Tag: books

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!


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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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 11 July, 2017 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

There’s still no official themes from The Broke and the Bookish, so this week I’m going to cover rereads — the books that, for me, have been tested to destruction. Not all of them are books I love right now; some are books I read to bits as a kid (and which I should maybe look at reading again?).

Cover of The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff Cover of The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper Cover of The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay

  1. The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff. This used to be a favourite. It’s still a book I love very much, if not a favourite exactly. I just love the way Sutcliff took a real weird event (the discovery of a Roman Eagle) and wove a story around it.
  2. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Well, of course. What else did you expect, from me?
  3. Strong Poison, by Dorothy L. Sayers. If Sayers’ writing ever gets old for me, that’s when I’m done living, I think.
  4. The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. The most recent addition to the list, but one I’m confident will stick around. I just… I love pretty much everything about it.
  5. The Winter King, by Bernard Cornwell. This is probably the only portrayal of Galahad I’ve ever loved, and sadly you don’t see many Galahads like him. Arthur’s pretty great, too, and it all feels… real and possible. A great interpretation of the Arthurian myth, even if sometimes it stretches.
  6. The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper. I didn’t actually read this as a child — I was probably 16 when I finally read it. But the BBC audio adaptation was seriously formative.
  7. The Positronic Man, by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg. I think my copy has vanished again, but when I was about nine or ten, I had a copy out of the library (on my mother’s library card, because they wouldn’t let me borrow adult books). I think the fine I ran up with this book alone had to be the worst I’ve ever incurred — and I got some pretty steep ones as a student.
  8. The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Oh my goodness, I read at least two copies to death.
  9. The Railway Children, by Edith Nesbit. Also this one. It made me briefly consider watching trains as a child, one boring summer. Of course, the lack of train tracks anywhere too nearby put a damper on that.
  10. The Summer Tree, by Guy Gavriel Kay. In fact, pretty much everything by Guy Gavriel Kay, since I’m a glutton for punishment, apparently.

So what about you? What do you read and read and reread?

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Review – Walking on Knives

Posted 10 July, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Walking on Knives by Maya ChhabraWalking on Knives, Maya Chhabra

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date is 26th July 2017

When the warning says “Walking on Knives contains some explicit content and a scene with dubious sexual consent”, it’s not kidding. I know there’s a whole debate about whether you can say consent is “dubious”, but I think I see why in this case — in both cases the characters explicitly consent, in pursuit of a goal, without actually wanting the sex itself.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure I buy any of the emotions here. It has the potential to be dark and twisty, but because I don’t believe in any of the love stories, it doesn’t work; it’s still too much in the fairytale style, with none of the characters named. Worse, it gets confusing between all the epithets; ‘the little mermaid’, ‘the sea-witch’, ‘the strange woman’… and then all the ‘she did this and she did that’. In the end, I just… nah.

Honestly, I feel most sympathetic toward the Prince. I wanted to root for the little mermaid and the sea-witch’s sister, but that didn’t feel real. The Prince’s conflict was the most real part of it, and I felt like he deserved more of an ending.

Rating: 2/5

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Review – NeuroTribes

Posted 9 July, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Neurotribes by Steve SilbermanNeuroTribes, Steve Silberman

This is a bit of a slog to read, because it spends a lot of time lingering on details that you may or may not feel are relevant. It goes into the lives of the people who ‘discovered’ autism and described it clinically, much more than it goes into the lives of actual autistic people, and there’s one chapter I found rather troubling which follows the family of an autistic child. It focuses on their anguish and confusion, and their increasingly desperate attempts to “treat” their son with whatever unpleasant, pseudo-scientific methods they could find. By the end, I was desperate to hear that someone had actually ever asked the child what effect it had on him. (As far as I can tell, nobody did.) Those particular parents weren’t extreme, but nonetheless, I got very tired of their desperation to have a “normal” child.

It also does some retrospective diagnosing of a couple of scientists and thinkers from days before there was such a diagnosis. I’m always a bit iffy on that: there do seem to be good grounds to make those judgements, but… most of the people I know now don’t know much about what goes on in my head and why I react the way I do. I don’t want them diagnosing me once I’m dead. Still, at least it does provide autistic models and heroes for people now.

I’m also a little leery of the ubiquity of being on the spectrum in Silberman’s view. Lots of fandom, lots of engineers, maybe even most in the picture he’s painting — it’s a stereotype of fandom and of STEM that I haven’t necessarily found to be true. And fandom hasn’t been so very welcoming of actual neurodiverse people, either. If it’s ever been the perfect home for them, it isn’t now.

All in all, though, I did find the book interesting, and the perspective on neurodiversity as something to be accommodated and used productively is one that’s definitely timely. Despite my criticisms, I found it an interesting book — and it definitely treats autism as a spectrum, touching all kinds of people. This definitely isn’t the attitudes of Autism Speaks: instead, Silberman urges understanding, accommodation and respect.

Rating: 4/5

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 8 July, 2017 by Nikki in General / 18 Comments

Good morning! This has felt like a long week for some reason — maybe because I have no class and not much work to have been worrying about! Fortunately, there’s always books.

Received to review:

Cover of The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

Dragons and dragon-slayers? I’m in!

Finished this week:

Cover of The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard Cover of Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers Cover of Bloodshot by Cherie Priest

Cover of Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie Cover of The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers Cover of A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

Five stars to: Ancillary Sword.
Four stars to: The House of Binding Thorns, Whose Body?, Bloodshot, The City of Dreaming Books and A Closed and Common Orbit.

Yep, this has been a good reading week!

Reviews posted this week:

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. I’m definitely not best-placed to comment on the accuracy/authenticity of this book, but I think it’s a powerful and timely one. 5/5 stars
Spaceman, by Mike Massimino. Basically Massimino’s memoir of his experiences in the space program, and how he got there. Interesting though mostly not about the science. 3/5 stars
Nature’s Patterns: A Tapestry in Three Parts, by Philip Ball. A fascinating exploration of patterns in nature, biological, geological and chemical. 4/5 stars
Newt’s Emerald, by Garth Nix. Basically a classic Georgette Heyer plot with a magical twist, I found this a lot of fun. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Top Ten Tuesday: The Stuff I’ve Gotta Know. Things about people and books I always like to find out.
WWW Wednesday. An update on what I’ve been reading and what I think about it!

What’ve you been reading? Any exciting new books in your stacks?

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Review – Newt’s Emerald

Posted 7 July, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Newt's Emerald by Garth NixNewt’s Emerald, Garth Nix

I’ve been meaning to read this for ages, and I’m not entirely sure what finally prompted me to pick it up — but hurrah that I did. If you enjoy Georgette Heyer’s work, you’ll probably enjoy this. It’s a little adventure very much along the same lines, only with magic as well. Girls disguising themselves as boys, a Pride and Prejudice moment for the romance, and daring escapades. The tone is light and witty, and okay, it’s not as though as it’s as deeply committed to being authentic as Heyer was, but you wouldn’t expect that from a book that injects magic as well!

I found it really fun, and a surprisingly quick read too. The romance is… well, Heyer-ish, so if dislike-turns-to-love and capricious young ladies who deny they have any feelings for That Odious Man bother you, it probably won’t be your thing. It’s definitely not much like Nix’s other books (at least the ones I’ve read).

It’s a little magical cream puff, and I enjoyed it greatly. It helps that the main character gets to be kickass and daring, and she’s also really smart. She’d verge on too perfect if she didn’t have the odd immature and petulant moment too, but as it was, she was a lot of fun.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Nature’s Patterns: A Tapestry in Three Parts

Posted 6 July, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Shapes by Philip Ball Cover of Flow by Philip Ball Cover of Branches by Philip Ball

Nature’s Patterns: A Tapestry in Three Parts — Shapes, Flow, Branches, Philip Ball

There’s a lot of info in these three books about patterns formed both by life and by other, non-living natural processes. Sometimes it got a little too much for me to process and I started glazing over — mostly when math came into it. EVen given that, it’s still a fascinating look about how patterns form, and a good note of caution to sound about genetic determinism. Just as the colours of a calico cat aren’t determined genetically — so a clone of one calico cat would not have the same patterns as the first — neither are many other patterns in nature, whether in pelt colour and pattern or the building of nests. Instead, there seem to be sets of rules built in: processes that will occur in all genetically normal members of a species, but which won’t produce the same pattern time and again.

It’s also a good reminder that even with Batesian mimicry, there’s no intent behind it. The genetic code just happens to code for proteins which work in a particular way, ultimately producing a particular pattern. That’s obvious when we see the way other natural systems create the same patterns — rivers, sand dunes, chemical reactions.

Worth reading, definitely. And personally, I was really intrigued to learn that it was Alan Turing who actually proposed some theories of how animals get their patterned fur. Not just a code-breaking genius, clearly. Individually, I might rate each of these three books a ‘3’, but together… a 4, I think.

Rating: 4/5

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