Category: General


Stacking the Shelves

Posted 20 May, 2017 by Nikki in General / 14 Comments

Good morning, all! It’s been a good reading week for me, and one of my assignments is done and handed in, so… breathe a sigh of relief! How’s everyone else doing?

Received to review:

Cover of River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey Cover of Trial by Fire by Lore Graham Cover of The Ghost Line Cover of The Loveless Princess by Lilian Bodley

I love hippos, as in the cuddly teddy bear sort, so I’m not sure how I’m going to take River of Teeth. Possibly Helen Hippo will just be pleased that her relatives are so fierce.

Finished reading this week:

Cover of Neanderthal Man by Svante Paabo Cover of Words and Rules by Steven Pinker Cover of Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani Cover of Passion Play, by Sean Stewart

Cover of The Loveless Princess by Lilian Bodley Cover of Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill Cover of New Scientist: How Your Brain Works Cover of Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia A. McKillip

The ratings sneak peek:

Four stars: Neanderthal Man, Sunbolt, Passion Play, and Harrowing the Dragon.
Three stars: Words and RulesThe Loveless Princess and How Your Brain Works. 
One star: Sea of Rust.

Reviews posted this week:

Relativity: Einstein’s Mind-Bending Universe, by New Scientist. Not exactly my area of science. If it’s your interest, I think you’ll enjoy it; the fault is in my lack of comprehension/interest in a lot of physics. 3/5 stars
Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire. Not one of the stories that was crying out to be told after Every Heart a Doorway, to my mind, but still an enjoyable read. 4/5 stars
Dangerous Women: Part II, ed. George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. I remain unconvinced by this anthology. 3/5 stars
The Pinks, by Chris Enss. Lots of stuff I didn’t know here; very readable and interesting. 4/5 stars
Medical Frontiers, by New Scientist. Fascinating collection about the cutting edge of medicine these days. 4/5 stars
Killing Gravity, by Corey J. White. River Tam with telekinetic powers, basically. It’s a lot of fun. 4/5 stars
Dangerous Women: Part III, ed. George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. Even more mediocre than the other two parts. Basically: don’t bother. 2/5 stars

Other posts:

Top Ten Tuesday: Books My Mother Should Read. What it says on the tin, as ever. Also generally a list of good books.
What are you reading Wednesday. The usual update!

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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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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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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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What are you reading “Wednesday”

Posted 11 May, 2017 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

Shush, it’s Wednesday. Totally.

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of Killing Gravity by Corey J. WhiteI finished Killing Gravity, by Corey J. White last night. It’s basically if River Tam was a lot more active about chasing down the people who messed with her brain, and a bit more sane. I love the idea of voidwitchery. I do wish it hadn’t ended there, though; I want Mookie to be safe!

What are you currently reading?

Cover of Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie BrennanWithin the Sanctuary of Wings! I’m sort of pacing myself with it, because I don’t want it to be over. Also, I got to a certain bit in the middle and just… yelped and immediately laid hands on copies for my wife to read. Like, nowNow. Why isn’t she reading them???

What will you read next?

I don’t know. I’m thinking maybe Martha Wells’ Tor.com novella, All Systems Red. I wanted to read Sean Stewart’s Passion Play, but the Kindle version from Netgalley is just a mess, missing all kinds of punctuation and the middles of some words. Whaa.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 9 May, 2017 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Good morning, everyone! This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday is “things you want to see more of”, which sounds easy enough…

  1. Asexual and aromantic characters. I have no idea how many asexual/aromantic folks there are in the population, so it’s hard to gauge how much representation we “should” have. But I think we could do with fewer books with love triangles and more with complex platonic relationships, and exploring the way aces and aros negotiate relationships could be fuel for some pretty fascinating stories. Also just casual inclusion of people who aren’t interested in sex or romance.
  2. No dead/absent parents. You get portal fantasy where kids just disappear for ages and nobody cares much, because they don’t have parents or their parents don’t care or whatever. Take the parents with! Have a mum who has to deal with the fact that her kid is the chosen one and she can’t just write them a note excusing them from it.
  3. Boundary setting. We’ve all got to learn it: when we say no. Let’s have some characters turning round and saying, “No. This is where I stop.” Whether it’s relationship drama or the Chosen One trope, let’s have way more acknowledgement that people can say no.
  4. Diverse characters in general (especially on covers). Here is my confession: I have ghostwritten romance books. The plot, characters, all of that was my choice; I just had to produce and then turn in a manuscript with which my employer could do what they wanted. So I had some diverse leads — about whom I’d best not say too much because of an NDA — and, guess what? They were white on the covers. Let’s utterly trash this, guys. I want to see diverse characters being impossible to ignore.
  5. One volume fantasy. You don’t all have to do The Lord of the Rings, guys. There are epic stories which don’t need trilogies. (And they especially don’t need trilogies of trilogies.)
  6. Disabled detectives. This one goes out to the lecturer at my university who was going through the list of diverse detectives you might see now: “Gay detectives, cat detectives, dog detectives… Really scraping the barrel here, disabled detectives…” Here’s to scraping the barrel.
  7. Nuanced depictions of mental illness. There’s as many ways to be mentally unwell as there are people, I think. Let’s skip the guy who turns serial killer after a host of obvious signposts, stereotyped because we see it play out in fiction all the time.
  8. Fully fleshed out worlds. Do you know what your character’s first memory was? It might never be relevant to the story, but if you know, it shows — knowing exactly how your world and characters are built gives them depth even when those details don’t make it into the story.
  9. Surprise me. Turn the tropes upside down. The court mage is a lady. The senior advisor is a female knight. The biker guy runs a bakery.
  10. Practicalities. Okay, sometimes it just doesn’t fit — I can’t imagine and don’t want to know what Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas did about going to the loo while running across Rohan. But what are the arrangements if your astronaut needs to pee? What is your character eating while lost in the woods — you know berries don’t keep body and soul together in the long term, right? These little details make your world.

Whoops, got all rambly. Looking forward to seeing what other people post for this!

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 6 May, 2017 by Nikki in General / 16 Comments

Good morning! How’s everyone? My exams are still approaching, but I got a bit more reading done this week, hurrah.

Received to review:

Cover of Shattered Minds by Laura Lam Cover of Passion Play, by Sean Stewart Cover of Killing Gravity by Corey J. White Cover of None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio

It’s been a while since I read anything by Sean Stewart, but I remember enjoying his work!

Bought: 

Cover of Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver Cover of Reinventing Darwin by Niles Eldredge Cover of Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani

I’ve been meaning to read Chameleon Moon and Sunbolt for ages, and they were each 99p on the Kindle Store. So, grabbed ’em. As for Reinventing Darwin, it was recommended to me, and I can’t help a satisfied sigh at the words brazenly quoted on the back cover: “No one doubts that Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is correct.” Overly optimistic, perhaps, but a delightful window into a world I’d like to inhabit, where no one does doubt evolution.

Finished this week:

Cover of The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery Cover of Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie Cover of Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente Cover of Dangerous Women ed. G.R.R. Martin

Technically I’ve read parts I & II of Dangerous Women, with part III still on the pile, but I’m not going to upload the identical-but-for-colour separate covers!

Five stars to… Ancillary Justice.
Four stars to… Radiance.
Three stars to… Dangerous Women: Part I & II.
Two stars to… The Soul of an Octopus.

Reviews posted this week:

The Dispatcher, by John Scalzi. Don’t think too much about how this would work! If you ignore that, it’s an interesting setting for a mystery. 4/5 stars
Byzantium, by Judith Herrin. A labour of love — too much love, perhaps, to be objective and to pick the right incidents to discuss for a non-specialist audience. 3/5 stars
Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel. This really hooked me despite, or perhaps even because of, my qualms. Must. Know. What. Happens. 4/5 stars
What is Life? How Chemistry Becomes Biology, by Addy Pross. What it says on the tin, and hardly revelatory for me. 3/5 stars
The Soul of an Octopus, by Sy Montgomery. Touching, but more of a memoir than a scientific book, even a pop-science one. 2/5 stars
The Drowning City, by Amanda Downum. A reread, and one I enjoyed maybe more than I liked the book the first time! 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Top Ten Tuesday: Cover Love. Some covers that have really struck me.
What are you reading Wednesday. An update on what’s been crossing my bookshelves this week.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 3 May, 2017 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

Cover of Ancillary Justice by Ann LeckieWhat have you recently finished reading?

I just finished a reread of Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, yesterday. I actually liked it more this time — I think because I wasn’t thinking about the clever treatment of gender as much, but just about revisiting the world and story. And it did help that I knew what to expect; I’m one of those people who likes spoilers.

What are you currently reading?Cover of Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente’s Radiance. It’s my book club read on Habitica (in the Legendary Book Club guild, if you’re a member). I didn’t actually expect to get sucked into it so quickly — I tend to struggle with Valente’s work because the imagery is just so dense and I’m not visual at all. I thought that’d go double for a book revolving around cinema. But no, I’m intrigued and eating it up.

What will you read next?

I’d like to read Within the Sanctuary of Wings, and maybe start rereading City of Stairs and City of Blades, ready to read City of Miracles once I get back to Britain and my copy has arrived. But knowing me, I might get distracted by something else. I have some books due back at the library, after all.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 2 May, 2017 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is about covers, so here’s some I really love (even if the books don’t always live up to it!):

Cover of The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury Cover of Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone Cover of Natural Histories by Brett Westwood Cover of Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Cover of Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal Cover of The Impostor Queen by Sarah FineCover of In The Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan

Cover of Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood Cover of City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett Valour and Vanity, by Mary Robinette Kowal

I can be kind of a sucker for a pretty cover, or a design that really catches my attention, like the butterfly on Natural Histories. (Click it to embiggen; it’s fascinating!)

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