Category: General


This Is My Genre, Show Me Yours

Posted 17 November, 2016 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

Saw this tag out in the wilds of Lucille @ A Dragon in Space‘s blog, and thought, yep! This sounds interesting.

This is my genre, show me yours!

The Rules:

  • Credit Drew @ TheTattooedBookGeek as the creator of the tag, either use the created tag name graphic or create your own and link back to my blog.
  • Answer the questions.
  • Tag as many people as you want.

Because I’m contrary and have no art skills, I am not creating a graphic.

1. What’s your favourite genre?

Probably fantasy. I mean, I’m really eclectic and wander into science fiction, crime/mystery, non-fiction and even romance. But unless I can sneak in sci-fi too by calling it speculative fiction… actually, yes, let’s do that. My favourite genre is speculative fiction.

2. Who’s your favourite author from the genre?

This is a really big ask. I mean, there’s Tolkien, because his work is an enduring love of mine. Well, I faltered a bit as a teen, but then read Ursula Le Guin’s essays and came to appreciate all over again the good parts of The Lord of the Rings, like the wry notes of humour. And then my degree taught me to appreciate the deep background, linguistic brilliance, etc.

And come to that, there’s Ursula Le Guin, whose works were also formative for me.

But if we’re talking whose work I pounce on immediately, I guess we’re at Jo Walton. She is not only an awesome writer who wrote Among Others, a book which reflects my own heart, but she is also a friend and giver of great advice.

3. What is it about the genre that keeps pulling you back?

The sheer variety, I think. One minute I can travel with Bilbo from the Shire, and the next I can travel by sandworm across Arrakis, or struggle to get home from Mars with Mark Watney. There seems to be just about no limit to the different books I could easily lay hand on even in my own collection.

4. What’s the book that started your love for your favourite genre?

That’s an easy one! The Hobbit! I probably wrecked my eyes reading that book — my parents told me I had to sleep and to stop turning my bedside light on. So I read by the light of the streetlamp… two houses away.

5. If you had to recommend at least one book from your favourite genre to a non-reader/someone looking to start reading that genre, what book would you choose and why?

No, no, this is silly, I’d need to know the person and their preferences. You have to tailor your recs, or it makes no sense. But for a lot of people, I might go with Harry Potter. It seems to have been a gateway drug for many, and it’s a pretty pacy, easy read.

6. Why do you read?

Why can’t I stop? Not that I want to.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 16 November, 2016 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?
Mara Wilson’s biography, Where Am I Now? Obviously, I wanted to be Matilda as a kid, so it was interesting to catch up with the life of someone who lived the dream… sort of. It’s quite touching in places, and she writes frankly about her anxiety disorder. I found it entertaining and worth the read.

What are you currently reading?
On the go right now… The Return of the King, as I finally finish off my reread, and Dark Sky, by Mike Brooks — the sequel to Dark Run. Tolkien’s work is fascinating, of course, although for once I think maybe I’m not quite in the right mood. Dark Sky is entertaining, though I’ve got a bit bogged down in the current section with the riot. I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps I’m just being picky in general about my books. It wouldn’t be the first time…

What are you planning to read next?
I’ve got a tonne of non-fiction reviews all lined up to post at around the same time, so I think I’m going to try and make sure it’s fiction, at least. I have to look at my reading challenge prompts that are left; stuff like ‘a book I haven’t read since high school’ and ‘a book and its prequel’. Hmm…

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 15 November, 2016 by Nikki in General / 9 Comments

This week’s theme is not about books, but movies. I actually have to confess that I am not actually much of a consumer of films or TV… but I do have some favourites.

  1. Anastasia. That bickering relationship between Anya and Dmitri? Yeaaaah. Also the ending song: “We were strangers, starting out on a journey…” Always sticks in my head.
  2. Stardust. It’s different to the book, but charming in its own way.
  3. Captain America: The First Avenger. Please let me hug Steve Rogers.
  4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Please let me hug Steve Rogers.
  5. Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr). I watched it half a dozen times in the cinema. In the cinema. The sequel was less fun, though it had its moments.
  6. Spirited Away. The soot creatures! Haku!
  7. Howl’s Moving Castle. Vastly simplified from the book, and yet I still enjoyed it as an adaptation. Even if it cut out the Welsh bits. Calcifer!
  8. Pacific Rim. Non-toxic masculinity with a lot of heart.
  9. Apollo 13. That movie never gets old. Everyone was brilliant, and every time I tear up at some point. This is rare for me, so, yeah.
  10. Guardians of the Galaxy. So. Much. Fun.

And now anyone who knows me is wondering why I made a post so obvious it’s approximately like pointing out that Earth has a moon.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 12 November, 2016 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

Well, it’s been a heck of a week. Hope everyone’s doing okay!

Received to review:

Cover of The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

I’m kind of a sucker for things about rediscovering archaeological marvels, so… yeah, couldn’t resist.

Library:

Cover of Politics: Between the Extremes by Nick Clegg

I was a Lib Dem voter, and I was sort of interested to see what Clegg had to say for himself… but I wasn’t going to buy it!

Books bought:

Cover of The Art of Language Invention by David J. Peterson Cover of The Book by Keith Houston Cover of A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

Another book on invented languages? This one is a bit more like a primer for inventing your own; it’s not something I’m actually interested in doing, but reading about the process and considerations is pretty fascinating. As for The Book, I’m not wedded to the book as a physical object — I love ebooks too — but I am looking forward to this celebration of the book and history. And Becky Chambers’ new book, well, you all tell me I’m going to love it!

Books finished this week:

Cover of Genome by Matt Ridley Cover of The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue Cover of Death of a Unicorn by Peter Dickinson Cover of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Cover of The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu 22318578-1 Cover of Politics: Between the Extremes by Nick Clegg Cover of The Art of Language Invention by David J. Peterson

Reviews posted this week:

Gaudy Night, by Dorothy L. Sayers. BBC radioplay. A good adaptation, though it’s a bit different in style to the rest of the series. 4/5 stars
Strong Poison, by Dorothy L. Sayers. A reliable comfort read for me, though this time I did notice something rather self-pitying about Lord Peter… 5/5 stars
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, by Genevieve Valentine. A really interesting take on the dancing princesses fairytale, set in Manhattan during prohibition. I was more riveted than I expected, actually; it hooked me in pretty neatly. 4/5 stars
From Elvish to Klingon, ed. Michael Adams. Interesting collection of essays on conlangs, although some of them are rather more interesting than others. 3/5 stars
Faro’s Daughter, by Georgette Heyer. Fun, but Ravenscar is not the best of Heyer heroes. Mind you, Deb kinda makes up for that. 3/5 stars
Flashback Friday: A Coalition of Lions, by Elizabeth E. Wein. Delightfully develops one of the female characters from the first book. 4/5 stars

Other posts:
Top Ten Tuesday: Recent Additions to the TBR. What it says on the tin. Not just book I’ve just bought, though; it includes wishlisted books.
What are you reading Wednesday. My weekly update, with a bit of a ramble about British politics courtesy of reading Nick Clegg’s book.
A-Z Book Blogger Tag. A somewhat random collection of bookish questions!

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A-Z Book Blogger Tag

Posted 10 November, 2016 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Picked up from Chuckles, this tag looked kind of fun. Obviously, consider yourself tagged if you agree!

Author you’ve read the most books from:
I have a suspicion it’s probably Ursula Le Guin, just because she’s written so many books. But the number on my Goodreads might be misleading, due to rereads, so it could also be Mary Stewart — I might’ve read more unique books by her, especially when you consider both the mystery/thrillers and the very different Arthurian novels.

Best sequel ever:
Well, I think I might be contractually obligated to say The Lord of the Rings… no, but really. The Hobbit is fun, but The Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece.

Currently reading: 
The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu. By the time this posts I’ll have finished it, but for right now I don’t quite know what I think of it. Might have to go round some other blogs and see what people I trust have said!

Drink choice when reading:
Diet Coke, always. Well, not always — at one point I wasn’t drinking caffeine, and then the drink of choice was Fanta, usually the passionfruit flavour.

Ereader or physical book:
Both.

Fictional character you probably would have actually dated in high school:
Uh, Hermione Granger? She was probably the main thing about Harry Potter that I’d never get tired of. Although I have a sneaking suspicion my sister might give the same answer, which is kind of weird.

Glad you gave this book a chance:
Rosemary and Rue, by Seanan McGuire. It took me so long to get round to it, feeling like it couldn’t match up!

Hidden Gem book:
Critical Nikki error: I have no idea right now.

Important moment in your reading life:
My first year of my English Lit BA. Suddenly, I was being challenged and really taught analytical skills, and I took to it like a duck to water. I will never understand people who say they no longer read after their English Lit degree, because analysing books so much spoilt them. How? Knowing more, having a bigger toolkit, was just an encouragement for me. Incidentally, the first year of my degree is also when I first ran into what I guess some people would call Social Justice Warriorism. In a different way, that also made me more aware of what I was reading, and more able to analyse it.

Just finished:
The last book I finished was A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. Gah, is all I have to say.

Kind of books you won’t read:
Books where I know in advance they’re really gross about race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. I’m sure some of those are even worth reading in their way, but I don’t have the time and energy to spare for books that’ll make my blood boil.

Longest book you’ve read:
I don’t know, but Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is probably high on the list.

Major book hangover because of:
I don’t tend to get that feeling.

Number of bookcases you own:
Oh, heck. Eight or nine? It’s hard to gauge, because I also have random shelves everywhere all over my room at my parents’ house, plus a set on wheels, plus a coffee table that’s actually a bookshelf…

One book you have read multiple times: 
Just one? Uh. The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison, then.

Preferred place to read:
I’m not too picky, honestly. I read anywhere and everywhere. As a kid, I used to like sitting on stairs, for some reason, but they’re a bit narrow for me to sit on comfortably now.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read:
“Lord, if I thought you were listening, I’d pray for this above all: that any church set up in your name should remain poor, and powerless, and modest. That it should wield no authority except that of love. That it should never cast anyone out. That it should own no property and make no laws. That it should not condemn, but only forgive. That it should be not like a palace with marble walls and polished floors, and guards standing at the door, but like a tree with its roots deep in the soil, that shelters every kind of bird and beast and gives blossom in the spring and shade in the hot sun and fruit in the season, and in time gives up its good sound wood for the carpenter; but that sheds many thousands of seeds so that new trees can grow in its place. Does the tree say to the sparrow, ‘Get out, you don’t belong here?’ Does the tree say to the hungry man, ‘This fruit is not for you?’ Does the tree test the loyalty of the beasts before it allows them into the shade?”
The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, Philip Pullman

Reading Regret:
I took so freakin’ long to get round to reading Seanan McGuire’s books!

Series you started and need to finish (all books are out in series):
I don’t even know and I’m not sure I want to.

Three of your all time favourite books:
The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison; The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien; A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin. 

Unapologetic fangirl for:
J.R.R. Tolkien, Jo Walton, Dorothy L. Sayers, Mary Stewart, Georgette Heyer, Jacqueline Carey, Guy Gavriel Kay, Scott Lynch…

Very excited for this release more than all the others:
The Burning Page, by Genevieve Cogman. Gimme, gimme, gimme.

X marks the spot-start at top left of your shelf and pick 27th book:
Taking my shelves at my wife’s place, it’s The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers. 

Your latest book purchase:
Bought for myself, it’d be Dark Sky, by Mike Brooks. Assuming I haven’t bought anything as I passed through London between writing this and it going up on the blog.

ZZZ snatcher book (the last book that kept you up way late):
I think that’d be The Talisman Ring, a reread. But that was more because I didn’t feel like sleeping…

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 9 November, 2016 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

So, uh, that was a politics, am I right. Let’s talk about books instead.

What have you recently finished reading?
The last thing I finished reading was The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu (trans. Ken Liu). I’m still processing what I thought of it. The hard science passed me by, but other aspects intrigued me. I wasn’t that much of a fan of the translation, and yet I feel that it probably did catch something of the original prose. It’s just that the aesthetics are different between Chinese culture and mine. I think I’ll pick up the next book, soon.

What are you currently reading?
I picked up my ARC of The Lost City of the Monkey God, after noticing it on Bob @ Beauty in Ruins‘ blog. I’m fascinated; it is a bit populist and treasure-hunty, but that’s part of the fun of it, too. I’m also reading Nick Clegg’s Politics: Between the Extremes. I was a Lib Dem voter at one point, so I was interested to see what account he made of himself. So far, so self-pitying. He has a point about the way politics needs to be shaped as a story, though. Why he seems to have been surprised that the heart rules the head when the average person makes political decisions, I don’t know. It feels particularly topical today, given the US elections.

But that’s politics again.

What are you planning to read next?
I’ve actually assembled a shortlist of books to read by the end of 2016, so ideally I should just pick from the list. I’m thinking I should get stuck back into Cleopatra’s Heir, by Gillian Bradshaw — I’m partway through it, and it’s a very interesting exploration of Caesarion and what could have happened to him.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 8 November, 2016 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is books recently added to the TBR. Which is easy enough to do, since I love my lists and keep very careful track…

  1. Dark Sky, by Mike Brooks. Read the first book, picked this one up as soon as I could. Just the right level of light fun for me.
  2. How to Clone a Mammoth, by Beth Shapiro. Picked up somewhat on impulse, this looks at the science of de-extinction. Points for a sci-fi mention on the first page, even if it was Piers Anthony.
  3. The City of Dreaming Books, by Walter Moers. Technically, this isn’t new to my TBR, but it is new to my actual shelves. Even just the title does it for me…
  4. Behind the Throne, by K.B. Wagers. My sister loved it and devoured it in under a day, so there’s a good chance I’ll find it enjoyable.
  5. The Death of Caesar, by Barry Strauss. It’s been a while since I read anything by Strauss, but I remember enjoying his other books; I think I’ve read two or three now. This is on my Christmas list. Here’s hoping!
  6. I Contain Multitudes, by Ed Yong. Another non-fiction book, fairly predictably fascinating to me given the topic of microbes and the human body!
  7. The Wolf Road, by Beth Lewis. I don’t even remember what this one is about, but someone reviewed it and it sounded fascinating. So, onto the Christmas list it went.
  8. A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers. I haven’t read the first book yet, but I hear such good things about it, I’m sure I’ll want to pick this one up. …When I’m in the UK, as Fnac do not stock it.
  9. Proust and the Squid, by Maryanne Wolf. I think the title makes it sound more generally exciting than it might otherwise be — it’s actually a book about the science of reading. I enjoyed Reading in the Brain, so I’m very hopeful about this one.
  10. The Book of Kells, by R.A. MacAvoy. Technically, this is not new to my list, but it’s another one which is relatively new to my shelves. It was a suggested read for a time travel theme at one of my bookclubs, I think!

So yeah, that’s a sampling of things that might (or might not, knowing me) be coming up to review sometime soon!

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 5 November, 2016 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

Good morning! It’s been a weird week for me; kind of slow, but busy too, with class to catch up with and my wife not very well. All’s good now, though, and I’ve made a decent start on my reading goals for November. I’ve also made a list of the books I need to read to meet my challenge goals… yipes.

Anyway, here goes, the weekly roundup:

Received to review:

cover100991-medium-1

I’ve enjoyed Carrie Vaughn’s work before, so I’m hopeful about this, even just because it has her name on it.

New books:

Cover of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin Cover of How To Clone a Mammoth by Beth Shapiro Cover of Dark Sky by Mike Brooks

A bit of an odd mixture, perhaps! But it really is about time I read On the Origin of Species.

Books finished this week:

Cover of A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire Cover of This Is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin Cover of Predictably Irrational by Dan ArielyCover of The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer Cover of Natural Causes by James Oswald

Reviews posted this week:
Anthem, by Ayn Rand. If you’re going to read a book by Rand and you’re pretty sure you’re going to disagree vehemently with her politics, this is a pretty good choice. It’s nice and short. 2/5 stars
Whispers Under Ground, by Ben Aaronovitch. I still enjoyed this one, but it is a bit of a filler book. Nothing like the impact of the next one. 4/5 stars
Dinosaurs Without Bones, by Anthony J. Martin. This book is full of information on dinosaurs! And also jokes about all the sorts of traces dinosaurs have left. It doesn’t stop at coprolites — or at least, Martin hopes it doesn’t. 5/5 stars
In the Land of Invented Languages, by Arika Okrent. This is a fun read and also very informative about conlangs. I actually found myself wanting to give this to everyone. 4/5 stars
The Borgias, by Christopher Hibbert. Not as entertaining as I’d hoped; it’s not dry, exactly, but it’s very much a litany of facts rather than analysis. 2/5 stars
The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy L. Sayers. BBC radioplay. The casting makes it shine, of course; Ian Carmichael is (at least vocally) the perfect Lord Peter. 4/5 stars
Flashback Friday: The Winter Prince, by Elizabeth E. Wein. I found it an interesting and powerful retelling of the Arthurian story, though I wasn’t 100% a fan of the portrayal of the female characters. 4/5 stars

Other posts:
Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books if Your Bookclub Likes SF. More or less what it says on the tin.
ShelfLove November Update & TBR. My progress on my reading goals for 2016, plus a hopeful to-read list for this month.

Here’s hoping this is a good week for reading, for all of us!

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ShelfLove November Update

Posted 1 November, 2016 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

ShelfLove Challenge 2016

ShelfLove Update!

The goals where I’m ahead are in blue; bang on are in green; behind by up to five books are in orange; anything else is in red. I now have a running total to show where I should be for the month too (e.g. by June I needed to read 182 books overall).

  • Targets: 
    • 250 or fewer books bought;
    • 366 books read overall;
    • 200 books read which I owned prior to 2016;
    • no more than 10% of income on books per month.
  • Books bought this year so far: 182/200.
  • October books bought: 11/20.
  • October budget: Smashed to smithereens on non-fiction titles.
  • Owned books read this month: 9/16.
  • Books read this month: 23/31.
  • Owned books read overall: 156/167 (11 books behind).
  • Books read overall: 293/305 (12 books behind).

A TBR for this month looks more or less the same as last month, because I was hopeless, with a few additions.

  • Ben Aaronovitch, Foxglove Summer.
  • Ben Aaronovitch, The Hanging Tree.
  • Ilona Andrews, Magic Binds.
  • Marie Brennan, In Ashes Lie.
  • Mike Brooks, Dark Sky.
  • Becky Chambers, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet.
  • Mira Grant, Deadline.
  • Mira Grant, Blackout.
  • Joseph Hansen, Skinflick.
  • Seanan McGuire, An Artificial Night.
  • Seanan McGuire, Late Eclipses.
  • Sylvia Moreno-Garcia, Certain Dark Things.
  • Emma Newman, After Atlas.
  • Cherie Priest, The Family Plot.
  • John Scalzi, The Ghost Brigades.

And this month’s ShelfLove challenge theme is to name one bookish thing you’re thankful for, and I think my answer has to be… bookmarks. I love having bookmarks and using them, not just to mark my place in a book, but to celebrate fandoms I like, mark reading targets, and… honestly, just to collect them. Even really plain boring ones. (I have some from my grandfather’s Rotary Club. They are not pretty, just plain stiff paper, but they have been with me a long time now.)

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 1 November, 2016 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

This week’s theme is Top Ten Books if your bookclub likes ____. Well, I’ll go with sci-fi (or spec-fic more generally), surprising no one. (Except anyone who half expected me to do non-fiction again.)

Cover of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell Cover of The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach Cover of Dark Run by Mike Brooks Cover of Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang Cover of The Gate to Women's Country by Sherri S. Tepper

  1. The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. Prepare to have your heart and soul ripped to shreds. It sounds like crack: Jesuits in space! It isn’t. It’s really serious and profound and an amazing exploration of faith and where it might take people.
  2. The Carpet Makers, by Andreas Eschbach. The translation is actually really good, and the structure of this book is fascinating. Plenty to sink your teeth into.
  3. Dark Run, by Mike Brooks. This is rather lighter fare: basically Firefly if it did more than nod at diversity. (Come on, I love Firefly, but Simon and River Tam should’ve been played by Chinese actors, following the logic of the world-building.)
  4. Stories of Your Life and Others, by Ted Chiang. You can even get a book club cinema trip out of this one in the near future, with Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner in a film adaptation of one of the stories. There’s some really clever stuff here.
  5. The Gate to Women’s Country, by Sheri S. Tepper. RIP to the author, who died on the 22nd October of this year. I found this book really fascinating, and it’s an interesting exploration of gender roles.
  6. Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie. I really love this whole trilogy (maybe a reread soon?), but it seems like it can be a bit like Marmite. Regardless, there should be plenty to dig your teeth into in a discussion.
  7. Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer. What’s going on in this book? Who knows, but there’s plenty to talk about and analyse. I’d read the whole trilogy, though, to get all the pieces of the puzzle…
  8. Remnant Population, by Elizabeth Moon. This book actually features an older protagonist, which is interesting, and it’s a fun exploration of two species meeting in a less-than-typical situation.
  9. The Broken Land, by Ian McDonald. I don’t know why other people didn’t enjoy this. Whether you see Israel and Palestine in it, or the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, it reflects reality and muses upon it in the best sort of way.
  10. Troika, by Alastair Reynolds. I stumbled across this novella in a library in Belgium, and hadn’t come across it before, despite enjoying the author’s work. It’s an interesting take on the Big Dumb Object trope. If your bookclub wanted to explore a major SF trope, this’d be a good pick, for my money.

Cover of Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie Cover of Annilation by Jeff VanderMeer Cover of Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon Cover of The Broken Land by Ian McDonald Cover of Troika by Alastair Reynolds

Looking forward to seeing other people’s lists this week — though it’s not like I need more new books…

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