Review – The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty

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

Cover of The Honest Truth About Dishonesty by Dan ArielyThe (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, Dan Ariely

The reasons why we lie and to what extent we’re willing to lie are pretty fascinating, and if you haven’t read anything else of the sort before, this might be pretty revelatory. Ariely explains the various studies and results pretty clearly, and it’s definitely not aimed at people who have actually dug into the academic publications: it’s accessible to a layperson, definitely, and to my mind pretty much aimed at the layperson. At any rate, I didn’t find any of it surprising, because I’ve read most of this before and know something of the way we’ve discovered our brains work. I’m not 100% positive there was nothing new, but there wasn’t much that didn’t sound familiar.

So, a good read if you’re looking for something on the subject, but probably not much point if you’re already pretty aware of research into dishonesty and why we lie.

Rating: 3/5

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 21 April, 2018 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

Sooo, Amsterdam happened! And so did many books. Also some awesome socks.

Books acquired

Cover of Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston Cover of Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay Cover of Fire in the Thatch by E.C.R. Lorac Cover of Seven Dead by J. Jefferson Farjeon

Cover of Death of a Busybody by George Bellairs Cover of Roar by Cora Carmack Cover of Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn Cover of Crossroads of Canopy by Thoraiya Dyer

Cover of Head On by John Scalzi Cover of Semiosis by Sue Burke Cover of Skullsworn by Brian Staveley Cover of The Sisters of the Crescent Empress

Cover of The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis Cover of I Only Killed Him Once by Adam Christopher

Though the last one is, of course, an ARC — Tor are as good to me as ever.

Books read this week:

Cover of The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu by Charlie English Cover of The Secret of High Eldersham by Miles Burton Cover of War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

Cover of A Long Day In Lychford by Paul Cornell Cover of Exiled from Camelot by Cherith Baldry Cover of The Brain Supremacy by Kathleen Taylor

Reviews posted this week:

A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin. This was mostly just a comfort read so I didn’t actually have much to say. I still love it with all its flaws. 5/5 stars
The Poisoned Chocolates Case, by Anthony Berkeley. I add to a classic murder mystery in my review… 4/5 stars
The Atrocities, by Jeremy C. Shipp. Some good atmosphere but ultimately I didn’t love it. 3/5 stars
The Golden Age of Murder, by Martin Edwards. This book tries to do a lot, but it’s mostly successful and it made me really curious about Golden Age crime fiction I’d never even heard of. 4/5 stars
A Long Day in Lychford, by Paul Cornell. I don’t love this series like some other people do, but this book did really manage to put its finger on some of the feelings in Britain around Brexit. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

WWW WednesdayThe weekly update on what I’ve been reading lately.

How’s everyone doing? Delicious book hauls? Dying of the sudden warm weather, Europeans?

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Review – A Long Day in Lychford

Posted 20 April, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 1 Comment

Cover of A Long Day In Lychford by Paul CornellA Long Day in Lychford, Paul Cornell

Received to review via Netgalley

I haven’t been loving the Lychford novellas as much as other folks have, but Paul Cornell does have a way with characters — the differences and similarities between Judith and Autumn, how that all tangles up around them and has to be straightened out, it’s all really compelling. He also put his finger on the tensions of Brexit in a way that was painfully real: I’m not even a person of colour, but like Autumn I had that awful feeling about everyone around me, trying to figure out how they voted, what they secretly want. And I really felt the way the microaggressions got under her skin; mine are different, but it happens the same way, all the same.

Obviously, from the ending of this, there’s plenty more to come. I’m torn: I like the characters, but I don’t find the story itself that compelling, somehow. It’s a pleasant enough read, but I’m not compelled to find out what happens next. I’ll read more in this series, yes, but… I don’t know. It doesn’t quite work for me on some level. It’s not the book, it’s me.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Golden Age of Murder

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

Cover of The Golden Age of Murder by Martin EdwardsThe Golden Age of Murder, Martin Edwards

There’s a lot going on in this novel — it tracks the development of crime fiction and mystery stories, deals with the biographies of various famous Golden Age crime writers (including Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Anthony Berkeley, of course) and deals with the development of the Detection Club. There’s a lot of stuff I didn’t know, even about Sayers (whose work I adore), and the whole thing left me feeling that my experience of the Golden Age of crime fiction was rather limited. Fortunately, and not coincidentally, Martin Edwards has also been curating the publication of the British Library Crime Classics, so I’ve been able to check out some of the authors that were totally unfamiliar to me (and I have a whole stack more to get to, too).

It’s an enjoyable read, though it does get a little bogged down or distracted at times — I think because it does try to tackle so much. It doesn’t stick purely to a single writer, but nor does it stay firmly focused on the Detection Club as a whole. If you’re interested in the period, though, it’s a gem.

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 18 April, 2018 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 Exiled from Camelot by Cherith BaldryWhat are you currently reading?

I’m rereading Exiled from Camelot, by Cherith Baldry. I wrote part of my MA dissertation on it, way back when I was still a lit student, so I have fond memories. Sometimes the emotion feels a bit… overwrought, though at other times it feels just right — and really, aren’t I just internalising the whole modern masculinity shtick? Kay can cry about Arthur if he wants to. (And he does. A lot.)

I’ve also picked up Kushiel’s Chosen, and currently Phèdre and Joscelin are breaking each others’ hearts. Which tells you absolutely nothing by way of where I am in the book, since they do that all the time.

Cover of War for the Oaks by Emma BullWhat have you recently finished reading?

I read War for the Oaks over the weekend — that was pretty fun, felt like meeting October Daye and Kate Daniels’ grandma, kind of. I really liked it, actually; it doesn’t feel so unique since I’ve read urban fantasy that followed it first, but I get a sense of the energy around it and, yeah, very fun.

Today, I read A Long Day in Lychford, by Paul Cornell. Didn’t love it, but appreciated it a lot.

Cover of Too Like The LightningWhat will you be reading next?

I’m partway through Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer, so that’s probably what I’m going to read once Exiled from Camelot is finished. I’m not yet entirely sure what I make of it (it’s one of those that make me wonder if I’m smart enough/have enough background knowledge), but I was just getting into it at the point I stopped.

Also, The Brain Supremacy, by Kathleen Taylor — I’m in a challenge which takes on one Dewey Decimal category per month, and this month is 600-699, and that fits, so, woo.

What’re you reading?

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Review – The Atrocities

Posted 17 April, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 1 Comment

Cover of The Atrocities by Jeremy C. ShippThe Atrocities, Jeremy C. Shipp

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 17th April 2018

I really liked the sound of The Atrocities right up front; I did expect something horror/Gothic ish in tone, but kind of expected something maybe less dramatic than this turned out to be. It starts out with great atmosphere and that uncanny feeling, but even after thinking it over for a few days, I’m not entirely sure what I make of it as a whole. Once things started being explained, it didn’t feel quite satisfactory to me, and by the end I was a little confused about what was real. The main character is probably meant to be unreliable, given the recounting of her dreams as almost seamlessly integrated into the text, but it didn’t quite work for me — it just felt confusing as in I couldn’t figure out what was going on, not in not being able to figure out what’s true, if you see the difference there. It started feeling rather rushed, too.

However, I’m generally not a horror fan, so it’s very likely I’ve missed some aspects of the shape of the narrative — the ending felt familiar from seeing the ends of a few horror movies over my wife’s shoulder, at least. So it might be that someone more into the genre would appreciate it more. I did love the atmosphere and the whole first scene, with the entrance to the estate, was perfectly uncanny and discomforting.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – The Poisoned Chocolates Case

Posted 16 April, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony BerkeleyThe Poisoned Chocolates Case, Anthony Berkeley

The members of the Crime Circle filed out of the room, leaving one figure sitting in the darkness on the edge of the scene. The figure was of indeterminate height, weight and sex; in fact, it would be impossible for anyone to explain what they looked like, and even Sheringham would have been unlikely to perceive them. Nonetheless, they had watched the entire proceedings.

“I have another suspect,” this figure said. The voice, too, was androgynous; like everyone and like no one. It was the voice, of course, of the Readers.

A man’s voice. “You do?” 

“I suspect you, of course. You’re guilty of the murder of Mrs Bendix.”

“I might as well suspect you,” the man replied, after a moment.

“But you’re the Writer,” the indeterminate voice said. “Anthony Berkeley Cox: also known as Francis Iles, and A. Monmouth Platts. With the benefit of hindsight, of course, we can see right through you. You’re guilty of the murder. Without you, Mrs Bendix wouldn’t even have existed.”

The man laughed, running a finger over his moustache. “Indeed? Or are you the guilty ones? Without readers to enact the crime in their heads, the story would be nothing. Mrs Bendix has died over and over again — at your hands, not mine.”

There was no possible answer to this last point, and the writer received none.


I should leave it at that, but I can’t quite resist having my say as well: The Poisoned Chocolates Case is a fun enough puzzle novel, as much a study of the characters investigating the crime and how they think, how they come to their conclusions. I rather enjoyed the plethora of solutions, though of course, I can’t help but feel that the one I wrote above is the real solution.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – A Wizard of Earthsea

Posted 15 April, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le GuinA Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula Le Guin

I read this shortly after Ursula Le Guin’s death was announced, and it was a comfort: “Only in silence the word, only in dark the light, only in dying life.” There are aspects of Le Guin’s world that it takes The Other Wind to truly make satisfying and comforting, but all the same, it’s always a relief to come to Earthsea. It’s beautifully written, and though the women are absent (fixed or at least commented on in later Earthsea books) and one could wish for more dragons, it still works.

I don’t think there’s more I can say, beyond noting that the book saved my life.

Rating: 5/5

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 14 April, 2018 by Nikki in General / 21 Comments

I’m safely back in Belgium! And in our little game of doing chores and healthy things, my wife and I have hit 200 stars (ish), so we’re off to Amsterdam today for books, yarn and goodness knows what. (Mostly books and yarn.) So I’ll reply to any comments tomorrow!

Books bought/received to review:

Cover of Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer Cover of The Traitor God by Cameron Johnston Cover of Booked to Die by John Dunning

Cover of The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis Cover of The Secret of High Eldersham by Miles Burton

A bit of a weird mix, maybe…

Read this week:

Cover of The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert Cover of Daphne du Maurier by Margaret Forster Cover of Almost Human by Lee Berger Cover of Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero Cover of The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Cover of Evolution in Four Dimensions by Eva Jablonka Cover of The Honest Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely Cover of The Atrocities by Jeremy C. Shipp Cover of Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland Cover of The Cornish Coast Murder by John Bude

Reviews posted this week:

The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Albert. It took me a while to figure out what this was trying to do, but I ended up enjoying it. 4/5 stars
Meddling Kids, by Edgar Cantero. Okay, this had its annoying aspects (oh my goodness, you can use the word “said”, I promise!) but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. Especially Kerri and Andy. 4/5 stars
The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang. Lovely. The historical setting doesn’t quite work, but I loved the rest of it. 4/5 stars
Daphne du Maurier, by Margaret Forster. I found this interesting, but I felt like I was prying. 3/5 stars
Lost for Words, by Stephanie Butland. Not quite as light as I expected, and gah, the mental health clichés. 2/5 stars

Other posts:

WWW Wednesday: The usual weekly post.

So how’re you doing? Reading plenty? Got weekend plans?

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Review – Lost for Words

Posted 13 April, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Lost for Words by Stephanie ButlandLost for Words, Stephanie Butland

Received to review via Netgalley

I hadn’t heard anything about Lost for Words before I picked it up, but it’s set in a bookshop — a bookshop which gradually leads Loveday, the main character, towards growth and healing after a troubled childhood. I was sold from the word bookshop, of course; I kind of expected something romance-based with some quirkiness, because, well, bookshop.

There is a certain degree of that, and the romance is quite good — Nathan is sweet and understanding, a sort of undemanding romance that is a joy to read. Loveday’s background is darker than I expected, and sadder; I found it interesting to read about her process of coming to terms with it, but it wasn’t quite what I’d expected. The ending was sadder and more dramatic than I’d expected too.

Even given that, I’d rate this higher if it weren’t for the stalker psycho ex. He’s supposed to have bipolar disorder, but the ‘warning signs’ Loveday mentions are things like his obsession with doing things at a certain time or in a certain way. That’s more like obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it doesn’t make you hurt anyone. For me, it just means laundry has to be done on Fridays (unless it’s bedsheets, which can be done on Saturdays) and I can’t stop reading on an odd-numbered page or chapter. From all these books you’d think you should run screaming the minute someone wants to line things up in a particular order because ooh it’s a warning sign! You should’ve known! But for most people, it’s not a warning sign that they’re ultimately going to hit their partner and set a place on fire with them inside it.

I wish the psycho ex wasn’t used so often to create drama and tension. That character could’ve acted in that way without all those little tags of mental illness which lead some people to assume that any sign of mental illness is only a skip and a jump away from arson and abuse. Being “off your meds” doesn’t automatically mean that you’re going to do something awful; can’t we just drop that trope?

Rating: 2/5

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