Posts by: Nikki

WWW Wednesday

Posted 2 January, 2019 by Nikki in General / 6 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 To Davy Jones Below by Carola DunnWhat are you currently reading?

No surprises here this week: I’m partway through the next Daisy Dalrymple book, which is To Davy Jones Below. I’m enjoying Alec and Daisy being married at last, and so far free of making asinine assumptions about each other’s emotions (I’m still not over Styx and Stones and the weird blow-up in that book that lasted all of a chapter). Sending them off on a boat to the US is a good way of varying the setting.

Cover of Greenwitch by Susan CooperWhat have you recently finished reading?

I finished up rereading Susan Cooper’s Greenwitch; it felt so short! I love all the stuff it hints at with Barney being able to scry — there’s always so much material in this series for wondering about things for yourself. And Cooper is just so good with characters: the resentment of Will by Simon and Barney was great. Of course they didn’t welcome another boy hanging round with their Great-Uncle and having adventures too with open arms!

Cover of The Fellowship of the Ring by TolkienWhat will you be reading next?

I need to finish a library book or two, so probably John Man’s Ninja, or my reread of Jeff Vandermeer’s Authority (which I’ve been neglecting horribly). Or I might just curl up with my reread of The Lord of the Rings, which has also gone untouched so long. The possibilities are more or less endless.

What are you reading right now?

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Game of Books 2019

Posted 31 December, 2018 by Nikki in General / 15 Comments

It’s almost that time again! For the past few years I’ve been playing a kind of sort of game: a Game of Books! This year, I’m already set up to do a third year of it, alongside my sister (third year) and my wife (freshman). Basically: read books, earn points, stay on track.

A "Game of Books" image, based on the Iron Throne

The idea is to encourage me to meet not an arbitrary deadline of x books per year (which could be 200 really short books) but to give me a way of earning equal credit for each book, depending on effort and a few other factors.

So here’s the points system (for me):

PointsAcquisitionLengthJoy FactorSeriesHow long did it take to read?Bonus
12019Comic book, sub-150 pagesGIMME ITNone / Gave upTwo days or lessBook club book read on time
22017-2018200+ pagesI'm pretty excitedFirst book of a seriesA week or lessARC (2018 onwards)
32015-2016300+ pagesIt can waitMid-seriesA fortnight or lessRead within a week of purchase or borrowing
42013-2014400+ pagesBit reluctantLast book of a trilogyA month or lessRead in a day (if 300 pages+)
52011-2012500+ pagesWhy am I doing this?Last book of a seriesO shit, what?ARC from backlog (pre-2018)

So let’s take the book I just finished, Rattle His Bones. I bought it in 2018, so it’d earn me two points for that; it has around 250 pages, so another two points for that; I was pretty eager to read it, so two for that as well. It’s from the middle of a series (three points) and took me more than two days but less than a week to read (two points). It doesn’t fit any of my bonus criteria, so that’s 11 points in total.

How do I pick my yearly goal? I pick an average sort of book, calculate the points, and then multiply that by the number of books I’d like to read this year. That way, I get plenty of credit for books that are a big time investment, one way or the other, or more important for me to read — and I don’t get tempted to hit an arbitrary goal of 150 books this year by just reading a ton of comics (though comics have their place).

Why am I blathering on about this? Well, you’re all invited to join in! The spreadsheet is here. To join in, just claim yourself a sheet, lock it so no one else can edit it, and set yourself up. Feel free to copy/paste from my formatting, edit the points system yourself (you’ll see both my wife and my sister have different point systems to me, and that’s fine — the point is self-motivation), and generally play around with it.

See you in the spreadsheet?

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The Last Ten Books

Posted 30 December, 2018 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

This tag caught my attention — particularly since I had it by way of Calmgrove, who rarely (if ever) goes in for anything uninformative and dull.

1. The last book I gave up on:Cover of A Little History of Science by William F Bynum
Apparently it was A Little History of Science, by William Bynum. I didn’t think much of it; not only was it very brief and obvious for someone with my level of background knowledge — not that I’ve ever particularly studied the history of science, but the Open University is pretty keen on giving credit where it’s due and describing how discoveries were made — but there were things that were just plain wrong. Neither hieroglyphs nor Chinese characters are purely “pictographic” languages…

2. The last book I re-read:
I’m still in the middle of doing it: The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper. It’s a seasonal reread for me, and I think I skipped last year, so it’s been good. Unfortunately, I think I’ve read it a bit too much; it’s overly familiar, these days, and has got rather worn. I’m trying to remember to see the little touches that I always liked best — I’ve always wondered about things like who Cooper meant by the half-Viking English king who received a secret ship burial with the Sign of Water, for instance.

3. The last book I bought:
The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History, by Kassia St Clair. It looks satisfyingly wide-ranging — from Egyptian mummies to sports fabrics. I guess my appetite for this has been whetted by the Great British Sewing Bee, which has some references to where particular fabrics came from in the educational segments between challenges.

4. The last book I said I read but actually didn’t:
I don’t generally do this. So probably it’s something from university where I nodded and smiled through a lecture; I’m pretty sure I did actually finish Moll Flanders, but I might’ve abandoned Amis’ Money: A Suicide Note. Lor’, I hated that book. After that year I picked my own modules, of course, so there were much fewer things I just didn’t care to read.

5. The last book I wrote in the margins of:
I don’t do this to novels or even non-fiction I’m reading for fun, so the answer will be one of my textbooks. I think the last printed textbook the Open University sent me was Investigative and mathematical skills in science — I’m not sure now if Cell Biology or Human Biology had textbooks. If they did, then it will have been Unit 3: Challenging Cells, or some such title.

6. The last book I had signed:Cover of Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell
Hmmm! I think the last book I actually had signed in person might be Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, but I’m sure I’m forgetting something, since that was so long ago!

7. The last book I lost:
I can’t think of it, it’s so lost! I think I’ve misplaced copies between my various abodes, but always kind of knew the book would be at the other place. Last one I noticed was Blood and Circuses, by Kerry Greenwood, and I know now that my mother has that. Oh no, I’ve thought of one — I have no idea where my copy of The Positronic Man is, which is a shame, since I read that over and over (and for which I racked up the most glorious library fine in my history of library fines, at the tender age of nine).

8. The last book I had to replace:
I think The Dark is Rising might be coming up for a replacement, if I can find a copy with the right kind of font. (I hate the big font used in a lot of children’s books!) I tend to be a fairly careful reader, so it’s not common. I know as a child my copy of The Eagle of the Ninth had to be replaced, possibly even twice; my mother read that to bits in tandem with me, though, as we both loved it.

Cover of The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer9. The last book I argued over:
I keep having people argue with me over my distaste for Ian Mortimer’s The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval EnglandI’m thinking of getting up a bingo card for it with squares for ‘I’d like to see you do better’ and ‘life was just like that for women’.

10. The last book I couldn’t find:
Isn’t that more or less the same question as #7? Unless lost means ‘you definitely know you won’t get it back’, in which case my answer for #7 should’ve been my copy of The Gormenghast Trilogy, which a flatmate of mine carried off and never returned — we’ve pretty much lost touch now, so it’s lost to time for me, I think.

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 29 December, 2018 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Well, that was a Christmas! Lots of books have been acquired, including a vast amount of Daisy Dalrymple, and with that I have nooo problem!

Books acquired:

Cover of An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris Cover of The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang. Cover of An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson. Cover of Antidote to Venom by Freeman Wills Crofts

Cover of The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay Cover of A Mourning Wedding by Carola Dunn. Cover of Fall of a Philanderer by Carola Dunn Cover of Gunpowder Plot by Carola Dunn.

Cover of The Bloody Tower by Carola Dunn Cover of Black Ship by Carola Dunn. Cover of Sheer Folly by Carola Dunn. Cover of Anthem for Doomed Youth by Carola Dunn.

Books read this week:

 Cover of Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper Cover of Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers Cover of Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon Cover of Striding Folly by Dorothy L. Sayers

Number of books in: 12
Number of books read: 5
Number of books from the backlog read: 1
Rereads: 3
Library books: 0
Bought 2018: 1

Out and about:

Once Upon A Blue Moon: ‘Christmas Limericks.‘ I wrote a limerick for each of our bunnies for the tag of their Christmas presents. This post has all four.
NEAT science: ‘Types of flu vaccine. Why are there three different types, and why do people get a different one based on age? I tell all!

And that’s it for this week! It’s been a very quiet week around here. Back to normal operations soon!

So how’s everyone else been? Good Christmas, if you celebrate?

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 22 December, 2018 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Hey all! It’s getting really close to Christmas, and everything’s being flung to the wind as I finish up the last few hand-crafted items I need to do. Am I overdoing it? Probably! Anyway, that’s why I’ve been quiet — I hope to be around a lot more once Christmas is done.

Still, there’s some new books this week, so this post needn’t be empty excuses!

Books acquired:

Cover of Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan  Cover of Mistletoe and Murder by Carola Dunn Cover of Die Laughing by Carola Dunn Cover of The Cobbler's Boy by Elizabeth Bear and Katherine Addison.

Cover of Bloodsworn by Erin Lindsey. Cover of Bloodforged by Erin Lindsey. Cover of The Books of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin and Charles Vess

Books read this week:

Cover of Rivers of London audiobook Cover of Styx and Stones by Carola Dunn

Reviews posted this week:

The Roman Forum, by David Watkin. A fascinating, if somewhat anti-archaeology, view of the Roman Forum through time. 3/5 stars
Damsel in Distress, by Carola Dunn. Don’t worry, the damsel in the title isn’t Daisy, as she gets herself in and out of trouble with her usual aplomb. A fun entry in the series. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussion: Libraries. Do you use ’em?
WWW Wednesday. The usual weekly update!

Out and about:

Once Upon A Blue Moon: ‘Transcript from the interview that contributed material for the article ‘Aliens from Outer Space: Make Us Into Your Leaders’, published Oct 2036‘. A short story about science, progress, and aliens. I wrote it for submission to an anthology, but it was rejected, so now it’s out in the world for free!

How’s everyone doing?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 19 December, 2018 by Nikki in General / 4 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 Ninja by John ManWhat are you currently reading?

Really actively, I think I’ve only got John Man’s book on ninjas on the go now. It’s the usual sort of light non-fiction he always writes, with some bits of travel and chasing down the true story, talking to descendents, etc, and some chapters based on the documented facts from sources. It has significant overlap with his book on samurai, of course.

Cover of Styx and Stones by Carola DunnWhat have you recently finished reading?

I just finished Styx and Stones, which is the… sixth? Daisy Dalrymple mystery. I enjoyed it a lot, though the argument between Alec and Daisy in the middle just felt rather manufactured. I do enjoy Daisy’s sympathy for women like the Scarlet Woman of the village, while she remains pretty wholesome and clean-cut herself. She’s a bit of a Mary Sue, I suppose, but in a male detective no one would think anything of it.

Cover of The Books of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin and Charles VessWhat will you be reading next?

Most likely it’ll be the copy of the collected Earthsea books and stories that my wife gave me as an early Christmas present! It’s gorgeous, though a bit of a handful to settle down and read. I might have to ration it to avoid wrist strain!

What are you currently reading?

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Review – Damsel in Distress

Posted 18 December, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Damsel in Distress by Carola DunnDamsel in Distress, Carola Dunn

In this instalment of the Daisy Dalrymple series, Philip falls in love, and immediately gets into a scrape. Daisy, of course, is pretty glad to hear about the lucky girl (it gets Philip off her back, and after all she wants him to be happy) and immediately plunges into trouble to help rescue her when something goes wrong. Alec comes into the story later, and mostly unofficially, with plenty of derring-do and dramatic rescue attempts on the part of all concerned.

In a way, there’s not much to say about this book: it’s fairly predictable as far as the fact that you know Daisy is going to get into all the trouble there is to get into, and figure out most of the salient points (with Alec not doing so badly either, of course). Things turn out pretty much okay at the end, not to mention the fact that Alec and Daisy end the book engaged.

The series remains a lot of fun, and rather wholesome fun at that. If you can’t bear Phryne Fisher’s taste in men, it’s a good alternative for a cosy mystery series.

Rating: 4/5

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Discussion: Libraries

Posted 17 December, 2018 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

I’m a pretty unabashed lover of libraries. Free books! And so many of them! Okay, I sometimes have trouble finding the exact books I want, but I do get exposed to all kinds of books I might not otherwise have tried. And, well, having four different local library cards helps, too. If the most local library doesn’t have a book, the next one out just might (without having to figure out the individual library’s interlibrary loan system).

And it’s great, of course, to support librarians and prove to councils that people need and use libraries. Especially given the fact that I was on the committee of and volunteered at a community library — a noble endeavour and one that did a lot of good, but also made it obvious just how important funding and backup are in running an effective and useful library. Energetic volunteers aren’t really a replacement for money, and community-led libraries are limited (though better than nothing, by a long long way!).

On the other hand, I have an entire shelf of library books, menacing me slightly with their due dates and sheer profusion. The problem with libraries is that they tempt me to bite off more than I can chew, and unlike the books I own, they don’t wait patiently. So currently I’m in the process of whittling down the number of library books hanging out on my shelves. It’s going slowly… I’m on about 30 left, though, from 60ish to begin with, so I guess I’m doing okay.

Thank goodness libraries let you renew loans…

All the same, it’s important to remember that libraries are pretty great. Librarians, you have my love!

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Review – The Roman Forum

Posted 16 December, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 1 Comment

Cover of The Roman Forum by David Watkin

The Roman Forum, David Watkin

Most books about the Roman Forum would tend to focus on the Roman period itself, but this rather fascinatingly did a survey through time — not only the classical Roman period origins of the Forum, but the transformations over the years since. The authors strongly feels the importance of seeing the Forum as a living place, somewhere that developed since the time of the Roman Empire, so he spends much time lovingly describing the churches built on the site as well. It’s an approach I definitely appreciate: it’s ridiculous to try and stop the clock of the Forum at the end of the Empire, or to think it was always just one thing throughout that period either. We can’t turn the clock back, so the Forum is best embraced for what it is, rather than attempting to freeze it in time.

I did find this book fascinating, but my one quibble is that the author is almost aggressively against archaeology. He complains frequently about excavation in the forum. And yes, some of it has been done destructively, and I do disagree with trying to tear down anything that was built since Constantine reigned (or whatever your chosen marker point might be). But at the same time, archaeology can be of great value, and I would also be sad if the Forum were to be barred to archaeologists.

Rating: 3/5

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 15 December, 2018 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Good morning, folks! Another week closer to Christmas, and so many parcels arriving with books… which aren’t for me! 😱 No new books this week at all.

Read this week:

Cover of A Most Novel Revenge by Ashley Weaver Cover of Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge Cover of Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers Cover of The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers


Number of books in: 0
Number of books read: 4
Number of books from the backlog read: 0
Rereads: 2
Library books: 1
Bought 2018: 1

Reviews posted this week:

Murder on the Flying Scotsman, by Carola Dunn. Another entertaining entry in the series, this one featuring Alec’s daughter. 4/5 stars
The Greeks, by H.D.F. Kitto. Out of date, in attitude as well as facts, but the guy was so darn enthusiastic about the Greeks it was kind of charming anyway. 3/5 stars
The Tea Master and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard. A Sherlock Holmes inspired story where Watson is a sentient ship. Definitely enjoyable, though more about the characters and their interactions (very early in their relationship — they meet at the start of the book) than the mystery or even the world they inhabit, part of Aliette de Bodard’s Xuya universe. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussion: When To Give Up. I have stacks and stacks of books in my backlog. When should I admit that I may never read them? Hmm… never!
WWW Wednesday. The usual weekly update.

Out and about:

NEAT science: ‘The deep biosphere. Wanna know about the weird and wonderful lifeforms found deep under the surface of the Earth?
NEAT science: ‘Antibiotic use in lifestock: surely it’s a good thing! Spoiler: it really isn’t. Wondering about the news that McDonald’s are looking to use fewer antibiotics in the livestock animals they source their beef from? Hopefully I’ve explained why clearly enough to show why it’s probably a very good thing.

So how’s everyone doing? Any good books this week? Been holding back for sales?

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