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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Review – The Disappearing Spoon

Posted 3 March, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Disappearing Spoon by Sam KeanThe Disappearing Spoon, Sam Kean

The Disappearing Spoon is not quite as entertaining to me as Sam Kean’s book on neuroscience, but it’s still reasonably fun and definitely an easy read. There’s all kinds of random facts, and he makes things like electron shells very clear — even for me, with my brain’s stubborn refusal to grasp it all. He writes with humour and enthusiasm, pulling out interesting characters and discoveries from the history of the Periodic Table and its elements.

I’m just not as into chemistry/physics as I am biology. Even organic chemistry. I should be, but, alas. So I found that this dragged a bit — for me. It’d probably be unfair to assume it’d drag for you as well, if you’re actually a fan of chemistry.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – The Secret Library

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

Cover of The Secret Library by Oliver TearleThe Secret Library, Oliver Tearle

This is a beautifully presented book, at least in the hardback — the dustcover is lovely, with a keyhole cut into the front and edged with silver, and the book is nicely bound. It’s not quite as meta as the binding of Keith Houston’s The Book, but it’s still a lovely object that will make a good gift for book lovers of your acquaintance.

In terms of content, it’s fairly shallow: it’s a whistlestop tour, as it says several times, so the facts here are more on the level of trivia than anything in-depth. If you’d like a survey of literature and weird facts relating to literature and literary figures, it’s a good one. It made for a good book to read on the train, too, as you could easily dip in and out of it. There was no need to keep track of things too closely.

I think I hoped for more, but honestly, I’m not sure what I was expecting.

Rating: 3/5

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 1 March, 2017 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?

T. Kingfisher’s Summer in Orcus! For which I have many hearts, as it is the kind of self-aware portal fantasy that I needed right now. I love Reginald and Glorious and even the Antelope Woman, and I want to wander through Orcus and see the birds dancing.

What are you currently reading?

Um, well, I might still be partway through more or less the same books as last week: After Atlas, The Dragonbone Chair (reread), The Stars are Legion… I think that’s it. Probably.

What are you planning to read next?

Probably a couple of ARCs — Kiernan’s Agents of Dreamland is next up on the list, I think. After that, some non-fiction. A friend told me that Nick Lane’s The Vital Question is a difficult one, so now I’m curious.

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Review – Death at Victoria Dock

Posted 1 March, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Death at Victoria Dock by Kerry GreenwoodDeath at Victoria Dock, Kerry Greenwood

Another fun outing with Phryne, this one opening with a young man dying in Phryne’s arms. That gives us a driven, cold, angry Phryne. It’s always fun to see Phryne shocked right out of her comfort zone and realising that death can touch those around her, and this book gives us a Phryne who is almost (but not quite) out of her depth, with the kidnap of Dot and… well, everything else that happens.

I did find it a little too dramatic this time around, though. Anarchy! Guns! Seances! It’s all a bit sensational, and while I know that’s what I’m likely to get with a Phryne novel, still… this one definitely doesn’t have the cosy feel of some of the others, and there’s a real sense of peril in places which is at odds with the pretty clothes, sexual liberation and epic spreads at lunch and dinner.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – What If?

Posted 28 February, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of What If by Randall MunroeWhat If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, Randall Munroe

What If? is a fun outing in which the author of xkcd answers weird science questions while ignoring the implausibility of those situations ever arising. So we get things like “what if all the rain from a cloud fell in one big droplet” and “what if Earth started expanding” — and Munroe answers them, rummaging through scientific papers and obscure experimental results to find out his closest guess at what would happen. I can’t really speak for his science in most places (only the DNA question was really down my street), but given how pedantic the internet can be, I’m sure Munroe did his absolute best to find an answer that would be, if not incontestable, at least not easily dismissed.

The whole thing is illustrated with Munroe’s usual stick figures, and I still remain completely baffled as to how the combination of his stick figures and his lettering can imbue things with feeling. It makes no sense. And yet the Moon promising to help the Earth start spinning again? Gah. Moon, I love you!

He also has a humorous tone and a clear way of explaining, so despite the weird situations that he examines, it pretty much all makes sense… though I took his equations for granted, and any other calculations.

Rating: 4/5

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 28 February, 2017 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

There isn’t an official theme this week, but I thought I’d treat it as a freebie and give you ten characters I have a squish on. What’s a squish? It’s a term used in the asexual community for a crush which doesn’t involve any desire for a sexual or perhaps even romantic relationship. And honestly, it really works for the way I feel about some characters — it’s not about them being pretty or handsome or whatever, but I’d still get all squeaky and flappy about meeting them in real life.

It’s not quite my favourite characters, but characters who’ve left some kind of deep impression on me — even if they’re not the main character, or if they’re not actually a favourite. Maybe another term would be “heroes”…

  1. Faramir, from The Lord of the RingsThe original squish, as far as I’m concerned. He doesn’t appear for long, but he’s such a noble person.
  2. Joscelin Verreuil, from Kushiel’s Dart. This is a fairly easy guess with me, too. I love the paladin types.
  3. Josua Lackhand, from The Dragonbone Chair. He was pretty much what I read these books for, the first time. And again, it’s that nobility and the way he cares for his people.
  4. Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, from Marvel Comics. She’s just so awesome. Not always the best equipped to tackle a situation, but if she’s the only one, she’ll take that responsibility and just act and do whatever she has to.
  5. Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, from Marvel Comics. Depends on the writer somewhat, but there’s such a core of integrity and honesty to the character. They did really well translating this to the MCU without making him a sanctimonious prick, too — which is one of the ways which writers can fail with Steve.
  6. Phryne Fisher, from Cocaine BluesShe’s a rather atypical character for this list, and I think she’d be totally baffled by the whole idea of a squish. But she’s completely badass and she cares and she owns her faults as much as her successes.
  7. Harriet Vane, from Strong Poison. She can make clever, witty jokes while she’s in prison and on trial for murder. Her cleverness won me over instantly.
  8. Honor Harrington, from On Basilisk Station. How not? She’s smart and dedicated and determined, and she has a telepathic cat.
  9. Maia, from The Goblin Emperor. He’s mindful, earnest, and he tries so hard. I just want to hug him.
  10. Jo March, from Little Women. An early and formative one, though this one was probably because I wanted to be her.

How about you? Ever had a fictional crush/squish?

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