Author: Nicky

WWW Wednesday

Posted October 28, 2020 by Nicky in General / 1 Comment

Here we go! I’m actually pretty on time to post this for once… Check out the host’s post and find others from the comments!

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

I’m still working on Black Leopard, Red WolfI’ve sort of ended up just letting it wash over me, and see where it goes, and that’s working for me a bit better. I still don’t love the narrative style, and it’s hard to hold onto the clues that will be important later, because it feels unstructured.

I’m also reading Luke Arnold’s Dead Man in a Ditch, which is — like the first book — pretty fun but not amazing. It’s a nice pulpy read, like some of the noir it imitates in fantasy-form, and I’m still so frustrated by how much of an idiot Fetch is.

Non-fiction wise, I’ve got Mary Dobson’s Murderous Contagion on deck; it’s okay, but I know a lot of this stuff already, of course, and it doesn’t often go into the kind of tasty depth I was kind of hoping for (which pop-science/pop-history is perfectly capable of doing). Perils of the type of book it is, really!

Cover of Blackout by Mira GrantWhat have you recently finished reading?

Ugh, what have I? I’m having trouble focusing on reading at the moment, being honest. I did recently finish Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy, and I’ve also read a book called The CBT Toolkit to evaluate whether it can be used alone. (The answer is no, I wouldn’t recommend it.) I also joined in part of the 24-hour readathon on Sunday, and finished a couple of books then, so I think mostly my brain is just too tired to hold onto stuff right now.

Cover of Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha LeeWhat will you be reading next?

Well, I have four books on my “next up” pile. This doesn’t mean I’m definitely going to read them next, but it means they’ve been plucked off the shelves to sit prominently in my field of vision, increasing the chance I’ll pick them up. So that’s Phoenix Extravagant (Yoon Ha Lee), Cemetery Boys (Aidan Thomas), The Angel of the Crows (Katherine Addison), and The Animals at Lockwood Manor (Jane Healey). I should add a fifth book — Dead Man in a Ditch just came off the shelf, so it needs to be replaced.

What are you currently reading?

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Review – Deadline

Posted October 26, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Deadline by Mira GrantDeadline, Mira Grant

Georgia Mason is dead, and Shaun Mason is alive. Certain people are going to have cause to regret that, if Shaun can only get beyond his grief and his fragmenting sanity in order to find them. Deadline opens a while after Georgia’s death, when a certain amount of balance has been found in the After the End Times office, and people are figuring out how to be a team after the loss of their leader. But they don’t have long to do that before Kelly Connolly from the CDC shows up with news of a dreadful plot, and then of course the bullets start to fly again.

There’s a fair bit of journalism in the first book, albeit hands-on investigative journalism in places, which fades into a political thriller toward the climax. This second book is more in that category, with less actual reporting — by necessity, since the characters are quickly sent on the run. There’s a lot more of certain characters, like Becks, Maggie and Mahir, not to mention Dave and Alaric, which helps flesh out the team a bit (and makes up for the lack of Georgia to balance Shaun’s personality)… but I do still miss Georgia, really.

It feels a little middle-booky, in some ways, but there are some deeply satisfying reveals, and some real “wait, what?” bits.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Goblin Emperor

Posted October 26, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 3 Comments

The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison

I know, I know, another reread! It was for a readalong, this time — I could hardly ask other people to read it without reading it myself, right? Right??

In any case, I’ve reviewed this so many times now that I won’t linger. But it is interesting to note that my memories of the book are profoundly positive: sure, there’s a coup or two, and there are some deaths, and past references to abuse and neglect… okay, okay, I see what you’re getting at, but the point is that those don’t define the book, for me. They happen, as bad things always do, but it’s not what I think of when I think of this book.

Instead, I think of the profound grace with which Maia takes his sudden elevation, his determination to be better, his mindful and deliberate rejection of pettiness (though he’s not human, and it does slip through, and he then patiently and carefully atones for it). I think of the way he offers goodness, and kindness, and understanding, and gradually finds his allies from the people who respond to it with kindness in their turn.

That’s what I find so hopeful about this book. Maia might be tempted to descend to the level of his tormentors, but he never does. He sometimes has to take his time, or put something aside to think about later, or he does something despite being terrified… but every time he tries to meet the world with mindfulness and grace, and thus, succeeds.

Rating: 5/5

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Posted October 24, 2020 by Nicky in General / 0 Comments

So it’s time for a readathon, and with a sick rabbit, I need the distraction. Let’s go!


I’ll be starting with Jordan L. Hawk’s Stormhaven on my ereader (the delightful Onyx Boox Poke2). Here’s the opening survey:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
South Yorkshire, UK, where we have just moved into tier 3 lockdown.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
I haven’t thought about a stack for this one. I have a mini-shelf of next-up books which might qualify (The Angel of the Crows, by Katherine Addison; Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; Phoenix Extravagant, by Yoon Ha Lee; Cemetery Boys, by Adrian Thomas), but I’m going to go by my whim.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
No specific snacks laid in! But I’m rather fancying a helping of peanuts or two.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I’m currently studying for a degree in Infectious Diseases, in this year of the plague, 2020. I believe in being curious about your fears and going toward them (safely) rather than away! Seriously, best tip anyone ever gave me about anxiety. Relatedly, one of the books I have on the go at the moment is about infectious diseases through history: Murderous Contagion, by Mary Dobson.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
I used to be super hardcore and feel bad if I did anything but read and the bare necessities. That hasn’t suited me in a long time, so I’m planning to be relaxed, and also play my video game, watch the rugby and hope someone wipes the smug off Ntamack’s face, and maybe find an audiobook to do some cross-stitch. Don’t burn yourself out; if you need a break, take it.


Finished Stormhaven! My next pick will be Mexican Gothic, because why not? But first I need to warm up and find my Wales jersey ready for the game.


I’m about 100 pages into Mexican Gothic now, after I took a bit of a break to get warm and then play Hades. I think I’ll take a bit of a break now to do some more work, and then read more of Mexican Gothic until it’s time for the game!


Had another pause to game a bit, then watched the game. Then I got back to it and finished reading Mexican Gothic! I think now I’ll go back to my reread of The Eagle of the Ninth.

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WWW Wednesday

Posted October 22, 2020 by Nicky in General / 0 Comments

Hey folks! I’m having a tired and overloaded week, so I’ll try to make this quick!

What are you currently reading?

A bunch of things, as ever! I’ll keep it to the three most “on deck” at the moment: I’m reading Blackout, the third in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy. I keep restarting the trilogy and having to reread the first book, because a lot of the themes are a bit anxiety-making for me, but this time I am determined to get all the way to the end. There’s so much goodness here, even with the anxiety-making.

Cover of The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary SutcliffI’m also rereading The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff. I love the way she put some historical facts together to make this story, and I love Marcus and Esca, and I love the fact that I’ve finally managed to track down another copy of the edition I read to pieces, with the illustrations that are so familiar and the right cover and everything (not the one pictured here). It’s odd how much shorter some bits of the book seem now than I remember them to be. I had this with Narnia, too — I feel like as a child I roamed a lot freer in imagining the bits between chapters and scenes, and made it longer as an experience.

I’ve just started The Little Free Library by Kim Fielding, today, and I’m halfway through. The impulse-buying of books thing is — ouch! I feel called out. I’m finding the rapport between the love interests believable, though, and I’m enjoying watching them get where they’re going.

Cover of Deadline by Mira GrantWhat have you recently finished reading?

Oof. I’ve been bad at actually finishing books, lately, so it might have been Mira Grant’s Deadline. Bit middle booky, now I look back at it, though with some good stuff.

What will you be reading next?

I really couldn’t tell you. I just got Joyce Chng’s Dragon Physician, and I’m intrigued. It’s also short, which suits my current attention span.

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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

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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