Category: General


Weekly Roundup

Posted 20 October, 2018 by Nikki in General / 3 Comments

Good morning, guys! Not next week, but the week after, I should be able to introduce you all to our new bunnies! For now, Breakfast has a fistbump for you all.

A brown bun wants to fistbump you

I should hurry up, because I’m writing this on Friday evening (as ever) and we’ve been to the gym and are tired. We being me and my wife, not me and the bunnies, entertaining though the image of them hopping on a treadmill is (and much as Hulk could use the exercise). So here goes!

Books acquired this week:

Cover of The Cardinal's Blades by Pierre Pevel Cover of Hounded by Kevin Hearne Cover of Sharps by K.J. Parker

Cover of Requiem for a Mezzo by Carola Dunn Cover of Murder on the Flying Scotsman by Carola Dunn Cover of Damsel in Distress by Carola Dunn

Library sale + falling in love with a new series!

Books read this week:

Cover Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn Cover of The Winter Garden Mystery by Carola Dunn Cover of The Ancient Celts by Barry Cunliffe

Reviews posted this week:

The Mystery of the Skeleton Key, by Bernard Capes. Nothing groundbreaking, and a bit slow, but if you’re into Golden Age crime fiction… 2/5 stars
Endless Forms Most Beautiful, by Sean Carroll. A great entry-level book on Evo Devo. 4/5 stars
Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection, by John Man. Another entertaining pop-history part-travelogue book from Man… 3/5 stars
Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer. This was a reread for me, and one I found worth it. I enjoy the narrator’s matter-of-fact tone a lot. 4/5 stars
Rebel of the Sands, by Alwyn Hamilton. Another reread, so I can get on with the series. Still entertaining, without being very groundbreaking. 3/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussion: Returning Comments. What do you do if someone comments on your blog, you go to return it, and you find out they think you’re going to hell and frequently post saying so whenever homosexuality comes up in the books they read? To the extent of no longer supporting an author because they’re tolerant of homosexuality?
WWW Wednesday. The usual weekly update.

Out and about:

Once Upon A Blue Moon: ‘[UNTRANSLATABLE]‘. A rather cynical take on why an alien might be interested in Earth.

So how’s everyone’s week been? Anything exciting going on for you?

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Discussion: Returning comments

Posted 15 October, 2018 by Nikki in General / 7 Comments

Normally, I have a policy of commenting back on the blogs of everyone who comments here. It slipped for a while due to complete lack of time between working, studying and moving, but I’m trying to get back into the habit now. However, during the last week someone commented on my blog and I blithely went to comment back on theirs… only to find that they hold views completely repugnant to me.

I’m (somewhat) okay with having friends who disagree with me, who even think that (for example) homosexuality is a sin, support Trump, support Brexit, think that trigger/content warnings are political correctness gone mad, etc, etc. But those friends are usually friends who mostly keep it under their hat when around me unless we decide to discuss it in a civil manner: they don’t openly rank homosexuality with paedophilia, or tell me my wife should have been turned back at the border, etc. I don’t usually make friends with people who openly declare that they think I’m going to hell, and to be quite frank, pushing one’s boundaries and not living in an echo chamber is one thing — putting up with someone who sounds honestly gleeful about how disgusting they find me and people I love is quite another.

And, being honest… I know another blogger can’t do anything to harm me, but going to their blog to find their comments about homosexuality being a sin and perversion felt like a bucket of ice cold water being dumped over my head. I was scared. People like that make the world a frightening place for people like me. Even if they themselves do nothing but talk, people like them followed me and my sister around at school telling us we should kill ourselves; people like that leave people like me for dead on the side of the road, not just historically but now (with homophobic attacks in my own country up almost 80% in the last four years). People like me have to be careful.

It was a harsh reminder that sharing a love of books with someone doesn’t mean we share anything else. Maybe if their top review hadn’t contained a disgusted comment about the book involving homosexuality, we’d have had a short chat about books and parted none the wiser. But I did see that.

So, should I have commented? I don’t know. In the end, I decided that they too would probably prefer it if I didn’t comment, given the givens. I definitely felt safer not doing so.

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 13 October, 2018 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

Good morning, readers! It’s been a quiet week for me, still getting over my coughing and wheezing, lots of bunny-snuggling, etc. I did get my hair dyed again, it’s a rather amazing colour…

Pic of me and my bright teal hair

We’ll see how long that lasts! Anyway, no new books this week, so here’s a feature of the covers of the books I finished!

Books read this week:

Cover of The Book of Hidden Things by Francesco Dimitri Cover of Angkor and the Khmer Civilization by Michael D. Coe Cover of The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman

Cover of Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton Cover of Annilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Reviews posted this week:

Stardust, by Neil Gaiman. A reread of a beloved book. There’s still much to love, though maybe I’m less taken than I used to be! 4/5 stars
The Lake District Murder, by John Bude. Another in the British Library Crime Classics range. Entertaining enough, but not a particular highlight. 3/5 stars
Poison: A Social History, by Joel Levy. An interesting, if somewhat limited book with rather short chapters and some good scientific profiles of poisons. 2/5 stars
The Book of Hidden Things, by Francesco Dimitri. This one was an interesting read, but not really my thing. Some aspects felt way too obvious to me. 2/5 stars
The Lost Plot, by Genevieve Cogman. A good installment of this series, although I’m not sure I love all the developments! 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussions: What to discuss? I know, I’m cheating. Any topics anyone wants me to write about, though?
WWW Wednesday. The usual update on what I’m currently reading.

Out and about:

NEAT science: ‘Evaluating scientific papers‘. Breaking down exactly how to decide what to trust and avoid being taken for a ride.

So that’s that. How’s everyone doing? Anything good on your shelves right now?

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Discussion: What to discuss?

Posted 8 October, 2018 by Nikki in General / 5 Comments

I know, this is kind of cheating. But I really was wondering — what kinds of topics would you like to see me write about? Is there anything I haven’t talked about related to books, comics, genre fiction or blogging that you’d like to see me write about? Right now my list of prompts is empty, and my brain is totally blank.

In apology for the threadbare discussion post, here’s one of my buns in their new hammock:

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 6 October, 2018 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Good morning, everyone! It has been a quietish week for me, mostly spent coughing and sniffling, but I’m almost better now. And it’s a good thing I’m not putting library books in these posts anymore, because I’ve been on a serious spree lately. (Right now, I have, um… 50ish books out of the four libraries I’m a member of.)

Anyway! To books!

Received to review:

Cover of Skyward by Brandon Sanderson Cover of Shadow of a Lady by Jane Aiken Hodge Cover of In The Vanishers' Palace by Aliette de Bodard

I’m especially excited about In the Vanishers’ Palace. I had it preordered anyway, and then I spotted it on Netgalley…

Bought:

Cover of Salt by Mark Kurlansky Cover of Fayke Newes by Derek Taylor Cover of Hekla's Children by James Brogden

Cover of The Sussex Downs Murder by John Bude Cover of The Colour of Murder by Julian Symons Cover of Exit Strategy by Martha Wells

Exit Strategy! The final Murderbot! Eeeeek gaaah eeeeeee etc.

Read this week:

Cover of Ancient Lives, New Discoveries Cover of Poison: A Social History by Joel Levy Cover of The Maya by Michael D. Coe

Cover of Stardust by Neil Gaiman Cover of The Incas by Craig Morris Cover of Endless Forms Most Beautiful by Sean Carroll

Reviews posted this week:

Gods, Graves and Scholars, by C.W. Ceram. This is out of date in many ways, but the fascination is very much still there. It covers a lot of the great sites of archaeology that formed the whole discipline. 3/5 stars
The Descent of Monsters, by JY Yang. I liked this less than the others: it seemed less able to stand along, more fragmentary. Still a fascinating addition to the world being built here, though. 3/5 stars
Spying on Whales, by Nick Pyenson. Whales aren’t one of my primary fascinations, but they are fascinating creatures and Pyenson’s enthusiasm is catching. 3/5 stars
Murder at the Brightwell, by Ashley Weaver. A fun Christie-esque mystery: nothing special, but nonetheless fun. 3/5 stars
Ancient Lives, New Discoveries, by John H. Taylor and Daniel Antoine. A fascinating glimpse beneath the wrappings of mummies from the British Museum’s collection. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussion: How do you review? Musing on the ingredients that go into a good review.
WWW Wednesday. The weekly update!

Out and about:

Once Upon A Blue Moon: ‘Me, Too‘. A poem and commentary on the #MeToo movement.
NEAT science: ‘Writing in DNA‘. Answering the question of how information can possibly be encoded by acids.
NEAT science: ‘Why chimpanzees are still around‘. Explains how chimpanzees can be around if humans evolved from them. (Spoiler: we didn’t, we evolved from the same common ancestor, also, species do not have to die in order for new species to evolve anyway.)

So actually it’s been a bit of a busy week in some ways. How’re you doing?!

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 3 October, 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?

Cover of The Lost Plot by Genevieve CogmanI’ve picked The Lost Plot back up, so hopefully I’ll be finishing that up soon. I’ve just got to the bit in Boston/New York, so it’s a whole new setting for Irene and Kai. Mobsters! Awesome. I’m also still partway through Endless Forms Most Beautiful (really something I could have done with reading before any Evo Devo came up in my degree), and I’m also partway through rereading Alwyn Hamilton’s Rebel of the Sands (time to finish the series!).

Cover of Stardust by Neil GaimanWhat have you recently finished reading?

The last thing I finished was David Starkey’s book on the Magna Carta. It was okay, but not really anything I didn’t already vaguely know. Before that, I reread Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, which was a delight as always, though the ending is not nearly so happy as the movie’s in many ways (though I like both in their own ways).

Cover of Roses and Rot by Kat HowardWhat will you be reading next?

Roses and Rot, by Kat Howard, in theory! I’ve selected that as my book club choice on Habitica, so that’s the idea anyway. In practice, I do have a ton of very tempting library books, and I’ve been dying to reread Ann Leckie’s Provenance

So what’re you reading?

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Discussion: How Do You Review?

Posted 1 October, 2018 by Nikki in General / 12 Comments

I might have posted about this before, but honestly, I don’t think I’ve yet hit upon a way to review books that works for every book, and that really satisfies me looking back. After a while I read back some of my reviews and I’ve been so vague about what the book was about that it doesn’t remind me (although I can always tell whether I liked the book or not — but that usually sticks with me anyway) and a lot of my reviews come out the same. The past week I’ve started trying to be more descriptive: set the scene a bit more, for one thing, particularly because I don’t include the publisher’s summary when I post a review. I still don’t have a set procedure for myself, though — honestly, writing to a checklist makes my reviews feel all the same in another way, and makes the whole process even more mechanical and wooden.

How I go about writing reviews, generally… hmm: first, a sentence or two about how I came to pick up the book, or how I felt about doing so. ‘This book has been really hyped for months, so I finally succumbed when I saw it at the library’ — that kind of thing. Then I’m now trying to get in a bit of description — the major ideas of the book and what I think about that and the setting… I don’t want to put in spoilers, but I do try to give some idea of how it develops. And then last, what jumped out at me, for good or ill? Characters, plot points, did it remind me of something, did it go off the rails… And finally, I try and comment on who I think might like it, if the rest of my review hasn’t made it obvious. And at the ending, at the request of some of my earliest blog readers, a star rating out of five.

With non-fiction, of course, it’s a bit different; I try to explain why I’m interested and what my existing level of knowledge is, the stuff the book covers, whether the writing style is clear, and then maybe in the end who I’d recommend it for.

Of course, every so often I’ll lose my head and do something different, maybe even write a little story. But for the most part, the above is what I try to do, or am trying to do now.

So what do you put into your reviews?

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 29 September, 2018 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

Good morning, folks! I have a bit of a cold and (writing this on Friday night) rather want to get to bed, so I’ll keep this quick! It’s been a quiet week except for my various trips from the library (I have [mumble] books out of four different libraries right now…), but I still have some books to show off from last week in London, plus a review copy.

Received to review:

Cover of The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Yay! I’m torn about whether to reread The Traitor Baru Cormorant first: I think I could maybe use a reminder on the political background, but the character-development stuff has really stuck with me.

Bought:

Cover of Stars Uncharted by S.K. Dunstall Cover of Vengeful by V.E. Schwab Cover of The Thorn of Dentonhill by Marshall Ryan Maresca Cover of Starless by Jacqueline Carey

Cover of Made to Kill by Adam Christopher Cover of Killing Is My Business by Adam Christopher Cover of I Only Killed Him Once by Adam Christopher

And my copies of Made to Kill and Killing is my Business are actually signed! Thank you, Forbidden Planet London. Likewise, my copy of Vengeful is one of the limited edition signed ones. I really need to at least get that one out of the plastic and admire it!

Books read this week:

Cover of Alpha Beta by John Man Cover of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie Cover of Legion by Brandon Sanderson

 Cover of The Lake District Murder by John Bude Cover of The Mystery of the Skeleton Key by Bernard Capes Cover of Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

Reviews posted this week:

Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit. Clearly written essays, most of them kind of indifferent, but the title one is worth the time for that sense of validation: ah, it’s not just me this happens to. 3/5 stars
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, by Steve Brusatte. A bit basic for me — go with David Hone’s Tyrannosaurus Chronicles instead, and you won’t be disappointed. 3/5 stars
Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds, by Brandon Sanderson. Finally got to read the whole story in this collected edition! Well worth the time, though I’m unsure about how I feel about the ending. Maybe I just didn’t want it to end. 4/5 stars
And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie. Christie could put a heck of a story together, and I read this one straight through. Kind of creepy, too. 3/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussion: Keeping Books. Do you hoard the books you’ve read? Or do you pass them on once you’re done?
WWW Wednesday. The usual weekly update on what I’ve just read, what I’m reading now, and what I might be about to read next.

Out and about:

NEAT science: Calculating the mass of a planet. Ever wondered how we do that, given you can’t stick Jupiter on a set of weighing scales? I go through that here!

How’s everyone else doing, anyway? Exciting week?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 26 September, 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 Endless Forms Most Beautiful by Sean CarrollWhat are you currently reading?

Too much at once, as ever! Most actively, I’ve just got started on Endless Forms Most Beautiful, by Sean Carroll — it’s alll about Evo Devo, i.e. what embryology and development tells us about evolution. I bought it as a sort of knowledge top-up back before I actually read a bunch of papers on Evo Devo for my degree. It’s still interesting, but not surprising or as necessary to top up my knowledge anymore!

Cover of Legion by Brandon SandersonWhat have you recently finished reading?

I just finished reading the whole collected Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds. I’m still digesting that ending, and I’m not sure it’s what I wanted, but it sure is a fascinating concept and Sanderson is a great writer. Before that, I think the last thing I finished was Christie’s And Then There Were None, which I just gulped down, rather to my own surprise. Christie’s a better writer than I remember, every time.

Cover of The Lake District Murder by John BudeWhat will you be reading next?

I should focus on something I’ve got on the go, so probably I’ll reread more of Under Heaven, or really dig into John Bude’s The Lake District Murder. Or maybe Bernard Capes’ The Mystery of the Skeleton Key, since I do seem to be in the mood for Golden Age crime fiction! Or there’s always some library books, like Cameron Johnson’s The Traitor God.

What are you currently reading?

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Discussion: Keeping Books

Posted 24 September, 2018 by Nikki in General / 9 Comments

Do you hoard your books? Or do you keep everything you’ve ever bought in a massive book hoard?

While I do have quite the book hoard (ahem), it’s mostly books I haven’t read yet, or intend to read again. I try not to be overly sentimental, or precious about having spent money: even having paid full price for a book, I’m still quite happy to let it go, preferably to a charity shop or a library if I can’t recoup much of the cost. (There was a store in Belgium that bought a lot of my second-hand books as they were in good condition and in English, which people do want in Belgium but can get very expensive. I doubt that’s going to be as easy now I’m back in the UK full time!) Even having received it as a gift, I’m in line with Marie Kondo on this one: the purpose of the gift has been fulfilled, and it’s no disrespect to the gift to hand it on where it can be enjoyed more. In the case of books I bought myself, I’ve supported the author and now handing on their book has a chance of introducing someone else to their works for the first time.

I do keep a fair number of books, though. You can bet I still have Ancillary Justice and Assassin’s Apprentice and The Grand Sophy and Gaudy Night… and a whole succession of other books. If I’m pretty sure I’ll want to reread it someday, I’ll keep it. After all, there’s no point in buying it twice (though I have done that in the case of ebooks, to have a handy e-copy). Still, if it’s easy to get from the library and it wasn’t a 4-5 star read, I probably won’t keep it even if I could see myself rereading it (e.g. to finish the series). I’m not much for keeping books for pretty covers, either.

Personally, I have limited space (alas) and I always need room for more books. Donating them (or sometimes selling them, or giving them to a friend) is the best way to keep my library rotating. Okay, financially I shudder to think of the turnover, but the joy I get out of it is more than enough.

So how about you? Chronic keeper? Or do books barely touch the shelves before they’re out again?

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