Review – Two Rogues Make a Right

Posted October 18, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Two Rogues Make a Right by Cat SebastianTwo Rogues Make A Right, Cat Sebastian

This was exactly what I needed to read last weekend, and I didn’t know it yet. It’s the third in a series, but it’s one of those loosely connected series which share some characters and details, but which don’t necessarily need to be read in order. I probably still would, because it helps to have had things that impact all the characters revealed in order, but I reckon it’d be a perfectly satisfying story either way. It follows Martin and Will, childhood friends who always had a spark of something more, but who have never acted on it. Martin is consumptive and ill, though, and Will practically kidnaps him to take him to the country and nurse him to health… and in that closeness, they finally start to explore that something more.

It’s very sweet, and though there’s a bit of angst in the middle and a couple of misunderstandings, it’s not infuriatingly so, most of the time. You can see where they’re each coming from, even though it’s totally stupid. And despite Martin’s abusive father and Will’s unhappy past in the Navy — not to mention the former’s consumption and the latter’s addiction — it stays reasonably light, focusing on the future they can make together if they’re brave enough. It’s not quite as light-feeling as the first book, but the progress isn’t as painful and hard-won as in the second book.

I ended up reading it almost all in one go, which I think is a recommendation all on its own. Also, hey! Tuberculosis!

(Disclaimer for those who don’t already know me: tuberculosis is exciting to me because it’s one of my research interests in my other life as an infectious diseases postgrad student.)

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Kushiel’s Dart

Posted October 17, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 5 Comments

Cover of Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline CareyKushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey

This was a reread, and not the first, largely prompted by the readalong. It’s weird, though; I reread it relatively recently, and yet there were so many details that I didn’t remember ahead of time, and I forgot bits about how it all comes together.

In any case, Kushiel’s Dart follows the adventures of a courtesan, Phèdre nó Delaunay, from unwanted child to plaything of the powerful to spy in enemy territory to ambassador for the Queen. She has been marked out as belonging to the angel Kushiel, making her an anguisette — or a masochist, in plain terms — and this makes her courted and desired… and very useful to Delaunay, a disgraced nobleman committed to protecting the heir to the throne.

This book goes so many places, it’s hard to review it coherently. We follow Phèdre’s childhood, her training both as a courtesan and as a spy, her assignations, her exile, her return… and all sorts in between. There are a lot of characters, and a lot of characters to love, though I’ll confess that I had less patience for Delaunay on this readthrough than I ever had before. He all but buys Phèdre when she’s a child and wields that over her to control her (even if that’s also to protect her), while giving her a home and almost everything else she asks for. He keeps her in the dark, so she couldn’t possibly consent freely, and endangers her with his schemes. I have sympathy for him, but more condemnation than I ever remember feeling, as well. He takes advantage of her and her foster-brother Alcuin, and I couldn’t get past that this time.

I continue to love it, as a whole, despite the ridiculously over-ornate language at times (which more or less works for me after a chapter or so, despite how purple it feels — it’s like you have to acclimatise). It’s still one hell of an epic, and it’s just the first book. I think part of why I love it is that you can get so deep into analysing the motives of a character who dies less than halfway through the book; the characters all feel like people, with their own stories, and their own histories.

If you’re worried about the sex scenes, the sadomasochistic aspects are usually somewhat glossed over, and almost every sex scene I can think of does have a key part to play in either the plot, the character-development, or both. I’m a poor judge of whether something succeeds as a sex scene in terms of “sexiness”, but that doesn’t feel like the aim. Sensualness, yeah, but not crude titillation. Phèdre is a courtesan, but she has her pride and sees what she does as an art (which it is, in the culture of Terre D’Ange).

I’ve really got to start on the next book this time, and actually finish rereading the whole trilogy!

Rating: 5/5

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Review – Stuck

Posted October 17, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Stuck by Heidi J. LarsonStuck: How Vaccine Rumours Start — And Why They Don’t Go Away, Heidi J. Larson

I was really interested to read this, partly because Heidi J. Larson’s position at LSHTM (where I now study) caught my eye. Hey, I’ve picked books for worse reasons, and the issue this book is trying to dissect is really, really important — and something I might perhaps be interested in working on someday in terms of trying to reconcile people to vaccines.

Anyway, the gist of the argument is that scientists and government officials aren’t listening to the concerns of people who are worried about vaccination. At the same time, it points out that when governments have listened to such concerns and paused vaccination schemes, it’s legitimised that view — often again years of studies — and resulted in even more people losing their trust in vaccines. It pings around between those points a bit and comes to no conclusions.

There’s no additional wisdom here: Larson never manages to get beyond “people feel their [fictional, unscientific, ungrounded in fact] concerns about vaccines should be listened to and investigated very carefully, and they’re mad that governments aren’t doing so… but it’s also bad when governments do so.” Thanks, I figured that out. Somehow governments/health officials need to listen to people with concerns and made them feel valid, without actually making those concerns sound valid.

I get that it’s a difficult subject, but this book — short though it is — takes too long to tell me nothing I didn’t already know. If you’ve never thought about why vaccine refusal happens, and never tried to dig into the consequences, then this book will be useful, though.

Rating: 2/5

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SciFiMonth 2020

Posted October 15, 2020 by Nicky in General / 2 Comments

SciFiMonth 2020 banner

(Banner art by Tithi Luadthong from 123RF.com)

Well, folks! It’s taken me a while to make a post about it, but I have indeed signed up for this motley crew of spacefarers. Check out the announcement at There’s Always Room for One More!

I don’t have big plans for SciFi month… or I’m trying not to, since I read based on my whim and I can’t promise that’s going to include sci-fi. But I’m considering starting on a full series read of the Expanse series, and I’m also idly toying with the idea of reading the Vorkosigan books.

Maybe I’ll do both?

 

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Weekly Blogging Challenge: Re-reading

Posted October 15, 2020 by Nicky in General / 5 Comments

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge

Welcome to the Weekly Blogging Challenge blog hop, hosted by Long and Short Reviews. This week’s topic is “rereading books: why or why not?”.

The answer for me is that I do, of course — as I think most people around here have noticed, ahaha, since I always write a new review. I’m on my umpteenth review to write of Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor. I have a whole list of reasons, so… let’s make it a list.

  1. For fun. Reading should be fun. I find that I get easily focused away from that fact, and see it happening for other bloggers too. So if rereading a book sounds fun to you — if you’re like, gah, “I can’t remember the ending of XYZ and I really want to reread it” — my answer is pretty much always going to be “go for it!”
  2. For comfort. Familiar literature can be a really different experience to a brand new book. You know what’s coming, so you’re not bracing yourself for the next awful thing that’s going to happen to beloved characters… at least not in the same way! You know what to expect, which makes it a much less daunting prospect when you have had an awful day.
  3. Because it’s better the second time. Maybe that’s because it’s a really complex world and you were totally lost the first time; maybe it’s because the writing is really clever and when you read it the second time, you get to appreciate all the clues; maybe you notice different things, because you’re a different person between now and then.
  4. To prepare for the next book in the series. I’m constantly having to go back to earlier books to remind myself what the heck’s going on.
  5. To share the experience with someone else. I’ve had some great buddy reads where I’ve read the book before, but I also get to see someone experience it for the first time. Lots of fun.
  6. Because it sticks in your head. I’m glad I reread Mira Grant’s Feed, and Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons, and Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey, because… I didn’t like them that much the first time. But something in them stuck with me, and honestly, they’ve probably all gained two extra stars out of five — or even three — since I first read them. Some alchemy kept happening in my brain after I read them, and when I came back to them because they niggled at me, they opened right up and really worked for me.

I can honestly probably keep going and come up with more reasons. I know some people feel that there are so many books in the world, they can’t possibly justify rereading a book they’ve already read. But it’s not possible to read all the books in the world, even if you never reread even a single page, so if you can find enjoyment in rereading a book… why not?

(I know there are some people who can’t, who hate the predictability, and that’s cool too.)

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WWW Wednesday

Posted October 15, 2020 by Nicky in General / 2 Comments

Here we go as usual, the weekly reading update!

Cover of Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon JamesWhat are you currently reading?

I’m still working my way through Black Leopard, Red Wolf, and I actually feel like I’ve got a bit more of a handle on it. I don’t like it very much, I’ll admit, but I’m finding my way with it and no longer so disinclined to finish.

I’m also about 70% of the way through rereading Mira Grant’s Deadline, which feels more middle-book-y than I remembered.

Cover of Stuck by Heidi J. LarsonWhat have you recently finished reading?

A bunch of things all in one go, but the most-most recent was Heidi J. Larson’s Stuck, about vaccine rumours and why they stick around. I can summarise the book for you in one sentence: “vaccine rumours are the fault of public health for not explaining things to people nicely enough, and the fix is for public health initiatives to be nicer.”

That’s about as good as it gets. Preeeetty disappointing.

Cover of Murderous Contagion: A human history of disease by Mary DobsonWhat will you be reading next?

Well, I have a few different books on my ‘next up’ shelf, including Mary Dobson’s Murderous Contagion, which should be fun for me. But I’m not sure; the shelf isn’t a hard commitment, more ‘hey, remember these books you were keen to read?’

What are you reading, or excited about reading?

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Weekly Roundup

Posted October 11, 2020 by Nicky in General / 6 Comments

Hey folks! How’s everyone been doing? I’ve been back at work and busying myself with trying to figure out some better work patterns, like only working during set hours and on a separate laptop. It feels kinda better… and having an offline lunchbreak at least three days in the week is meaning I get a bit more reading done!

I did also get well stuck into my studying, and am currently swearing at the depth in which I need to remember glycolysis/the Krebs cycle/oxidative phosphorylation. Blast!

New books:

Cover of Winter's Orbit by Everina Maxwell Cover of The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells Cover of The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells Cover of The Siren Depths by Martha Wells

Cover of Legendborn by Tracy Deonn Cover of Stuck by Heidi J. Larson Cover of Over the Woodward Wall by J. Deborah Baker

Technically we got The Cloud Roads a while ago, but I don’t think I ever put the cover up, and it’s a nice set. And thank you to Tor for the eARC of Winter’s Orbit, which I’m looking forward to!

Books read this week:

Cover of Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake Cover of Feed by Mira Grant Cover of Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey Cover of Two Rogues Make a Right by Cat Sebastian

Reviews posted this week:

Other posts:

How’s your week been? Reading anything good? Stacking your shelves with anything exciting?

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Review – Entangled Life

Posted October 7, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 1 Comment

Cover of Entangled Life by Merlin SheldrakeEntangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures, Merlin Sheldrake

I’ve been looking forward to Entangled Life for quite a while, so hurrah! It’s finally here. I read it pretty quickly, and then had to put it aside and think whether it actually met my expectations. Sheldrake’s really, really keen on fungi, that much is obvious; sometimes I was less interested in his poetic hands-on eagerness to understand them close up — I wouldn’t wax lyrical about Mycobacterium tuberculosis in quite the same way, however wonderful and terrible I find it.

In the main, it’s accessible and interesting, and centres fungi completely in a way that normally doesn’t happen. There are lots of books about microbiology and few are the ones that really delve into fungi, partly for the good reason that we don’t actually understand fungi very well and have a lot to learn. There are a lot of interesting facts in this book, and some interesting speculations as well.

I just… I don’t know, I ended it feeling that Sheldrake was more interested in evangelising for fungi than anything else. The bit at the end where he says he’s going to seed a copy of the book with spores and dampen it, and then eat the mushrooms that grow… and then pulp another book to make alcohol out of it — I don’t know, it had me pulling back a lot and saying “y’what, mate?” There’s something very performative about it, and if someone were to tell me he were being mind-controlled by our secret fungal overlords, well… In fiction, that’s exactly what’s going on.

It’s odd for me that I ended the book with that strong feeling of “…dude, what?” instead of fascination with the genuinely interesting scientific titbits newly learned.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Feed

Posted October 7, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Feed by Mira GrantFeed, Mira Grant

At the start of the pandemic, I really wanted to reread this. The themes of the loss of freedom, the fear over spending time with other people, the fear of exposure to a live virus and what it can drive you to… I’m pro-lockdown and pro-quarantine, as a scientist, but it just chimed so well with everything that was going on. I got a bit too anxious and stopped for a while, and picked it back up again in the last few days, as the US election comes closer and closer. Gah. This book has got to stop being relevant.

It’s a good thriller, though in the end what gets me every time is the bond between Shaun and Georgia. I don’t think it would get under my skin so much without that. The politics are fun, Shaun’s acts of derring-do are fun, but the story lives and dies with Shaun and Georgia’s bond, for me.

I think that’s all I have to say this time; it’s a fun ride, with a punch to the gut at the end.

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted October 7, 2020 by Nicky in General / 3 Comments

It’s Wednesday again! So here’s the usual check-in. You can go to Taking On A World Of Words to chat with everyone else who has posted what they’re reading right now!

Cover of How to Change Your Mind by Michael PollanWhat are you currently reading?

Oh, far too much at once! Non-fiction: still working on Michael Pollan’s How To Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics. Mostly the point so far is that the science isn’t so very new at all; psychedelic drugs were originally expected to be useful in treating mental health disorders, and go figure, now we’re figuring out that that was probably true.

Fiction: I’m rereading Mira Grant’s Deadline, in the firm hope that one day I’ll actually get onto Blackout and finish the whole book. It’s not that I don’t like the trilogy — I’ve read the first book several times! It just hits hard, and especially so at the moment, given the themes the zombie pandemic raises in the book…

I’m also reading Black Leopard, Red Wolf, and I kinda hate it. I can’t get into the narration, and it’s hard to find a story past the narration. I know, I know, I hear everyone on Twitter shouting at me that I’m just asking for all books to be typical European narratives, and that probably has a part to play. But… I don’t know, I’m not a fan of any of it so far; what I do understand is that there’s a lot of violence, including sexual violence. Just not the sort of thing I enjoy, without other high points.

That’s not all I’m reading, but that’s enough to be getting on with!

Cover of Entangled Life by Merlin SheldrakeWhat have you recently finished reading?

Non-fiction: Entangled Life, by Merlin Sheldrake. I had been really looking forward to this, and it is really fun. I enjoyed all the facts about fungi! I think Sheldrake loves his subject a lot, and that always helps. Need to ponder my review a bit more, though. Obviously this had some odd parallels with How to Change Your Mind, since Sheldrake also mentioned psilocybin mushrooms!

Fiction: I finished my reread of Feed, basically all in one go now I’m not so dang anxious!

Cover of The Angel of the Crows by Katherine AddisonWhat will you be reading next?

Not sure, but I ordered Stuck: How Vaccine Rumours Start and Why They Don’t Go Away by Heidi J. Larson, and that just arrived today, so maybe I’ll get stuck into that before I shelve it and it goes out of sight, out of mind! Larson’s a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, where I now study, so it especially caught my eye — and public health initiatives like encouraging vaccine uptake are something I’d be interested in getting involved with myself.

Other than that, rereading The Goblin Emperor for a book club reminds me I really need to get round to reading The Angel of the Crows.

What are you folks reading?

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