. I love the little references to other detectives — like the Megatherium Trust, for example (a reference to Sayers). Phryne, I love your wit. Or is that Greenwood?

Anyway. Flying Too High is another fun instalment, which I enjoyed rereading. I love that Phryne can fly a plane and that it’s a part of several later stories, and I love the women that come into her story being awesome in their own ways. Dr MacMillan, in the first book, and in this book, Bunji Ross. One’s a female doctor, the other’s one of the most daring fliers in the area. Just gotta love it.

Not all of Phryne’s found family has joined her yet, by this book, and so it’s missing a few of the domestic comforts I love. But it does have Mr and Mrs Butler, who are just perfect. And I adore the loving way Phryne’s clothes and food are all described. She’s so unashamedly feminine, and so unashamed of enjoying the good things in life.

Rating: 4/5

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 15 February, 2017 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?

Francis Pryor’s Britain AD, with which I had a lot of arguments. I don’t dispute his understanding of archaeology, but I’m not sure about his grasp of linguistics, genetics or literature, which unfortunately come into this somewhat and appear to counter some of his theories. But I have a whooole post on that coming in… uh, April. So I’ll stop now.

What are you currently reading?

I’m still reading Ellen Klages’ Wicked Wonders, rereading Tad Williams’ The Dragonbone Chair, and I’ve started on On the Origin of Species — Darwin, of course. It’s a little slow going, but as a biologist in the making, I feel like I really should read it — and he argued his case very, very well. I’ve also still got The Stars are Legion…

What are you planning to read next?

I’m trying not to plan what to read next! I need to get some of the books I’m already reading squared away. I’m going to focus on Wicked Wonders next, I think.

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Review – Monstress

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

Cover of Monstress by Marjorie M. LiuMonstress, Marjorie M. Liu, Sana Takeda

Monstress is definitely a beautiful book. Takeda’s work makes it worth reading just for the sake of looking at it, though I could’ve done with some brighter colour palettes in places. As it was, the tone felt consistently… subdued, dulled.

Unfortunately, the story itself… there’s a lot of interesting stuff there, and in a book about a ‘monstress’, you’d expect some exploration of monstrosity. (And, no surprises, it’s not always the literal monsters who act in a monstrous way.) Buuut, there’s also a lot of world-building to keep up with, and I didn’t follow it very well. I’m fully aware that a lot of that might be because I’m just not that good at reading comics. This book has such a rich background and history that there’s a lot to keep track of. Add that to following the action, and I definitely needed the semi-regular info dumps at the ends/beginnings of issues. (Though those felt a little clumsy.)

Character design is really cute and it looks gorgeous, but I’m not invested. I’m not sure what I was meant to get invested in. I feel like I missed half the story.

Rating: 3/5

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 14 February, 2017 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

Repost! Since for some reason, WordPress ate the first version.

It’s February 14th, which means it’s Valentine’s Day. Which means that the TTT topic for today is, unsurprisingly, about romance. I’m going to talk about couples-that-might-have-been, and couples-which-aren’t-yet, in books that I love.

  1. Csethiro and Maia, from The Goblin Emperor (Katherine Addison). Okay, they’re getting married, so the chances are good. But we only just glimpsed the two of them beginning to really come together as a couple. I long to see more of Csethiro protecting him, and Maia respecting her and giving her power and influence in his kingdom, and how that unfolds.
  2. Kim and Aileron, from The Fionavar Tapestry (Guy Gavriel Kay). Come onnnn, I can’t be the only one who saw that. Kim should’ve stayed in Fionavar; marrying Dave makes no sense at all. But then, Kay is kind of prone to that.
  3. Arthur and Guinevere, from Paths to Camelot (Sarah Zettel). I just love seeing them have a functional, central, mutual relationship without betrayal. We get glimpses of them throughout the four books, but… I want more.
  4. Eowyn and Faramir, from The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien). They make sense as a couple, but they have so little time and development. Gimme more!
  5. Alcuin and Anafiel, from Kushiel’s Dart (Jacqueline Carey). It’s not faaaaair.
  6. Phèdre and Nicola, from Kushiel’s Chosen (Jaqueline Carey). I really liked their relationship and wished we saw a bit more of it.
  7. Alan and Matthias, from Blood and Circuses (Kerry Greenwood). Their scenes together with Phryne made me laugh, and I kind of hope that they at least kept up the relationship.
  8. Lin Chung and his wife, from Murder in Montparnasse (Kerry Greenwood). I feel like Lin Chung’s wife deserved a bit more ‘screen time’, so to speak — she and Phryne could have a fascinating relationship, and she seemed pretty interesting as a character.
  9. Rupert and Bryan, from Season of Storms (Susanna Kearsley). Okay, I kind of want them to be my dads, but. The book ends tragically and it’s not fair.
  10. Celia and Marco, from The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern). Or maybe I just never wanted that book to end…

And now I kind of want to go and reread all these books.

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Review – The Celtic Revolution

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

Cover of The Celtic Revolution by Simon YoungThe Celtic Revolution, Simon Young

A mostly readable and entertaining book which has nonetheless mostly slipped my mind since I read it. The main thesis was that the Celtic tradition — which it has to work to define, given the arguments about such a thing existing at all — drove a surprising amount of the development of modern society. I seem to recall there was something that annoyed me, and I think it was in the section on King Arthur. Just… that whole condescending attitude about the Welsh hope for and belief in the return of Arthur.

While I like that it acknowledges a Celtic identity and influence, I’m not sure I’d recommend this book. There have been some really fascinating books about the Celtic culture, even Nora Chadwick’s outdated The Celts, which I’d recommend more.

Rating: 3/5

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Why haven’t you read ____ yet?

Posted 13 February, 2017 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

I know I read really fast. You must figure I read really fast, since there’s a new review up here every single day (and they’re actually scheduled up through March). So it makes no sense that I haven’t read a book I got as a review copy or a book I insisted on getting the moment it released… two years ago.

(Sorry, Scott Lynch. Robin Hobb. Joe Abercrombie. Guy Gavriel Kay. Various others.)

The thing is, I have a backlog currently standing at 1,049 books purchased and not yet read. Yes, I said 1,049. That figure doesn’t include ARCs or library books or books that’re just on my wishlist. This is books on my shelves or on my Kindle, ready for me to get round to them.

The other thing is, when I make strict rules and reading lists, I stop reading. When I’m impulsive and I just read what catches my eye, I read a lot more. Whichever way I do it, I end up behind on books I requested or bought with the greatest impatience — and it’s not that I don’t want to read them, don’t think they’re shiny, have gone off the idea, whatever. It’s just that I have a lot of books, an impulsive way of choosing books, and an inability to just stick to one reading list. (And, well, sometimes I have gone off the idea of the book, for now. That doesn’t mean I’m not interested at all, just that right now I’m trying to devour everything in reach featuring a certain trope or certain information. At the moment, it’s archaeology.)

I’m doing my best. At the moment, I’m loading books to review onto my Kindle right away and starting them ASAP, to prevent my backlog getting bigger. I’m working through the backlog slowly, rediscovering things I thought were exciting before and finding new excitement about them. I feel bad that these books have been sitting so long, but there is some consolation in the fact that these are books that’re probably no longer actively being marketed, and with as many active readers as follow me, I’m bound to help someone match up with a backlist book they’d love.

The other thing is, well, I’m kind of contrary. If you hype a book up to me, I might well avoid it. Or I’ll get a book the minute it comes out… to taunt myself with for months, delaying the pleasure.

And, well, I bite off more than I can chew. A lot. All the time.

I’m also busy. Really busy. I’m doing a full-time biology degree through the Open University, which means that I have to direct my own pacing through the course while still meeting rigid deadlines for assignments and prepping for exams. I’m also self-employed, and sometimes after a long day of transcription and copywriting, I just want to flop into a chair and reread Strong Poison for the umpteenth time. Sorry.

The thing is, I’m a fairly rubbish human at times. I’m doing my best. Have a bunny.

Photo of my grey and white rabbit, sat on a bookshelf with my textbooks and folder.

Mea culpa.

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Review – The Prince of the Moon

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

Cover of The Prince of the Moon by Megan DerrThe Prince of the Moon, Megan Derr

Received to review via Netgalley

The Prince of the Moon is a fairytale-like story of princes, queens and curses, along with true love, a pure heart, and other such trappings of the genre. The difference being that the witch burning may not be entirely justified — certainly there are at least two good witches in the story — and the people who have been cursed may just deserve it somewhat. Oh, and the romantic couple are both men, but that’s becoming more common lately and honestly didn’t feel like the point of the story. Which is kind of exciting, actually! M/M fairytales which aren’t just about changing genders, but also about interrogating other aspects of the story, like the wicked witch and her son.

It’s pretty short and mostly sweet, and the romance feels a little bit rushed… but on the other hand, of course it does: this is coming out of fairytales, after all. The only thing I honestly don’t get is why Solae keeps trying to help his family, when it’s fairly clear no one has ever stretched out a hand to him. He’s a good person, and yet he’s learned that goodness all out of nowhere.

Then again: it’s a fairytale. Who taught Rapunzel to be good?

The sex scenes are, well, not terrible or laughable or awkward, but neither were they necessary to the story. I just skipped past them, given lack of interest. But there is sex in this book, if that matters to you.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates

Posted 11 February, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates by Kerry Greenwood Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates, Kerry Greenwood

This is my third read of this book, which is kinda surprising given I loathed it the first time. I’m not even sure why anymore. I love Phryne, her self-assurance and her kindness and the fact that Greenwood never gives in to the urge to soften her edges and make her conventional — not as a woman, not as a detective. This first book introduces the reader to Phryne and the beginnings of her found family, while also tackling pretty serious issues like back street abortions and the sexual assault that often accompanied them.

Okay, part of the background is directly from Sayers — the arsenical poisoning plot — but it’s what Greenwood does with it. It’s Phryne’s sexuality and femininity, her strength and poise… It’s fun, and I suspect this won’t be the last time I revisit this series. And, o, what joy! So many more books ahead in this reread, and those only for the second time ever. I look forward to the journey… but if you didn’t find Phryne enchanting in this book, you won’t enjoy the others. She remains the same sort of figure — perhaps a little too perfect for some tastes, a little too ready for anything.

It’s okay; I’ll forgive you if you don’t love her too. She might be a bit of an acquired taste, after all. It took me some time.

Rating: 4/5

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