Category: General

Stacking the Shelves

Posted 10 December, 2016 by Nikki in General / 18 Comments

Wow, it’s been a heck of a week for me, acquisitions-wise! And fortunately, I’ve got back into reading a bit more. I have a new project with my reading, which I should post about properly later, which is all about getting back to enjoying it instead of feeling like I have to meet targets or something. It’s helping a lot!

Books to review:

Cover of The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard Cover of Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson Cover of Gutenberg's Fingerprint Cover of Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

Cover of Strangers in Company by Jane Aiken Hodge Cover of Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells Cover of The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman

What a haul, right? I’m especially excited about The House of Binding ThornsThe Burning Page and Miranda and Caliban. Technically, I know I’m getting a copy of The Burning Page for Christmas, but if I get the time to read the ebook first, I’ll be very happy. And it looks like I will!

Books finished this week:

Cover of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis Cover of Camelot's Shadow by Sarah Zettel Cover of The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis Cover of Fair Chance by Josh Lanyon

Cover of The Litany of Earth by Ruthanna Emrys Cover of A History of the World in 12 Maps Cover of Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys Cover of A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

Reviews posted this week:

Dark Run, by Mike Brooks. If you’re looking for something a bit Firefly-ish, then this is a good bit. Sometimes I couldn’t decide whether the references were on purpose or weirdly coincidental. It’s a fun set-up, though, with an interesting set of characters who are a bit more diverse than aboard the good ship Serenity. The Maori character, for example, was really fun. 4/5 stars
Ultimate X-Men: Hellfire and Brimstone, by Mark Millar et al. The tension between Wolverine and Cyclops is just… ugh. This series is so juvenile. 2/5 stars
In the Woods, by Tana French. Wow. I really expected to love this, because so many of my friends did, but it was totally unsatisfying as a crime novel and I didn’t find the literary pretensions satisfying either. It might have managed on character, but I ended up disliking most of them. So… Tana French is not for me! 2/5 stars
Captain Marvel: Rise of Alpha Flight, by Tara Butters et al. I wanted this to be a strong continuation of the series for a character I love. It was okay, but not more than that. If you’re more familiar with the other characters, it might be more satisfying, though. 3/5 stars.
Broken Homes, by Ben Aaronovitch. This is… still ow. I think that’s all I need to say. 4/5 stars
Augustus, by John Williams. This is a book I appreciate more for the thought behind it than for the book itself, I think. I liked the way it tried to get a look at Augustus Caesar and some of his contradictions, but I wasn’t always a fan of the way it was put together. 4/5 stars
Flashback Friday: The Gulag Archipelago, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. This is one of the books my mother gave me (quite rightly) before I went to university, instructing me that this was something I really should read. I didn’t read it before university, but it definitely left an impression. 5/5 stars

Other posts:

Top Ten New To Me Authors in 2016. What it says on the tin… with a little bit of cheating here and there.
What are you reading Wednesday. A very comprehensive update on my current reading!

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 7 December, 2016 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

It’s been a couple of weeks since I did this last because I’ve been so busy with assignments. Fortunately, I’ve had a bit more time to myself this week, so this feature is back!

What have you recently finished reading?

I’ve been rereading the Narnia books, so I just finished The Horse and his Boy. I read in chronological, rather than publishing order, so I’ve already read The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I still love the narration. Lewis managed to get something wonderfully warm into it, particularly in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and less so in some of the others. But it is so preachy. Partly just because of the target audience (kids) and writing style (somewhat didactic), but also because of the Christian overtones.

I actually spoke to someone recently who hadn’t figured out that Aslan = Jesus? I actually miss having that kind of innocence about the books, because knowing it’s an allegory and being able to identify all the various points with clear correspondences takes away some of the fun.

I’ve also been rereading Sarah Zettel’s Camelot books, though so far I’ve only finished Camelot’s Shadow. It’s probably my favourite of the four because it has the story of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle. There’s some minor typographical and editing issues that are driving me a little bit nuts in the UK editions. Like when Father is used as a name but not capitalised! But it’s a very interesting take on the Arthurian legends, even with the romances being the foreground. I love the fact that the matter of succession has been considered, and Gawain is openly being groomed to follow Arthur, while Guinevere has an active role in running Camelot, and… so on. I need to write my review, clearly.

What are you currently reading?

I’ve finished most of the books I have on the go at the moment. I’m partway through rereading Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas; hopefully, I’ll catch up with the series this time. I still feel the same about it as I did the first time. It’s fun, but it’s not nearly perfect.

Next up: Camelot’s Honour, Prince Caspian, Crown of Midnight…

What are you planning to read next?

After dropping my reading goals, I’m trying to find more joy in my reading again, so I’m doing quite a bit of rereading. I know I want to reread The Invisible Library and The Masked City, by Genevieve Cogman, so I can get round to reading the new one. I just got approved for the ARC! I also want to reread Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry trilogy, and Robin McKinley’s Sunshine, as well as finish rereading Sarah Zettel’s Camelot books, the Narnia books and of course, Tolkien’s The Return of the King.

I’m also trying not to plan too far ahead. I finish a book; I pick up the next one which makes me smile.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 6 December, 2016 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

This week’s theme is Top Ten New-to-Me Authors I read in 2016. I’m having trouble coming up with anything off the top of my head, but let’s see if Goodreads can help.

  1. Seanan McGuire. Technically not new to me, as I’ve read one of her books written as Mira Grant. But it’s rather different stuff, so nuh. It counts.
  2. Mitch Benn. I don’t know why I never tried Terra when it was first out; I don’t think I even knew much about it, but it was so much fun; I’m glad I finally did pick it up!
  3. Ted Chiang. It took me ages, but I finally got round to reading Story of Your Life & Others, and I loved it.
  4. Hope Mirrlees. So late to the party, I know, but I looooved Lud-in-the-Mist.
  5. Pat Murphy. Again, late to the party, but The Falling Woman was really, really good.
  6. Marie Rutkoski. I did not expect to love The Winner’s Kiss, but it worked well for me.
  7. Gwenda Bond. I’d had some of Bond’s books on my list for ages, but it was Lois Lane: Fallout which I finally read, and definitely enjoyed.
  8. Robert Jackson Bennett. City of Stairs knocked my socks off, and now I’m impatiently waiting for City of Miracles. Soon, please? Please?!
  9. Sylvia Izzo Hunter. I enjoyed The Midnight Queen a lot; I must get round to reading the sequels.
  10. Elizabeth Hand. Wylding Hall was a super well-crafted novel; I should check out other books by Hand.

Most of these, I’ve only read one book, so there’s plenty to discover ahead of me!

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 3 December, 2016 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

It’s been a better week for me, though I still have one more assignment to eke out. But I did manage some reading! Hurrah.

Books to review:

Cover of Fair Chance by Josh Lanyon Cover of Weird Dinosaurs

I’m going to assume Fair Chance is related to Fair Game and Fair Play, so, awesome. And Weird Dinosaurs, well, who wouldn’t want this one?

Books received:

Cover of Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire Cover of One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire Cover of Ashes of Honour by Seanan McGuire

Because my wife is awesome.

Books finished this week:

Cover of Carry On by Rainbow Rowell Cover of How To Clone a Mammoth by Beth Shapiro Cover of The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas Cover of The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis

Reviews posted this week:
Ultimate X-Men: World Tour, by Mark Millar et al. More enjoyable than the first two volumes, but still not doing much for me. 3/5 stars
The Lost Child of Lychford, by Paul Cornell. If you enjoyed the first Lychford novella, you’ll probably enjoy this too. Judith continues to be completely badass. 3/5 stars
Everything Belongs to the Future, by Laurie Penny. Enjoyable, but rather predictable, to me. 3/5 stars
Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe, by Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee. A good survey of, well, pretty much what it says on the tin. 4/5 stars
The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Do I have anything new to say about this one? Possibly not. 5/5 stars
Flashback Friday: The Empty Kingdom, by Elizabeth E. Wein. The close of the series, which I’ve been re-posting my reviews of for the last few weeks. Greatly enjoyable. 4/5 stars

Other posts:
On giving up, but positively. Why I’ve given up on my reading goals for 2016, and why that’s a good thing.
Top Ten Tuesday: Best Places to Read. A departure from the given theme, forgive me.

How’s everyone else doing?

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 29 November, 2016 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

This week’s theme is a Holiday Gift Guide freebie, and honestly, I’m a little tired of wracking my brains to think of gifts. So instead, have my top ten places to read.

  1. On a train. You wouldn’t think it’d be comfortable, but something about just being stuck on a train for ages means I can settle into the reading mood and carry on interrupted. Especially in the quiet coach, with my phone off, or on the Eurostar.
  2. In bed. Of course. This is mostly with my ereader, because I can never quite get comfortable with a paper book in bed. Toasty warm toes!
  3. With my back against the radiator. I don’t know why, but I really like having a heat source at my back while I read. If the whole room is too warm, I get sleepy. If the room is cooler but I have a radiator or a hot water bottle? Perfect.
  4. With the rain lashing down outside. Doesn’t everybody love this one?
  5. Draped over my chair in my wife’s flat. With a bit of wriggling, you can get into the perfect comfy position with a leg up. Or even with my feet practically in my wife’s lap. She’s resigned to it.
  6. While petting a rabbit. I get a lot of quality time in with our bunny when I’m reading. She’ll come up to my knee and get her ears rubbed.
  7. In a blanket fort. At my parents’ house, I have a bunk bed. So I can hang a sheet down from the side of my bed and underneath there’s a sofa. Very cosy.
  8. While crocheting. Only for audiobooks, obviously!
  9. In the car. Again, only for audiobooks, but a nice long drive can eat up a big chunk of story. Or a big chunk of story can eat up the journey…
  10. With chocolate. The perfect companion.

Anyone else feel rebellious this week? Or have you stuck to the theme?

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On giving up, but positively

Posted 28 November, 2016 by Nikki in General / 16 Comments

I’m giving up on my reading goals for 2016.

They were useful for quite a while — right into November, after all. But right now, they’re actually getting in the way: making me feel pressured, making reading feel like a chore, closing down my options instead of reminding me how many I have. Generally, I don’t like giving up, but I feel like this is a good time. It doesn’t mean that I won’t read 200 books brought prior to this year, or that I won’t read 366 books overall… but it does mean I’ll stop beating myself up about it.

I think the problem for bloggers sometimes is that you feel the need to keep pushing out reviews, gathering new followers, and gaining likes. After all, that’s how you know your blog is useful and worth the time you’ve put into it — and even the money, for people who self-host. But that also makes it feel like a chore. I have to finish X to get my review out in time for Y…

But the thing is, there’s no point in having a blog if you’re not enjoying it. That’s what most of us get out of it, not money — although free books can be a perk that some reviewers see. It’s been stopping me rereading books as much as I normally would, making me postpone enjoyable books because they’d take too long and I need to write a review now, now, now

(Which I don’t; I’m scheduled up to the 7th of January 2017, as I write, and probably a week beyond that by the time this goes up.)

I know I’m not the only one.

So, bloggers, readers: take the time at the end of this year to make reading, reviewing and blogging fun again, if it has lost its shine. Or even if it hasn’t, but you just want a little break. I dare you to reread a favourite, for no other reason than that you want to. It doesn’t have to be popular, it doesn’t have to be part of a series, it doesn’t have to fit in with your goals or tick your boxes. I dare you to reread a book you only reviewed six months ago, just because you love it. I dare you to pick up your guilty pleasure reading or that book everyone else seems to hate.

And if you won’t, I still will. Let’s love the heck out of books.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 26 November, 2016 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

Not many books read this week (understatement…), but I got a nice little haul of new books, so that was nice!

Books acquired:

Cover of The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin Cover of The Story of the Human Body by Daniel Lieberman Cover of The Wicked + The Divine: Rising Action by Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen Cover of Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu

Books finished this week:

Cover of The Steerswoman, by Rosemary Kirstein

Reviews posted this week:
Creepy Crawly Crochet, by Megan Kreiner. A book of fun crochet patterns, with some clever tutorials on how to shape things without getting too complicated. 4/5 stars
Lone Survivors: How We Came To Be The Only Humans On Earth, by Chris Stringer. An interesting book which provides a good survey and doesn’t pretend we know more than we really do. 4/5 stars
X-Men: Return to Weapon X, by Mark Millar and Adam Kubert. A bit lacking in tension, and the art kind of raised an eyebrow. 2/5 stars.
A Local Habitation, by Seanan McGuire. This book made me wish I’d continued with the series sooner — and I didn’t wait that long. Very entertaining, and lots of interesting faerie lore. 4/5 stars
The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Do I have anything new to say about this? Apparently, I can ramble about how playing LOTRO changes the reading experience. 5/5 stars
Hammers on Bone, by Cassandra Khaw. I think I might’ve need more familiarity with the Cthulhu mythos to fully appreciate this, but it was fun. 3/5 stars
Flashback Friday: The Lion Hunter, by Elizabeth E. Wein. Doesn’t stand alone as well as the rest of the series, but it’s a good read — albeit quite dark and saddening. 4/5 stars

Other posts:
Top Ten Tuesday: Thankfulness. With the US celebrating Thanksgiving, no surprise this was this week’s theme.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 22 November, 2016 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

With Thanksgiving coming up, it’s probably not a surprise that this week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is about bookish things you’re thankful for. I’m not American, but it’s always good to reflect on things you’re thankful for.

  1. My mother’s recommendations. Everything I read now, I can pretty much trace back to her recommendations when I was around nine years old. She seeded the ground for my love of science fiction and fantasy, and somewhat later, detective fiction as well.
  2. School. Because it was boring enough to push me to read under the table during class, thus nourishing both my love of reading and my ability to multitask.
  3. My wife. Because who else could I squee at so often, push books at so often, and feel a warm fuzzy glow at getting recommendations right for so often?
  4. My sister. Well, she’d be the other one, other than my wife and to a lesser degree, Mum.
  5. Dad. Because he has built me nearly endless amounts of bookshelves over the years.
  6. My bookshelves. Because let’s face it, they put up with a lot.
  7. My friends. Including people I know via blogging! A great source of recommendations and, I’ll admit it, gifts in the shape of books.
  8. Bookmarks. Well, really, what would we do without this humble class of object?
  9. Book clubs. I wouldn’t have discovered Jo Walton, for example, without book clubs…
  10. Libraries. Of course.

How about you?

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 19 November, 2016 by Nikki in General / 12 Comments

Busy, busy week! But I have books. <3

Fiction acquired:

Cover of Ayiti by Roxane Gay Cover of Memory of Water by Emma Itaranta Cover of An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows Cover of After Atlas by Emma Newman

Cover of Feedback by Mira Grant Cover of The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu Cover of The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton

I’ve already read The Philosopher Kings, of course, but with the UK edition out (and on offer, actually), I had to grab it. I grabbed Ayiti to help finish off a reading challenge; The Dark Forest because The Three Body Problem left me just curious enough; and Feedback, After Atlas, Memory of Water and An Accident of Stars because I’ve been meaning to read ’em.

Non-fiction acquired:

Cover of Spectacles, by Sue Perkins Cover of Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson Cover of One Plus One Equals One by John Archibald Cover of Deadly Companions by Dorothy H. Crawford

A bit of an odd combination, I’ll admit. Celebrity memoirs… biology!

Books finished this week:

Cover of Spectacles, by Sue Perkins Cover of The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston Cover of Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson Cover of Ayiti by Roxane Gay

Reviews posted this week:
In the Forests of Serre, by Patricia McKillip. Possibly my favourite of McKillip’s books so far, this is magical and rich, based on Russian fairytales and taking them somewhere unique. 5/5 stars
Poems: Three Series, by Emily Dickinson. Not a fan, sorry. 2/5 stars
Busman’s Honeymoon, by Dorothy L. Sayers. BBC radioplay. Fun as ever, featuring Sarah Badel as Harriet Vane and doing a brilliant job of it. 4/5 stars
The Celts, by Nora Chadwick. Admittedly out of date, but still absorbing and informative. 4/5 stars
Ultimate X-Men: The Tomorrow People, by Mark Millar. This… didn’t really work for me, which is sad since I do enjoy Ultimate Spider-man. Alas. 2/5 stars
The Wind Off the Small Isles, by Mary Stewart. A Mary Stewart I hadn’t read? Yep! This is a novella, so it’s lacking a bit of the detail and length I’d like, but it still evokes that lovely sense of atmosphere that Stewart was so good at. 3/5 stars
Flashback Friday: The Sunbird, by Elizabeth E. Wein. I loved this one, possibly more than the rest of the series so far, even though it was the furthest from the Arthurian canon. 5/5 stars

Other posts:
Top Ten Tuesday: Movies. A few of my favourites…
What are you reading Wednesday. My weekly update on what I’ve just finished, what I’m reading now, and what I might read next…
This is my genre, show me yours! A fun tag about my favourite genre, including rambles about how much I love it.

I could wish I’d managed more reading, but it hasn’t been a bad week! How’re you?

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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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