Category: General


Readathon!

Posted 27 April, 2017 by Nikki in General / 5 Comments

It’s that time again — readathon time! I’m already thinking about my pile, of course, so I thought I’d share some of what’s on my plate…

Cover of Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel Cover of Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan Cover of Bloodshot by Cherie Priest Cover of Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin

I usually try to come up with books from a bunch of categories, so here’s a menu…

RereadsARCsFinish-this-book-alreadysBacklogNew to the stacks
Lavinia, by Ursula Le GuinWaking Gods, by Sylvain NeuvelThe Godless, by Ben PeekA Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky ChambersWithin the Sanctuary of Wings, by Marie Brennan
Ancillary Justice, by Ann LeckieSovereign, by April DanielsReality 36, by Guy HaleyLegion: Skin Deep, by Brandon SandersonThe Soul of an Octopus, by Sy Montgomery
Bloodshot, by Cherie PriestThe Pinks, by Chris EnssNova, by Samuel R. DelanyVengeance Road, by Erin BowmanThe Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry
Assassin's Apprentice, by Robin HobbSkullsworn, by Brian StaveleyLamb: The Gospel According to Biff, by Christopher MooreHero, by Perre MooreSomewhere Beneath Those Waves, by Sarah Monette

Although knowing me, I might digress entirely and go off to read something else.

I also need to assemble some options for my wife, since she’s going to join for a couple of hours.  Anyone got any recs for space opera like Lois McMaster Bujold, perchance?

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 26 April, 2017 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?

I think the last book I finished was Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel. I had a couple of reservations about the format, but I found the whole thing just so compulsively readable. I made my wife start reading it too, and she raced on and finished the second book too. (And is now cursing me because there’s no more.)

What are you currently reading?

Actively, The Bone Palace by Amanda Downum and Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel. The latter is fascinating for the same reasons as the first book; the former is awesome because Savedra completely rocks and so, on a second reading, does Ashlin. And the whole complex sexuality and gender stuff going on. I do find myself wondering a little bit about how appropriative the use of the term hijra is, but I do enjoy the book.

What will you read next?

I’m thinking of rereading American Gods (because of the tv show) or Ancillary Justice (just because), but I don’t know for sure yet. I might read Strange the Dreamer, since I finally have my hands on it. Or I should be reading Assassin’s Apprentice again, for a book club.

So many choices! Luckily, the 24-hour readathon this weekend should help me get some reading done. (Even if I hardly ever actually do the whole 24 hours.)

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 25 April, 2017 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is complementary to last week’s list, which was about the top ten things that will instantly make me want to read a book. This is about instant turn-offs. This is a little harder for me, actually, because I read so eclectically. Let’s have a go, though…

  1. “The X’s Y” titles. So often it’s stuff like The Mapmaker’s Daughter or The Sin-Eater’s Daughter, and I’m honestly tired of protagonists being defined in terms of other people. I have picked up some of these books and will probably continue to, but it does give me a moment’s pause.
  2. Fabio on the cover. It usually heralds a sort of romance fiction I’m not interested in.
  3. This Will Change Your Life. I don’t like feeling like you’re selling me something. Obviously you are, but if all of these books could change my life, I wouldn’t be the same person day to day. (And in another sense, every book will change your life for the period that you’re reading it, at the very least…)
  4. The new Tolkien. I liked the old one, actually. And the new ones just don’t seem to have J.R.R.’s attention to detail. Same goes for the new anyone, really. I don’t want to read the same books over and over again — or rather, if I do, I’ll go back and read that book.
  5. “Inspired by [x] culture.” Translation: “I took the stuff that interested me and ditched the rest.” This is rarely done well and with attention to detail, although some authors like Guy Gavriel Kay can produce something very satisfying from that starting point.
  6. White saviours. If your cover copy hints that your white character is going to save the poor and downtrodden through their special sympathy and understanding, I’m going to be very sceptical right from the word go.
  7. The real King Arthur revealed! Just stop it with that, please.
  8. The real Robin Hood revealed! That too.
  9. The real Sheriff of Nottingham revealed! Come on…
  10. The real Will Scarlet! Aren’t you reaching at this point?

So yeah, as you can see, I was running out of ideas toward the end of this… Doubtless I’ll think of a dozen more just as soon as this goes live.

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Unstacking the Shelves

Posted 22 April, 2017 by Nikki in General / 18 Comments

Look at me! Two weeks of Unstacking!

Books finished this week:

Cover of The Prince and the Pilgrim by Mary Stewart Cover of The Drowning City by Amanda Downum Cover of Mightier than the Sword by K.J. Parker

Cover of The Dispatcher by John Scalzi Cover of Byzantium by Judith Herrin

A sneak peek at ratings:
Four stars to… The Drowning City, Mightier than the Sword and The Dispatcher.
Three stars to… The Prince and the Pilgrim and Byzantium.

Reviews posted this week:

Touch, by David J. Linden. I found this rather focused on the sexual element of touch at times, which puzzled me. But where it stays on topic and non-explicit, there’s some fascinating stuff. 3/5 stars
In Calabria, by Peter S. Beagle. In retrospect, I don’t love the May-December relationship that much (see also: Jo’s comment on that post), but the unicorn parts of this are great. 4/5 stars
The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi. Exactly what I wanted from a Scalzi novel: satisfyingly quick read with enjoyable characters. 4/5 stars
The Lions of Al-Rassan, by Guy Gavriel Kay. “Imagine the most loving meat-grinder, and then put all your emotions into it.” 5/5 stars
Vikings: A History, by Neil Oliver. Both informative and entertaining, and thankfully doesn’t just deal with the actual Vikings (i.e. the raiders), but where they came from and where they settled. 4/5 stars
How Long is Now, by New Scientist. One of their collections of questions and answers. Reasonably entertaining and informative, and a good source of “did you know…” 3/5 stars
Urn Burial, by Kerry Greenwood. A fun installment of the Phryne Fisher series, though not a favourite. 3/5 stars

Other posts:

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Things That Make Me Want To Read A Book. With some examples!
What are you reading Wednesday. Yup. What it says on the tin.

And just in case anyone is interested, I now have a new blog! This one isn’t about books (mostly): it’s about popular science and communicating science in a clear way for laypeople/people who want to learn how to explain things to other people. You can check it out at NEAT science.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 20 April, 2017 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

It’s funny how Wednesday keeps falling on a Thursday, isn’t it?

Cover of The Dispatcher by John ScalziWhat have you recently finished reading?

Most recently was John Scalzi’s novella, The Dispatcher. A good quick read — it takes an interesting ‘what if’ and then generates a mystery story around it. It’s kind of fantasy, in that the reason behind the what if isn’t explored, but kind of speculative fiction/sci-fi in the way it extrapolates the effects on society. This is why I just prefer to call everything SF/F and cover all my bases.

What are you currently reading? 

Judith Herrin’s Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire. It is not remotely surprising to me, all things considered, but I am finding it interesting. Mostly it is making me want to reread Gillian Bradshaw’s The Bearkeeper’s Daughter and Guy Gavriel Kay’s Sailing to Sarantium. Mostly the latter, since I recentlyCover of Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay reread The Lions of Al-Rassan.

What will you read next?

I’m partway through a reread of Amanda Downum’s The Bone Palace, and after that I want to finally read the next book, Kingdoms of Dust. After that, I’m not sure; I should tackle something on my started-but-not-finished pile, so possibly Christopher Moore’s Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff. Or I could just follow my whim and reread Sailing to Sarantium. I also have some books out of the library, and I should particularly try and make progress with G.R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois’ Dangerous Women anthology.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 18 April, 2017 by Nikki in General / 10 Comments

This week’s theme is ten things that immediately make me want to read a book. I’m pretty eclectic, so there’s a lot…

Cover of Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone Cover of Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb Cover of Lifelode by Jo Walton

  1. A really pretty cover. I was hooked by the idea of Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone just from that cover.
  2. A unique-sounding magic system. Or combinations of magic systems that feel different, like Robin Hobb’s the Wit and the Skill.
  3. Genetics. Mostly if we’re talking non-fiction, but a good fiction plot around the topic works too.
  4. Non-traditional heroes. Like Kamala Khan as Ms Marvel, or the Jewish gay Billy Kaplan as Wiccan (originally Asgardian). Same goes outside comics, but they were the examples that sprang to mind.
  5. Non-traditional family structures. Like in Jo Walton’s Lifelode, for example.
  6. Not entirely humanoid aliens. Like the people on Winter in Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, with their temporary genders and non-constant breeding cycles. I love it when aliens are genuinely alien in some way, even if it’s only a small twist.
  7. Found family. I’m thinking of Cherie Priest’s Bloodshot and Hellbent, but also the Phryne Fisher books and… goodness knows how many others. It just gets me, people making a family out of whatever they have, whoever they can find.
  8. Dead gods. Something about that concept just… intrigues. I’m reading Ben Peek’s The Godless at the moment, for example.
  9. Dragons. Because, uh, dragons!
  10. Mixing genres. A spec-fic spy thriller? Gimme! Noir robot detective? Yes please!

Cover of Dead Man's Chest by Kerry Greenwood Cover of The Godless by Ben Peek Cover of Bloodshot by Cherie Priest

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Unstacking the Shelves

Posted 15 April, 2017 by Nikki in General / 14 Comments

It’s a blue moon! Or something. Yep, I’ve had a week where I haven’t bought a single book, or received any to review. So first, have a picture of my two bunnies cuddling…

Bunnies, cuddlin'!

They’re not quite at the point where they can run around together yet, but they’re certainly getting used to each other.

And now, the weekly roundup!

Books I’ve finished reading this week:

Cover of The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay Cover of New Scientist: Where the Universe Came From Cover of The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch Cover of The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

Not the busiest reading week ever, but not bad either! And the ratings…

Five stars to… The Lions of Al-Rassan.
Four stars to… The Furthest Station.
Three stars to… Where the Universe Came From.

Reviews posted this week:

Every Heart A Doorway, by Seanan McGuire. A reread. I find this one magical and greatly enjoy the protagonist. 5/5 stars
Britain AD, by Francis Pryor. Unfortunately, Pryor’s shaky scholarship in this book made me seriously worried about his credibility in general. He’s wrong on King Arthur, and I strongly suspect he’s wrong on linguistics and genetics as well. 2/5 stars
Wicked Wonders, by Ellen Klages. An eerie and wistful and tender collection of stories I greatly enjoyed. 4/5 stars
Summer in Orcus, by T. Kingfisher. Reminds me of Valente’s Fairyland books, while still being very much its own book with some amazing and quirky characters. 4/5 stars
After Atlas, by Emma Newman. Works well as a standalone and as a companion to Planetfall, and leaves me wondering, at the end… My only quibble would be that I didn’t engage as fully with the main character as I did in Planetfall. 4/5 stars
On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin. A classic and desperately important work, it might be a little slow to read but it was definitely worth it. Darwin was a great scientist, capable of generating testable hypotheses and following through, and criticising his own work. 5/5 stars
The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I might not be a fan of the way the Tolkien estate puts out just about anything J.R.R. scribbled, but I did find this fascinating. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Top Ten Breaths of Fresh Air. Books which struck me as bringing something fresh and new to my experience.
What are you reading Wednesday. The usual weekly update — which happened on Wednesday, honest, guv.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t visit you back last week, I’m afraid it’s because I had a problem with getting comment notifications. I have been baffled about how silent y’all were being! I’m on the case now and will visit back as soon as I can.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 13 April, 2017 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

Ssh. It’s not Thursday yet. I’m in a magical bubble of time dilation, or something.

Cover of The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel KayWhat have you recently finished reading?

Juuuust finished my reread of Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Lions of Al-Rassan. My heart is broken, of course; he writes brilliantly, and the ending is so tragic and bittersweet. And ugh, I wish Rodrigo and Ammar could just… walk away, and not fight each other. It’s inevitable that they do, and that’s part of the heartbreak, but. Gah.

Cover of New Scientist: Where the Universe Came FromWhat are you currently reading?

With the usual caveat that I’m technically currently reading a lot of things, the top of my pile right now is The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi. I had an ARC, but I saw a published copy in the local bookshop and grabbed it. Couldn’t resist. And now I’ve finally started it!

What will you read next?

I’m fairly confident, for some reason, that on Thursday morning I will start reading New Scientist’s Instant Expert: Where the Universe Came From. Because I haven’t been bending my brain with relativity enough already. Possibly this has something to do with how I can time travel so I’m still in Wednesday as I write this…

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 11 April, 2017 by Nikki in General / 16 Comments

This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday is “unique books”. I’m not sure these books are unique, but they felt like a breath of fresh air when I read them.

  1. The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. A complete antidote to all the grimdark fantasy out there, this felt like a message of hope. It’s about building bridges rather than walls. Apt for the current political climate, I’d say.
  2. The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch. I’m not sure why, but this practically leapt off the page for me when I read it first.
  3. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers. Character-focused, thoughtful, touching. Small scope, huge heart.
  4. The Bone Palace, by Amanda Downum. The first book didn’t blow me away, but this one did, particularly with the character of Savedra.
  5. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin. I went in sceptical; I came out dazed.
  6. This Savage Song, by Victoria Schwab. Or perhaps Vicious — either way, there’s some vital spark about Schwab’s work that made it feel genuinely exciting.
  7. Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor. I picked it up with quite a bit of scepticism, and then devoured it. Something felt new.
  8. City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett. One of those books that made me go, wow, you’ve gotta read this.
  9. Among Others, by Jo Walton. It’s set after the character’s great calamity — it’s about moving on (and the way life doesn’t stop throwing new stories at you).
  10. Assassin’s Apprentice, by Robin Hobb. I read it when I was fourteen and was totally hooked. The magic systems were just fascinating.

Kinda dreading looking at other people’s lists today — as if I need to expand my TBR more! By which I mean: gimme.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 8 April, 2017 by Nikki in General / 34 Comments

Good morning! It’s the weekend! Whew. I’ve set myself up a deadly study timetable, so I’m just glad to reach a breathing space. I did get some reading done too, though; good thing, or I’d go bonkers, I think. (More bonkers.)

Received to review

Cover of All Good Things by Emma Newman Cover of Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell Cover of The Dispatcher by John Scalzi Cover of The Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Cover of The Innkeeper Chronicles, by Ilona Andrews Cover of Mightier than the Sword by K.J. Parker Cover of The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch Cover of Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

A nice little haul, as you can see! I’m pretty excited about all of these, honestly.

Books finished this week:

Cover of After Atlas by Emma Newman Cover of Britain After Rome Cover of The Vital Question by Nick Lane

I swear, I’m trying to read more fiction again!

Sneak peek at ratings:
Four stars to… After Atlas, Britain After Rome and The Vital Question.

Reviews posted this week:

Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman. I think this might be most appealing to those who don’t know the Eddas well in the first place. As it is, while I could appreciate the clever takes on the old stories, I knew what was going on a little too well. And some of the cleverness is not Gaiman himself, but straight from pre-Christian Norse tradition. 3/5 stars
Deadly Companions, by Dorothy H. Crawford. A great survey of how disease has shaped human society. Not very in-depth, though. 3/5 stars
Britain BC, by Francis Pryor. I have some issues with some of Pryor’s theories, based on my understanding of genetics, linguistics and literature, but the archaeological evidence discussed is fascinating. 4/5 stars
Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, by Richard Wrangham. Solid theory, and really engagingly written. 4/5 stars
Ruddy Gore, by Kerry Greenwood. A reread, and still fun, though there are aspects of Phryne’s character/treatment and understanding of others I’m a little tired of. 3/5 stars
Proof of Concept, by Gwyneth Jones. This took a while to come together for me, but there were aspects I enjoyed. 3/5 stars
Brisk Money, by Adam Christopher. More fun with Christopher’s noir robot PI world. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Top Ten Tuesday: Comics I Follow. The theme was fandom, and I went with comics!
What are you reading Wednesday. My weekly update.

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