Review – The House of Binding Thorns

Posted 21 July, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de BodardThe House of Binding Thorns, Aliette de Bodard

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 4th April 2017

I know this review is terribly late; I salved my conscience by buying a copy as well. Aliette de Bodard has built a fascinating world in this post-apocalyptic Paris, and it’s so refreshing to get Vietnamese influences running through a story like this — it might be set in France and involve angels of a rather Western bent, but it also features dragons of a rather more Eastern variety.

I don’t think you can really read this without The House of Shattered Wings; you need the background for Madeleine and Philippe. I was surprised, though, at how interesting I found Asmodeus. I wasn’t too taken with him before, but this book does show another side to him. There’s also a lesbian couple, Françoise and Berith, and their story is new here, but adds more to the world.

If The House of Shattered Wings didn’t work for you, I suspect that The House of Binding Thorns won’t, either. I found it bleakly beautiful, and really enjoyed the additions to the world-building and the way the characters grew and changed, or at least revealed other aspects of themselves. It also won’t work for you if you’re not a fan of something that falls squarely into moral grey areas: you could have believed Silverspires were the good guys, in the previous book, but now the house is Asmodeus’, and for all that you kind of find yourself rooting for him, he’s still not a pleasant person.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – A Rough Ride to the Future

Posted 20 July, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of A Rough Ride to the Future by James LovelockA Rough Ride to the Future, James Lovelock

I found Gaia interesting, and if not entirely in line with what I believe, still plausible; it’s obvious that the Earth’s ecosystems are governed by systems of feedback, and that sometimes that has had a stabilising effect — and that life continues to find a way to survive. From this book, it seems like Lovelock believes the ‘rough ride’ is mostly for humanity, ignoring the fact that we’ve severely thrown off natural systems, and that we’re not innocent in this. We’ve known we’re doing it for quite some time, and yet he sort of shrugs it off and says there’s no use feeling guilty. Well, guilt won’t fix the climate, but a sense of responsibility might help.

He’s right that humans have to change and adapt to the changing climate, but I’m not so sanguine that’s going to be enough for life to go on. I’m pretty sure bacteria and archaea will get along fine, but we’re decimating the ranks of amphibians, big mammals, sea creatures, etc. And he’s not always up on modern science: he still seems to believe, here, that the atmosphere can’t be more than about 25% oxygen without causing regular devastating fires. He’s wrong: we know the oxygen saturation has been much higher, and life went on — that’s why there were gigantic dragonflies; they couldn’t have survived in a lower-oxygen atmosphere.

While the Gaia theory has been influential, I think perhaps Lovelock should sit down and stop profiting by it. This book is rather rambling, at times even confused.

Rating: 2/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 19 July, 2017 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

The three ‘W’s are what are you reading now, what have you recently finished reading, and what are you going to read next, and you can find this week’s post at the host’s blog here if you want to check out other posts.

What are you currently reading?

Cover of Assassin's Apprentice by Robin HobbI’ve started in on rereading the Farseer trilogy by Robin Hobb, finally. Just 100 pages a day, pacing myself. I’m also reading A Crack in Creation, by two of the people from the team that discovered cas9/CRISPR (which is a really powerful, really important way of editing genes in all kinds of situations). I’m guessing the moratorium Doudna asked for on using CRISPR for gene editing didn’t come to pass, given I know it’s a big thing in psychiatry lately per my mother!

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of The Glass Magician by Charlie N HolmbergThe Glass Magician, by Charlie N. Holmberg. It’s not great, but it’s light fluffy fun — I’m reading the series while I can’t sleep at night, and they’re proving quite good for just occupying my brain a while until I’ve wound down enough to sleep. Other than that, I think the last book I finished was Spellslinger, by Sebastien de Castell. I still need to write up my review; I found aspects of it a little frustrating — mostly the love interest and the totally abusive family structure — but overall it was good fun.

What will you read next?

Cover of Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. CoreyI’ll probably start on Leviathan Wakes, which is one of my book club reads this month. I’ll also try and finish a couple more of my started-but-not-finished pile (“Finish Or Flee”, I call it), like Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 18 July, 2017 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

This week doesn’t have an official theme from The Broke and the Bookish, so I thought it’d be a good chance to feature some of the blogs I follow. Tahdah!

  1. The Bibliosanctum. And it’s not just because I want to steal all Mogsy’s ARCs, I promise… Lots of great reviews in the SF/F line.
  2. Chuckles Book Cave. A great place to find all kinds of indie books. Low on romance, high on zombies, vampires and werewolves, oh my!
  3. Bastian’s Book Reviews. He’s not posting much lately, but he has good taste in books, even if we have come close to him wearing my guac at a book club meeting because he doesn’t love Captain America.
  4. Of Dragons and Hearts. Quite a bit of overlap in our SF/F tastes!
  5. Paper Fury. Every post is hilarious, but the book reviews remain totally sincere too.
  6. Reviews from a Bookworm. One of the first blogs I followed, I think! Good on YA especially.
  7. SpecFic Junkie. One of my fellow mods from Habitica. Not many recent posts, but some very good ones on various spec fic which I really should read, if I haven’t already.
  8. Beauty in Ruins. Another TBR list I simply must stalk. Also does weird fiction reviews which are less my thing, but are entertaining.
  9. Reading Reality. I’ve only been following this blog since she teamed up with Tynga’s Reviews for the Stacking the Shelves linkup, but already I’ve seen some great reviews which include various genres.
  10. A Dragon in Space. Even just the blog name is awesome…
  11. x+1. Because I missed this blog out originally, and that’s a crime. (Sorry, imyril!)

That’s just a few of the blogs I frequently check out (sorry if I’ve missed you!). What about you? Who should I be following?

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Review – Whose Body?

Posted 17 July, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Whose Body by Dorothy L. SayersWhose Body?, Dorothy L. Sayers

A beloved reread, as you might expect, this time occasioned by having watched the Edward Petherbridge adaptations with my wife (who has, at least in BBC adaptation form, been converted to the love of Lord Peter). Whose Body? is a neat little mystery, and it’s given some depth by the fact that it already deals with Peter’s difficulties about whether he can do detecting as a hobby, or if there’s something wrong with that, etc, etc — and also with his shell shock, which retreats into the background in later books but is a key feature for how he reacts in this book.

He’s a little too perfect, of course, but I knew that going in. I don’t think Sayers had quite settled into what she was doing when she wrote this book, but it’s entertaining and, if you’re not interested in romance, long before Harriet Vane arrives on the scene.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Worm at the Core

Posted 16 July, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Worm at the CoreThe Worm at the Core, Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg, Tom Pyszczynski

You might think that a book about the role of death in the way humans approach life would be morbid, and probably difficult to read. I didn’t find it that way; in fact, I found that it reflected a lot of my own musings about it (said musings being helped along by the fact that for years, my biggest anxiety was about death). As someone with anxiety, this fear and knowledge about death hasn’t been hidden for me, and I wasn’t really surprised by the results of the authors’ research showing that it is a key anxiety for many or even most people.

If you read it without that background, you may feel that it’s rather overstating its conclusions. I think that might be a fair assessment if you try to apply it too literally to everyone. There are some people who’ve dealt with the anxiety, or don’t feel it at all. But in general, I do think that knowledge and fear underlies a lot of human thought and behaviour.

Definitely a worthwhile read, and actually quite smooth and easy too. I ended up reading it all in one Eurostar trip.

Rating: 5/5

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 15 July, 2017 by Nikki in General / 32 Comments

It’s been a pretty awesome week for reading, I’ve gotta say. Exam results next week, so I’m starting to get nervous, though…

Received to review:

Cover of Artemis by Andy Weir Cover of The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

Yeees. Here’s hoping Andy Weir’s new book is as entertaining as The Martian!

Bought:

Cover of Gilded Cage by Vic James Cover of The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmburg Cover of The Glass Magician by Charlie N Holmberg Cover of The Master Magician by Charlie N Holmberg

I’ve heard conflicting things about the first two, but they were on sale, so I thought I’d give them a try… and then I did enjoy The Paper Magician, so I bought the sequels.

Finished reading this week:

Cover of Unnatural by Philip Ball Cover of Personality by Daniel Nettle Cover of Reality 36 by Guy Haley Cover of Nova by Samuel R Delany Cover of Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart

Cover of Caesar's Last Breath by Sam Kean Cover of Killing Is My Business by Adam Christopher Cover of Star-Shot by Mary-Ann Constantine Cover of Machine by Jennifer Pelland Cover of Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

Cover of The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente Cover of The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmburg Cover of The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin Cover of The Martian by Andy Weir

Yeah, it’s been quite the week for reading! No, I am not fucking kidding. And yes, I really have read all of these, and no, there isn’t a secret to it. I just make the time, often while my wife catches enough zzzs for both of us.

Five stars to: Ancillary Mercy.
Four stars to: Killing Is My Business, The Refrigerator Monologues, The Martian.
Three stars to: Unnatural, Personality, Nova, Wicked Plants, Caesar’s Last Breath, Star-shot, Machine, The Paper Magician.
Two stars to: The Westing Game.
One star to: Reality 36.

Reviews posted this week:

NeuroTribes, by Steve Silberman. Interesting exploration of autism and autistic people, though I didn’t always like where it focused and it got a bit rambly. 4/5 stars
Walking on Knives, by Maya Chhabra. I wanted to like this, since it’s a lesbian retelling of The Little Mermaid, but all the epithets instead of names didn’t work for me, and the dubious consent scenes were… gah. 2/5 stars
Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty. A fascinating mystery with a bunch of misfit characters, most of whom were interesting if not exactly loveable. 4/5 stars
Shattered Minds, by Laura Lam. This feels darker and more difficult than the first book, in that the characters are way more messed up, but it’s still a pleasure to read. I really enjoyed it. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Top Ten Tuesday: Rereads. Books I can reread (or have reread in the past) over and over again…
WWW Wednesday. The weekly update on what’s in my immediate TBR pile.

So what have you been reading and adding to your shelves?

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Review – Shattered Minds

Posted 14 July, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Shattered Minds by Laura LamShattered Minds, Laura Lam

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 20th June 2017

Shattered Minds is set in the same world as False Hearts, with endless possibilities for body modification and indulging all your fantasies, and no crime. Sort of.

Naturally, both books give the lie to that, but especially this one, exploring the world of an addicted woman struggling with her urges to kill, and how she ends up exposing a company’s lies for what they are — and getting back her whole self, since it turns out it was that very company who programmed her and made her the way she is. It also features a group of hackers who are trying to get the word out, whose paths converge with hers.

I love the diversity of Lam’s world — Dax, who becomes a love interest, is trans and Native American; Raf has a boyfriend who’s a cop… This isn’t as warm a read as False Hearts — lacking the love between the twin protagonists that drives that story — but the characters made up for it, drawing me in and making me wonder how they would ever all fit together. Even Roz, the villain of the piece, is compelling in her way — I have so many more questions about her and what drives her.

Basically, if you’re looking for another thriller like False Hearts in a nearish-future sci-fi setting, Shattered Minds delivers, with more than a dash of the Firefly feel (circa Serenity, though; less funny and fuzzy than some of the episodes): disparate group of wanted criminals takes down a mind-hijacking superpower of their world.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Six Wakes

Posted 13 July, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Six Wakes by Mur LaffertySix Wakes, Mur Lafferty

This is rather different to Mur Lafferty’s other books, The Shambling Guide to New York City and The Ghost Train to New Orleans. Different isn’t bad, though if you’re looking for the same humour and light-heartedness, that’s not so much in evidence (although I’d argue that yes, there is wit). It’s a fascinating locked room mystery in a sci-fi setting, essentially, where the locked room is a generation ship (ish, actually people can survive by being clones or through being in stasis).

I found it riveting, though I guessed early on who the culprit was because I just didn’t latch onto him at all, and wanted it to be him. But half the mystery is also in how the characters are related to each other, and how they got to where they are, and that wasn’t always as easy to figure out. I didn’t love the captain, either, but I did find her and the other characters intriguing — it’s only the culprit who totally didn’t interest me, which might be an individual thing (or might be a giveaway, if other people reacted the same).

That said, while there’s a culprit on board — of course — it’s all part of a larger plot, and you have to figure that out too. And as they say of the MCU: “Everything is connected.”

On top of all that, there’s also some introspecting about identity, brain hacking, the implications of cloning… I found it all entertaining and intriguing, and I’m very glad I managed to get my hands on a copy despite it not being very easily available in the UK (at least when I read it).

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 12 July, 2017 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

The three ‘W’s are what are you reading now, what have you recently finished reading, and what are you going to read next, and you can find this week’s post here if you want to check out other posts.

What are you currently reading?

Cover of Ancillary Mercy by Ann LeckieI’ve just started my reread of the last Imperial Radch book by Ann Leckie, Ancillary Mercy. Not very far into it yet, but the joy of rereads is that I know I’m going to enjoy it — and actually, with this series, I’ve enjoyed each book more now I’m rereading them.

I don’t think there’s actually anything else directly on the go right now, shockingly, except the books I’ve been neglecting for a while already.

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of Machine by Jennifer PellandI’ve been having a bit of a spree, honestly. Last night I read Machine, by Jennifer Pelland, all in one go — it’s an interesting character study, but also kind of disturbing in some ways, and I’m not sure whether I liked it or not. I had to finish it and find out how things worked out for the main character, Celia, but some of the sex parts were just… no. I mean, not that I’m normally interested in that aspect of a book anyway, but this was something else.Cover of Star-Shot by Mary-Ann Constantine

I did also read Star-shot, by Mary-Ann Constantin yesterday. I’m not actually sure what to think of that, either! It’s magical realism, and the characters all blur into each other just a little (in a way that I think was very much intentional). Again, I had to finish it, though, and I’m more sure that I liked it!

What will you read next?

Cover of False Colours by Georgette HeyerI think I’ll tackle finishing something from the pile of books I’ve got half finished. Maybe Georgette Heyer’s False Colours, or Mike Brooks’ Dark Sky. The problem with the Heyer is that I can see exactly where it’s going — the main character is pretending to be his twin, and that’s bound to lead to all sorts of hijinks that I’ll probably find acutely embarrassing. (Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so easily vicariously embarrassed!)

After that, I might get onto my reread of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

What’re you reading?

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