Category: General


Stacking the Shelves

Posted 5 April, 2014 by Nikki in General / 48 Comments

It wasn’t going to be a busy week for books. Then there were libraries, and my sister wanted to go to Waterstones, and… yeah. So, as usual, here’s my Stacking the Shelves post!

Fiction (library)

Cover of Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov Cover of More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon Cover of The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey Cover of The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones & Ursula Jones

Fiction (bought)

Cover of Jacques the Fatalist and his Master by Diderot Cover of A Widow in Waiting by Anne B. Walsh Cover of Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson Cover of Taste of Darkness, by Maria V. Snyder Cover of Tamburlaine Must Die by Louise Welsh

Non-fiction (bought)

Cover of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe

Non-fiction (library)

Cover of Life: An Unauthorised Biography by Richard Fortey Cover of The Humans Who Went Extinct by Clive Finlayson Cover of The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz

Comics (bought)

Cover of Marvel's Young Avengers: Alternative Culture Cover of Marvel's Young Avengers: Mic-Drop at the Edge of Time and Space

Comics (library)

Stormwatch by Warren Ellis Cover of DC's Superman: What Price Tomorrow?

That may have got a little… out of hand. Anyway, I’ve read a couple of these already, and I’m partway through a couple more. I’m actually looking forward to the non-fiction book about Marvel quite a bit, but also The Girl With All The Gifts, as someone in a book club I’m in praised it to the skies. And Steelheart I’ve been coveting for a couple of weeks now.

What’s anyone else excited about?

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 3 April, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
Stephen Grosz’s The Examined Life, which was a rec from someone on twitter. I need to digest it a bit more, I think, but it was certainly interesting, sometimes very touching. Before that, it was Tamburlaine Must Die, which was actually a rec for the same challenge (get recommendations from twenty people and read them all), which… I liked it well enough, but I’m not sure it all connected up for me.

What are you currently reading?
With the usual caveat of “actively”, let’s see — Death and the Penguin, by Andrey Kurkov, which is for the same challenge again. Other than that, still working through The Earth: An Intimate History by Richard Fortey. Somewhat taking my time here, but enjoying it. I mean, someone who can make geology fascinating to me needs to be cherished, I think. He talks about Earth with such power!

Fiction-wise, I am being terrible about Cassandra Rose Clarke’s The Wizard’s Promise and Rosemary Sutcliff’s Knight’s Fee, which are both in progress without any actual progress being made. (Along with Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, and various others.)

What do you think you’ll read next?
Probably Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones’ The Islands of Chaldea, since the library informed me yesterday that they’ve got their orders in and I am, oh glory, first in the queue for it. I have Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson on hold, too, but the person ahead of me in the queue is taking an age.

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If you can afford this, you can afford that

Posted 2 April, 2014 by Nikki in General / 10 Comments

So today Chuck Wendig posted a thing about piracy and why he won’t put out a tip jar, which I’m not interested in arguing with. What I am interested in arguing with is this whole idea in the comments that if you’re reading ebooks, you must have an ereader, therefore you must be able to afford ebooks. Which is complete crap, guys, I can’t even tell you. Here’s some examples of what’s been said — it’s been said in public, so I think it’s fair to copy/paste:

My thoughts on the “but I can’t afford it!” argument are thus –

1. You can’t afford a $5 e-book, but you can afford monthly internet? My internet bill (whether via my computer line or smart phone) is roughly thirty times my cost for an average e-book. Granted, that’s an average. I buy a lot of low-cost author-pubbed items at 99c to level out the $6-10 fare. Still, internet costs a lot more than an e-book.
2. You can’t afford a $5 e-book, but you can afford something to read that it on? Whether it’s a computer, smart phone, tablet, or e-reader, these things out-cost the average e-book by at least 5 times if not more. Yes, the e-reader, etc, could be a gift, but seriously? If I was so broke I couldn’t afford a $5 e-book (or the internet service to download it), then getting an e-reader is pretty crappy and mean-spirited unless they were showering me with gift cards throughout the year. It’s like buying someone a saddle when they can’t afford the pony.

And:

So wait…. this guy ‘can’t afford’ to buy all the ebooks he wants (I know that feeling – I can’t afford to buy all the designer dresses I want either… so sad…) but he CAN afford to have bought whatever ebook reader-thingy he reads his pirated books on? Strange, I thought compared to ebooks those things were WAY more expensive… I had to save up for three years to get mine…

So yeah, the first quote is roughly correct, even given my £25 ereader: let’s say an average retail ebook is £5, going by, say, Angry Robot (who publish, among many others, Chuck Wendig). That comes out about right: my reader cost five times the book. But it’s a window to many, many more books, including free books from a range of sources (Project Gutenberg, Smashwords, my local library, Baen, Netgalley, Edelweiss, publishers, authors) and cheap books. It’s easily worth it.

What really gets me is the sniffy judgement going on here. “You don’t spend your money the way I approve of, how dare you pay for internet and an ereader instead of books” — in fact, phrased like that, it’s downright snobbish. I get that it’s not fair authors aren’t getting paid, and some authors and series have suffered from it. But you don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life.

Like hey, let me paint you a picture: me, a year ago. I live with my grandmother; my mother pays her some rent for me. I had no job, and I didn’t go on benefits, so I lived entirely on the kindness of my family. Depressing enough to start with, right? And then there was my grandfather’s death, and my spiral into depression and anxiety that had been going on and getting worse since my second year of university. Guess what I clung onto when I was too depressed and scared to get out of bed?

Yup. Since you’re reading this blog, I’m gonna assume you’ve figured it out: books, and the internet.* I was too damn scared to leave the house some days. Going to the library where there were people, and germs, and possibly the need to communicate with people I don’t know — gah. Buying books in a store? Well, like I said, any money I had was my mother’s. So my ereader was a lifeline, and my grandmother paid for the internet, so it was easy enough to download books from Netgalley, the library, etc, etc.

Those are not the only reasons that scraping together £25 for an ereader instead of five books (or rather, three, given UK pricing for dead tree books, or less than five trips to my nearest library last year) might be more cost effective for someone. You just don’t know. So please stop making these assumptions and trying to police how people spend their money, and go back to making the very fair argument that authors deserve to be paid.

(Not to mention the sensible point someone else is making that you don’t need a dedicated ereader to read ebooks. Your most basic smartphone can do it, your computer can do it, my five year old iPod can do it…)

ETA: Since I’ve been accused of piracy/theft in the comments, I will just point out that every method of obtaining books mentioned in this post is both legal and moral. It’s not an argument for piracy, it’s an argument for getting your nose the fuck out of other people’s financial decisions.

 

*Me: Here’s a thing. Imagine the prospect of me without an ereader, especially during the worst times in the last two years. Is there a quotable quote of your reaction to that idea?
Partner: A damn wreck? You’d have been a wreck going in circles, driving yourself insane.
(Pretty fair assessment.)

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 29 March, 2014 by Nikki in General / 36 Comments

It’s Monday as I’m starting to assemble this post, and I already have two reservations to pick up from the library, so I think I can confidently say this is going to be a busy week. Which is just the way I like it. So, as usual for a Saturday morning, here’s my Stacking the Shelves post for the meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews!

Review copies

Cover of Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Bought (fiction)

Cover of Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach Cover of The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher

Bought (non-fiction)

Cover of My Beloved Brontosaurus by Brian Switek Cover of Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World by Nick Lane Cover of The Spark of Life by Frances Ashcroft

Library (fiction)

Cover of Ember and Ash by Pamela Freeman Cover of Hounded by Kevin Hearne Cover of Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

Library (non-fiction)

Cover of Dry Store Room No. 1 by Richard Fortey Cover of Darwin's Ghost by Steve Jones Cover of Earth: An Intimate History by Richard Fortey

I’m most excited about the Richard Fortey book, I think. I’ve already read the one from last week and the first one in this post. I really like his style. Also glad to have finally found a book on dinosaurs — I’ve read one of Switek’s books before and quite liked it.

For the fiction, I’m most interested in Fortune’s Pawn, by Rachel Bach. Even if my Welsh-orientated brain reads her name as ‘little Rachel’. My sister loved the book, and Kameron Hurley recently mentioned it in a list of recs. Also curious about, if wary of, Magic Bites — I’ve never read Ilona Andrews before and I don’t know if it’ll be my thing. But I enjoyed Charlaine Harris when I didn’t expect to, so!

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 26 March, 2014 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
Well, I’ve been reading like fury today, so the answer is a lot of things. The last thing I finished was Brenda Chamberlain’s The Water-castle; before that, it was Laini Taylor’s Night of Cake and Puppets. Reviews for both of those are coming up on the blog over the next couple of days. Suffice it to say that I’ve been having a glut of books today. People normally have chocolate cravings? I have book cravings.

What are you currently reading?
As usual, the key word would be “actively”, and I’ll stick to that. I’m reading The Earth: An Intimate History, by Richard Fortey, which I’m enjoying: I’ve now read a couple of Fortey’s books and I enjoy his somewhat rambling style that conveys his sense of wonder. I also started reading the biography of Beatrix Potter I’ve got from the library, by Linda Lear. I knew even less than I thought about Beatrix Potter, and am rather enjoying the sketch of family life I’m getting here.

Fiction-wise, I’m still reading Cassandra Rose Clarke’s The Wizard’s Promise, though I haven’t picked it up in a couple of days. I really should, because I know I’m going to enjoy it.

What do you think you’ll read next?
The plan is to make a concerted attack on my ARC list before the end of Clean Out Your Ereader, so I think that will entail finally finishing up Seven Forges (James A. Moore) and The Holders (Julianna Scott), for a start. After that, I’m not sure. Probably The Darwin Elevator (Jason M. Hough), because I’ve been partway through that for too long, and Sandman Slim (Richard Kadrey), since that’s been hanging around my to read list for so long and I did start it a couple of weeks ago, only to get distracted.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 22 March, 2014 by Nikki in General / 28 Comments

The fun thing about Saturdays: doing my Stacking the Shelves post (hosted, as usual, by Tynga’s Reviews)! This week has been quite busy, though mostly because of library books. Because I don’t have a mountain of ARCs or a TBR list longer than my entire body…

Freebies

Cover of Prospero's Children by Jan Siegel Cover of Pen Pal by Francesca Forrest

Bought

Cover of The King in the North by Max Adams

Gifted (from the lovely Lynn O’Connacht!)

Cover of Orion's Kiss by Becca Lusher

Netgalley

 Cover of graphic novel Oz Cover of Adaptation by Malinda Lo Cover of Marketing the Moon by David Meerman Scott, Richard Jurek, Eugene A. Cernan Cover of Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

Library (ebooks)

Cover of Blondel's Song by David Boyle Cover of The Universe: A Biography by John Gribbin Cover of a biography of Beatrix Potter Cover of The Eerie Silence by Paul Davies Cover of An Introduction to English Poetry by James Fenton Cover of The Biggest Bangs by Jonathan Katz

Library books

Cover of Virginia Woolf by James King Cover of I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan Cover of Knight's Fee by Rosemary Sutcliff Cover of The Silver Bough by Lisa TuttleCover of The Story of God by Robert Winston Cover of The Tribes of Britain by David Miles  Cover of Survivors by Richard Fortey Cover of Gulp by Mary Roach

Cover of Spillover by David Quamnem Cover of Journey into Mystery by Kathryn Immonen

Comics (issues)

Cover of Ms Marvel issue #2

So I don’t even know where to start with what I’m excited about here. It’s my typical really really random selection. I’ll probably read the graphic novels soon — I’m partway through the Oz one, though it’s making my eyes roll out of my head, and the Sif one is pretty short and Sif is pretty awesome, so. Other than that, I’m in a science type of mood, so Spillover or The Eerie Silence are probably up next. Or I might go for Knight’s Fee because it’s a Rosemary Sutcliff book I haven’t read and those’re getting pretty rare. Oh, and I already read Frances Hardinge’s Cuckoo Song. It’s amazing.

What’s everyone else been up to? Anything you’re excited about this week?

Oh, and a few I keep forgetting to add that I was sent a month or so ago!

Cover of The Iron Hunt by Marjorie M. Liu Cover of Darkness Calls by Marjorie M. Liu Cover of A Wild Light by Marjorie M. Liu Cover of The Mortal Bone by Marjorie M. Liu

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What I read

Posted 20 March, 2014 by Nikki in General / 5 Comments

So one thing I was asked to write about here a while ago, and something which I think confuses publishers who look at my reviews, is the sheer spread of stuff I read. Crime, fantasy, hard SF, YA of all stripes, comic books, serious graphic novels, literature, non-fiction science, history… I’m currently reading Survivors: The Animals and Plants That Time Has Left Behind (Richard Fortey) alongside Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell), Tam Lin (Pamela Dean) and The Wizard’s Promise (Cassandra Rose Clarke), for example.

(A related question would be how I keep all these books I’m reading concurrently separate and fresh in my mind. I can only say, uh, practice? Necessity?)

It basically runs in my family. We’re all a bit “grass-hopper minded”, jumping to new interests all the time. We all have some unexpected hobbies and interests — my dad, who now only reads non-fiction, once shocked me profoundly by admitting he’d read all the Brother Cadfael books by Ellis Peters and thought they were “quite good”; my grandmother did her A Levels at the same time as her daughters and has dabbled in just about every craft I can think of; my mother’s a doctor and a passionate lover of both Tolkien and the seemingly endless stream of academic stuff I had to write about topics from Sir Gawain to Tennyson (which is almost the most modern I ever got, apart from some Arthurian literature and Welsh writing, which tend to come from fairly deep roots anyway). My sister’s in medical sciences, but I’ve caught her reading about sparkly vampires.

So it might look, Dear Publisher Considering Me For An ARC, like I’m only interested in reading a ton of books about biology, and it makes no sense that I’m requesting your upcoming cheesy space opera. Or that I’m not likely to be interested in fantasy when I’m reading books about astronomy and archaeology and the latest in the field of genetics. Or one week I might be catching up on my stack of comics, and then it’ll be all Captain Marvel all the time — not the reader you’d expect to be interested in your non-fiction book about potential life outside the solar system.

Now, I wouldn’t say I’m a polymath, but I’m here with my MA in English Literature, pondering either a PhD in literature or a switch to genetics or medicine. (And people who know me can tell you, it’s still very much up in the air with me, no matter what you’d think with me having gone as far as completing my Master’s degree.) Trust me, if I’ve requested your book, I’m interested.

So, yeah, in summary? I’m just interested in everything. Bring it on. I want to learn, but I also want to be entertained; I read like I breathe (that’s why I’m the Bibliophibian) and I never, ever go anywhere without a book. Preferably two or three.

Now will someone please rec me a good non-fiction book on dinosaurs that isn’t an encyclopedia? Actually, fiction works too. Just, dinosaurs. Please?

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 20 March, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
Fiction-wise, it was Cuckoo Song, by Frances Hardinge, which I loved to bits. If I had to come up with an immediate comparison, I guess Franny Billingsley’s Chime comes to mind — some similar ways of dealing with human/Other interaction, plus flawed families that feel real.

Non-fiction-wise, it was How Pleasure Works by Paul Bloom, which, well, I love my science so his very clear, very accessible, very basic style disappointed me a little.

What are you currently reading?
Many things, as usual. Two ARCs have reached the top of my not terribly orderly pile: The Wizard’s Promise by Cassandra Rose Clarke, and Natasha Mostert’s The Midnight Side. Because of the very nature of the twists I’ve been promised in the latter, I think I’ve figured out the story and I’m not desperately impressed, but will finish it. Don’t know if I’ll review the other two books I was approved for by her, though. The Wizard’s Promise is so far fun, though I think I like the protagonists of The Assassin’s Curse and The Pirate’s Wish better.

Next down on the pile (if you think of it in terms of archaeology, with strata, you wouldn’t be far wrong) is Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell. I’m not head over heels in love with it, but I recognise Cath’s fannishness and also her social awkwardness, and I think I might end up liking it. Although one review I read pointed out the chronic boundary pushing going on around Cath, and now I can’t stop seeing it. It’s really setting my teeth on edge.

Still reading Tam Lin, The Thirteenth Tale, Retribution Falls, etc, etc.

What do you think you’ll read next?
It’s been pretty well established that I don’t have a clue. But I’m looking thoughtfully at the book I got from the library on zoonotic diseases, and I’m thinking of finally getting to Maus and Persepolis, to prove that I r serious graphic novels reader, as well as a fan of superhero comics.

Although I did also get a Marvel Now Journey into Mystery: Featuring Sif TPB, so there’s plenty of the latter due to go on, too. I should finish reading Dark Reign: Young Avengers, too.

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Review – Dark Currents

Posted 15 March, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

Cover of Dark Currents by Jacqueline CareyDark Currents, Jacqueline Carey

I originally got this without even reading the summary, because it’s Jacqueline Carey and I’m pretty sure I’m gonna follow wherever her writing career takes her. This was different from everything else she’s written — less dense, less lush in terms of prose, and less complicated in terms of plot. Basically all you need to know is: supernatural community in small-town USA, boy turns up drowned with signs of magic around the circumstances, our heroine investigates. The rest is, at least at this point, mostly set dressing.

I did like that the heroine has several strong female friendships, and a strong relationship with her mother, and she cops to her daddy issues too. I’m not sure where this is going in terms of which guy/s she dates, and I’m not that invested in the question, but I’m not completely bored by any of her potential relationships either.

I do agree with some of the more negative reviews that a bit baffled that Carey went from the lush prose of the Kushiel and Naamah books to “gah!” and “ummm” and “totally” and so on. Once I figured out it was in a whole different register, style-wise, I just read it as I would any urban fantasy.

The world building is interesting, and not fully explained. This bothers some people; it doesn’t bother me. There’s a sense of a fragmented community here, supernatural beings-wise, and that they just pull together where they can and try to eke things out for themselves. It doesn’t seem like it’s some kind of easy co-existence: there’s hate and fear as well as fascination and tourist attractions.

I liked this well enough, but I don’t know that I found it special. I’m going to try the next book and see what that does for me.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 15 March, 2014 by Nikki in General / 64 Comments

So, it’s Saturday and time for Stacking the Shelves, which I tooootally don’t look forward to all week… It’s a meme where you show off your haul for the week, hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. (Hi to everyone dropping by from there.)

So anyway. It was going to be a very sad and empty week, haul-wise. Then I was browsing the Kindle store while feeling cranky, which I probably shouldn’t do. And this resulted…

Kindle books

Cover of Border Country by Raymond Williams Cover of Make Room for the Jester by Stead Jones Cover of A Heyday in the Blood by Geraint Goodwin Cover of Flame and Slag by Ron Barry  Cover of The Water-Castle by Brenda Chamberlain Cover of Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman Cover of Devil's Cape by Rob Rogers Cover of Black and White by Caitlin Kettridge and Jackie KesslerCover of Vicious by V.E. Schwab Cover of Don't Be A Hero by Chris Strange

Comics (collection)

Cover of Dark Reign: Young Avengers

Comics (issues)

Cover of Ms Marvel issue #1 Cover of Captain Marvel issue #1

I’d say spot the theme, but the covers pretty much give it away. (Welsh books and superheroes, if you didn’t get it. I love some of the superhero covers — they’re all novels apart from Dark Reign: Young Avengers, but each I think has a bit of a reference to comics in the cover art.)

So, uh, the Dark Reign cover actively infuriates me, because that’s Billy Kaplan there with Enchantress, and — he’s gay, actually. I don’t know what the hell they were thinking with that cover. He has a boyfriend in the comics, he’s with him the whole time except for a brief break during the most recent issues. It looks very much like a ridiculous attempt to de-gay him, and I hate it. But hey, at least I also got the first issue of the new Ms. Marvel and the 2014 Captain Marvel, which I’m excited about and haven’t been able to get in physical form locally, so finally got on ComiXology. I also set up subscriptions to both, because hey.

Of the other books, I can’t decide what I’m most interested in or want to start with. Hm. Maybe Make Room for the Jester, just because I’m curious that Philip Pullman has written the introduction. Or The Heyday in the Blood, because one of my lecturers from my BA wrote the introduction!

What’s everyone else been getting? What’re you getting excited about?

ETA: Belatedly dropping in to add a link to this giveaway I’m running. Gain entries by promoting my charity run or sponsoring me!

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