Review – Brother’s Ruin

Posted 9 March, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of Brother's Ruin by Emma NewmanBrother’s Ruin, Emma Newman

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 14th March 2017

Brother’s Ruin is another of the novella series, though this one is very obviously just the beginning of a series of novellas, rather than standing alone (as, for example, Passing Strange does). So it mostly seems to function as a way of setting up the world: there is a story here as well, but more important is the alternate reality being created. It’s sort of vaguely Victorian, but with magic as a relatively commonplace event, and some steampunky elements. There’s some politics around magic and its practitioners that is obviously going to become more important as the novellas go on.

The main character, Charlotte, is pretty cool. She’s part of a family and has a fiancé, but she also earns her own money through illustration work and hides her own strong magic. She’s prepared to take risks to take care of her family, and she’s fine with supporting them from her own funds. She has her weaknesses — a pretty face, apparently, as well as her strong and almost uncontrollable magic — but she also has great strengths.

The reason I’m not rating this more highly is that it does feel very much like an introduction, and it only grazes the surface of the male character who is presumably going to become a much bigger part of Charlotte’s life. I don’t know what motivates him and why he’s interested, and nor do I understand why Charlotte finds him so fascinating. The scenes where she’s suddenly finding him amazingly attractive don’t quite ring true to me, given her otherwise practical nature.

There’s a lot of potential here, but I’m not 100% sold — yet.

Rating: 3/5

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 8 March, 2017 by Nikki in General / 9 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?

The last thing I finished reading waaaaas… Neil Oliver’s Vikings, which was interesting and kind of contradicted what I was reading in Francis Pryor’s books! More research necessary to see if the two views can be reconciled? Anyway, a pretty easy read for non-fiction, with a bit of a tendency to veer off into fictional imaginings of individual Vikings.

What are you currently reading?

Most of the books I was reading last week, because I suck. But also Britain After Rome, by Robin Fleming (also contradicts Pryor) and a reread of Every Heart A Doorway.

What are you planning to read next?

Down Among the Sticks and Bones, obviously!

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Review – The Tyrannosaur Chronicles

Posted 8 March, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of The Tyrannosaur Chronicles by David HoneThe Tyrannosaur Chronicles, David Hone

The Tyrannosaur Chronicles is a pretty entertaining survey of everything we currently know about tyrannosaurs — not just T. rex, but the related tyrannosaurs. That means it includes dinosaurs we don’t always think of as tyrannosaurs, but which are classified as types of tyrannosaur because of their close relationship to T. rex. The book is upfront about the fact that the information in it is going to be out of date before long — though not, I think, from the perspective of a layperson.

A lot of the info is stuff you may well already know, like the fact that T. rex was most likely feathered. But this book discusses it in detail, going into parts that were likely to be feathered, where the tyrannosaurs might have been scaled as traditionally depicted, etc. There are various different cases where there are theories about the tyrannosaurs that can’t be proven one way or another, and this book goes into them in detail. It discusses the evidence and findings, bringing them together into an entertaining and informative package of pure tyrannosaur-related awesomeness. It never got too dry or anything; I found all of it interesting and relevant.

Like all the best dinosaur books, it made me want to run out and become a palaeontologist, somehow. And it also made me crave overviews of other dinosaurs — can I have a book like this about the sauropods, now? Please?

Rating: 5/5

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Review – The Green Mill Murder

Posted 7 March, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Green Mill Murder by Kerry GreenwoodThe Green Mill Murder, Kerry Greenwood

This book wins for the wombat ex machina alone.

Other than that, on a reread this felt a bit all over the place. There are two overlapping mysteries: one a murder, and one a disappearance. There’s two romances, one of which actually makes me feel kind of squicky inside now I think about it — it’s not often Phryne makes a judgement about who to sleep with that I really disagree with (heck, that’s the point of Phryne; she makes her own decisions)… but one of the two is certainly twisted in his morality, and Phryne does suspect that from the start. I don’t really get the appeal of him, either.

All the same, the book features Phryne being the delight she always is. She protects a queer friend-of-a-friend from the attentions of the vice squad, flies a plane solo to find someone, makes her own decisions and puts her foot down when she has to. The found family are more in the background in this one, given that the high point (ha) of the book is Phryne’s solo flight and her time with a man who has made himself almost a hermit — but of course, they do feature.

I’m left a bit befuddled by the way that the nastiness of people and their squiggly morality seems to be somewhat justified by the fact that it gives Nerine, a blues singer, some real blues to sing about. But I would like to hear her singing, from the descriptions…

Rating: 3/5

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 7 March, 2017 by Nikki in General / 12 Comments

Looks like Top Ten Tuesday isn’t back yet, so here’s another theme of my own. Cribbing from someone else’s choice last week, here are some series I want to finish (or at least continue, in the case of series which haven’t finished yet)!

Cover of A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan Cover of Once Broken Faith by Seanan McGuire Cover of Feedback by Mira Grant Cover of Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas Cover of Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

  1. Lady Isabella Trent, by Marie Brennan. The last book is out soon. Okay, this is sad and depressing and I don’t want it, also, but I can’t wait to have the last book.
  2. October Daye, by Seanan McGuire. I don’t know if this actually has a projected end, at this point? But nonetheless, I’d like to get there someday.
  3. Newsflesh, by Mira Grant. I keep stalling on reading the other books, having read the first, but I definitely want to.
  4. Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas. I see plenty of people who don’t like the way the series has gone, and I haven’t read the latest three books (I think) yet, so I might change my mind. But for now, I’m definitely interested.
  5. Clockwork Century, by Cherie Priest. I didn’t love the first book, Boneshaker, but I do remember enjoying it and there’s a lot that intrigues me about the later books.
  6. Phryne Fisher, by Kerry Greenwood. …Again.
  7. Temeraire, by Naomi Novik. Someday! I’ve read the first book again recently, and I would like to read them all this time.
  8. The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman. There should be more books in the future, from what I hear, so gimme, gimme, gimme!
  9. Blackthorn and Grim, by Juliet Marillier. Even though I’m being terrible about getting round to it, even with a copy right here…
  10. Peter Grant, by Ben Aaronovitch. Someday! Not soon, I hope…

Cover of Murder and Mendelssohn by Kerry Greenwood Cover of Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik Cover of The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman Cover of Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marillier Cover of The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

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Review – Agents of Dreamland

Posted 6 March, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Agents of Dreamland by Caitlin R. KiernanAgents of Dreamland, Caitlin R. Kiernan

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 28th February 2017

Once again, not knowing my Lovecraft tripped me up. Yep, this is yet another Lovecraft-based story, although in this case it’s a rather less well-known one: the Fungi from Yuggoth. Not one I’d have known anything about even if I’d known in advance, but perhaps I might have been better prepared for the sheer bleakness and darkness of this story had I known it was based on Lovecraft’s mythos in any way.

It’s an intriguing little novella; self-contained, though it hints at a world before and after it through one character who is, to some extent, ‘unstuck in time’. The flesh-crawling horror of the fungi, a kind of invasion we’re helpless to fight, is done really well. There’s one phrase which just made me shudder, because of all the different implications stacked together: “the fruiting corpse”. Gah. Gaaah.

It’s very effective writing, and because I don’t know to what extent it takes any of the detail from Lovecraft, I can say that it’s definitely something that can stand on its own. It doesn’t rely on me realising exactly what’s going on through familiarity with Lovecraft; the creeping unease works as well or better if you’re ignorant of where things are going.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Birthright

Posted 5 March, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Birthright by Missouri ValinBirthright, Missouri Vaun

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 14th February 2017

Birthright is a fun, fast-moving story of a sort typical in fantasy: the lost heir to a throne taken by a tyrant. And this version is a fun example of the genre, with strong female characters coming out of your ears — and falling in love with each other, too. The love story is at least as important to the plot as the lost heir, which is worth keeping in mind; it motivates the way the end of the story shakes out, and takes up a good amount of the narration. I enjoyed that though Aiden is boyish and Kathryn more feminine, there’s no stereotyping — both can fight, both can rule, both know what they’re doing.

There are a couple of moments where I felt things rushed by a little too fast — the connection between the two characters grows very quickly in just a couple of scenes — and where I’d have liked a bit more depth, like the characters of Frost and of Gareth, or even Rowan. Without more background, for example, Kathryn’s jealous moment made little sense, especially since how we got to that moment felt a little contrived.

Nonetheless, it’s fun and has a happy ever after, and I’d definitely recommend it to people looking for lesbian fantasy.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Foxglove Summer

Posted 4 March, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Foxglove Summer by Ben AaronovitchFoxglove Summer, Ben Aaronovitch

Once again, this book takes a step back from the main action. It’s not that the events of Broken Homes aren’t alluded to, because they are. In the background, there’s a lot of stuff going on with tracking down Lesley and the Faceless Man. But the main action of the plot is a police procedural dealing with some missing children. I wasn’t really surprised that this book brought in the concept of a changeling child, but it did manage to give the whole idea a couple of twists that did surprise me.

For me, both the strength and weakness of the book is the lack of progression in that main series plot, and the absence of many of the supporting characters. There’s no Lesley to make Peter do the proper policing thing, and there’s no Nightingale for backup. Which leaves Peter on his own, thinking for himself, and showing that actually, he doesn’t need those two. He also keeps showing that though he might not be as good a copper as Lesley, who never misses a beat, he’s a good policeman because he’s a good man. And this book reminds us of the people Nightingale and Peter are meant to be working for — ordinary people who need protection — rather than against (mysterious practioners of unclear motive).

I’m definitely ready for more of the main plot now, but the respite from it wasn’t bad either.

Rating: 4/5

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 4 March, 2017 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

Happy Saturday! Phew. Busy week, as ever, but I have fit in more time to read than I have been doing lately, so that’s something!

Also, I keep meaning to post this! You may not know this, but I’m a moderator over on Habitica, a site that’s all about gamifying good habits. A few weeks ago they did a contributor spotlight about me, and this piece of art happened. <3


That’s me on the left as you look at it — it’s my mod avatar, which is really awesome and done by Leslie from Habitica. The rest of the graphic is by beffymaroo, another staff member.

And hey, if you’re on Habitica, the Legendary Book Club are reading After Atlas by Emma Newman this month.

Received to review:

Cover of In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle Cover of The Asylum of Dr Caligari by James Morrow Cover of A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys Cover of The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis

Cover of Standard Hollywood Depravity by Adam Christopher Cover of Proof of Concept by Gwyneth Jones Cover of Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

I’m especially excited about Down Among the Sticks and Bones, but it’s a pretty awesome bunch overall!

Finished this week:

Cover of The Planet in a Pebble by Jan Zalasiewicz Cover of Ruddy Gore by Kerry Greenwood Cover of The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun by J.R.R. Tolkien

Cover of Summer in Orcus by T. Kingfisher Cover of Proof of Concept by Gwyneth Jones Cover of Agents of Dreamland by Caitlin R. Kiernan Cover of Chalk by Paul Cornell

A better week for reading, too, as you can see! Hurrah. Sneak peak at ratings:

4 stars to… Summer in Orcus, The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun and Agents of Dreamland.
3 stars to… The Planet in a Pebble, Ruddy Gore and Proof of Concept.
2 stars to… Chalk.

Reviews posted this week: 

Diamond Dogs, by Alastair Reynolds. A really well put together novella that stuck with me a long time — and yet still had the delights of recognition and understanding the second time round. 4/5 stars
An Artificial Night, by Seanan McGuire. Remains a super fun urban fantasy, with some clever stuff going on with references to Shakespeare and folklore. I do wish Toby would grow up and let people help her, though. 4/5 stars
The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman. Not a comfortable read, but very informative about what we’ve done to the world. I do wish there’d been more looking forward, though. 3/5 stars
What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, by Randall Munroe. I can’t speak for the accuracy of the science, but I do enjoy the humour — and wish I understood how Munroe can make stick figures cute.
Death at Victoria Dock, by Kerry Greenwood. Very dramatic and full of all the usual elements of a Phryne mystery. 3/5 stars
The Secret Library, by Oliver Tearle. Beautifully presented, and good to dip in and out of, but not something you’d sit down and just read through. Unless you’re me. 3/5 stars
The Disappearing Spoon, by Sam Kean. Well explained science, though a bit grasshoppery in terms of the subject matter. If you like chemistry and some physics, this’d be up your street. 3/5 stars

Other posts:

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I Have A Squish On. A bit like a crush, but not quite.
What are you reading Wednesday. The Wednesday update about, well, what I’ve been reading.
ShelfLove/Game of Books Update. How I’ve been doing in this year’s reading challenges!

So how’re you doing?

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ShelfLove/Game of Books Update

Posted 3 March, 2017 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

So it’s March, how are my challenges going?

Shelf Love Challenge 2017 A "Game of Books" image, based on the Iron Throne

You can read more about ShelfLove here, and see the origins of Game of Books here!

Books read (overall): 49
Books read (backlog): 26
Points earned (see spreadsheet): 223
Five-star reads: 3
Four-star reads: 19
Three-star reads: 15
Two-star reads: 6
One-star reads: 2

The discussion this month is about books that have been on our TBR the longest. I’ll go back as far as the beginning of this blog for the ones I bought waaaay back then…

 Cover of Gretel and the Dark, by Eliza Granville

Cover of Bear Daughter by Judith Berman Cover of The Palace Job, by Patrick Weekes Cover of Dark Benediction by Walter M. Miller Cover of The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher

And some of those are even ARCs. Shame on me…

Who else still has TBR books from 2013 and earlier? Don’t let it just be me…

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