Category: General

Stacking the Shelves

Posted 29 October, 2016 by Nikki in General / 10 Comments

It’s been a busy week for me, and it’s about to be a busy weekend too. Still, I did fit in some reading this week!

Received to review:

Cover of Invisible Planets ed. Ken Liu Cover of The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

Ohhh emmm geeee, The Hanging Tree.

Books read this week:

Cover of Gut by Giulia Enders Cover of Emma by Jane Austen Cover of The Boys from Brazil by Ira Levin Cover of The Man Everybody Was Afraid Of by Joseph Hansen

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively Cover of Cleopatra by Joyce Tyldesley Cover of Terra by Mitch Benn

Reviews posted this week:
Truthwitch, by Susan Dennard. I found this kind of disappointing, given the hype about the female characters and how central their friendship was. I felt like that was more ‘tell’ than ‘show’. 2/5 stars
How to Traverse Terra Incognita, by Dean Francis Alfar. I wasn’t totally drawn in by this, but it’s a pretty interesting collection. 3/5 stars
Moon Over Soho, by Ben Aaronovitch. A fun reread, and Peter endeared himself more to me in this book. 4/5 stars
The House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard. I wasn’t drawn into this one at first, and then all of a sudden, I was. Loved the Vietnamese folklore included. 4/5 stars
Murder Must Advertise, by Dorothy L. Sayers. Radioplay. As usual, great adaptation and performance, especially on Ian Carmichael’s part. Buuut Inspector Parker’s voice actor is wrong, wrong, wrong. 3/5 stars
Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World, by Nick Lane. Interesting stuff, but it’s rather too  speculative and sometimes on shaky ground. 2/5 stars
Flashback Friday: A Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England, by Ian Mortimer. Provided you are a male time traveller, that is. 2/5 stars

Other posts:
Top Ten Tuesday: Things that Really Scare Me. Typically for me, I gave this a twist — this covers books on topics which scare me, rather than horror fiction, for the Halloween freebie.
What are you reading Wednesday. My weekly update!
The TBR Tag. What it says on the tin.

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The TBR Tag

Posted 28 October, 2016 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

1. What book have you been unable to finish?
The most recent book I just skimmed in order to finish it was Moon Tiger, by Penelope Lively. Just not my thing at all, and the main character and the narrative structure drove me bananas. I try to at least skim most books to the end, so it’s a rare one where I just put it down.

2. Which book haven’t you read yet because you haven’t had the time?
Hahahaha… Yeah, many. Six of Crows is one that I’ve only recently picked up, and which I’m kind of stalled on, for example. Stuff just keeps happening and I pick up something Cover of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugoquicker/shinier/more suiting to my mood.

3. Which book haven’t you read yet because it’s a sequel?
Again, this could apply to many, many books of my acquaintance. There’s a bunch of ARCs to which this applies, for example — Seanan McGuire’s Once Broken Faith, Juliet Marillier’s Den of Wolves, Sylvia Izzo Hunter’s A Season of Spells… Must catch up.

4. Which book haven’t you read yet because it’s brand new?
The Hanging Tree, by Ben Aaronovitch. I got an e-ARC yesterday, for which I am excited, but I’m not sure I’ve even loaded it on my Kindle yet.

5. Which book haven’t you read yet because you read a book by the same author and didn’t enjoy it?
Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass. I don’t dislike his writing that much, but the Dresden Files books bothered me somewhat. With that in mind, it’s hard to make myself get round to this, no matter how intrigued I was by the opening pages.

6. Which book haven’t you read yet because you’re just not in the mood for it?
Like the person I borrowed this tag from, The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. Or worse, Scott Lynch’s The Republic of Thieves. I have no real excuse.

Cover of In Ashes Lie by Marie Brennan7. Which book haven’t you read yet because it’s humongous?
It doesn’t actually take much to discourage me from reading a book at the moment, because I know I have reading goals I should be meeting. Terrible, isn’t it? Even Marie Brennan’s In Ashes Lie is daunting me.

8. Which book haven’t you read yet because because it was a cover buy that turned out to have poor reviews?
With these, I actually tend to move them forward in the list and just get it over with.

9. What is the most intimidating book in your TBR pile?
The easy answer is Joyce’s Ulysses, though I’m not sure I’ve ever actually committed to reading that. There’s a few science books on my TBR that daunt me a little, mostly because I have a stupid notion that I’m not good at science. (I got a distinction for my first year of my BSc. It’s all good. I am not bad at science by any means. And yet…)

10. Who do you tag?
I forget who likes tags and who doesn’t, so tag yourself if you so wish!

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 26 October, 2016 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?
I juuuust finished reading Terra, by Mitch Benn; it was for the prompt “book by a comedian” for a reading challenge, and I’m actually really glad I read it. It was sweet, relatively uplifting, and really easy to read — exactly what I needed right now.

The book I finished before that was Joyce Tyldesley’s biography of Cleopatra; that is also good for a bad mood in a different way, since I like reading non-fiction while I’m cranky. Cleopatra was a pretty fascinating woman, and Tyldesley’s style is very readable as well as informative.

What are you currently reading?
I’m about 9% of the way into Robin Lane Fox’s Alexander the Great, and feeling a bit conflicted about it. It doesn’t read quite like biography, but it’s definitely not fiction. Something about it just indefinably bothers me. I’m also reading Invisible Planets, a collection of SF/F short stories translated from Chinese by Ken Liu. I’m not sure what I think of those, yet; I’ve only read the first three, all by the same author.

What are you planning to read next?
Foxglove Summer, I think. And my copy of Dark Sky by Mike Brooks should arrive tomorrow; I might well read that soon too, since it’s very Firefly-ish and that’s kind of comfort-reading-ish too. Alternatively, I have a couple of Georgette Heyer books I want to read/reread, and I might pick up one of those.

I do also need to crack on with my reading challenge goals. Idea for a book written by a celebrity, anyone?

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 25 October, 2016 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a Halloween freebie. Horror and such isn’t my genre, so instead my list is focused on things that really scare me — and they should probably scare you too.

  1. The Lucifer Effect, by Philip Zimbardo. If the Stanford prison experiment doesn’t scare the pants off you, I don’t know what will. Stanley Milgram’s experiments are honestly less shocking to me, having read about the actual experimental design and the way it was reported. But the participants in the Stanford Prison Experiment knew exactly what was happening at all times, and yet they were still manipulated by the situation into acting like monsters, or enabling monsters. Even the guy nominally in charge of the experiment, Zimbardo himself, did not realise what was going on until an outsider asked him what the hell he was playing at.
  2. Brain on Fire, by Susannah Cahalan. The idea that inflammation in your brain can reproduce the symptoms of mental disorders and make your case seem entirely baffling and hopeless… Our brains are so ridiculously fragile, as Cahalan’s case proves.
  3. Panic Attacks, by Christine Ingham. This is actually a book about learning to cope with panic attacks, which I found somewhat helpful. But the fact remains that panic is terrifying, and hard to get a handle on, and just the idea of being as anxious as I was when I needed this book scares me rather a lot.
  4. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. First, on the superficial level, it’s Dawkins and I’m both terrified of his smug sense of superiority and that I might ever be like him. But also let this book stand for the fear of not knowing — of things, perhaps, being unknowable. And then worse, that people say, claim, believe that this could mean condemnation after death? Erk. Scary thought. I don’t even know where I stand on that.
  5. Spillover, by David Quammen. If you’re not terrified of the idea of a pandemic, you’re kidding yourself. We’re destroying habitats and bringing ourselves into closer and closer contact with reservoirs of disease like Ebola, AIDs, SARS, Hendra… We may be lucky. We’ve been lucky. Will that continue?
  6. A Mind of its Own, by Cordelia Fine. Or a number of other books on similar topics — the way our brains lie to us, as a result of the way they function. It’s actually alarming the things you can ignore, given the right combination of factors.
  7. Why Evolution is True, by Jerry A. Coyne. I find it a little frightening that the general public is often ignorant of evolution and the fact that it is completely proven, and in fact a mathematically necessary conclusion. So the fact that this book exists is half reassuring — because you can learn about evolution — and half terrifying, because oh, how we need it.
  8. The Moral Landscape, by Sam Harris. This is slightly tongue in cheek, but Harris’ views of morality are definitely not mine, and I find his way of thinking alien.
  9. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. The book is amazing. It also terrified me because, guys, there are immortal lines of cancer cells just propagating in labs right now. Right now. And also probably cells undergoing deleterious mutations in our own bodies. And also, the medical establishment is not infallibly moral. Everything about this is scary (though the latter part is, I admit, obvious — if you need this book to tell you that humans are fallible, well).
  10. Missing Microbes, by Martin J. Blaser. We are screwing up millennia of co-evolution by killing off microbes that have existed within the human body and adapted to us, and we don’t even really know what the consequences will be. And you know, that whole problem with antibiotic resistance. (Which in itself proves what I said in #7 about evolution, by the way. If evolution isn’t happening right now, why are microbes developing antibiotic resistance?)

So yeah, hope you’re all good and terrified now! I am. Just a little. Mostly healthy fear.

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Posted 22 October, 2016 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

It’s that time again, and sadly, I know I can’t participate much today — so I haven’t even officially signed up. Darn those lectures… All the same, I do want to participate for a while, so I’m hoping to drop by and read from 2pm-8pm today, Belgian time, and 10am-4pm tomorrow. That way I’ll hit some readathon hours, and hopefully do some catching up on my backlog!

And what’s on my stack? Well —

  • Gut, by Giulia Enders. I’m over halfway through it, so I should be able to get finished.
  • Emma, by Jane Austen. On the last 15%, so this should be a good time to polish it off.
  • The Man Everyone was Afraid Of, by Joseph Hansen. On the TBR for this month, and in the past it was a very good readathon companion. (It’s a reread, so tried and true.)
  • The Ghost Brigades, by John Scalzi. This is a reread too, and also on the TBR. I don’t think I’ve ever read Scalzi’s work for a readathon, but I think it should be pretty well suited.
  • The Boys from Brazil, by Ira Lenin. Pretty much a classic, and not too long — perfect time to try and polish it off my list.

I think if I stay focused, I should be able to finish all five, which will make it a very good readathon for me despite the interruptions!

14.21: I started early, since class was over, so now I’ve finished reading Gut. And here’s the intro meme:

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? Hmm, I’m looking forward to having Emma finished, at any rate?
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? I have some nice chocolate chip cookies lined up.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I have a bunny whose joy in life is sneakily nibbling my books.
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? Definitely not my first, but this time I have decided in advance I’m not going to stay up. Maybe I’m getting old…

15.12: And now I’ve finished Emma! Not sure what next… I’m feeling kind of sick, annoyingly.

17.02: Still feel sick, but at least in the meantime I’m done with The Boys from Brazil and nearly halfway through The Man Everyone Was Afraid Of.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 22 October, 2016 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

Busy week for me! But more reading than last week, whew. How’s everyone doing?

Books acquired this week:

Cover of The Vital Question by Nick Lane Cover of Touch by David J. Linden Cover of Gut by Giulia Enders Cover of Restless Creatures by Wilkinson

Cover of The Vikings by Neil Oliver Cover of Life Unfolding by Jamie A. Davies 2088714

Yep, a nice big haul of assorted non-fiction. I went into Brussels on Monday, since I got paid, and had a little spree in Sterling Books and Waterstones. <3

Cover of The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers Cover of War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

I got The City of Dreaming Books from my friend Dingsi, thank you. <3 I’ve been meaning to read War for the Oaks since… forever, I think. Emma Bull has been heavily recommended to me, and I liked the look of this (new?) Penguin edition.

Books finished this week:

Cover of In The Woods by Tana French Cover of Virus Hunt by Dorothy H. Crawford Cover of Augustus by John Williams

Cover of She-Hulk vol. 1 by Dan Slott Cover of Captain Marvel: Alpha Flight Cover of Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

Reviews posted this week:
Saga Volume Six, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Gorgeous as ever, and a hugely satisfying volume for me. Eeeh. 4/5 stars
Have His Carcase, by Dorothy L. Sayers. BBC radioplay. As usual, this is really well done and you gotta love the interaction between Harriet and Peter. Or I do, anyway. 4/5 stars
Epigenetics: The Ultimate Mystery of Inheritance, by Richard C. Francis, read by Kurt Elftmann. I was mostly indifferent to this one — a bit too simplistic for me. 2/5 stars
Troublemaker, by Joseph Hansen. This isn’t my favourite of the bunch, with a bit too many gay stereotypes floating around. It’s still interesting, though. 3/5 stars
The Technological Singularity, by Murray Shanahan. If you already know something about AI, probably don’t bother with this one. 2/5 stars
Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch. This was a reread, and it actually impressed me more this time round. Love the sense of place and the recognisability of it. 4/5 stars
Flashback Friday: The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham. A beautifully created and fascinating post-apocalyptic world I remember enjoying a lot. 4/5 stars

Other posts:
Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I’d Name Things After. Just a quick rundown of the fannish things I’ve called some of my belongings…
What are you reading Wednesday. An update on this week’s reading!

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 19 October, 2016 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?
Today, I finished off reading Augustus, by John Williams. Very slow and contemplative; I’m still pondering whether I really liked it or not, but it sure is an interesting exploration of Octavius Caesar and his life and relationships. I also read volume one of the complete collection of Dan Slott’s She-Hulk; that was pretty fun, although it started to feel a bit like a drag. I do prefer my comics to be in shorter packaging; this one stole half my day.

What are you currently reading?
I’m rereading This Rough Magic, by Mary Stewart, because I felt the need for a comfort read and I couldn’t remember the plot of this one. I’m also rereading Broken Homes, by Ben Aaronovitch, and wincing ready for the end.

What are you planning to read next?
I should finally get round to Foxglove Summer! Also, I want to get on with reading Deadline and Blackout, by Mira Grant. I think I’ve said that before already…

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 18 October, 2016 by Nikki in General / 9 Comments

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is about Characters I’d Name A Child/Dog/Cat/Car/Etc After! I’m going to depart from pure book-fandom for this…

  1. Hawkeye, from the MCU. My phone is Hawkeye, actually.
  2. EDI, from Mass Effect. My main computer.
  3. Jarvis, from the MCU. My last ereader.
  4. Friday, from the MCU. My current netbook.
  5. Glyph, from Mass Effect. My current ereader.
  6. Hulk, from the MCU. My bunny. Who is a girl, and was actually named by my wife.
  7. Sir, after John Winchester from Supernatural. I don’t know why, but… I give you, our washing machine.
  8. Paragon, from Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders books. I figured I needed something that weathered storms and wasn’t trash at the first setback, so I had a computer called Paragon for a while. It was the longest-lasting machine I’ve had.
  9. Steve-bear and Tony-bear, named after Steve Rogers and Tony Stark from the MCU. These are my Build A Bears. And yes, they have the outfits, although I have misplaced Steve-bear’s shield.
  10. Helen Hippo, from the Spot books. This one is ancient history, comparatively — the teddy who has been with me since I was two days old is named after Helen! And is also a hippo.

I promise I’ll take the next list more seriously. Maybe.



Stacking the Shelves

Posted 15 October, 2016 by Nikki in General / 12 Comments

Saturday again already? Ugh. For some reason, it’s been a slow week for me, reading-wise. I’ve got behind on all my goals again, alas. But I did have work, and that means money, and that means being able to pay for books! And, you know, contribute to my wife’s rent, etc, etc. But still, I do hope I can read more next week.

Still, it was not a bad week in terms of my haul!

Books to review:

Cover of A Season of Spells by Sylvia Izzo Hunter Cover of Dreadnought Cover of The Last Sacrifice by James A. Moore

All of these are exciting — I need to read Lady of Magick so I can jump right into A Season of Spells. And I never finished James A. Moore’s previous trilogy, because I got distracted, but I remember the worldbuilding as being a lot of fun. So I’m looking forward to that. And Dreadnought just sounds awesome.

Books read this week:

Cover of The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien Cover of Rare Earth by Brownlee & Ward Cover of Dark Run by Mike Brooks

Like I said, pretty disappointing week for reading! But here’s hoping next week will be better — and at least these books were all good.

Reviews posted this week:
Owain Glyndŵr: The Story of the Last Prince of Wales, by Terry Breverton. Unfortunately rather dry, just a recitation of facts. Which is kind of sad. 2/5 stars
Saga Volume Five, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. For me, this volume isn’t quite as awesome as the others, because Alana and Marko aren’t kicking ass together. But it’s still pretty darn awesome. 4/5 stars
The Ides of March, by Valerio Massimo Manfredi. Totally disappointing, which sucks. So much exposition, so much telling. 1/5 stars
Five Red Herrings, by Dorothy L. Sayers. BBC audio version. Because this is a murder mystery written to a train timetable, it’s less fun on the second, third and fourth reading. But with the excellent voice cast, it’s still a good accompaniment to some crochet. 3/5 stars
The Surgeon of Crowthorne, by Simon Winchester. Sometimes this isn’t sure whether it’s a biography of a man or a dictionary, but all the same, it’s pretty sympathetic to the people it discusses. 3/5 stars
Death Claims, by Joseph Hansen. The series continues to be a great reread, and once again I’m caught up in the subplot of the relationship between Doug and Dave. Not to be missed if you’re a fan of classic crime fiction. 4/5 stars
Flashback Friday: The Decameron, by Giovanni Bocaccio. An old review of a classic which, in my opinion, you shouldn’t miss if you’re interested in other writers like Chaucer and Shakespeare — and it’s entertaining on its own account too. 5/5 stars

Other posts:
The Women Women Don’t See. A commentary on Kristine Katherine Rusch’s comments in the introduction to an anthology of work by “forgotten” female writers of sci-fi’s past. (With the unfortunate fact that most of them are not forgotten at all, like Le Guin and Cherryh.
Top Ten Tuesday: Recommendations. Books I’ve been recommended that were definitely hits.
What are you reading… Thursday? A slightly belated update on what I’ve been reading this week.

How’s your week been? Picked up anything interesting?

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What are you reading… Thursday?

Posted 13 October, 2016 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

Oops. That’s all I have to say. I blame the fact that I had a tutorial last night!

What have you recently finished reading?
The last things I finished were The Two Towers and Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe, by Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee. The former, well, it’s interesting how my ability to visualise Tolkien’s world ends with Frodo and Sam entering Mordor. For, of course, I haven’t gone to Mordor in LOTRO. Nothing changes about Tolkien’s writing, or even his ability to evoke atmosphere and mood for me… but the visual aspect is just gone.

As for Rare Earth, it’s very informative (although somewhat out of date now), but honestly, finishing it still hasn’t convinced me one way or another about the likelihood of intelligent life somewhere else in the universe. We just don’t know enough.

What are you currently reading?
Probably too many things that I’m not even thinking of right now, but I most recently picked up Dark Run, by Mike Brooks. It’s very, very Firefly-ish, except more diverse, so there’s a Mexican captain, Chinese and Maori crew members, etc. It’s fun, though I haven’t read that much of it yet.

What are you planning to read next?
Other than The Return of the King, I think I’ll get on with Deadline and Blackout, by Mira Grant. That way I can finish one of the series I’ve had floating around unfinished, heh. ARC-wise, I need to read Winter Tide, by Ruthanna Emrys. And for my next comic, I think it’ll be Dan Slott’s She-Hulk. For some reason, I’m in the mood for that right now.

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