Review – Planetfall

Posted 22 June, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Planetfall by Emma NewmanPlanetfall, Emma Newman

One probably doesn’t need to reread this to read Before Mars, but I felt like doing so anyway. I couldn’t quite remember all the details, and I remembered enjoying it, so hey, why not? It’s definitely as good on a second time; maybe more so, because certain things take on a different significance. You know about the rather metaphysical flavour of the ending, you know what the mysteries are and where the mines are in the field, so you find yourself wincing for the characters and wishing they’d watch their step (and watch out for who to trust).

It’s still a bit intense reading about Ren’s anxiety problems, but I have more distance from it myself now, which made it less uncomfortable and more just… it’s interesting to read, interesting to see someone handle mental illness in a sci-fi setting in this way.

It’s well worth the read and the reread, and I really must hurry up and make my wife read it.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Feed

Posted 21 June, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Feed by Mira GrantFeed, Mira Grant

This is, I think, the third time I read Feed: each time, I firmly intend to carry on with the story, but I always need a little bit of a break after the gut punch that is the ending of Feed itself. This time, I’m successful (as I type this, I’m 100 pages from the end of Deadline), but it’s still a gut punch, and Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant really knows what she’s doing with that. I love Georgia in all her capableness, I love the world-building with the Irwins and the Fictionals and the Newsies and just… all the stuff that’s been put into making it a fully realised post-apocalyptic, post-privacy world.

It’s especially weird to read after the last US elections and President Trump, because the Senator they’re following to the White House is actually a Republican. And he’s actually a good guy whom you can kind of root for.

I think maybe the one argument I have with it is that some parts of it lack quite the tension you’d expect from being chased by a zombie horde. Personally, it works — after all, this is Georgia’s job — but still, it’s not quite the endless ride of thrills some readers might expect from a zombie novel.

I’ll stick to not touching the epidemiology, etc, here. I’m not sure I can quite see how viruses based on the common cold and Marburg could recombine — they’re so different in structure and needs — but on the other hand, to paraphrase a great fictional scientist, viruses, uh, find a way. Just look at what HIV can do.

I don’t love Shaun — he’s okay, but not my thing — but darn, am I ever into Georgia as a character. More of her all over the place, please.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – A Little History of Archaeology

Posted 20 June, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

A Little History of Archaeology, Brian Fagan

I love archaeology, and I must confess I really love the kind of general books that do a bit more of a survey — like Cline’s Three Stones Make a Wall, for example. This looked like it was going to be good in that line, and it wasn’t bad; there’s definitely a lot of info in it and stuff I want to research more, but overall it’s a bit too brief for me. It’s definitely a little history, just a little; there’s so much more to be said about so many of the people and sites that Fagan skims past in giving an overview.

Which is not exactly the fault of the book, but sometimes I feel that the history of archaeology would’ve been better followed through fewer key sites or key archaeologists, rather than a general mix of the two, which ended up feeling unfocused.

Rating: 3/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 20 June, 2018 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

My exams are over, and all is freedom and binging on books! 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 The Classical World by Robin Lane FoxI just started The Classical World, by Robin Lane Fox, which is rather slow going. I’ve seen some really enthusiastic reviews, but I’m not quite seeing it — at this point, at least. Maybe it doesn’t help that I studied classics at A Level, so none of this is really new to me.

I’ve also got started on my reread of The Summer Tree, which is just, gah. It’s not going to be long before the first big tragic event. I had to pause last night so I wouldn’t go to sleep on that note!

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of Deadline by Mira GrantLast thing I finished was Deadline, by Mira Grant. Gah! A little slower than the first book, I think, but oh gosh that ending, and the increasing attention paid to the epidemiology! I should go write my review, actually. Before that, I think the last thing I finished was Anthony Rolls’ Scarweather: wow, that was a creepy scenario. Gah. The crime was obvious throughout most of the book, but the exact way everything came out wasn’t.

What will you be reading next?

Cover of Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha LeeI don’t know! As ever, I’m driven largely by whim. But most likely I’ll get back to Revenant Gun (Yoon Ha Lee) and pick up Blackout and maybe Feedback (Mira Grant). Then there’s more of The Summer Tree and the rest of that trilogy, and, and, and…

On I go, forever.

So what’re you reading?

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 19 June, 2018 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

Text only: top ten TUESDAY

It’s been a long time since I did a TTT post, I know! But this week’s prompt is a summer TBR (it says beach reads, but everything is a beach read for me or nothing is), and I thought I could use the chance to reflect on that. So here goes…

Cover of Blackout by Mira Grant Cover of Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee Cover of City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett  Cover of Starless by Jacqueline Carey

  1. Blackout, by Mira Grant. I finished Deadline yesterday and I’m already itching to get onto this one. WHAT IS GOING ON.
  2. Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee. I’m partway through it already, but I really need to shuffle it to the top of the pile and finish devouring it. I got a little dangerously into it during my exam period and put it aside for a while, but now I’m freeeee.
  3. The Divine Cities trilogy, by Robert Jackson Bennett. I haven’t read the last book, despite being absolutely desperate for it at the time. I wanted to reread the first two, and time kept on catching up to me… bleh. But now I can!
  4. Foundryside, by Robert Jackson Bennett. I got an ARC of this, and I’m very excited by the sound of it, so here’s hoping Bennett will wow me again. (Spoiler: pretty sure he will.)
  5. Starless, by Jacqueline Carey. I don’t think this is optional in any way. I have to read it. It’s Jacqueline Carey!
  6. Only Human, by Sylvain Neuvel. The end of this trilogy! I grabbed it on release and… got busy, of course. You might be sensing a theme in my life.
  7. Before Mars, by Emma Newman. Another one I got on release, but then got distracted from. Though I am at least partway through my rereads of the previous books in this case!
  8. The Lost Plot, by Genevieve Cogman. Actually, I can’t believe I haven’t got to this one already. Again, I want to reread the previous books, though, and do it in a glorious binge.
  9. The Testament of Loki, by Joanne Harris. I am still kicking myself that I didn’t buy a signed copy when I was shopping with my sister, but hey, I have the ebook! More glorious Loki twistiness incoming.
  10. I Only Killed Him Once, by Adam Christopher. I’ve been a great fan of the Raymond Electromatic books, and I can’t believe this one has been sitting on my ereader awaiting me so long already.

  Cover of The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman Cover of The Testament of Loki by Joanne Harris Cover of I Only Killed Him Once by Adam Christopher

Let’s face it, I have too many awesome books: my head might just explode. But I’ll be happy.

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Review – A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns

Posted 19 June, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them PronounsA Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them, Archie Bongiovanni, Tristan Jimerson

Received to review via Netgalley

A lot of people now use gender-neutral pronouns, and singular ‘they’ is one of the more universal and (to my mind) easy to adjust to choices. Not that I object to zie/hir on principle (though some people do because those pronouns sound like gendered pronouns in their own language; this is not a personal bother of mine, but I keep it in mind), but ‘they’ is already something we know how to use, and they doesn’t always have to mean plural (despite what people say). This is basically a guide focused on how to respect the pronoun choices of people who identify as non-binary… or just want to use neutral pronouns for reasons of their own. It’s an easy and simple read, though I find myself wondering if the people who could really use the education would ever bother to read it.

It’s also… not 100% right. There’s a whole bit about how saying “preferred pronouns” is disrespectful. I totally understand that argument — most people don’t prefer to be called she/her, they are a she/her — but I hesitate about it too because people to whom it doesn’t apply tend to take that too far. I’ve been scolded for saying I personally have preferred pronouns, even though that’s the case. I use they/them in some contexts, and refer to them as my “preferred” pronouns, because they are. However, nobody who meets me in real life is ever going to think there’s any grounds for ambiguity, and I don’t mind it in that context; it’s all about context for me and what’s comfortable in a given place/time. Often online I just let people make whatever assumption they want: it doesn’t matter to me, and I don’t usually have strong feelings either way (unless someone is being sexist or something). But still: at the end of it, they/them/their are my preferred pronouns by default.

So yeah, don’t go thinking this book is the bible of gender-neutral pronouns and can’t be wrong. But otherwise, it’s a good resource for explaining to someone willing to learn. The art it nothing special, but the expressions, etc, add some humour and flavour to it.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Howl’s Moving Castle

Posted 18 June, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne JonesHowl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones

Another reread of a favourite during my exam period! I originally watched the Studio Ghibli adaptation first, and loved that, and I think the first time I actually read the book it took me a while to get into it; certain aspects at the end seemed so rushed, and there was so much to keep track of. Perhaps it’s familiarity that means I didn’t really have a problem with it this time; certainly, experience helps in untangling exactly what’s going on!

While I still love the Studio Ghibli version, there’s a lot to enjoy in the book that didn’t make it into the movie. Sophie’s family, for one thing, and Wizard Suliman, and everything about Wales — which means a lot to me, being Welsh, because hey! Howl is short for Howell! And of course he takes the last name Pendragon. And of course Calcifer sings Sosban fach. And, and — it’s just a delight, okay? And there’s the stuff that didn’t make it into the book in the same way, like pretty much everything about Michael and most of Sophie’s magic.

Also, I can’t help it. I do love the adversarial not-going-to-take-each-others’-nonsense couples, and Howl and Sophie have that in spades. Lots and lots of spades. That ending is also a thing of delight, for me.

Rating: 4/5

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Discussion: Interacting with Authors

Posted 18 June, 2018 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

So today’s discussion post is something that used to come up all the time when I was on Goodreads, and has happened a couple of times here: interacting with authors. On Goodreads it was nearly always a bad experience, though Tony Hays (author of Arthurian mysteries) was great and a couple of others too, plus of course authors who just wanted to offer me a copy of their books to review. But quite often the author would come by to argue with my rating.

There’s always exceptions, so it’s hard to come up with simple rules. But here’s a couple I think authors could stick to:

  • Don’t react to reviews unless people have indicated they’re willing to discuss them with you.
  • Don’t spam people with offers of copies to review.
  • Don’t spam people with anything.
  • Don’t make everything about your book — other interactions may not seem like they’re directly gonna sell your book, but I’m more likely to buy your book if I’ve had meaningful interactions with you. Even if that’s about other books. Maybe especially if that’s about other books.
  • Remember that nobody owes you interaction, nobody owes you an explanation, nobody owes you their time.

Buuut sometimes I think reviews could use some rules in reply. Mostly I think they’re common sense, but then someone always comes along and ruins my idealistic dreams. So hey:

  • Don’t beg for freebies.
  • Don’t draw the author’s attention to a review unless they’ve indicated they’re interested in reading reviews of their work.
  • Remember there’s a difference between the author’s voice and their character’s voice and even, depending on the narratorial choices they’ve made, their real opinions.
  • Don’t, for goodness’ sake, proudly announce that you’ve pirated the author’s book. There are some authors who don’t mind this much (Cory Doctorow) or have found that their books sold better after one was available free (Neil Gaiman). But for the most part, you’re telling them that they’ve lost revenue. Even if it wasn’t illegal (it is), then telling people you’ve pirated is just poor taste.
  • Review the book, not the author. (It’s fair not to read something because the author is a raging homophobe, but then you don’t need to review the book, because even doing that is getting them oxygen to keep on raging to an audience.) Sometimes biographical details can be important in understanding a book, and sometimes you’re just making douchy assumptions or being a bully.

…Not that this is an exhaustive list (either of them, actually), but these are some of my pet hates.

How about you?

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Review – The Templars

Posted 17 June, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Templars by Piers Paul ReadThe Templars, Piers Paul Read

This is a rather exhaustive account not only of the Templars, but of the Crusades and the interactions between Popes and Kings during that period. That’s not a bad thing, though I had expected something a little more focused on the Templars as a group, and maybe more discussion of individual Templars as examples. Instead, there was a lot about individual kings and their reactions — fair enough, there’s probably more material available on them, but I still found it a little disappointing.

Still, it’s kind of fun reading it as someone who has played Assassin’s Creed, and playing spot-the-name-I-know and spot-who-got-assassinated-by-Altair.

I think it was a bit stodgy in places, but informative. And dude, you totally protested too much in the other direction that Templars weren’t ever gay. Let’s be real: the reality is that some of the Templars will have been gay, some bi, many straight, and some will have remained celibate while others won’t have done so.

Rating: 3/5 

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Review – The Secret of High Eldersham

Posted 16 June, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Secret of High Eldersham by Miles BurtonThe Secret of High Eldersham, Miles Burton

The Secret of High Eldersham is a bit of a weird one, really, with a lot of rather sensational stuff going on. It seems like it’s going to be one of those sleepy little village mysteries, but then there’s a whole mess of occult stuff coming in! Not that it’s unenjoyable, as aside from occasionally rolling my eyes at the drama I did rather enjoy it. It’s fairly typical in many ways of the period, with the intrepid amateur detective (who doesn’t quite run rings round the police, but they’re definitely indebted to him) and a love interest, terrible peril, etc, etc.

Miles Burton makes it work, though, and I’ve enjoyed another of his books too (finding it, on the whole, less sensational and more realistic). I’d recommend at least giving this a try! The pacing isn’t 100% perfect, but for the most part it ticks along pretty nicely.

Rating: 4/5

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