Review – A Most Novel Revenge

Posted 18 January, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of A Most Novel Revenge by Ashley WeaverA Most Novel Revenge, Ashley Weaver

In this book, Amory and her husband Milo go — together, as a couple! with no drama about who is sleeping where! – to a country house at the request of her cousin, a dear friend, who was once on the periphery of a murder and has been called back to the site, along with other people, for some new revelation. Feeling uncomfortable, and knowing Amory’s stuck her nose in a few police investigations, she asks Amory to come — and though she’s no detective and not qualified, etc, etc, she goes, to support her cousin. So far, so very typical of the genre, honestly, and the rest of the book more or less continues that.

I don’t think I’ll continue with this series; it’s nice mindless stuff, and at least she’s stopped (for now at least) playing with the drama about Milo being a playboy. But it’s just a bit too much like everything else, and Amory hasn’t caught my attention in the way Daisy has. I might pick up the next book if I’m bored sometime, but the library wanted it back, and I didn’t care enough to reserve it again, so… there you go.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – The Crucible of Creation

Posted 17 January, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Crucible of Creation by Simon Conway MorrisThe Crucible of Creation, Simon Conway Morris

Part discussion of the Burgess Shale, part rebuttal of Stephen Jay Gould’s premises in Wonderful Life, this book was a bit of a slog to get through for me. It’s a topic I find fascinating, but something about the style mostly had me snoozing, even when he entertainingly decided to take a turn for the science fictional and imagine a whole dive into the seas at the time of the Cambrian explosion. (That bit was mostly entertaining through being surprising, though also through trying to bring to life the animals that could’ve been seen if that could happen, and how they would have behaved — the most speculative bit of the book, basically.)

I feel like Wonderful Life is probably the more fun to read and the more comprehensive, but it’s still fascinating to read about the point of view of a scientist who has actually worked with the Burgess Shale. Whatever you think of Conway Morris’ style, he’s a scientist Gould respected and an expert in his field.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Murder Must Advertise

Posted 16 January, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. SayersMurder Must Advertise, Dorothy L. Sayers

After rereading the Lord Peter Wimsey books at a fairly leisurely pace for a while, I more or less sat down and devoured the ones I had left, in December. Murder Must Advertise has long been a favourite for the fun of seeing both somewhat of how an advertising agency works, and how Dorothy Sayers herself worked in such an environment. (One feels one’s glimpsed her particularly in the figure of Miss Meteyard, I think — though Sayers herself was writing copy, more in Wimsey’s job than Miss Meteyard’s.) The book features Peter’s one real sustained undercover op: he embeds himself into an advertising agency under the name of Bredon, sniffing out a murder and a dope gang, all at once.

It’s also one of those books with a sincere sense of danger, and a bittersweet ending in which Peter allows a man the dignity of choosing the manner of his own death rather than immediately telling the police what he’s worked out. That tendency is one of the things that irritates me about Peter as a sleuth; his code of honour means he feels he has to allow people an out, even if that out is an honourable suicide. Of course we know that it never does go wrong, for Peter, but it could and it’s a flaw in him for me that he’s always so tempted to put the decision in a murderer’s hands. In this case, he suggests a method of suicide to someone that means their family won’t be overshadowed by the trial — but leaves him no chance of a fair trial. Peter is judge and jury, and the murderer themselves becomes their own executioner. It might not feel like cricket to turn people in to the police, but darn it, the legal system is there for a reason. Peter’s meant to be too decent to back someone against a wall and make them think all is lost, but still. Real people aren’t always right, or always decent.

All the same, for the most part it’s a bit of a romp, with Peter coming up with advertising slogans, and leading a double life to provide himself with alibis (of sorts). Harriet’s not really mentioned, and Bunter and even Parker are often in the background, with the setting and characters of the advertising agency taking centre stage. It makes a nice change.

I was surprised to read that this was something of a filler book, while Sayers was actually working on The Nine Tailors to get all the details right, but it makes sense in a way. It doesn’t advance Peter’s character arc much, or really do anything profound — apart from the last act of bravery on the part of a particular character.

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 16 January, 2019 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.

Cover of The Dark Days Club by Alison GoodmanWhat are you currently reading?

The Dark Days Club, by Alison Goodman. I’ve been surprised by how long it took for any (credible) supernatural elements to creep in. I did enjoy the opening very much establishing Helen’s place in society, the importance of propriety for her, etc. I’m hoping that won’t fall by the wayside as she starts to take on the ‘sacred duty to protect humanity’ mentioned by the back cover!

Cover of The Story of Pain by Joanna BourkeWhat have you recently finished reading?

Apart from Stitches in Time by Lucy Adlington, which is the last book I read cover-to-cover, I recently DNF’ed and probably won’t fully review The Story of Pain, by Joanna Bourke. Although I might, I don’t know; it could be useful to people to know that it’s a rather literature-based book rather than focusing on the science of pain, which is more what I was hoping for. It has a very dry and academic tone, too; it never uses a simple quick definition when five examples from literature and history will do.

Cover of Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette KowalWhat will you be reading next?

I don’t know. I really feel like rereading Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey; if I avoid the reread impulse, I might pick up the sequel to The Dark Days Club and read that, or delve into my backlog from last year. I haven’t read the final Murderbot novella yet, even! There’s plenty of options and as ever, I’m fickle and probably won’t get to any that I pick out.

What are you currently reading?

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Review – Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

Posted 15 January, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-LodgeWhy I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge

As so often with books that have enraged certain types, this isn’t the screed against white people that folks would have you believe. The essay of the title was written to explain that the author, Reni Eddo-Lodge, is tired of explaining prejudice to people not equipped to listen. She acknowledged in the original piece and in this book that that doesn’t mean all white people, and it certainly hasn’t meant that she’s stopped talking about race. But she’s given herself permission to avoid doing Racism 101 every five seconds, and more power to her — it’s easy enough to Google that shit, people. Whenever you have a minority identity, there’s questions you get asked and comments you have to hear that just recur like clockwork. I refuse to go back to my last hairdresser because I heard that tape starting with regards to my sexuality: “But have you ever tried going out with a man?” It’s tiring, and I can imagine it’s much more so when your difference is visible, when you can never choose whether it even has the chance of becoming a topic of conversation.

That said, this whole book is a way for Reni Eddo-Lodge to talk to white people about race — if we’re willing to listen. It’s UK focused, which I think was very much needed: a lot of the narrative online focuses on racism against African-Americans, and it’s different here in the UK… though, after reading this book, I have to admit it’s not as different as wishful thinking imagined. A lot of the problems with institutional racism are the same, and though we may have fewer shootings, that seems more likely to be because we have fewer armed police officers than because our attitudes are markedly different.

It’s very much worth reading this, even if you think you’re pretty up to date and in the know. There’s history I had no idea of, attitudes that are alive and well which I didn’t know were still considered acceptable, and overall, further to go than I thought. For that reason, this isn’t an easy read (though it was easy in the sense of being well-written and easy to follow) — and I sense that Eddo-Lodge was still pulling her punches for white people’s sake, even so.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Dead in the Water

Posted 14 January, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Dead in the Water by Carola DunnDead in the Water, Carola Dunn

Dead in the Water is the 6th in the Daisy Dalrymple series. In this book, Daisy and Alec are officially engaged, and he’s actually got to face her family — thankfully, her more likeable aunt, and not more time with her strict and old-fashioned mother! Of course, as usual, Daisy quickly falls over a fraught situation, expects murder, and eventually gets it. The same formula is in place here as usual: a crime is committed, and by the time Alec investigates, Daisy’s picked someone to champion. In this case, it’s actually someone she doesn’t even like, who she feels deserves better than he’s been getting all the same.

It’s little things like that (Daisy not liking the person she champions) that help bring some variety to the series; if it was always the exact same kind of person, it’d quickly get tedious, but there’s always just enough variation that it works. For me, and so far, at least. Daisy herself is a worthy sort of heroine: not totally unflappable, but practical and trying to keep her head; a girl who works for her living when she doesn’t have to (except of course, she considers that she does have to, valuing the work); someone with a sense of justice. Alec, too, is a basically decent guy, doing his best to find the culprits and put aside personal feelings. And their relationship is sweet, too.

It didn’t blow me out of the water (heh), but again it’s a fun entry in a series that’s working for me.

Rating: 4/5

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Discussion: Book Blanket

Posted 14 January, 2019 by Nikki in General / 3 Comments

Since last week, I’ve picked out my colour palette (such as it is — my wife was involved, and she loves a riot of colour) and ordered the yarn! So I thought I’d update on the chosen colour palette. Here’s an image with some colour swatches to give you a better idea:

Graphic showing the colours I've chosen for my blanket and what each one means

Graphic showing the colours I’ve chosen for my blanket and what each one means (click to embiggen)

In other words, looking at the table below, for each square I’m going to make the centres out of a colour chosen based on the genre of the book (table A) and then a round in a colour chosen based on the source of the book (table B). If the book covers two genres, I’ll do two rounds for the first genre and two rounds for the second genre.

Table A: Genres and Colours

ColourTurquoiseStorm BlueClaretLobeliaGoldBright PinkGrass Green

Table B: Genre and Colour

SourceBacklog 2011-2015Backlog 2016-2018Acquired this yearLibrary, ARC, borrowed, etc
So a book that’s a Mystery/Romance, bought back in 2014, will get two rounds in Claret and two in Bright Pink, followed by a round or two (I haven’t decided yet, it will depend on the size when made) in Bottle. That will have a border in Cream, which will also attach it to the next square. I need to look up how to join with crochet in a blanket, but that shouldn’t take too much effort!

All the colours picked were Stylecraft Special DK; I also got a refer-a-friend link which will get you 15% off a first order from LoveKnitting, which will also give me 15% off my next order for anyone who signs up! Click here for 15% off yarn from LoveKnitting!

Finally, I also picked out the design: I’m going to keep it simple and go with an expanding geometric hexagon, with the pattern from CrochetSpot — circled in red on this photo from their pattern:

Okay, that’s all for this week! Hopefully next week I’ll have some progress on the actual blanket to show you.

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 12 January, 2019 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

Good morning, folks! It’s been a somewhat busy week, aka I’ve still been catching up from the holiday and just being kinda lazy, so there hasn’t been much activity. I have bought my first two books of 2019 though, and got my first request via Netgalley.

Received to review:

Cover of Master of Sorrows by Justin Call


Cover of What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape by S Cover of Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

Books read this week:

Cover of To Davy Jones Below by Carola Dunn Cover of Breaking the Maya Code by Michael D. Coe Cover of Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens Cover of Molecules at an Exhibition by John Emsley

Number of books in: 2
Number of books read: 4
Number of books from the backlog read: 3
Rereads: 0
Library books: 0
Bought in 2019: 1

Reviews posted this week:

The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper. Still beloved, though I had more quibbles and concerns this time. 4/5 stars
The Mycenaeans, by Rodney Castleden. I don’t know the material well enough to judge his accuracy, but there are some things from what I do know that seem problematic. 2/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussion: Book Blanket. My awesome bookish crafty project for 2019!

Out and about:

NEAT science: ‘Neanderthal diets: follow-up. Someone asked an interesting question about last week’s post, so I dug in a bit further!

So that’s it for this week, I think! How’s it going for you guys?

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Review – The Mycenaeans

Posted 8 January, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Mycenaeans by Rodney CastledenThe Mycenaeans, Rodney Castleden

This is a mostly textbookish sort of primer on the Mycenaeans: a bit more up to date than the Penguin classic on the Greeks I read recently, by Kitto, but not necessarily in line with the latest ideas as I remember them either. He relies quite heavily on Homer as a historical source; although I know there is certainly some historicity in Homer (the descriptions of armour and other artefacts are often correct in Homer for when we think the Trojan War occurred, rather than for when the epic was written down, suggesting that it does have a good deal of content from being originally composed nearer in time to the actual events), it’s also full of Gods and magic — not usually considered key markers of accurate history writing.

It was basically what I expected from something of a rather textbooky nature, though: dry at times, expanding on some not-necessarily-interesting (to the casual reader, anyway) points, and generally taking a long time to get where it was going. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad book, but I wouldn’t particularly recommend it to those without a deep interest in the details.

Rating: 2/5

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Discussion: Book Blanket

Posted 7 January, 2019 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

While clicking around on Twitter, as you do, I learned about an awesome project some other book nerds are doing. (Full credit: I heard about it from a booktuber, Claire Rosseau.) I’m not much into Instagram or Youtube or whatever, so if there’s a linkup anywhere for web bloggers, someone gimme it and I’ll be right over like a shot.

Anyway, what is this awesome project? A book blanket! Basically, for every book I read in 2019, I crochet a motif to be part of a blanket. Each motif’s colours will be dictated by the book I just read (so for example, if I just read a fantasy book, I’d make a purple square). At the end, I should have a massive blanket of around 250 motifs, if I read roughly the same amount I read last year. It’s going to be epic! (And unlike some of my other blanket projects, it’s very deliberately piecemeal, and so I should be able to do it in little bits as I go along.)

And of course, I’ll blog about every step of the project. When I have an update, I’ll post about it as my discussion post for the week (and when I don’t have any news, which will be most of the time, I’ll think of something else, or post a book review instead). I’ll probably do a couple more of these in January covering my decision process, though, because here I get to combine crochet and books, and that’s pretty awesome.

So! What have I decided so far? I’ve decided that I’ll use acrylic yarn. Any wool-mix is out for me, due to sensitive skin: I can just about work with wool-mixes without problems, but they irritate my skin a lot. Cotton is nice, but could get expensive, and can also be really stiff — not what you want in a big snuggly floppy blanket. So acrylic is my decision: generally hard-wearing, easy to wash, and not too expensive either. And I think I’ll go for DK for the yarn weight; smaller is fiddlier, and there’s a lot more variety available in DK. Chunky yarn is a love of mine, but with 200 motifs, it’d come out too big.

How am I going to join them? Having laboriously sewn a blanket together at the end — a small blanket, at that — I’m going to crochet them together with white yarn. That will give each of them a border, look nice, and can be done as I go along. So I’ll need an extra skein of yarn in white.

To! Having worked with it before and looking at the huge colour selection, I think I’m going to go for Stylecraft Special DK. I’ll probably try and keep the whole thing in the same brand of yarn, to ensure that as much is kept similar as possible, but it shouldn’t matter too much as long as the material and the weight are the same for all the motifs.

Posts to come: colours! Motif type! Maybe a tutorial video or step by step post in which I show you how to make the motif if you want to give it a try!

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