Author: Nicky

Review – Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon, volume 2

Posted May 6, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon, volume 2

Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon

by Shio Usui

Genres: Manga, Romance
Pages: 174
Series: Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon #2
Rating: four-stars
Synopsis:

The distance between Hinako and Asahi is closing! What started as a typical coworker relationship has blossomed into friendship. But now, Hinako has started to wonder if her feelings for Asahi go even deeper. Could this be love?!

Volume two of Shio Usui’s Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon continues to a be a slow-burn: at times, it’s not obvious that there’s a romance angle coming, because it just focuses on Asahi and Hinako’s friendship. That said, Hinako’s feelings are pretty clear, even if she struggles with and doesn’t understand them, and it’s obvious that Asahi has been way too focused on looking after her sister to even think about romance, but maybe now’s the time.

The handholding is so cute, and the fact that their new friendship clearly gives them both a boost. There are a couple of odd moments that I notice other reviews picked up on, e.g. Asahi surprisingly commenting that it seems like Hinako loves her mother a lot. That said, it’s worth remembering that Asahi doesn’t have the same perspective as we do: she knows that Hinako’s always quick to pick up her phone for her mother, and always thoughtful about her. Hinako hasn’t really explained her history and where her insecurity comes from, so how would Asahi know?

Anyway, this continues really cute, and I’m interested to see how things work out.

Rating: 4/5

Tags: , , , ,

Divider

Review – Good Neighbors

Posted May 5, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Good Neighbors

Good Neighbors

by Stephanie Burgis

Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 202
Rating: three-stars
Synopsis:

When a grumpy inventor meets her outrageous new neighbor in the big black castle down the road, more than one type of spark will fly!

Mia Brandt knows better than to ever again allow her true powers to be discovered. Ever since her last neighbors burned down her workshop in a night of terror and flame, she's been determined to stay solitary, safe, and - to all outside appearances - perfectly respectable...

But Leander Fabian, whose sinister castle looms over her cozy new cottage, has far more dangerous ideas in mind. When he persuades Mia into a reluctant alliance, she finds herself swept into an exhilarating world of midnight balls, interfering countesses, illicit opera house expeditions, necromantic duels, and a whole unnatural community of fellow magic-workers and outcasts, all of whom are facing a terrifying threat.

Luckily, Mia has unnatural powers of her own - but even her unique skills may not be enough to protect her new found family and help her resist the wickedly provoking neighbor who's seen through all of her shields from the beginning.

This novel-length collection includes all four stories and novellas originally published on Stephanie Burgis's Patreon in 2020-2021: Good Neighbors, Deadly Courtesies, Fine Deceptions, and Fierce Company.

Stephanie Burgis’ Good Neighbors is actually a collection of short novellas, each of which is linked to one another, but which do feel a little episodic when read together (rather than seamlessly fitting together like a novel). There’s the odd recap sentence here and there where reading in this format makes you want to say “yeah, I know, you said so five minutes ago”.

The relationship between Leander and Mia is predictable enough, but there are some cute moments; their allies are perhaps more interesting to me, particularly Carmilla and Eliza (and I think there is a novella about them which I might well read), and also Mia’s father and his relationship with Uriah. All in all, there’s a touch of found family in it which is always fun (Mia only has her father at first, but ends up surprisingly opening up to her options with all kinds of neighbours).

It was a quick read and not one that seems to be sticking with me very well, but it was fun enough.

Rating: 3/5

Tags: , , , ,

Divider

Stacking the Shelves & The Sunday Post

Posted May 4, 2024 by Nicky in General / 2 Comments

It’s the weekend again already?! Oof, how time flies. It’s been a good week for reading, and I have added two ARCs I’m excited about to my TBR.

Linking up with Reading Reality’s Stacking the Shelves, Caffeinated Reviewer’s The Sunday Post, and the Sunday Salon over at Readerbuzz, as usual!

Books acquired this week:

I haven’t been out buying books for the last few weeks, but I’m planning a spree tomorrow. For now, there’s just these two ARCs:

Cover of The City in Glass by Nghi Vo Cover of Haunt Sweet Home by Sarah Pinsker

I’ve really loved a lot of Nghi Vo’s work (aside from The Chosen and the Beautiful), so I snagged this one right away. As for Haunt Sweet Home, I’m ashamed to say that I still haven’t read any of Sarah Pinkser’s work, despite the fact that we were once both part of the same small-ish Goodreads group, The Alternative World. I’ve been meaning to read her books forever, but I’m a terrible, flighty mood reader.

(I still haven’t read some of the books we had discussions about in the group, like Eifelheim…)

Posts from this week:

Time for the usual roundup! First the reviews…

And now the other posts!

What I’m reading:

By the time Bookly’s Odyssey Readathon ended, I’d read for 48 hours, which was nice and seems to have kickstarted my reading in general. Here’s a little glimpse at the books I’ve been reading which should come up for review soon on the blog:

Cover of Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution, by Cat Bohannon Cover of Murder in Vienna by E.C.R. Lorac Cover of Murder in the Basement by Anthony Berkeley

Cover of The New Noise by Charlotte Higgins Cover of The Lost Gallows by John Dickson Carr Cover of Monarchs of the Sea by Danna Staaf

It feels like I surely read more than that, but of course I made progress with a number of other books, including some that had been on the backburner for a while. Given I’m going out tomorrow, I’m not sure what else I’ll finish this weekend, but I’d like to finish up with A Short History of Tomb-Raiding (Maria Golia), at the very least.

And how about you, dear readers? Anything good jump into your hands off the shelves this week?

Tags: , ,

Divider

Review – Wine

Posted May 3, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Wine

Wine

by Meg Bernhard

Genres: Memoir, Non-fiction
Pages: 159
Series: Object Lessons
Rating: three-stars
Synopsis:

While wine drunk millennia ago was the humble beverage of the people, today the drink is inextricable with power, sophistication, and often wealth. Bottles sell for half a million dollars. Point systems tell us which wines are considered the best. Wine professionals give us the language to describe what we taste.

Agricultural product and cultural commodity, drink of ritual and drink of addiction, purveyor of pleasure, pain, and memory - wine has never been contained in a single glass. Drawing from science, religion, literature, and memoir, Wine meditates on the power structures bound up with making and drinking this ancient, intoxicating beverage.

Like a lot of the Object Lessons books I’ve read recently, Meg Bernhard’s Wine is something of a memoir. At the same time, though, it does stick pretty close to the topic, and discusses the making of wine in a fairly close and involved manner: Bernhard went to vineyards and put herself to work, and spent time drinking the finished products in a thoughtful way.

As a result, it balances the personal (of which there is quite a bit) with interesting titbits about how wine is made, the impacts of climate change on wine production (such as the impact of wildfires and the wines that have to be made due to the smoke taint on the grape skins), and about how we relate to wine. It also discusses women in the wine industry, the difficulty of breaking through as a master sommelier in a highly male-dominated environment (where men have outright used their status to abuse women).

It’s still a highly personal book, discussing Bernhard’s personal relationship with alcoholic, her blackouts, the sexual assault she suffered when drinking heavily, her relationship with her father who has similar issues. But it manages to balance that with information, with a grounding in fact, and it works well.

Rating: 3/5

Tags: , , , ,

Divider

Review – Mountains of Fire

Posted May 2, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Mountains of Fire

Mountains of Fire: The Secret Lives of Volcanoes

by Clive Oppenheimer

Genres: Non-fiction, Science
Pages: 368
Rating: three-stars
Synopsis:

Volcanoes mean so much more than threat and calamity. Like our parents, they've led whole lives before we get to know them.

We are made of the same stuff as the breath and cinders of volcanoes. They have long shaped the path of humanity, provoked pioneering explorations and fired up our imaginations. They are fertile ground for agriculture, art and spirituality, as well as scientific advances, and they act as time capsules, capturing the footprints of those who came before us.

World-renowned volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer has worked at the crater's edge in the wildest places on Earth, from remote peaks in the Sahara to mystical mountains in North Korea. His work reveals just how entangled volcanic activity is with our climate, economy, politics, culture and beliefs. From Antarctica to Italy, he paints volcanoes as otherworldly, magical places where our history is laid bare and where nature speaks to something deep within us.Blending cultural history, science, myth and adventure, Mountains of Fire reminds us that, wherever we are on the planet, our stories are profoundly intertwined with volcanoes.

There’s no question about Clive Oppenheimer’s fascination with volcanoes — that shows in every page of Mountains of Fire, and in every recollection of the risky things he’s done for the science and love of volcanoes. Every time he mentions a risky climb or measuring gases above an active volcano, you can see that not only does he want to know about volcanoes, he wants to know volcanoes as individuals, and understand them. That extends not only to their physical properties, but the stories and superstitions around them as well.

That’s where the book was strongest for me. I want to be interested in volcanoes and how they work, but it’s one of those rare topics where it doesn’t really seem to catch my interest, even when digging into the nitty-gritty detail… and even when the writer is as enthusiastic as Oppenheimer proves to be. It doesn’t help, of course, that a lot of it describes the political and practical problems around the study of volcanoes (almost a whole chapter is dedicated to not managing to go to sample a specific area due to threats of kidnapping and violence).

I was interested enough to finish the book, but not interested enough to feel an itch to pick it up and keep reading. I can’t say that it’s dry or anything like that, it’s just not one of my pet topics, and thus it didn’t keep me turning the pages. I really think it’s a case of “it’s not the book, it’s me”.

Rating: 3/5

Tags: , , , ,

Divider

WWW Wednesday

Posted May 1, 2024 by Nicky in General / 0 Comments

It’s WWW Wednesday time! So, as always, that’s:

  • What have you recently finished reading?
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What will you read next?

Cover of Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution, by Cat BohannonWhat have you recently finished reading?

I think the last thing I finished was Cat Bohannon’s Eve: How The Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution, which I found fascinating, and rather less essentialist about sex/gender than I’d feared it might be. It’s a bit overladen with footnotes at times, but I ended up settling in on Saturday and reading from around page 100 to the end, once I got back into the swing of it.

I actually finished that on Saturday and apparently haven’t really finished anything since, which is weird for me! It’s not that I haven’t been reading, but I guess I’ve not been very focused. Which is fine!

Cover of Murder in Vienna by E.C.R. LoracWhat are you currently reading?

I’ve started a few books at once, on a whim, so… oops. Especially since I have a list of books I’m partway through that’s 22 books long. I won’t talk about them all (some of them are just kinda backburnered), but this might still be easiest as a list! Here they are, in no particular order…

  • Murder in Vienna, by E.C.R. Lorac:
    I have a few of Lorac’s books that haven’t (yet?) been republished by the British Library Crime Classics series, because they’re cheap on Kindle. I’m finally getting round to this one, and I love it as much as usual. She’s very good at evoking Vienna, including the unsettled post-WWII vibes.
  • This New Noise: The Extraordinary Birth and Troubled Life of the BBC, by Charlotte Higgins:
    This is a history of the BBC, which I picked up on a whim. I’ve always felt fondly about the BBC, home of Doctor Who, and of all almost all the TV channels I could pick up with my old TV when I was a kid. I’m not very far into the book yet, but I’ve been fascinated to learn about Hilda Matheson.
  • In Deeper Waters, by F.T. Lukens:
    I wanted something a bit lighter, so this seemed like it might do — it gets rated as fast-paced on StoryGraph, anyway. I’m not very far into it, so far, but I’m interested enough.
  • Ink, Blood, Sister, Scribe, by Emma Törzs:
    I’ve been “reading” this for a while, but I’ve finally got back to actually making progress on it, even if it’s just a chapter or two a day. I don’t know why it isn’t quite clicking for me — parts of it are fascinating.
  • Cover of A Short History of Tomb Raiding by Maria GoliaA Short History of Tomb-Raiding, by Maria Golia:
    Pretty much what it says on the tin, though it’s more specific than it sounds from the main title. It’s focused on Egyptian tomb-raiding, starting back when the tombs were built, and moving forward to the beginnings of archaeology (so far). There’s a chunk of book left, so I wonder how much it’s going to talk about modern archaeology.
  • Threading the Labyrinth, by Tiffani Angus:
    I saw this described a while back as a “garden fantasy”, and I have a friend who absolutely loves gardening (and trees and flowers and most anything green), so I thought I’d give it a shot. I’m not very far in yet, so it’s hard to say what I think of it.
  • The History of the World in 100 Objects, by Neil MacGregor (audiobook):
    Technically I think this was a radio series first, and then the book was written. This is the radio series, so I don’t think it has word-for-word the same content as the book. I’ve read the book (twice in fact), but at the moment I just wanted some soothing background noise while doing other stuff, and realised I had this in my Audible library. I’m enjoying it all over again, especially since it involves bringing in other experts to talk about the objects discussed. I was tickled to hear Phil Harding (best known from Time Team) opining on the hand axe, for example!

And that’s… okay, not all of them, but the ones I’m reading most actively. I know, I know, it’s a funny mix!

Cover of Death in the Spires by KJ CharlesWhat will you read next?

I probably shouldn’t be thinking about that, with that list of books I’m already reading… but regardless, I have thought about that, so we might as well not pretend I haven’t. I’m thinking about picking up Murder in the Basement by Anthony Berkeley, or maybe jumping from the classics to a very recent book and try Death in the Spires by KJ Charles.

We’ll see, though!

And what about you? Anything good tucked into your backpack to travel around with you?

Tags: ,

Divider

Review – The Religious Body

Posted April 30, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – The Religious Body

The Religious Body

by Catherine Aird

Genres: Crime, Mystery
Pages: 232
Series: The Calleshire Chronicles #1
Rating: three-stars
Synopsis:

The day begins like any other for Sister Mary St. Gertrude. When her alarm sounds at 5 a.m., Sister Mary begins rousting her convent sisters from their beds, starting with the Reverend Mother. Down the Order she goes with a knock and a warm blessing. But when the young nun reaches Sister Anne’s door, there is no answer. She assumes that Sister Anne got up early, and continues on her way.

But later, when a fellow nun leaves a bloody thumbprint on the sheet music for a hymn, and Sister Anne is nowhere to be found, it becomes apparent that something is very wrong. Then Sister Anne’s body is found at the bottom of a steep set of stairs, her veil askew and her head crushed.

Religious Body introduces the sophisticated Detective Inspector C. D. Sloan along with his eager and trustworthy sidekick, Detective Constable Crosby, and the acerbic Superintendent Leeyes in a mystery of holy proportions that will have readers guessing until the last page.

I think I picked up The Religious Body by Catherine Aird as a result of its inclusion in The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books (by Martin Edwards), if I recall correctly — it’s been a while since I added it to my wishlist, even though I read it surprisingly quickly after snagging a copy (I’m such a mood reader). Anyway, it’s a fairly standard-feeling mystery, partly from the point of view of the police, and partly from the point of view of the nuns who find one of their number dead in the cellar.

To me, the best parts are actually about the routine of the nunnery: the details of their lives, their interactions, their thoughts, all have something a bit different to offer, while the careful investigation by the police is all routine, and familiar from dozens of other books. I’m sure some of the details are inaccurate, but it’s a good stab at imagining (from an outsider’s point of view, as I presume Catherine Aird was not a nun) what it might be like to be part of such a community.

I didn’t guess the murderer right away, but possibly I should have — it didn’t seem too surprising once we got there, and I definitely realised who he was after his reaction to the joke the police repeat.

In the end, it’s a reasonably solid mystery that doesn’t particularly stand out except by virtue of the setting. I liked it well enough, without feeling a burning urge to read more by Aird.

Rating: 3/5

Tags: , , , ,

Divider

Review – Oddball

Posted April 29, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Oddball

Oddball

by Sarah Andersen

Genres: Graphic Novels
Pages: 112
Rating: three-stars
Synopsis:

In addition to their honest and insightful humor, Sarah's Scribbles comics also contain a social conscience, touching on different issues of personal and societal importance. When it comes to humorous illustrations of the awkwardness and hilarity of millennial life, Sarah's Scribbles is without peer.

I’ve always been quite fond of Sarah Andersen’s style and work, and seen a fair bit that’s relatable in it, so having realised that I never picked up Oddball, I was eager to dig in. To say I was disappointed wouldn’t quite be right: as ever, I liked her style and enjoyed her sense of humour.

That said, it’s a collection of loosely connected one-page comics, connected largely by Sarah Andersen’s personality — and knowing her work pretty well, even the ones I’d seen before felt pretty familiar.

I think ultimately, at least for me, it’s a bit one-note, and of a muchness with her other collections.

Rating: 3/5

Tags: , , ,

Divider

Review – Howl’s Moving Castle (audiobook)

Posted April 28, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Review – Howl’s Moving Castle (audiobook)

Howl's Moving Castle

by Diana Wynne Jones, Kristin Atherton (narrator)

Genres: Audiobook, Fantasy
Pages: -2
Rating: five-stars
Synopsis:

In the land of Ingary, where seven league boots and cloaks of invisibility do exist, Sophie Hatter catches the unwelcome attention of the Witch of the Waste and is put under a spell.

Deciding she has nothing more to lose, she makes her way to the moving castle that hovers on the hills above Market Chipping. But the castle belongs to the dreaded Wizard Howl whose appetite, they say, is satisfied only by the souls of young girls... There she meets Michael, Howl's apprentice, and Calcifer the Fire Demon, with whom she agrees a pact.

But Sophie isn't the only one under a curse - her entanglements with Calcifer, Howl, and Michael, and her quest to break her curse is both gripping - and howlingly funny!

This is a review more of the audiobook (narrated by Kristin Atherton) than of Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle. It’s a book I love very much, even though I saw the (very different) Studio Ghibli animation first. I love all the touches that show very clearly that Howl is Welsh in more than name: the rugby jersey, “Sosban fach”, etc. I enjoy the relationship between Howl and Sophie, and the way the real Howl is slowly revealed.

In the audiobook, Kristin Atherton does a great job. She does all the voices (though one or two come out sounding much the same — inevitable, really), and she does a Welsh accent for Howl and his family which is recognisable without being ridiculously exaggerated. The emotions of the characters come across perfectly, and the narration is lively when it ought to be. I kept wanting to keep listening, which is a little rare for me — often with audiobooks I get fidgety.

It’s really well done, and I really want to try more audiobooks narrated by Kristin Atherton. Luckily, looks like there are one or two in my collection already!

Rating: 5/5

Tags: , , , , ,

Divider

Stacking the Shelves & The Sunday Post

Posted April 27, 2024 by Nicky in General / 18 Comments

A quiet week around here, with only one new book to share (which I’ve already finished!). It’s been more of a week for reading what I’ve got, which is always nice.

Linking up with Reading Reality’s Stacking the Shelves, Caffeinated Reviewer’s The Sunday Post, and the Sunday Salon over at Readerbuzz, as usual!

Books acquired this week:

The other Murderbot books were free (or rather covered by one subscription or another), but I had to spend this month’s Audible credit to get Network Effect.

Cover of Network Effect by Martha Wells, the audiobook version

I’ll probably pick up System Collapse soon, but I want to read it in ebook/hard copy first; I don’t retain enough detail from audiobooks, sadly. I’m also very curious about the adapted, full-cast versions, but I don’t want to listen to them back-to-back with the unabridged versions, so I’ll hold off on that for now.

Posts from this week:

As usual, I’ve posted something every day this week. It can be hard to keep up when a blog is so active, or hard to decide what you want to focus on. So here’s a roundup! First, the reviews.

And here are the non-review posts:

What I’m reading:

This week I’ve been reading a lot, thanks to the Bookly app’s readathon plus my backlog of Audible titles. It’s been really nice, and once I finish this post I have plans to settle down to an uninterrupted hour with a book I’d backburnered for a while and have now got back into. My current plan is to finally finish Cat Bohannon’s Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution, which is perhaps a little overly blessed with footnotes for my tastes, but fascinating.

Other than that, I’m not sure what I’ll read, but I have been digging back into Simon Barnes’ The History of the World of 100 Animals, so perhaps I’ll finish that. It’s a bit of a chonker, though!

Here are the books I’ve been reading that I plan to review on the blog. I think for the Murderbot audiobooks I might just do a general post about all of them, just focusing on my overall thoughts of Kevin R. Free’s narration…

Cover of London Particular, by Christianna Brand Cover of Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells, the audiobook version Cover of Exit Strategy by Martha Wells, the audiobook version Cover of If Found, Return to Hell by Em X. Liu

Cover of Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells, the audiobook version Cover of Exposed: The Greek and Roman Body by Caroline Vout Cover of The Missing Lynx by Ross Barnett Cover of Network Effect by Martha Wells, the audiobook version

As you see, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. It’s very satisfying!

How about you? Got anything exciting lined up?

Tags: , ,

Divider