Category: General


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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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.

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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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