Category: General

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!


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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Readathon updates: the wife edition

Posted 29 April, 2017 by Lisa R in General / 7 Comments

Note: This is not your usual Bibliophibian. Instead, I am Lisa, I am guestposting, I am the oft-mentioned wife. Hello!

While I have observed many readathons from a safe distance, this is actually my first one.

I will mostly be dipping in and out, lacking the dedication to do the whole thing (and definitely lacking the ability to stay up all night) and being easily distracted by shiny videogames and little bunnies.

14h00: En route from grocery store. Why is it always such a long queue…

14h18: At last! An opening survey…

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Belgium!
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? I have no defined stack. I’m going to finish Nikki’s copy of Final Girls (Mira Grant) and try and finish High Lord (Trudi Canavan, Black Magician trilogy) though I’m more in a scifi mood…
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? I am trying to keep my snacking to a minimum, sadly. But there’s the possibility of mug cake and egg rolls for dinner, so that’s decent.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! Much like Nikki, I have exams coming up mid-June. Network and operating systems & Business Intelligence (alongside practical network assignments and a webdevelopment project). Ack! Other than that, I am going to enjoy the heck out of this long weekend.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? …all the reading? But mostly a quiet bookish weekend.


Off to book!

15h08: Finished Final Girls and am now in possession of an actual stack!

My stack: Dust (Elizabeth Bear), Terra & Terra's World (Mitch Ben), The last days of new paris (China Miéville), Behind the throne (KB Wagers)

Books, books, books…


16h20: Went down to Würst to get a hotdog, chili and some hummus because I am weak and it is very tasty. Back to surrealist Paris I go

17h25: This book is so weird. ‘s what I get for reading Miéville, I suppose.

23h15: I did say I’d get distracted. Went out to get a snack, took the bunnies for a drive in an effort to make them bond and get along and then fell into the black hole of stardew valley. Oh well. Something to eat now and bed is likely not far off.



Readathon Updates

Posted 29 April, 2017 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

In an hour or so, the 24 Hour Readathon begins! We’re all ready here — me, my wife, and our bunnies.

Breakfast looking at books

Well, Breakfast is still deciding what he’s going to read.

Not sure how long any of us are going to be reading for, but the wife definitely isn’t staying up overnight. Much as I’d like to, I haven’t for a few years, so I might not make it through the night either. But even a few hours dedicated to reading are well spent. All my updates are going to be edited into this post, so it might get a little long, but at least I won’t be doing tons of posts!

13.59: About to start, but the wife isn’t home from groceries yet and we haven’t set up her update post on this blog (coming soon!) yet. Still, here’s the opening meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Cloudy Belgium!
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Probably Waking Gods. It’s certainly the one my wife is most looking forward to me having read…
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? We don’t really have many snacks lined up. No doubt I’ll demand a mug cake at some point.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I’m taking this weekend for reading out of my exam revision time. Cell bio, human bio and ecology, coming up in early June. Save me.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? As always, I’m going to take it easy; read if I feel like it, stop if I don’t. I haven’t done the full 24 hours in a long time, and that’s fine by me.

Now I’ll just get laundry on and groceries in and then start — probably with The Soul of an Octopus, by Sy Montgomery. My stack is here, though I probably won’t be sticking to it very well!

14.58: I’m about 80 pages into The Soul of an Octopus. Paused for a bunny snuggle (with Breakfast, the brown bun pictured above; Hulk, our grey lady bun, is sulking on a shelf, appropriately enough) and to help the wife pick a new book. (Her update post is up here, by the way!)

15.28: We both just totally derailed to eat hummus and cheese doritos, and now the wife is off to get us cornbread, more hummus, and some chilli. If you’re in Belgium and within reach of Leuven, the hot dogs at Wurst are okay, but the hummus is amazing.

16.22: I read more while Lisa was out, but then she came back with a copy of the new volume of Saga, some cornbread still warm and fresh, and a pot each of chilli and a pot each of hummus. Om, nom, nom.

17.16: Almost teared up after the death of one of the octopuses mentioned in this book. Non-fiction is not normally so heartwrenching! And here’s a photo of me and the wife and Breakfast chillin’. Hulk is still on her shelf.

Photo of me and the wife reading, with bunny

18.14: Just finished The Soul of an Octopus. Fascinating book. In the meantime, Breakfast and Hulk have been exploring the flat together without much supervision, for once. There’s been no violence, yet! I’m going to have a break now and play some Stardew Valley, and then I should get on with reading Waking Gods — before my wife explodes.

19.36: Reading Waking Gods now, have been for maybe half an hour. Annoyingly, my Kindle’s running out of charge, though.

21.07: I just took a break after getting to about halfway through Waking Gods, and we ended up taking the bunnies for a drive (the slight stress helps bunnies bond). Now they’re shockingly quiet…

23.17: Yeah, nope, not feeling it. Which is sad. Maybe I’ll be back tomorrow?

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 29 April, 2017 by Nikki in General / 10 Comments

Good morning! How’s everyone this week? I’ve had a busy week, but I have some awesome books to keep me company over the weekend.

New books:

Cover of Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor Cover of Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan Cover of Somewhere Beneath Those Waves by Sarah Monette Cover of Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

Cover of The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery Cover of Life's Engines by Paul G Falkowski Cover of The Gene by Siddhartha Mukkherjee Cover of The Voices Within by Charles Fernyhough

I am so excited to finally have Within the Sanctuary of Wings, but also really sad because I don’t want the series to end. I feel like I’ve been waiting for Strange the Dreamer for a long time, too, so I’m looking forward to that. The others, well, you probably all know my penchant for non-fiction by now. Certain topics just make me all grabby.

Mum, don’t frown at me. It was store credit and gifts all the way, except the Marie Brennan.

Received to review:

Cover of Darien: Empire of Salt by Conn Iggulden Cover of Sovereign by April Daniels

I keep meaning to read Conn Iggulden’s work, and this one is fantasy, so why not? And I read April Daniels’ first book, Dreadnought, and I want to know where it goes.

Books finished this week:

Cover of Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel Cover of The Bone Palace by Amanda Downum Cover of Life's Engines by Paul G Falkowski

Not a very active reading week, as my exams approach and essays are due in. Still, all three of those will receive four-star ratings from me! And luckily, I’m setting aside at least 24 hours this weekend for myself by participating in the 24 Hour Readathon.

Reviews posted this week:

Britain After Rome, by Robin Fleming. Rather dense, but fascinating to me, and largely focused on material culture rather than written records. 4/5 stars
The Furthest Station, by Ben Aaronovitch. Fun, but did leave me wondering where certain characters got to. 4/5 stars
Fairweather Eden, by Mike Pitts and Mark Roberts. The story of one of the oldest Palaeolithic archaeological sites we know of. Fascinating stuff, and well told, with both modern and ancient context given. 4/5 stars
Mind-Expanding Ideas, by New Scientist. A good collection, though focused on physics and not on the other branches of science I might’ve enjoyed more. 3/5 stars
The Prince and the Pilgrim, by Mary Stewart. Might have more in common with her romance/suspense novels than with her other Arthurian books; it’s rather light and inconsequential. But it dooooes have a fascinating political/historical link. 3/5 stars
Mightier than the Sword, by K.J. Parker. Fun novella with some twisty turns. Not my favourite by Parker, but definitely worth the read. 4/5 stars
The Human Brain, by New Scientist. This is more my thing! Braaaains. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Top Ten Tuesday: Turnoffs. What makes me not want to read a book?
Readathon. My planned stack!

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Posted 27 April, 2017 by Nikki in General / 6 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?



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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