Posts by: Nikki


WWW Wednesday

Posted 30 January, 2019 by Nikki in General / 7 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.

What are you currently reading?

Cover of Glamour in Glass, by Mary Robinette KowalI’m partway through a reread of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamour in Glass; I’m being a little irritated by the lack of communication between the two main characters, which I seem to remember would solve a lot and just require a bit of trust on both sides. I hate communication issues driving plots, honestly. I don’t recall it ruining the book for me before — if I remember rightly, I quite liked it overall — but it’s a bit annoying right now.

I’m also reading Roszika Parker’s The Subversive Stitch, which is about how embroidery came to be associated primarily with women and femininity; it’s a little dry and scholarly in tone, but I am enjoying learning more about an art/craft that I’ve been getting into myself. (And which is assumed to say a lot of things about my femininity, which makes me laugh.)

Cover of Kill the Queen by Jennifer EstepI’m also about halfway through Kill the Queen, by Jennifer Estep. It’s frustrating me at the moment because I just want Everleigh to admit who she is; I’m not actually sure of the timeline of these novels (whether she’ll have revealed herself by the end); maybe I should read the summary of the next book to see whether I should be moderating my expectations!

What have you recently finished reading?

I think the last thing I finished was Mary Beard’s How Do We Look / The Eye of Faith — fascinating stuff, really. We tend to think that all ancient art is leading up to a sort of Greco-Roman realism, and interpret it accordingly; it’s worth remembering that people haven’t always thought the same way or had the same expectations of art!

Cover of Hild by Nicola GriffithWhat will you be reading next?

I have no idea. I need to pick my next bookclub choice for the Habitica book club, and I’m not entirely sure what genre I’ll pick. I just got a copy of Hild, by Nicola Griffith, from a book swap… so maybe I’ll set that as the month’s book. It’s certainly high time I got to reading that; I’ve wanted to for ages.

What are you reading?

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Review – Seahenge

Posted 29 January, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 3 Comments

Cover of Seahenge: An Archaeological Conundrum by Charlie WatsonSeahenge: An Archaeological Conundrum, Charlie Watson

A short and beautifully illustrated book on Seahenge, mostly focusing on the practical issues of how it was made, how it was found, how it was excavated, and the hard facts discovered since from analysis of it. There’s less concentration on the speculations about a ritual landscape in the area, etc, than you find in Pryor’s book on the same site, and a lot more illustrations and photographs. The two complement each other, I think, though I am reading them quite far apart — this is much more ‘just the facts, sir’ than Pryor’s book, while Pryor did the work of interpretation.

If you’re just looking for some background on Seahenge, you’re definitely safe with this one!

Rating: 4/5

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A Personal Note

Posted 28 January, 2019 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

I don’t often post exclusively about personal things, though I think readers here know a fair bit about me; I think it’s even more rare for me to post about politics, although I suspect you also have a fair idea of my political stance. This post is a one-off, and unlikely to be repeated, but it’s something that I felt I needed to write, and and an occasion on which I felt it necessary to use my limited platform to say the things that only I can say.

We’re often told that personal stories are what sway people, more than statistics or politicians’ speeches. I’m not sure I believe anymore that there is anyone from the other side of things listening: it’s become so polarised, so fractious, with both sides so very convinced they’re right. And of course, I’m still convinced I was in the right in voting to Remain, and I would do so again — though at the same time I recognise that there’s a reason the country is going this way, and the outright bare-faced lies of the Leave faction have appealed to a real need in people to be heard and to see certain things happen. The division in this country needs to be healed, somehow.

The problem is, the disinformation is still happening. People around me — Leave and Remain voters alike — have this strange idée fixe that Brexit isn’t going to affect them or anyone they know. Even when they know darn well that my wife is Belgian, they cling to the idea that it won’t affect me because we’re married (and thus obviously safe) or it won’t affect me because it doesn’t actually mean people like my wife (who has a job here and speaks perfect English and doesn’t look or sound different).

It does mean her as well. The fact that we’re married actually has no effect on whether she’s allowed to stay or not. Having a job, no effect. Perfect English, no effect. The fact that she didn’t get here until September 2018 is a definite black mark against her (regardless of the fact that it was due to our decision to delay the move until we were financially ready for it, so that we haven’t required any benefits, etc). People with far better claims to remain in the UK — years of paying taxes, families all born here — are being rejected for “settled status”, and despite all the government’s assurances, I remain painfully aware that we have hoops to jump through: pre-settled status, settled status, citizenship… all with associated fees and inconvenience and outright invasion of privacy.

And that’s just what we’re currently being told. Who knows what is actually going to happen. We did all the right things: I had my degree(s!) finished, I had a job, she had a job, we had savings, we didn’t do anything on a whim. And this situation punishes us for it.

I’m not saying that anyone should change their minds based on our story alone, but it’s worth remembering that I planned my life based on European free movement, a right I’m now losing, and I’m far from alone. It’s worth remembering that these same uncertainties and barriers apply to NHS nurses and doctors who were born in other EU countries, and every other kind of skilled European worker. It’s worth remembering that it doesn’t just apply to stopping the free movement of unskilled workers who don’t speak English — it stops everyone’s free movement. It’s worth remembering that the UK gains very little political power by removing itself from the EU, and loses a lot — the power of veto we used to hold, the voice we had in European issues. It’s worth remembering that if we want to trade with the EU, which we will need to do, we’re going to need to abide by their trading standards anyway, so you can put away that old canard about becoming free of the EU regulating things right down to the curvature of bananas. It’s worth remembering that with the best will in the world on both sides, they’re big, and we’re small, and we’ve forfeited our right to direct their policies.

It’s worth noticing where the big companies and the millionaires are going, even the ones who said Brexit was good for Britain.

Leavers complain about the EU taking their rights away, but Brexit itself takes away rights central to my life, and gives me nothing worth the loss. I hope understanding that will help Leavers I know understand what the problem is for me, both personally and in a wider sense. At the very least, please don’t pretend to me that I’ll be better off. You know I will not, and you’re lying to yourself and to me when you pretend that things are going to work out fine for everybody.

Nonetheless, in the words of Jo Cox — murdered not far from where I grew up for her pro-EU stance: “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” Let’s try and justify her faith in us.

Note: I’ve turned comments off on this post because I don’t really want to debate it any further right now — I’m stressed out enough about the whole situation as it is: I don’t trust myself to be the kind of level-headed voice of reason I want to be — and because this is still a blog about books primarily, not a place for political debate.

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Review – The Nine Tailors

Posted 27 January, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. SayersThe Nine Tailors, Dorothy L. Sayers

In The Nine Tailors, Peter and Bunter find themselves stranded in the Fen country due to their car being driven into a ditch. Taking shelter for New Year’s Eve in a small vicarage, Peter gets pressed into joining the vicar and his bellringers in ringing in the New Year, literally, with a complex and record-breaking peal. The reader might be slightly confused by this beginning, which features no crime, but after a while things become clear: the vicar writes to Peter later, asking for his help. A body has been found in the grave of a woman who died that New Year’s Day, and nobody knows who he is, who killed him, or even exactly how he died.

This was one of my favourite of the Peter Wimsey books from the start of my acquaintance with them, when I was rather less under the spell of Peter, and more inclined to be sceptical — I think I might’ve given Whose Body? two stars, so thank goodness I didn’t have a blog then: my mother would’ve had a fit. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly why this book is a favourite, though. Part of it is a sense of place — the desolate power of the Fenlands, the beauty of the church, the brooding menace of the bells… Part of it is that refrain from the book: “Nine tailors make a man.” For me, anyway, there’s a kind of magic in that phrase, in the idea of the bell slowly tolling to announce a death. And there’s also a good deal to love in the care Sayers took in using the bellringing for so much, weaving it into the plot inextricably, and making all the infodumps about change ringing useful to the rest of the story. There’s a powerful melancholy in the whole book.

(I’m sure for some people that’s also a reason to dislike the book; it’s a fairly measured and slow-paced story.)

For me, there’s also significant pleasure in the ironies of the story, and to elaborate would be to spoil the story. It’s a rather literary effort, compared to the snappier books from earlier in the series: for me, that’s a positive thing, though I like the earlier books as well. Could use more active involvement of Parker, though…

Rating: 4/5

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 26 January, 2019 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Good morning, folks! It’s been a heck of a week, as I think I already said; thank goodness it’s over, and I can start the next one fresh. In theory, anyway! I’m ending/starting the week with the #24in48 readathon, so that’ll be good.

Books read this week:

Cover of Ninja by John Man Cover of Band Sinister by K.J. Charles Cover of Hidden Sun by Jaine Fenn

Reviews posted this week:

Greenwitch, by Susan Cooper. Never a favourite of the series, but there’s a lot to love all the same. 4/5 stars
A Little History of Science, by W.F. Bynum. Did not finish this one, because inaccuracies. Meh. 1/5 stars
Hidden Sun, by Jaine Fenn. Did not finish this one, because despite some intriguing stuff, the characters decide that rape isn’t so bad as long as you don’t kill anyone, and I’m not into that. 2/5 stars

Discussions:

Discussion: Book Blanket. This week, I shared a photo of one motif, and the pattern I’m using to make them! The photo at least is worth it, I promise; it’s a very pretty colour combination!

Out and About:

NEAT science: ‘Gum Disease causes Alzheimer’s? You heard me! It’s a theory so far, but from what I’ve read, it’s kind of convincing!

So how’s everyone else been doing?

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DNF Review – Hidden Sun

Posted 25 January, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Hidden Sun by Jaine FennHidden Sun, Jaine Fenn

Received to review via Netgalley

Well, thank goodness for other people’s reviews.

I was enjoying reading this, intrigued by the world and rather appreciative of one of the main female characters’ and her drive to understand the world. I can definitely appreciate a scholar! There were a few things that I felt weren’t really set up well enough — rather than feeling like I was understanding the world as I read, I felt like I was missing key pieces of information. It took a long time to understand what was going on in terms of skykin/shadowkin, and I’m still not clear (having stopped around 30% of the way through the book) what’s going on with the shadowlands and the skylands.

I was quite prepared to sit tight and keep working through that, but I had a quick Google to see if the description of the book prepared me any better, or anyone’s reviews; maybe someone would say something that would make everything fall into place for me (and make me feel like an idiot).

Instead, I found The Captain‘s review. Thank goodness I did, because I’m fairly sure I would’ve found the described rape scenes upsetting; having skimmed ahead in the book, I know for sure that I find the behaviour of a main character’s brother, and the main character’s reaction to it, disgusting. It turns out, after a long search for him, that Rhia’s brother Etyan was part of gang-raping a girl who he then found dead after going to pay her off for her silence. Rightly fearing what would happen, having found her dead, he ran away. And Rhia decides to forgive him, because although he brutally raped a girl, he didn’t kill her. So she decides to forgive him, because he was just being young and stupid, and at least he wasn’t as bad as she’d feared.

Gag. Spare me. I’ll read something else. Some of the ideas in this book intrigued me, but I’m not going to invest the time for that payoff.

Rating: 2/5

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Discussion: Book Blanket

Posted 24 January, 2019 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

It’s been a Week, and I’m behind on all kinds of blog things. So I thought I’d quickly share a pic of one of my recent hexagons, and the exact pattern if you wanted to follow me exactly.

So first, here’s the hexagon for Shades of Milk and Honey, a reread (the deep purple outer ring, “emperor”) that’s fantasy, romance and historical fiction (“turquoise” for fantasy, “bright pink” for romance; it’ll be “spring green” for other when I read any historical fiction, but I wanted to keep it somewhat simple).

The pattern is from CrochetSpot, but they don’t explain exactly how to do it (it’s more how to work out the pattern for an expanding motif of any number of sides) and I’ve made a few tweaks for stability. This might sound like total witchcraft if you’re not into crochet!

So if you’re looking at the pic above, we’ll call the pink colour A, the blue colour B, and the purple colour C. We’re using US terminology, because that’s what I’m most used to in patterns.

Dc – double crochet
Ss – slip stitch
Ch – chain
Chain space – the visible gap between the clusters in the previous round

Round 1: With colour A, do 3ch up from a magic circle and then 17 dc into the magic circle. Draw it closed so there’s almost no hole. Ss into the top of the 3ch. (18 stitches)
Round 2: 3ch (counts as first dc). *[dc, ch3, dc] in next stitch, dc in next two stitches*, repeat from * around until you have six clusters of four stitches each. Ss into the top of the 3ch. (24 stitches)
Round 3: Join with colour B in the first stitch of a cluster. 3ch, 3dc, *[dc, ch3, dc] in ch space, dc in next 4 stitches*, repeat from * around until you have six clusters of six stitches each. Ss into the top of the 3ch. (36 stitches)
Round 4: Join with colour C in the first stitch of a cluster. 3ch, 5dc, *[dc, ch3, dc] in ch space, dc in next 6 stitches*, repeat from * around until you have six clusters of eight stitches each. Ss into the top of the 3ch and tie off. (48 stitches)

I’ve made slight adjustments from the CrochetSpot pattern, as I mentioned, mostly for stability; I don’t like having the 3ch forming chain spaces, as then you can get stretchy gappiness when joining to the rest of the cluster instead of a smooth consistent look all round. I’ve found that making sure the 3ch is part of the cluster keeps things neat. You can improve that by starting right in the center of a cluster when you change colours.

If you’re doing that, you can just think of it as 3ch from where you are, crochet into each dc from the previous round, and [dc, 3ch, dc] in the chain spaces. It’s true in every round after the second, if you want to make the hexagon bigger. Mine comes out just a bit bigger than the palm of my hand; around 10cm in diameter. If you’re looking for an easy motif that isn’t a plain old granny square, this is pretty simple and repetitive. I’m now down to about 30 minutes for making a motif, joining it to the other squares, and tucking in the ends.

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DNF Review – A Little History of Science

Posted 21 January, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 3 Comments

Cover of A Little History of Science by William F BynumA Little History of Science, W.F. Bynum

If you don’t actually know much about the history of science, this book might well be for you; for me, it was painfully obvious, hitting exactly the topics I expected, skimming over what I expected it to skim. A worse crime, however, is that the author simply wasn’t accurate: if you’re going to write a non-fiction book, it’s important to make sure you don’t speak beyond your research.

It does not take much research to find out that Egyptian hieroglyphs and Chinese characters are not pictographic representations of language. (To be perfectly accurate, some of the characters echo in form the thing they name; a cow head shape might mean the word cow, for instance. However, the languages also contain phonetic characters.)

I didn’t read beyond that. On that point, I knew the author was wrong — on a subject that isn’t even a particular area of expertise for me; how, therefore, could I trust him to have done his research about anything else? If we’re talking deeply technical details, that’s different, but it is widely understood that Egyptian hieroglyphs and Chinese characters are not solely logographic. There’s too little time for something where I distrust the research and editing and I’m bored.

Rating: 1/5

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Review – Greenwitch

Posted 20 January, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Greenwitch by Susan CooperGreenwitch, Susan Cooper

Greenwitch is the shortest book in the sequence — in my collected edition it is, anyway — but I find that there’s a lot more to chew on than in the first book, Over Sea, Under Stone. Here the world of the first book and the world of Will Stanton collide, and we glimpse both the high purpose and the kids at play. There’s more moral complexity here, a little more maturity… and then there’s also those very human kids getting jealous because Will’s friends with their Great-Uncle Merry.

I think the most appealing thing about this book for me is firstly the focus on Jane, on her actions, on her decency and insight as a human being actually being the key that unlocks victory for the Light… and secondly all the weird and wonderful hauntings of Cornwall that Cooper invokes. I want to know all the background of the weird night of horrors Jane glimpses relived due to the Greenwitch; I want to know who captains the black ship… It’s all fascinating and tantalising, and Cooper never explains too much. She leaves us wondering.

It’s not my favourite book of the sequence by far, but it has its own wild magic, for sure.

Rating: 4/5

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 19 January, 2019 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Good morning, folks! It’s late as I type this (the night before, as is traditional) and my wife would really like some sleep before my fancy-ass snobby hairdresser appointment. (It’s not bleach! It’s “toner”! Well let me tell you: I have dark brown hair, naturally. You’re not going to ‘gently tone’ it into accepting bright turquoise dye, my friends.) So I do this in a rush, so please excuse anything I miss…

Books acquired:

Cover of Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Books read this week:

Cover of What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape by S Cover of Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Number of books in: 1
Number of books read: 2
Number of books from the backlog read: 0
Rereads: 1
Library books: 0
Bought in 2019: 1

Reviews posted this week:

Dead in the Water, by Carola Dunn. Not exactly surprising or revolutionary — though nor have any of the Daisy books been — but comfortably entertaining. 4/5 stars
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge. If people could put aside the kneejerking about the title (which half the time just proves it’s point), this is an informative and civil attempt to, well, talk to white people about race. The anger is there, but muted; Eddo-Lodge tries to communicate facts as much as anything. 4/5 stars
Murder Must Advertise, by Dorothy L. Sayers. Always a fun entry in this series, from my point of view; I was surprised to learn from the introduction (or was it the introduction to The Nine Tailors?) that this was more or less filler. I can see it, though, on reflection. 4/5 stars
The Crucible of Creation, by Simon Conway Morris. A response to and a rebuttal of some of Stephen Jay Gould’s work, particularly Wonderful Life, from a scientist who has made a career from working on the creatures of the Burgess Shale. Unfortunately, I didn’t find his style very engaging… 3/5 stars
A Most Novel Revenge, by Ashley Weaver. Meh. This series feels samey, though thank goodness this book put aside much of the drama about Milo being a playboy. Not continuing this series. 2/5 stars

Discussions:

Discussion: Book Blanket. Wanna see my colour palette and the motif design? Here!
WWW Wednesday. The weekly update!

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