Category: General


Discussion: Interacting with Authors

Posted 18 June, 2018 by Nikki in General / 1 Comment

So today’s discussion post is something that used to come up all the time when I was on Goodreads, and has happened a couple of times here: interacting with authors. On Goodreads it was nearly always a bad experience, though Tony Hays (author of Arthurian mysteries) was great and a couple of others too, plus of course authors who just wanted to offer me a copy of their books to review. But quite often the author would come by to argue with my rating.

There’s always exceptions, so it’s hard to come up with simple rules. But here’s a couple I think authors could stick to:

  • Don’t react to reviews unless people have indicated they’re willing to discuss them with you.
  • Don’t spam people with offers of copies to review.
  • Don’t spam people with anything.
  • Don’t make everything about your book — other interactions may not seem like they’re directly gonna sell your book, but I’m more likely to buy your book if I’ve had meaningful interactions with you. Even if that’s about other books. Maybe especially if that’s about other books.
  • Remember that nobody owes you interaction, nobody owes you an explanation, nobody owes you their time.

Buuut sometimes I think reviews could use some rules in reply. Mostly I think they’re common sense, but then someone always comes along and ruins my idealistic dreams. So hey:

  • Don’t beg for freebies.
  • Don’t draw the author’s attention to a review unless they’ve indicated they’re interested in reading reviews of their work.
  • Remember there’s a difference between the author’s voice and their character’s voice and even, depending on the narratorial choices they’ve made, their real opinions.
  • Don’t, for goodness’ sake, proudly announce that you’ve pirated the author’s book. There are some authors who don’t mind this much (Cory Doctorow) or have found that their books sold better after one was available free (Neil Gaiman). But for the most part, you’re telling them that they’ve lost revenue. Even if it wasn’t illegal (it is), then telling people you’ve pirated is just poor taste.
  • Review the book, not the author. (It’s fair not to read something because the author is a raging homophobe, but then you don’t need to review the book, because even doing that is getting them oxygen to keep on raging to an audience.) Sometimes biographical details can be important in understanding a book, and sometimes you’re just making douchy assumptions or being a bully.

…Not that this is an exhaustive list (either of them, actually), but these are some of my pet hates.

How about you?

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 16 June, 2018 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

Good morning, folks! I’m back in Belgium with the bunnies, and they are precious clingy creatures right now. It’s the best. And I had quite a book splurge this week with my sister, celebrating the end of our exams. I’m going to split it up into a couple of posts by category, though, just so I don’t have to spend too long uploading things and such. So this week, here’s a review copy received this week, and the SF/F books I picked up.

Received to review:

Cover of The Black God's Drums 

Lucky as ever — thank you, Tor and Rebellion! <3

Bought:

Cover of Moonshine by Jasmine Gower Cover of Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott Cover of The Armored Saint by Myke Cole

I’ve heard mixed things about all three of these, actually, but they intrigue me all the same, so we’ll see!

Books read this week:

Cover of Koko Takes a Holiday by Kieran Shea Cover of Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston Cover of Kin by John Ingraham 

Cover of The Amazons by John Man Cover of Against Empathy by Paul Bloom Cover of The Templars by Piers Paul Read Cover of Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Reviews posted this week:

Murder in Piccadilly, by Charles Kingston. Not the best of the British Library Crime Classics so far, definitely. I found the characters unpleasant, almost all of them, so it was no fun, and the mystery itself was never a mystery, yet nor was it never satisfactorily wrapped up. 2/5 stars
Koko Takes a Holiday, by Kieran Shea. Bloody gorey fun, but not really more than that. And the portrayal of depression doesn’t really bear a longer look. 2/5 stars
The Telling, by Ursula Le Guin. It was nice to revisit this as an adult and understand more of what it was driving at. I got distracted by all the wrong things, as a kid. 4/5 stars
Against Empathy, by Paul Bloom. A fascinating dissection of why empathy may not be the best guide to morality. 5/5 stars
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente. A reread, and I’m so glad to spend time with the narrator again! 5/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussion: Blog Tours. When they work for me, and why they often don’t.
WWW Wednesday. The usual weekly update on what I’ve been reading.
Blog tour and giveaway for Jacqueline Carey’s Starless. There’s an international prize as well as a US/Canada one! There’s also an excerpt exclusive to this blog tour.

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 13 June, 2018 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

My exams are over, and all is freedom and binging on books! 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 The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home by Catherynne ValenteWhat are you currently reading?

Far too much, as ever, but most actively I’m finishing up rereads of Howl’s Moving Castle and The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home, plus a first-time read of The Templars by Piers Paul Read — I am finding the latter interesting, but I doubt it’ll ever be a book I’d read over and over again! I think I originally picked it up because of my interest in learning the actual history behind the Assassin’s Creed games, but honestly it’s amazing how little Robert de Sable or the Assassins actually figure into it. It seems more like a general history of the Crusades than specifically focused on the Templars.

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of Against Empathy by Paul BloomI just finished Against Empathy, by Paul Bloom — now, I know the kneejerk reaction is to go “what the hell? Against empathy?“, but it really is worth a read, pointing out that in many cases, empathy is a poor guide of moral decisions. At its best, it can focus the spotlight of our attention on something worthy — but it’s also true that then the spotlight isn’t focused on something else equally worthy. Bloom isn’t saying there’s anything bad about compassion (in fact, he advocates it), only that the idea we’ll attain moral perfection by feeling each other’s feelings seems to be a little unfortunate.

Cover of Starless by Jacqueline CareyWhat will you be reading next?

Goodness only knows. I might pick up Jacqueline Carey’s Starless (blog tour post for that coming later today!) or I might just go completely off-piste. I’ve been tempted to read The Prisoner of Zenda, to get the proper background for reading K.J. Charles queer rewriting of it — maybe it’ll be that! I don’t know.

What are you reading?

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Discussion: Blog Tours

Posted 11 June, 2018 by Nikki in General / 7 Comments

It’s Monday morning, and though I’ve been lax lately, that does mean it’s time for a discussion post ’round these parts. This week, “blog tours” feel like an appropriate topic, as I should be taking part in one this week and I’ve put my name down for another. The thing is… I have a confession to make.

I don’t pay that much attention to blog tours. I’d rather read a review of the book. If it’s a book I don’t know anything about, then even a giveaway probably won’t tempt me to join in the feeding frenzy. There are exceptions: an author I love, content that’s actually unique or worth reading (like interviews or lists of recommendations from the author, some other kind of genuine content that sheds light on what they do), books I’m already curious about… But for the most part, I see “Blog Tour” and I scroll on by, because I’ve noticed a trend in them of people just promoting every book they’re asked to promote, books they may not even care about — sometimes multiple books in one day — and just phoning it in. Cover, blurb, Rafflcopter giveaway, done.

Meh.

(Granted, most people I follow don’t do this at all, which is probably why I follow them. The same is likely to be true of people following me, since I don’t go in for publicity frenzies. Still. Sometimes you just need to say it.)

So my personal commitment with blog tours is: provide something people want to see. Genuine content, chances to win ARCs of an eagerly awaited book, a review of a book I’ve actually read and enjoyed, or at least want to discuss… I will never, I promise, just take part in a blog tour for the sake of it. There’s no point in doing it to get followers, to win brownie points, to fill in a blank space in your schedule. It’s like the boy who cried wolf: if every day you’re shouting about a brilliant new book you don’t even care about, then what’s the point? Readers never know if you’re being sincere or not, and if you’re putting out significant volumes of it, the answer is most likely not.

Be sincere in your choice of books to promote, and then the promotions you do will be more valuable — to publishers and other bloggers alike. Win/win, right?

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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Unstacking the Shelves

Posted 9 June, 2018 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

Good morning, folks! It’s been a rough week for me, with a horrible cough and a horribler exam, but I’m very nearly at the end now — the cough’s tapering off, and the last exam of my degree awaits me at 10am on Monday morning. On Wednesday, me and my sister are going for a post-exam jaunt in a bookshop, and then on Thursday I’m heading back to Belgium to smoosh my face into my bunnies’ fur and snuggle them good.

For now, here’s the now-traditional I’m-away-from-my-bunnies pic.

Which is actually a favourite from before I left, where you find Breakfast napping by my leg with my teddy bear. <3

Anyway, no books bought this week (when would I have had time?), but I have managed to do some reading, hurrah.

Books I’ve finished this week:

Cover of Power, Sex, Suicide by Nick Lane Cover of Rubicon by Tom Holland

Cover of The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente  Cover of The Telling by Ursula Le Guin Cover of The Castlemaine Murders by Kerry Greenwood

The non-fiction books were new to me, but the fiction books were all rereads. I needed Valente, Le Guin and Greenwood to take me to familiar places this week. It helped. <3

Reviews posted this week:

The Seafarer’s Kiss, by Julia Ember. I wanted to like this queer retelling of My Little Mermaid, but it didn’t quite come together for me. There is fascinating stuff — mostly Loki and the fact that they are genderqueer — but, meh. 2/5 stars
The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion, by Margaret Killjoy. Like an origin story for a hunter on Supernatural, only not so white nor so co-dependent. And, you know, queer, and involving women. It didn’t quite grab hold of me enough that I’m in a hurry to get the second book, but I enjoyed it. 4/5 stars
The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu, by Charlie English. The author isn’t honest in the way he tells his story: there are doubts about some of the sources he uses and the story he presents as fact, but he waits until the end to let you know that. Not something I appreciate. 2/5 stars

Like last week, I might not comment back right away, but once my exam is over I’ll be all over you fine people. Have a good week!

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 2 June, 2018 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

Technically, I think this might be an unStacking week, but I found some books I never featured so hey! They get their chance to shine this week. Also, I haven’t been doing much unstacking anyway, given that I am hurtling towards my final exams (and caught a horrible stupid virus).

But first, of course, here’s a bunny pic, since I’m still away from them. Breakfast wants to know what y’all are doing!

And here’s the new(ish) books!

New books:

Cover of The Vikings by Else Roesdahl Cover of Stealing History Cover of The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi Cover of The Henchmen of Zenda by KJ Charles

A rather random assemblage, but that will surprise no one when it comes to me!

Books read this week:

Cover of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente Cover of The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M Valente Cover of The Girl who Soared Over Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente Cover of The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman

Reviews posted this week:

Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts, by Christopher de Hamel. I found this really relaxing to read, just something where I could let tons of information wash over me while enjoying descriptions of beautiful books. 4/5 stars
Seven Dead, by J. Jefferson Farjeon. Melodramatic, of course, but also oddly compelling just from the weirdness of the opening. 4/5 stars
On a Red Station, Drifting, by Aliette de Bodard. This writer has a gift for complex characters you can’t quite root for, but who seem very human all the same. (Even when they’re not.) I enjoyed this, and I’m looking forward to trying more of the stories in the same world. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussion: Romance. Tl;dr? Don’t knock romance just because it’s not your thing.
WWW Wednesday. The weekly update on what’s on my plate or, er, stack right now. Spoiler: too many books at once.

So, what’re you reading? Stacking your shelves with anything fascinating? I can’t promise I’ll comment back immediately (EXAM TIME!), but I always do visit back in the end!

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 30 May, 2018 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.

What are you currently reading?

Cover of Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha LeeFar too much at once! I’ve decided exam time is a terrible time for self-restraint, so I’m dipping in and out of a whole stack: Revenant Gun (Yoon Ha Lee), Murder in Piccadilly (Charles Kingston), The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (Cat Valente), Children of Time (Adrian Tchaikovsky) and The Shadow in the North (Philip Pullman). I accidentally picked up Revenant Gun just this morning and started racing through it; I shall send Yoon Ha Lee a stern fan note if I fail my exams because of it.

(I won’t actually fail my exams.)

The Valente’s a reread, of course; I felt like I needed something fun. Children of Time is newly picked up, mostly because it fell off my shelf at me, and who can argue with fate? I’m fascinated, I’ll Cover of Children of Time by Adrian Tchiakovskyadmit. Speculative biology is a thing I can get behind. (I’m not sure how the virus could possibly work, though. Must be a DNA virus; RNA viruses don’t have good proofreading mechanisms, there’d be no way at all to control the behaviour of the virus over generations — not even generations of primates, but viral generations. Not sure DNA viruses are that much better at proofreading either…)

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip PullmanI picked up and reread Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke completely on a whim, in between one block of studying and another. I still enjoyed it a lot; it’s rather Penny Dreadful-ish itself, in some ways, and I’m not sure about all the Orientalism at all. Still, as a nostalgia read it’s a solid one, and Sally’s still amazing. O for half of her skill with numbers and steady hand (though she can keep the pistol).

What will you be reading next?

It would be daft to try and guess, I think. More of the Fairyland books, definitely; I also plan to reread Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar books (I know, it doesn’t sound comforting/soothing if you know how heartbreaking those books are, but they’re so familiar and from a totally different part of my academic career).

Other than that, I don’t know. Maybe Robert Jackson Bennett’s Foundryside; I did bring it with me in hopes of getting stuck in. Or Arabella and the Battle of Venus… or…

So! What are you reading?

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Discussion: Romance

Posted 28 May, 2018 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

I’m not primarily a romance blogger, or even frequently, but I do pick up the occasional romance — usually not contemporaries, at least not for straight romance, though there’s Susanna Kearsley, but more classic stuff like Georgette Heyer and Mary Stewart. (I do read LGBT romance, but that’s a rather separate genre in many ways.) I think that mostly lets me duck some of the rubbish said about romance books: I don’t constantly get shamed for the interest, though I’ve seen that attitude out there. Heck, my grandma always dismisses what she reads as ‘penny dreadfuls’, and as far as I can tell at least some of it is mushy romance and family sagas (though she also likes Dorothy Dunnett, so there’s that for comparison).

I can totally understand people for whom romance isn’t a thing they want to read about — but I do hate the attitude that reading romance is pointless or inferior in general. First off, I don’t believe in disparaging people for what they enjoy, because enjoyment is something humans crave and even need. And secondly, I hate the attitude that reading romance is just escapism or whatever: it deals with powerful emotions that real people feel and have to deal with, and with relationships between people and how they’re negotiated. I don’t know how anyone can act like reading about the invention of flying cars is more important than reading about how to navigate complex human relationships!

Like any genre, romance has its problems. It comes with a whole bag of tropes that can be really problematic, and romance just isn’t a priority for a lot of people (or even an interest at all for some). That’s great. But let’s not label it as pointless for everyone in every situation — and that’s the attitude that comes across sometimes, especially when people just dip into the genre and talk about it as a “guilty pleasure” or “a bit of fluff”… or a “penny dreadful”. It just sounds so dismissive.

Fiction is, for the most part, designed to entertain the reader. Let’s not disparage romance just for being really successful at doing that!

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 26 May, 2018 by Nikki in General / 11 Comments

Good morning, everyone! I’m in the UK again ready for my exams, and getting up bright and early every day to study. So it’s no surprise that I’ve, uh, had quite a haul and not managed to read much. But before we get into that, here’s the obligatory bunny pictures!

Hulk sat in an office chair looking stern

She looks stern, but she just wants a piece of banana. You know you want to give her one.

“Oh no! The paps caught me cleaning my paws!”

I miss ’em, even though they’re a pile of chaos.

Received to review:

Cover of Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang Cover of The Stars Now Unclaimed by Drew Williams Cover of Redemption's Blade by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Cover of The Chrysalis by Brendan Deneen Cover of Shelter by Dave Hutchinson

I also now have a paperback copy of Yoon Ha Lee’s Revenant Gun to go with the ebook! Now I definitely must hurry and read it.

Bought this week:

Cover of The Lake District Murder by John Bude Cover of Excellent Intentions by Richard Hull Cover of Thirteen Guests by J. Jefferson Farjohn

Cover of Death of Anton by Alan Melville Cover of The Dead Shall Be Raised & Death of a Quack by Goerge Bellairs Cover of A Scream in Soho by John G. Brandon

Cover of Arabella and the Battle of Venus by David D. Levine Cover of Behave by Robert M. Sapolsky Cover of The Amazons by John Man

Yay, more British Library Crime Classics! I think there are two more in the post, too… Better be the last of the books for a while, heh.

Read this week:

Cover of Hardian's Wall by David Breeze and Brian Dobson

Yep, that’s the sum total.

Reviewed this week:

The Great Mortality, by John Kelly. A historical look at the Black Death, how it started and how it spread. Less science details than I’d have liked! 3/5 stars
Death on the Cherwell, by Mavis Doriel Hay. Entertaining, but not a patch on that other book written in the Golden Age about a women’s college in Oxford. 3/5 stars
Keeping Their Marbles, by Tiffany Jenkins. One of my more in-depth and conflicted reviews in quite a while. This book examines the case for repatriating artefacts and remains, and the author’s opinion is a resounding “don’t”. I struggle with that. 3/5 stars
The Fisher of Bones, by Sarah Gailey. Some fascinating ideas, and particularly the ending, but it felt more like a sketch map than a painting. 3/5 stars
Brimstone, by Cherie Priest. This one worked for me because of the strength of the characters. I’m not sure it’s Priest’s most memorable book, but I enjoyed reading it and definitely got invested. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

WWW Wednesday. The usual update!

And now, studying… What’s everyone else up to?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 23 May, 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.

What are you currently reading?

Too much at once, as ever, but really actively I’m reading Witchmark by C.L. Polk, which is fun and which I really need to give more attention to, and Hadrian’s Wall, by David J. Breeze and Brian Dobson, which is satisfying my brain with information I don’t have to remember. Have I mentioned I have exams coming up? I have exams coming up.

Cover of The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret KilljoyWhat have you recently finished reading?

My brain actually went totally blank about this. I think the last thing I finished might’ve been The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion, a few days ago. I still need to collect my thoughts about that — I liked it, but not excessively. I did enjoy the fact that the characters were all squatters and travellers — not a perspective you see that often (at least in what I read).

Cover of The Invisible Library by Genevieve CogmanWhat will you be reading next?

Endless flashcards with names of infectious diseases and lists of symptoms. But, uh, book-wise, I don’t really know. I might reread The Invisible Library, and have some good fun to distract my brain. Or I might just dig into Deadline, since I reread Feed for the sole purpose of getting back into reading that trilogy.

What are you reading?

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