Category: General


What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 1 January, 2014 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
The last thing was Ironskin (Tina Connolly), and before that, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (Alan Bradley). I’m slowly creeping up on getting my list cleared, even if I keep starting new books a bit too often still…

What are you currently reading?
Midnight Robber (Nalo Hopkinson). The Creole narration (I think I’m right in saying it’s Creole, but I found conflicting information when I googled, so correct me if I’m wrong!) is really fascinating; it’s a bit tough for me at first, but the more I read, the easier it becomes. I think Hopkinson was very inventive in transplanting those West African traditions into a SF world. It feels different than pretty much anything else I’ve ever read.

I’m also reading Natural-Born Cyborgs (Andy Clark), which is quite interesting, but begins to lose me whenever he gets too scientific. I need to stop reading it when I’m less than fully alert! And slightly behind that in the queue, there’s Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Djinni, which I should be finishing soon, and Melissa Scott’s Shadow Man. Basically, as usual, I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

What do you think you’ll read next?
Once I’ve finished those two, I think I’ll read the next Flavia de Luce book, since I’ve so nearly caught up to the ARC, so that’ll be Speaking from Among the Bones. Then I think I might make an effort to finish Republic of Thieves (Scott Lynch), before me mother and partner both expire waiting. The plan is to work mostly on ARCs I already have in progress, this month, I think. I’m thinking maybe also The Darwin Elevator (Jason M. Hough), etc.

Books acquired:
There’s been enough acquired with Christmas money that I think my Stacking the Shelves entry for this week will just have to be edited highlights… Examples are Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (because Carl Sagan!) and Anna Cowan’s Untamed, after reading lots of fascinating reviews about it. It sounds deeply problematic in some ways, but also like it pushes on the boundaries of genre. I like my Regency romances, I confess, though Georgette Heyer can’t be beaten in my view; Untamed sounds like it adds some LGBT issues to the mix. Two words: crossdressing duke. I’m looking forward to getting round to that one.

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Indecisions, a poll

Posted 30 December, 2013 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

So soon I’ll be off to Belgium again, and I need to pick what books to take! I’m sure I’ve missed out an option and will kick myself later, but hey, maybe this will help make my mind up a bit.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 29 December, 2013 by Nikki in General / 14 Comments

It’s time for Tynga’s Reviews’ Stacking the Shelves meme again! I’ve already posted about the books I got for Christmas here, so I won’t repeat them — and there’s far too many to do so anyway! But here’s some I picked up today (with my first ever paycheck, hee).

Cover of Secret Chambers by Martin BrasierCover of Wonder Woman volume 1, BloodCover of Ultimate comics' Hawkeye

On another note, you know those noble plans about the books I was gonna read for the WWE challenge? Well, I’ve realised there’s one more book I’ve read that I meant to count for the challenge, Martha Wells’ City of Bones, and I ended up starting reading another which wasn’t on my little list, Tina Connolly’s Ironskin.

Stick around, you’ll come to expect this kind of fickle behaviour from me when it comes to books…

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Worlds Without End Challenge

Posted 27 December, 2013 by Nikki in General / 1 Comment

This year, Worlds Without End ran a challenge about getting people to read female genre authors who were new to them. Now, I figured I already read plenty of female authors, but there’s always room for new ones, right? I even decided to go one better: I’d read double the amount suggested in the challenge. And I’ve been pretty successful so far — these are my completed reviews for the books I’ve read, available on Goodreads. Likes on Goodreads are super helpful, by the way: I’ve given up linking to the GR version of each review, as the links never registered any clicks, but it would really help me in getting ARCs and so on!

Oh, and there was one other rule — you had to pick a random new female author. So I had to pick two.

Anyway, here’s the list:

Now, the observant will have noticed that I am not quite there yet, and I haven’t got a lot of time. So, here’s the list of books I hope to get read in order to complete the challenge, by New Year’s Eve.

  • Lauren Beukes, Zoo City
  • Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Djinni
  • Melissa Scott, Shadow Man
  • Joanna Russ, The Female Man
  • Rosie Best, Skulk
  • Julianna Scott, The Holders

Wish me luck…

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What are you reading… Thursday?

Posted 26 December, 2013 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

Whoops! Yesterday being Christmas Day, it didn’t “feel” like a Wednesday… Though I doubt anyone missed it.

What did you recently finish reading?
He Said, Sidhe Said by Tanya Huff, which I’ve reviewed already. Before that, I’ve been working on my reread of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising; I’m up to The Grey King.

What are you currently reading?
Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper is the first book open on my ereader. The second one is I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, by Alan Bradley; I’ll probably finish both of those tonight.

What do you think you’ll read next?
Well, I’m still working on the epic unfinished list. I think either my next ones will be the rest of the Flavia de Luce books, including the ARC I have of The Dead in their Vaulted Arches, or I might take a break from Flavia and work on some of the books that aren’t in a series. Christopher Morley’s The Haunted Bookshop, maybe, or Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Djinni. I’m not sure yet. All my new Christmas books are very, very tempting… *snatches hands away from one of the genetics ones*

Books acquired:
Many, many and varied. See this post

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What I got and what I gave

Posted 25 December, 2013 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

Books for Christmas! To my mind, easily the best gift, and one I enjoy choosing for people. It’s always interesting to see what people choose for me, too. So here’s a list of the books I gave people — and the books I got, just because it’s fun.

What I gave:

Girlfriend:
-Marvel, Planet Hulk, The Death of Spider-man, Spider-man: Who is Miles Morales?,  Spider-man: Scorpion. (Because Marvel.)

Sister:
-Malinda Lo, Adaptation and Inheritance. (She liked Ash and Huntress, but likes sci-fi more, plus LGBT author.)
-Kelley Armstrong, The Summoning. (She likes urban fantasy, and I enjoyed this one.)
-Dawn Cook, First Truth and The Decoy Princess. (She’s a fan of Kim Harrison, Dawn Cook’s other pen-name.)
-Kate Mosse, The Mistletoe Bride & Other Haunting Tales. (We both rather like Kate Mosse.)
-Nicola Griffith, Hild. (LGBT author plus awesome epic medieval women.)
-Veronica Roth, Allegiant. (She asked.)

Mum:
-Chris Hadfield, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. (Loves all things space with a passion.)
-Reza Aslan, Zealot. (Was interested in this after my review.)
-James L. Watson, Double Helix. (We were talking about this a couple of days ago and she expressed interest, plus I want to read it too.)

Lozzi (oldest friend):
A Guinea Pig Nativity. (Guinea pigs!)
-E.M. Bard, Test Your Cat: The Cat IQ Test. (I have a feeling her cats are not going to score very highly.)

Amy (ex-housemate, university friend):
-Jo Walton, Among Others. (Because I love this book and if you read it, you get to know me a lot better.)
-Blake Charlton, Spellbound. (I bought her the first book. Plus, dyslexic hero!)
-Garth Nix, A Confusion of Princes. (Garth Nix is a tradition with us.)

Lois (ex-housemate, university friend):
-Sharon Penman, Here Be Dragons, Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning. (She asked, plus it’s Welsh history.)
Jo Walton, Among Others. (See above.)

Ruth (ex-housemate, university friend):
-Jo Walton, Among Others. (See above.)
-A lot of other books, since I joined with other friends to get her an ereader!

Rachel (ex-housemate, university friend):
-Marvel, Young Avengers vol. 2. (I bought her volume one for her birthday, and Billy and Teddy are the most adorable. Also, LGBT, hero of colour, kickbutt ladies.)

You might have spotted that I feel especially responsible for nurturing my sister’s taste in books. The more she reads, the happier I am. I especially love it when I manage to pick out something she likes (I was the one who introduced her to Kim Harrison, a couple of Christmases ago!).

Oddly, nothing for Dad this year, book-wise. He got a light-up phaser and two Blake’s 7 boxsets, instead. (Everyone else got other stuff, not just books, I swear.)

What I got:

From my sister:
-Tim Spector, Identically Different. (Genetics!)
-Ursula Le Guin, Walking in Cornwall. (Ursula Le Guin poetry!)
-Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters. (Genetics! Again!)
-Marvel, Avengers vs. X-Men. (Heeee.)

From my parents:
-Marvel, Captain America: Two Americas, Captain America: Road to Reborn, Captain America: Reborn, Steve Rogers: Super Soldier, Captain America: No Escape, Captain America: Prisoner of War, Captain America: The Trial of Captain America, and Captain Marvel: Down. (Uh. I like Captain America?)

From my partner:
-Marvel, Ultimate X-Men vols. 1-4. (I liked their appearances in Ultimate Spider-man.)

From LibraryThing Secret Santa (majkia):
-Chris Wooding, Retribution Falls.
-Jack McDevitt, The Engines of God.

Plus, with Amazon vouchers/money from Pete Thomas, my partner and my parents:
-Andy Clarke, Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies and the Future of Human Intelligence. (My mini-comic, reboot, might have given you all a clue about my interest in this.)
-Ann Aguire, Grimspace. (My sister got it in paperback, and I got interested too.)
-Faith Hunter, Skinwalker. (Again, Squirt got it. Plus, it sounds a little like SPN with more ladies.)
-Tina Connolly, Ironskin. (A steampunk Jane Eyre? Sign me up.)
-Alastair Moffat, The British: A Genetic Journey. (Genetics! Plus I think I’ve read other books by Alastair Moffat.)
-Sophie Robbins, A Hole in the World. (An adventure romp type of thing with a princess getting rescued from trolls by a girl called Bianca…)
-Tanya Huff, He Said Sidhe Said, The Silvered, Valour’s Choice and The Better Part of Valour. (Because Tanya Huff writes such fun stuff; I’m partway through He Said Sidhe Said already.)
-Susan Cooper, Ghost Hawk. (Susan. Cooper.)
-James L. Watson, Double Helix. (Sound familiar?)

…And I even got some presents that weren’t books, like my new fingerless gloves!

Photo of my hand with my new hippo fingerless gloves on.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 22 December, 2013 by Nikki in General, Giveaways / 5 Comments

Spotted some people posting this meme yesterday — I didn’t get chance to do it yesterday, so today will have to do. The meme’s hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, and it’s called Stacking the Shelves. Basically, it’s posting about the week’s haul.

Dead tree books

The Gutenberg Revolution by John ManOnly Superhuman by Christopher L. BennettKnight's Dawn by Kim HunterWizard's Funeral by Kim Hunter

Graphic novels

Eternals by Neil GaimanUltimate X-Men Vol. 1 - Tomorrow PeopleUltimate X-Men Vol. 2 - Return to Weapon X

Ebooks

Strange New Words by Ari MarmellThe Conqueror's Shadow by Ari MarmellSharpe's Tiger by Bernard Cornwell

Possibly of interest: I picked up the Ari Marmell books because of this post, where he explains some current money problems mostly stemming from a period where his medication messed him up. I have complete sympathy with this, and I like that he’s encouraging people to buy his books rather than just holding out his hat.

So, first interested commenter gets a copy of Strange New Words gifted to them via Smashwords.

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An update on my reading list

Posted 21 December, 2013 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

So! I have been somewhat successful since 8th December in finishing some books from the currently reading stack. I’ve managed to finish the following books:

  • Alan Bradley, A Red Herring Without Mustard.
  • Geraldine Brooks, Year of Wonders.
  • Adam Christopher, Hang Wire.
  • Ursula Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness.
  • Patricia A. McKillip, Alphabet of Thorn.

5/50. So I get £5 from my mother, woo! But, on the other hand, I’ve remembered a few books that I missed off the original list, and some that I’ve started since…

  • Chris Wooding, Retribution Falls.
  • Sarah Addison Allen, Garden Spells.
  • Karen Lord, The Best of All Possible Worlds.
  • Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising.
  • James Renner, The Man from Primrose Lane.

So… we’re still running about even. And it’s about to be Christmas and I know I’m getting books, not to mention the books I’ve bought during the last few days (oops).

And let’s not even talk about the number of books I’ve started but also finished since I made that list. (Again. Oops.)

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Books that define me

Posted 20 December, 2013 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

I’ve talked about books I reread, and authors for whom I will read anything they produce, which must go some way towards helping even the casual reader get to know me. But when I was thinking about possible posts for this blog, I wandered off into thinking about books that I’d give people to help them understand me — not non-fiction books, which would be too easy, but the fiction books which have shaped me or given a voice to something in me.

So I’ve come up with a little list of five and some explanations; you may also see these as recommendations.

  • There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake, Hazel Edwards. If there’s a book that defines my whole childhood, I guess this is it. As far as I was concerned, there was a hippo on my roof too, and if there wasn’t, there should be. (And a giraffe in the garden.) My life is still filled with teddies, many of them hippos, and I keep a copy of this book in sight of my desk. And there’s still a hippopotamus on my roof, although sometimes now he worries about his weight, and trades in the cake for a diet of mushrooms. (Why mushrooms? That’s another story.)
  • The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien. I probably love The Lord of the Rings more than The Hobbit, but this is the book that enchanted me when I was a bit too old for Cat and Mouse or hippos on the roof. I could’ve read this endlessly, and often did. I remember one night when my parents were particularly determined to make me go to sleep, and I was equally determined not to, I read this book by the light of the streetlights down past the end of our garden, shining in just a little through my window. My imagination became full of dragons and trolls, and dwarves and gold, and wizards. And they’ve never left me either.
  • The Positronic Man, Isaac Asimov. Once upon a time, my mother got me some Asimov books out of the library on her account, because they wouldn’t let me into that section and I’d read everything they didn’t drag out of my clutching little hands. I have no idea what the library fine was when I finally allowed her to take this one back, but it’s fair to say it was probably the most epic fine I’ve ever wracked up — and I did manage some epic ones in university. I loved Andrew and his struggle to become human, and still do, even if I’d happily move the other way. Also, Andrew’s struggle for his rights, for the respect of the people around him, certainly speak to me now on a level I wasn’t aware of back then. I had no idea at that age that civil rights would become an issue for me, or that they were an issue for people like me.
  • The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper. I didn’t read this until I was about fifteen, sixteen, despite what everyone expects when they see my battered to death copy. I reread it just about every year, around this time; it seriously got under my skin. It’s magic with consequences: Will is an adult and more than an adult in a child’s body; Bran is isolated, motherless, starving for love; the Drews grow up over the course of the books; John Rowlands loses the love of his life, learning that she’s not the woman he thought she was… Things don’t really come alright at the end. And, of course, it draws on some of my heritage, Welsh legends, and deals with some of the tensions between Welsh and English. And there are themes about racism and bigotry, and some amazing passages about all sorts of things from justice to Englishness to responsibility.
  • Among Others, Jo Walton. I read this and thought, this is me. Of all these books, if you want to get to know me, this is the most important. Sure, there are ways in which I’m very unlike Mori, but her love affair with books, her thirst for them, some of the Welsh/English issues going on, many of the things she’s dealing with… I recognise them. For Christmas, I gave each of my ex-housemates a copy of this book. On reading the back, they all mentioned the immediate parallels between me and Mori…

Honourable mentions go to Enid Blyton’s Tales of Brave Adventure (I owned two much-loved, faded copies: one my father’s, one my mother’s), C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books, and Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth.

And, perhaps surprisingly even to my mother, the old chapter-a-day retelling of the Bible for children which I had. I’m not a Christian, but I still think that a lot of the goodness in me, I learnt there.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 17 December, 2013 by Nikki in General / 1 Comment

Some other blogs I follow do this meme, every Tuesday, and it seemed like a good idea. So! This week the top ten theme picked by The Broke and the Bookish is “top ten new-to-me authors in 2013”. This is pretty hard — I’m rubbish at picking top tens — but hey, with this one I just need to use Goodreads and look among my four and five starred books for this year, and hopefully I should be able to figure something out. They will not, I warn, be in any particular order.

  1. Cassandra Rose Clarke. I loved The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, which reminded me of a more daring, personal The Positronic Man (Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg). All sorts of themes which I love, and there’s something so powerfully sensual about it, too — there’s a physicality to it that surprised me and moved me.
  2. Georgette Heyer. I think I may technically have read one or two of her detective novels in 2012, but I kept away from her Regency romances, because I thought that was obviously not my thing. How wrong I was! The Talisman Ring, The Reluctant Widow and The Grand Sophy were probably my favourites. Heyer’s romances are actually way more fun (for me) than her detective novels, and often wickedly funny too.
  3. Karen Lord. I’ve only read part of The Best of All Possible Worlds, but I’m enjoying it, and I really loved Redemption in Indigo. Folk-story type narration and structure, awesome female characters, etc.
  4. Martha Wells. I’ve only read City of Bones, but I loved it. Non-traditional gender stuff, avoids the easy way out, lots of tasty, tasty world building. I think I’ve bought almost all the rest of her books as a result.
  5. Franny Billingsley. Oh my goodness, Chime. Just, oh my goodness. I loved the narration, the magic, the things it said about abuse and surviving and living again. I also enjoyed The Folk Keeper and Well Wished — less so, and they’re less touching/heavy subjects, but they’re a lot of fun too.
  6. Arthur C. Clarke. Yeah, I know, I’m a bit late on this one. But I really enjoyed 2001: A Space Odyssey. I didn’t realise that I’d enjoy his writing style so much — I had him sort of filed away as maybe like H.G. Wells, interesting for ideas but not quite entertaining. Wroooong.
  7. Lord Dunsany. Yeah, again, I know. I read Time and the Gods and am determined to spend more time reading his stuff: it’s just the sort of mythic, rich stuff I can really dig into.
  8. C.J. Sansom. I’ve been meaning to read his stuff for quite a while, but this year I finally got round to it. I enjoy his writing style, and while there are bones I have to pick with the Shardlake books, I do enjoy his way of portraying that time period and his choice of protagonist.
  9. Chris F. Holm. About time another Angry Robot author showed up, doncha think? I love Dead Harvest, etc: it’s funny, it’s a good pastiche of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett et al., and the covers are amazing. I just had so much fun reading these books.
  10. David Weber. He and Aliette de Bodard fought a fierce battle for this last spot, but he won. I loved On Basilisk Station, despite many flaws I could find in it. I mean, ten pages of exposition slap bang in the middle of an epic space chase/battle. WHAT. But still. I love Honor and I’m looking forward to reading more of the series.

I’m being good and sticking to the letter of the law: only a top ten. The top ten books I read in 2013 is coming up not next week but the week after: goodness knows how I’ll manage with that. But for now, off I go to bury my nose in the pages of I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (Alan Bradley).

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