Category: General


Stacking the Shelves

Posted 21 October, 2017 by Nikki in General / 25 Comments

Good morning, folks! Here is my haul of books about diseases, for background reading for my course. I’ve already torn through four of them, actually, and it is very helpful to have this perspective.

It hasn’t been a great week in some other respects, so hey, at least I have books. And bunny pictures.

Bought:

Cover of Ebola by David Quammen Cover of Virus X by Frank Ryan Cover of No Time To Lose by Peter Piot Cover of Rabid by Bill Wasik

Cover of Angel of Death by Gareth Williams Cover of Paralysed with Fear by Gareth Williams Cover of Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC

Can you tell what I’m studying this semester? Heh.

Read this week:

Cover of Ebola by David Quammen Cover of I Hate Everyone But You Cover of Paralysed with Fear by Gareth Williams Cover of Rabid by Bill Wasik Cover of Connection Error by Annabeth Albert

Cover of Angel of Death by Gareth Williams Cover of The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim Cover of Sea, Swallow Me   Cover of The Five Daughters of the Moon by Leena Likitalo Cover of The Chocolatier's Wife by Cindy Lynn Speer

Reviews posted this week:

Jhereg, by Steven Brust. A reread to get back to the series. It remains fun, though there were no surprises (obviously), and I think some of the fun does come from working things out. 4/5 stars
Just One Damned Thing After Another, by Jodi Taylor. I don’t know why I’m the odd one out, but to me the title summarised how this book felt. It had a natural end and then — kept going. I can’t say I loved the characters, either, or the fact that the plot was advanced by sexual assaults. 2/5 stars
Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong, by Angela Saini. Takes a look at — and skewers — supposed science about in-built differences between genders. 3/5 stars
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle. I didn’t get the enduring charm that’s made this a classic, I’m afraid. 2/5 stars
First Grave on the Right, by Darynda Jones. Holy rape culture, Batman. 1/5 stars
Taste of Marrow, by Sarah Gailey. This had less of the team feel than the previous book, and basically I’m 10,000% here for the lot of them settling down, making a found family and having capers (together) forever. 4/5 stars
The Beautiful Ones, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I didn’t love Signal to Noise, but this worked much better for me. It’s very Heyer-esque. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

WWW Wednesday: The weekly update on my currently reading stack, and what I might read next!

How’re you all doing? I’ll always visit back if you leave a comment here, so feel free to drop in a link directly to your STS post.

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 18 October, 2017 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 Trouble and Her Friends by Melissa ScottMost actively (the key words, with the way I stack up a bunch of currently-reading books!), it’s Trouble and Her Friends, by Melissa Scott, and Angel of Death, by Gareth Williams. The former is queer cyberpunk, and I’m having a lot of fun with it — it’s a little slow to unfold, but I read 25% when I should’ve been sleeping, so I’m gonna say it’s hooked me. Angel of Death is fascinating in other ways, of course, because it’s about the history and science of smallpox. I am learning a lot of things I didn’t know about it!

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of Rabid by Bill WasikThe last thing was a cultural history of rabies, Rabid, by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy. It wasn’t quite what I was hoping for, because there was a lot of emphasis on the cultural stuff, like rabies’ relation to vampirism and werewolves. Still, there was some interesting stuff, especially about recent cases who actually recovered from rabies (which is normally considered 100% fatal in humans).

What will you read next?

Cover of The Gracekeepers by Kirsty LoganI started The Gracekeepers, by Kirsty Logan, at the weekend, and I want to pick that back up and finish it. I also want to focus on my Kushiel’s Dart reread. I’m trying not to tempt myself too much beyond that! I’m intrigued by The Gracekeepers; I haven’t read much, so I haven’t got to grips with the setting yet.

What are you reading?

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 14 October, 2017 by Nikki in General / 34 Comments

Good morning, folks! I’m finally better from my cough… at least mostly, though if you look at me wrong I might go off into a little coughing fit, alas. I’ve just ordered a bunch of background reading for my course, but it hasn’t all arrived yet, so I only have a small stack of books to share this week: a couple of ARCs and a novella.

Oh, and here’s the obligatory away-from-buns bunny picture:

Photo of my bunnies sat together.

Double Trouble.

Received to review:

Cover of Close Encounters with Humankind by Sang-Hee Lee Cover of Valiant Dust by Richard Baker

I’ve already read Close Encounters with Humankind, which is pretty fascinating; I can’t remember the summary of Valiant Dust, so that one’s going to be a surprise…

Bought:

Cover of The Twilight Pariah by Jeffrey Ford

I’ve been curious about this since N.K. Jemisin mentioned it in her column, so I picked it up with what was left of an Amazon voucher after buying stuff related to my classes.

Read this week:

Cover of Away With the Fairies by Kerry Greenwood Cover of A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup Cover of Close Encounters with Humankind by Sang-Hee Lee Cover of A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson Cover of The Twilight Pariah by Jeffrey Ford

A bit better week for reading, this week! Here’s hoping I get back into top form soon…

Reviews posted this week:

The Hammer and the Cross, by Robert Ferguson. A little dry and very detailed; a very good read for someone who’s really interested, though. 4/5 stars
A Very British Murder, by Lucy Worsley. A fun book covering the evolution of crime fiction in the UK, and people’s love of it. 4/5 stars
Machiavelli: A Man Misunderstood, by Michael White. Another good biography from White. 4/5 stars
The Man Who Fell to Earth, by Walter Tevis. I didn’t love this, but the way it ended was perfect — it made so much sense with what we see in reality. Hence, 4/5 stars
The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden. This didn’t quite work for me, and I’m not sure why. I guess it felt rather predictable/typical in some ways. 3/5 stars
How We Got To Now: Six Innovations that Made the Modern World, by Steven Johnson. Good points and a pretty entertaining read, but nothing earth-shatteringly surprising. 3/5 stars
The Lost City of Z, by David Grann. Really, I want the book about the archaeology being done now, rather than about Victorian explorers, but it’s reasonably entertaining all the same. 3/5 stars

Other posts:

WWW WednesdayThe weekly update on what I’m reading.

How’re you doing? Comment here to let me know, and don’t forget to provide a link so I can visit you in return!

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 11 October, 2017 by Nikki in General / 2 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 A Sting in the Tale by Dave GoulsonA Sting in the Tale, by Dave Goulson. It’s a non-fiction/pop-science book about bees, and is part of a new project of mine to get less scared of insects by becoming curious about them. It worked for me when it comes to pathogens (starting with David Quammen’s Spillover), so I’m hopeful. So far I’m learning a lot of interesting facts — for instance, bumblebees have smelly feet — and I’m not grossed out or anxious. On the other hand, bees are relatively harmless anyway and aren’t a major fear of mine. I’ve got a book on ants lined up, and that might be more problematic. Ideally, I should find something on spiders…

I’m also reading a few other books, but most actively it’s Kushiel’s Dart, which I finally found the time to pick up again. I forgot how long it takes before Joscelin actually appears!

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of Away With the Fairies by Kerry GreenwoodI think the last thing I finished was a reread of Kerry Greenwood’s Away with the Fairies. It’s a blatant homage to Dorothy L. Sayers’ Murder Must Advertise, in some ways, and it also features Phryne being terribly daring and heroic in rescuing her lover, Lin Chung, from pirates. These books make for great comfort reading, because you can pretty much be sure everything will be okay, and also I’ve read them before so I know how they turn out. And Phryne is awesome.

(I needed comfort reading because my cough got so bad I pulled muscles in my ribcage. I’m doing better now, before I had to bring out the big guns and reread The Goblin Emperor.)

What will you read next?

Cover of Abaddon's Gate by James S. A. CoreyI’m going to focus on finishing Abaddon’s Gate, for a start. I also have a stack of library books to read while I’m visiting my parents, including some books in the 300s of the Dewey Decimal System for a Habitica challenge. I can’t remember the titles, but they’re about multiculturalism and immigration, so not my usual thing, but rather topical given the world at present and the political preoccupations of our time.

Other than that, I’m not sure. I might pick up Nine Coaches Waiting, since I’m about due for another scheduled dose of rereading Mary Stewart’s work.

What are you reading at the moment?

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 7 October, 2017 by Nikki in General / 22 Comments

Good morning, folks! I’m not quite over the cold yet, since I have a horrible cough that won’t shift, but I’m doing better. And, I ended up with a whole stack of books from London/friends/etc. Woo!

Update on the me:

As you can see below, it still hasn’t been a good reading week. I’m just so tired. I have a few books on the go, but nothing’s sticking very well. Mostly I feel like reading non-fiction, but I’m mindful of the fact that most people are here for my fiction reviews, and don’t even read non-fiction, so I do need to keep up with the fiction content!

Although, maybe that’s the problem. I do view keeping my blog interesting as being a job, and reading ARCs as a job, sometimes. Maybe that’s taking the fun out of it a little — but on the other hand, I get fun back from running a blog people enjoy and engage with, so… Hm.

Anyway, other than that, you may have noticed that I’ve got my green lock showing my site is now secure! With the help of Lynn O’Connacht, who is very patient and hosts my blog for free, my site is now secured and fit for anything.

In other news, I’m away from the bunnies again, and you know what that means. Here is Hulk, showing everyone she’s a civilised lady and can sit at (well… under) the dinner table.

New books:

Cover of Built on Bodies by Brenna Hasset Cover of Science and the City by Laurie Winkless Cover of Goldilocks and the Water Bears by Louisa Preston Cover of Bring Back the King by Helen Pilcher

Cover of Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews Cover of The Five Daughters of the Moon by Leena Likitalo Cover of After the Bloodwood Staff Cover of The Occasional Diamond Thief by J.A. Mclachlan

Cover of Going For Stone by Philip Gross Cover of Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle

Some good non-fic picked up at the New Scientist Live event, and a bunch more fiction to keep me occupied. Hurrah!

Read this week:

Cover of Bring Back the King by Helen Pilcher Cover of Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn Cover of The Servants, by Michael Marshall Smith

 

Reviews posted this week:

The Wimsey Family, by C.S. Scott-Giles & Dorothy L. Sayers. A little piece of, well, whimsy, covering the background of Lord Peter’s family in bits and bobs pieced together from letters and piffle. 4/5 stars
Mask of Shadows, by Linsey Miller. Mostly, this felt a little bit too much like Throne of Glass and The Hunger Games, though the genderqueer protagonist was an interesting touch. 3/5 stars
A Rare Book of Cunning Device, by Ben Aaronovitch. A fun audio-exclusive. Not essential to the broader plot of Peter Grant’s story, but a good aside and a perfect narrator. 4/5 stars
Leonardo: The First Scientist, by Michael White. A readable and apparently well-sourced biography of a great thinker. 4/5 stars
Drawing Breath: the Making and Unmaking of Tuberculosis, by Kathryn Lougheed. A lot of stuff I didn’t know about TB itself, and a wake-up call if you didn’t know that TB is very far from being unmade. 4/5 stars
The Secret History of the World, by Jonathan Black. Not about what I thought it was about from other reviews, sadly. 1/5 stars
The Carpet Makers, by Andreas Eschbach. A reread of a carefully crafted favourite. 5/5 stars

Other posts:

WWW WednesdayThe weekly update on what I’ve been reading

So how’re you?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 4 October, 2017 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 Uses of Enchantment by Bruno BettelheimA couple of things, as usual. For non-fiction, I’m reading The Uses of Enchantment, by Bruno Bettelheim. I know that his views on autism, etc, are very much criticised now, but this is about fairytales and how they help to develop a child’s brain. He’s very much a psychoanalyst, which I tend to take with a grain of salt, but he still has some interesting theories about the appeal of fairytales.

Cover of Summerlong by Peter S. BeagleIn terms of fiction, I’ve just started Peter S. Beagle’s Summerlong. I have to say, I’m raising my eyebrows a little at the fact that like In Calabria, he has an older man in a romance with a younger woman. It’s less creepy-feeling than in that book, but it still has a bit of that hmmmm to it. Especially in his attraction to Lioness, the even younger character who is really the centre of the story. Not that I expect older people to turn off their attraction to younger people as such, it’s just… since that comment from Jo on In Calabria, I can’t stop noticing.

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of Bring Back the King by Helen PilcherNot very much! The last thing I finished was Helen Pilcher’s Bring Back the King, which is about de-extinction efforts. It’s light-hearted (though not hilarious, as the cover-copy might have you believe) but informative, though I knew most of the info from reading Beth Shapiro’s How to Clone A Mammoth. Very similar info about the same range of species as that book, so unless you’re absolutely mad about T-rex and Elvis (yes, she discusses “de-extincting” Elvis), I think I’d skip it if you’ve already read that.

What will you be reading next?

Cover of The Red Threads of Fortune by JY YangI’ll probably read the two books just out from Tor.com by Jy Yang, The Red Threads of Fortune and The Black Tides of Heaven. The covers look beautiful, I’m intrigued by the summaries, and I received them to review last week. I also need to get back to reading Andy Weir’s Artemis, of course! And given that I’m still not quite well, and I’m at my parents’ house with my copies of the Phryne Fisher books, I’m tempted to dive into a reread of Away with the Fairies

What are you reading?

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 30 September, 2017 by Nikki in General / 21 Comments

Good morning, folks. I’m currently in London, about to attend the New Scientist Live event, and completely full of cold. Wife brought it home last week, but now I’m in the thick of it too. Bleh. So anyway, I might not reply to comments/other people’s posts until tomorrow, but I promise I’ll get to them, as always!

Books received to review:

Cover of Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren Cover of The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang Cover of The Red Threads of Fortune by JY Yang Cover of The Wrong Stars by Tim Pratt

Thank you Tor and Angry Robot! Exciting stuff.

Books bought:

Cover of Keeping Their Marbles by Tiffany Jenkins Cover of Provenance by Ann Leckie Cover of A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

Thank you, Mum! I’ve been wanting all these for ages.

Read this week:

Cover of Snowdrift & Other Stories by Georgette Heyer Cover of Caliban's War by James S.A. Corey Cover of Bog Bodies Uncovered

Again, not the greatest reading week. It started okay, but then I got sick…

Reviews posted this week:

The Warrior Princess, by K.M. Ashman. Disappointing in execution, but still pretty awesome to see someone dealing with Welsh history. I learnt something! 2/5 stars
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore. It started out entertaining, but I got tired of the brand of humour, which mostly revolves around sex and bodily functions. 2/5 stars
Proust and the Squid, by Maryanne Wolf. About the science of how we read. I have serious questions about some of the research described. 3/5 stars
Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee. I couldn’t wrap my head around it as science fiction, but once I treated it as fantasy and just accepted the world, I loved it. 4/5 stars
Neanderthals Rediscovered, by Dimitra Pappagianni and Michael A. Morse. Not as in-depth as I’d hoped, but interesting stuff. 3/5 stars
Starlings, by Jo Walton. Unsurprisingly, I loved this collection of Jo’s short work. 4/5 stars
The Planet in a Pebble, by Jan Zalasiewicz. Not as poetic as Richard Fortey’s work, but an enjoyable survey of the rock cycle. 3/5 stars

Other posts:

The cost of reading: Books ARE expensive. Apropos of a throwaway tweet stating that books are not expensive. (Spoiler: it depends.)

No WWW Wednesday post this week, see also: I was sick! Hopefully there’ll be more activity round here in the week to come. How’s everyone else doing?

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The cost of reading: books ARE expensive

Posted 28 September, 2017 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Apropos of a twitter conversation, here is some data on the assertion that “books aren’t expensive”. Folks, please remember this is relative. Books may appear cheap to you, but they may not to someone else, and this depends on at least three factors.

  • Cost of books where you are (including availability of second-hand books)
  • Your income
  • How much you read

This post is intended to offer you some data on how the amount you read can make books pretty darn expensive for you.

I keep stats on my reading. For every book I read, I add how much it cost me, and get totals per month, per quarter and per year. So I enter £7.99 for a new paperback, £3 for a book that I got second-hand, and £0.00 for an ARC or library book, etc, etc. Two-thirds of my reading material, probably, is stuff I’ve bought, while another third is library books, ARCs or stuff I’ve borrowed or am rereading (which I don’t count again). To make it clearer, here’s an example: my reading material in the first week of August, and how much it cost.

You can see that Babylon cost me £9.99, for instance; I bought that in the UK. Catching Breath cost me £21.15 — I bought that in Amsterdam, so that’s a direct conversion from euros done on the day I bought it. In the UK you can get it for £12.99, by the way. Hengeworld cost me £2.00, because I had a second-hand copy, and Acadie cost me nada because Tor sent me an e-galley (thank you, Tor!).

All clear?

Here’s the very rough guide to how much the books I read in a quarter have cost me: £300+. So you can basically call my reading speed £100+ worth of books per month, not counting anything I get for free (a significant portion of what I consume). That means that just to keep up with my own reading speed, I need to spend £100 or more per month on new books — I’m sure you can agree that that’s too much for many people’s budgets.

I barely need to point out, too, that while books are pretty affordable in Britain, often under £10… if you live in a non-English-speaking country you can pay twice that or more for a single book. Or that many people have tiny incomes which certainly wouldn’t be able to keep up with a reading speed like mine. And that libraries are great, but may not have great stocks of the books you want to read (sorry, Leuven library, but your English-language selection isn’t expanding fast enough to keep up with me).

This isn’t a justification for piracy. It’s just noting that books are actually expensive and a luxury for some people. Just because books are easy and cheap for you to obtain doesn’t mean that holds true for everyone. Stick to the stuff that’s indisputably true — piracy deprives authors of earnings.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 23 September, 2017 by Nikki in General / 20 Comments

Good morning, folks! Here’s the second part of the great Calgary book haul, featuring all the fantasy books I got! Plus some more review copies, of course.

Bought:

Cover of Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia Cover of A Season of Spells by Sylvia Izzo Hunter Cover of Everfair by Nisi Shawl Cover of The Tower of Beowulf by Parke Godwin

Cover of The Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish Cover of American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett Cover of The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky Cover of The Innamorati by Midori Snyder

Cover of Nobody's Son by Sean Stewart Cover of I Am Morgan Le Fay by Nancy Springer Cover of Warrior and Witch by Marie Brennan Cover of The Dragon Round by Stephen S. Power

Cover of The Painter Knight by Fiona Patton Cover of The Granite Shield by Fiona Patton Cover of Devil's Call by J. Danielle Dorn

Quite a few from my backlog of wishlist, there! Looks like it’s gonna be fun.

Received to review:

Cover of Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden Cover of Ironclads by Adrian Tchiakovsky Cover of Weaver's Lament by Emma Newman Cover of A Long Day In Lychford by Paul Cornell

Cover of A Matter of Oaths by Helen S. Wright Cover of Nanoshock by K.C. Alexander Cover of Damn Fine Story by Chuck Wendig

I’ve been meaning to read Annie On My Mind forever, so yay for getting that. Well, yay to all of them (and thank you to the publishers/publicists).

Read this week:

Cover of The Tiger's Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera Cover of Damn Fine Story by Chuck Wendig Cover of Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

It hasn’t been a reading week, really, as you can see — I’ve been focusing on replaying Final Fantasy VIII with my wife, which is a different sort of fun!

Reviews posted this week:

Harkworth Hall, by L.S. Johnson. I have a couple of minor quibbles, but I was pretty hooked all the same. 4/5 stars
The Deeper Genome, by John Parrington. It starts off simple, but it does start delving into stuff I wasn’t very familiar with. Definitely worth reading. 4/5 stars
The Ghoul King, by Guy Haley. Quinn intrigues me, even though he isn’t outwardly the best person. I need moooore. 4/5 stars
The Button Box, by Lynn Knight. A lovely survey of women’s fashion through the medium of the family button box. 4/5 stars
Defy, by Sara B. Larson. The main character is a girl disguised as a boy. Everyone seems to know her secret, though. Meh. 2/5 stars
The Emerald Planet, by David Beerling. I didn’t expect to love this, but I really did — it’s fascinating stuff. 5/5 stars
Assassin’s Apprentice, by Robin Hobb. This is a reread, and I’m relieved that I still loved it. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

WWW Wednesday. What I’m reading right now (or as of Wednesday, anyway).

How’s everyone?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 20 September, 2017 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 Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette NgWhat are you currently reading?

Under the Pendulum Sun, by Jeannette Ng. I’m not far into it, but I’m quite intrigued: basically, Christian missionaries go to Fairyland to convert the Fae, and right now the book has a decidedly Gothic feel about it. I’m also reading Caliban’s War; the bits with Holden are getting a bit repetitive, since he basically blunders into trouble in the name of helping people over and over again. I like Avasarala, though.

Cover of The Tiger's Daughter by K. Arsenault RiveraWhat have you recently finished reading?

The Tiger’s Daughter, by K. Arsenault Rivera. I found it really appropriative and while the writing was pretty, it was painfully slow. The format, a letter written by one protagonist to the other, just got awkward — it described events at which both were present to the recipient. Whaaat? People wouldn’t actually do that, at least not at such length. It just felt too contrived for me.

Cover of Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline CareyWhat will you read next?

I really haven’t decided. I have a little shortlist I want to finish before the end of the month, so it might be my Kushiel’s Dart reread (finally) or getting onto the second book of my Robin Hobb reread.

What are you reading?

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