Category: General


Wyrd and Wonder 2019

Posted 18 April, 2019 by Nikki in General, Giveaways / 0 Comments

Text banner: Wyrd and Wonder: Celebrate the Fantastic (1-31 May) - plus a gorgeous stylised dragon glyph

It’s nearly time for Wyrd & Wonder! I suppose I better do the introduction if you haven’t met W&W before, Dear Reader. Wyrd & Wonder, meet the Dear Reader! Dear Reader, this is Wyrd and Wonder! It’s a month-long celebration of all things fantastical, with various readalongs, discussions, giveaways and shenanigans throughout the month.

I’m notoriously bad at keeping up with this kind of thing, but I thought I’d do a start-up post at the very least! And while I’m at it, why not take the opportunity for a giveaway?

Rules and Ways to Enter:

  • The prize: One (1) book of your choice from the fantasy books I read during the period 1st May – 31st May, to be mailed to you directly from BookDepository.com or gifted via Kindle if you’re in an eligible country (this is flexible — if you have another preference, let me know if you win!)
  • How to enter: Use the Rafflecopter below! There are three ways to enter:
    1. Click once for a free entry
    2. Leave a comment on this post. The prompt in the Rafflecopter is: “Are you doing anything for Wyrd & Wonder? (You don’t have to be for a chance to win, I promise!)”
    3. Posted about Wyrd & Wonder! Post something Wyrd & Wonder themed and give me the link to the post! Tweets don’t count, sorry, but anything longer-form does! You can do this multiple times, once per day!
  • Terms and conditions: 
    • By entering, you consent for your details to be collected by Rafflecopter for the sole purpose of verifying your entry and contacting you if you win.
    • The winner will be contacted via email and will have three days to respond before I contact a runner-up to offer them the prize.
  • Duration: Until 31st May!
  • The books you can choose from: Will be added here once May kicks off!

Welp, that should do it! Are you ready for this, folks?!

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 17 April, 2019 by Nikki in General / 0 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 Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha LeeWhat are you currently reading?

Far, far too much at once, of course! I’m partway through rereading Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee — I tore through my reread of Ninefox Gambit. The books really are pretty compulsive reading, especially now that (given it’s a reread) I know the world a little and what things are possible. I did find the magic-math a little mind-bending the first time, but it’s easier this time. Aaaaahhhh Jedao. AAAH.

I’m also reading Religion and Magic in Ancient Egypt, because I can never stay away from books about Ancient Egypt. I’m not very far into it, but it seems so far to be taking a common-sense approach that attempts to unify the various different threads of evidence (graves, texts, monuments, artefacts) rather than relying on just the mummies, or just the texts.

Cover of Hacking the Code of Life by Nessa CareyWhat have you recently finished reading?

I just finished Nessa Carey’s new book, about CRISPR (or really, gene editing a little more broadly). It’s rather short and the emphasis is much more on the pop than on the science aspect, but it does feature an extremely excellent description of how exactly CRISPR works, and the discussion of the ethics is timely and important, if rather basic because it’s addressed to a non-scientific audience.

Cover of Inheritors of the Earth by Chris D ThomasWhat will you be reading next?

*shakes Magic 8 Ball* “My sources say no”?

Well, I’m guessing I’m going to be as capricious as usual. I do know that I’d like to have fewer books on the go at once, so chances are high I’ll be finishing Inheritors of the Earth — a discussion of whether species diversity is really under threat in the Anthropocene, taking a common-sense approach to things like invasive species — and other books recently added to my currently reading pile, like Hild. Probably especially Hild, since it’s a book-club read!

What are you reading? Please do comment and let me know so I can raid your books when you’re done!

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 16 April, 2019 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

This week’s topic is “Rainy Day Reads”, and like imyril, I can’t help reading that as books for a metaphorical rainy day. So here are five books I always turn to when I want a comfort read — and five books I’ve been saving for a rainy day.

Comfort Reads for a Rainy Day:

Cover of Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart Cover of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers Cover of Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw Cover of A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

  1. The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. I mean, come on, you knew I was going to say it. I adore the decency of Maia — he’s not perfect: he can be petty and waspish and he does things he regrets, and he’s not always the sharpest crayon in the box either, but he tries his damnedest and he wins hearts (including mine) because of it. <3
  2. Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart. I used to be rather snobbish about these even as I enjoyed them, so here I am eating humble pie. There’s something about Mary Stewart’s ability with settings and her masterful heroes that works, even as I get annoyed with them — the hero of this book does not comport himself beautifully, to say the least. But there is some lovely stuff about grief, and learning to love again, and… I don’t know! It just works for me. It helps that Charity is a badass.
  3. A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers. It made me cry in the bath, but it’s still a favourite. It’s all… warm and squishy, even as it’s occasionally upsetting and harrowing.
  4. Strange Practice, by Vivian Shaw. It’s a newcomer to the list, I’m sure — I think I’ve written a comfort reads list before, at least — but I’ve been craving it when feeling down and ugh-y, so I guess it qualifies by now! I’ve read it twice, and I really kinda just want to read it again. Now.
  5. A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan. Which is funny, considering I didn’t love it the first time I read it. But it grew on me, rather the same way that Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey grew on me. (And I read them both at around the same time, actually…)

Books I’ve Been Saving for a Rainy Day:

Cover of Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers Cover of The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson Cover of The Books of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin and Charles Vess Cover of The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin Cover of Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

  1. Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers. I’ve actually started it now, but for a while there it was just sat on my pile, gently tempting…
  2. The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt, by Toby Wilkinson. I might have an odd idea of comfort, but… there’s something nice about having this waiting for me somewhere along the line. I hope it’s a good overview, and not too similar to John Romer’s volumes, but either way I’ll probably enjoy it for the familiar magic of Egyptian archaeology and history.
  3. The Books of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin, illustrated by Charles Vess. Technically, the story isn’t new to me, but this illustrated version will be! It promises to be a real pleasure, which I’ve been putting off for the right moment, when I need it!
  4. The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin. I did actually start this, got partway through it, got distracted, and then sort of ‘banked’ it to await the full series. Which is all out now and has been for some time, but I know it’ll be good, so… it just kind of waits there.
  5. Republic of Thieves, by Scott Lynch. To the eternal frustration of Lisa and Mum. I’m in no hurry to be left hanging for the next book like I was after Red Seas Under Red Skies, people!

And an honourable mention to The Tethered Mage, which imyril has been tempting me with on Litsy all this week…

So that’s my rainy day reads — what’re yours?

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 13 April, 2019 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Hey guys! I’m back from my holiday, which included a trip to Amsterdam to ABC (mostly for me) and Stephen and Penelope (mostly for Lisa). I was good and stuck well within budget, but I do have some new shinies! I also have a new ereader: I’ve switched back to Kindle, since I didn’t like some of the design choices for the Kobo Clara, so I have a Kindle Paperwhite (2018 edition) now. By next week, my personalised case should have arrived to be shown off, too…

For now, here goes the haul!

Received to review:

Cover of Ragged Alice by Gareth L. Powell Cover of Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

Bought:

Cover of The Afterward by E. K. Johnson Cover of Atlas Alone by Emma Newman Cover of Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K.J. Parker

Finished this week:

Cover of King Arthur: The Making of the Legend by Nicholas J Higham Cover of Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones Cover of Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh Cover of Ragged Alice by Gareth L. Powell Cover of Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Reviews posted this week:

The Edge of Memory, by Patrick Nunn. I have concerns about this one. The basic premise is okay, but then I think it tries to go too far and gets rather circular in argument. Interesting, but the methodology doesn’t seem sound. 2/5 stars
Rose Daughter, by Robin McKinley. Still a nice retelling, with some definite advantages over the earlier Beauty, but ultimately not a favourite. 3/5 stars
Spirals in Time, by Helen Scales. Are you fascinated by shelled creatures? If so, this is probably more for you than for me. I got a little bored before the end, to be honest. 2/5 stars
The Unexpected Truth about Animals, by Lucy Cooke. Kind of meh in the end? Much of it was not unexpected at all, for me. Some interesting titbits, though! 2/5 stars
The Human Planet, by Mark Maslin and Simon Lewis. Got a bit bogged down in how to define the Anthropocene, for me, instead of sticking to the slightly broader topic of human impacts on Earth. A lot of fascinating stuff, though! 3/5 stars

Other posts:

WWW Wednesday. The usual weekly update!

Out and about:

NEAT science: ‘More accurate gene editing? Some CRISPR news, with a dose of caution.

It’s been a busy week — I feel like I need a holiday from my holiday. How are you guys doing? Reading anything awesome?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 10 April, 2019 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.

Cover of Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. SayersWhat are you currently reading?

A couple of things, me being me, but most actively I’m actually rereading two books: I’m mid-Wimsey reread, of course, so I’m partway through Unnatural Death. I’m kind of enjoying how obvious Agatha Dawson and Clara Whittaker’s lesbian relationship is, while wondering what Sayers thought of it — the narrative is pretty non-judgemental, but the preface suggests that Sayers put her own words in Miss Climpson’s disapproving mouth. Kind of disappointing, if so; I always rather thought Wimsey didn’t care.

I’m also rereading Enchanted Glass, by Diana Wynne Jones; I remembered being fond of it, and I am, though the only concrete thing I seem to have remembered about it was the line: “I seem to have excalibured this knife.” It’s rather charming, and I do enjoy the way she didn’t explain much. As she rightly said in an essay somewhere, kids work this stuff out. It’s adults who expect everything to be pinned down and explained. Hopefully I retain enough of the child to just enjoy.

Cover of King Arthur: The Making of the Legend by Nicholas J HighamWhat have you recently finished reading?

King Arthur, by Nicholas Higham. He examines all the various historical origins for King Arthur… and rejects them one by one. His evidence seems thorough and sound, though of course it always helps that I’m in agreement with him. He covered all the fictional texts I would’ve expected, and the bibliography is very thorough (although I couldn’t find what edition of Malory he used, and he did persist in saying Le Morte d’Arthur, instead of the correct Le Morte Darthur), so all in all I’m inclined to believe it’s all pretty sound. Romans, Sarmatians, Narts, Greeks — all dismissed as sources, after discussion and presenting the evidence for and against.

Cover of Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky ChambersWhat are you reading next?

I really don’t know. I’d like to focus on Record of a Spaceborn Few, and I still need to read The Priory of the Orange Tree to the end. I’ve got rather behind on reading during this holiday, which has involved a lot of people and not enough time using the opportunity to hide from chores to just craft things and read all day. I’ll be travelling back to the UK tomorrow, and I have the radioplay of Unnatural Death and some cross-stitch for the drive up from Ebbsfleet to Yorkshire, but I’ll be reading Record of a Spaceborn Few on the train, probably.

What are you currently reading?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 3 April, 2019 by Nikki in General / 5 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 My Brother Michael by Mary StewartWhat are you currently reading?

After reading some non-fiction about Crete, I’m off to Delphi with a reread of My Brother Michael; Camilla is not my favourite of Stewart’s heroines (that’s probably Charity, from Madam, Will You Talk?), but the atmosphere is amazing, as ever.

I’ve also started on Becky Chambers’ Record of A Spaceborn Few, because it’s been sat by my desk for too long and I couldn’t resist. She’s broken the record and made me tear up in twelve pages. I’m getting susceptible! And finally-ish, I started on Nicola Griffith’s Hild, for my Habitica bookclub read. I really enjoy all the sensory stuff, the way Hild hyperfocuses on the scents and smallest movements around her, but I kept losing track of the politics when I was trying to read it last night.

Cover of The Bull of Minos by Leonard CottrellWhat have you recently finished reading?

The last thing was my reread of Clouds of Witness, I think! And before that, The Bull of Minos — super out of date, and rather fanboyish about Arthur Evans and Heinrich Schliemann, rather than actually being informative about the Minoan civilisation. I can’t remember where that got recommended to me, but tsk, tsk, whoever/whatever you were!

Cover of The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha ShannonWhat will you read next?

Well, I think I say this every week, but I really should get back to The Priory of the Orange Tree. I should load up my ereader and take it with me on the little trip to Belgium starting on Friday. Other than that, I’ve been rather wanting to reread Ancillary Justice, and to be quite honest, I seem to be reading more and more overall (including more from my backlog) after making a firm resolution to be like the Wimseys and do “As my Whimsy takes me”, and reread whatever I like.

What are you reading?

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 2 April, 2019 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

It’s been a while since I did a Top Ten Tuesday post, almost since That Artsy Reader Girl started hosting, but this theme was irresistible to me. This week, the prompt is Ten Things That Make Me Pick Up A Book. The first five relate to what makes me buy a book in the first place; the second five refer to what makes me read the book in a particular moment!

Getting a purchase

  1. An author I love. You say “N.K. Jemisin”, “Marie Brennan” or “Guy Gavriel Kay”, and I say “now plz”. I’m not saying that these authors are infallible (why Ysabel, GGK?) but they have a good track record with me, and at the very least I know I enjoy their writing on a mechanical level.
  2. A series I love. Even more so than #1, this is key! I was devouring Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent books, and I will pounce on the latest in a series I’m loving.
  3. It caught my eye. Mostly due to the cover. I mean, that’s what they’re designed for; I’m not ashamed of that! A bad cover won’t put me off, but a good one might just pique my interest. It won’t be the only factor, but it’ll definitely prompt me to give the book a longer look. One book I picked up on that basis was Max Gladstone’s Three Parts Dead! Hell of a cover.
  4. Enthusiasm from certain friends and bloggers. I don’t think there’s a person in the world who shares my taste exactly (my wife isn’t a fan of Cherie Priest; my mother didn’t get why I love The Goblin Emperor so immoderately) but there are definitely people whose opinions will prompt me to check out a book. They include Mum, Lisa, my sister (though the influence mostly goes the other way), Calmgrove, imyril, Mogsy, anyone I know from of old in the Alternative World book club, and Jo.
  5. It’s on a topic I’m currently interested in. Right now, if it’s about embroidery, fabric, sewing, Egypt, Byzantium, mummies, CRISPR, tuberculosis or flu, I want it! Honestly, if I don’t know much about the topic, I might well want it anyway (I love learning new things!), but my current preoccupations have an even better chance.

Time to read!

So, book. You’ve made it past the purchasing filter. How do you get me to read you? Well… some or all of the above should be true, and then it’s down to:

  1. The first few pages. I’m terribly prone to picking up a book, reading a couple of pages out of mild curiosity, and then ending up reading the whole thing.
  2. Book club pick. I run a book club based on my own total whim. There’s usually no voting on the exact book (though at the moment I’m asking for guiding votes on the genre to pick), and mostly I just pick up a book off my shelf that I would like to have read. Sometimes it’s something I’m hesitant about for no real reason, or something huge. Whatever it is, the book club pick usually persuades me to get on with it and read the book. Same goes for other book clubs — if I was a member of any at the moment — and readalongs. Which reminds me that I want to join the Wyrd and Wonder readalongs!
  3. Comfort. This is mostly a reread thing, though there are some authors I’d read for comfort just on principle. If I’m reaching for Earthsea or The Dark is Rising, or particularly The Goblin Emperor and Dorothy L. Sayers, I might well be going through a rough time.
  4. Mood. I don’t quite mean the same thing as #3, here. It’s more like what theme or tropes I’m in the mood for. Space opera, fantasy, non-fiction… I tend to go on a spree reading books of a certain genre or on a certain topic.
  5. Contrariness and whim. If I’m not supposed to be reading it — say I’m supposed to do a readalong next month — I’ll probably read it now. Because… because I’m me. So there.

So there you have it!

What makes you pick up a book?

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Weekly roundup

Posted 30 March, 2019 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Good morning, folks! I missed my STS post last week due to sporadic posting, which was mostly because my WordPress install (or rather, the security enabled by my host) occasionally decides to not allow me to insert images into my posts. But here I am again!

Also, I know I’m doing badly at returning comments and dropping by people’s blogs. I’m still adjusting to some schedule changes with work, and doing a bad job of keeping everything balanced. I haven’t forgotten you all!

Books received to review:

Cover of Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Books read in the last two weeks:

Cover of A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine Cover of Lucy: The Beginnings of Mankind Cover of Glamour in Glass, by Mary Robinette Kowal Cover of Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley

Cover of Watch the Wall, My Darling, by Jane Aiken Hodge Cover of Without a Summer Cover of The Lost Girls by Sarah Painter Cover of T. Rex and the Crater of Doom by Walter Alvarez

Cover of Whose Body by Dorothy L. Sayers Cover of The Human Planet by Simon L. Lewis and Mark A. Maslin

Reviews posted since the last roundup:

How the Irish Saved Civilization, by Thomas Cahill. Rather misleadingly titled: it’s more about how Irish monasteries copied Greek and Roman works so they weren’t lost. So a very specific definition of civilization. 2/5 stars
Beauty, by Robin McKinley. A relatively simple retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but effective! 4/5 stars
The Etruscans, by Lucy Shipley. Not a subject I knew much about, and this book makes a beautiful introduction to various Etruscan objects and what we understand about the people. 4/5 stars
The Lost Girls, by Sarah Painter. I’m honestly still pondering the review and rating, even though it’s already posted. There’s definitely interesting stuff, but I found the ending kind of unsatisfying, and the romance particularly so. But then, that’s not really what the book was doing, in the end… 3/5 stars
A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine. This didn’t quite work for me, partially because it’s very like two series I really love and admire. 3/5 stars
T. Rex and the Crater of Doom, by Walter Alvarez. Engaging and surprisingly riveting for me, given I knew the theory in quite a bit of detail. Alvarez is great at explaining the evidence. 4/5 stars
The Golden Thread, by Kassia St Clair. A history of fabric, from Viking sails to modern high performance fabric. Pretty riveting, from my point of view! 4/5 stars

Other posts:

WWW Wednesday. The update on what I’ve been reading this week.

Out and about:

NEAT science: ‘The Red Queen.‘ Inspiration from classic children’s literature in the world of biology.
NEAT science: ‘A cool customer.’ Another vertebrate without haemoglobin!

So that’s it; that’s the update. How’s everyone else doing? Busy week? Reading anything good?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 27 March, 2019 by Nikki in General / 0 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 T. Rex and the Crater of Doom by Walter AlvarezWhat are you currently reading?

Whose Body, again, because we’ve been rewatching Strong Poison and Have His Carcase while I was stitching something and needed familiar background noise. It’s as entertaining as always. Equally entertaining is T. Rex and the Crater of Doom, by Walter Alvarez. Sounds sensational, from the title, but it’s a pop-science explanation of the evidence for the KT boundary impact — better known as the extinction event in which the dinosaurs perished. It’s really easy to read; I’m enjoying it.

Cover of The Lost Girls by Sarah PainterWhat have you recently finished reading?

I think the last thing was Sarah Painter’s The Lost Girls, which I just posted the review of. Other than that, it was my reread of Without a Summer; I love the way Kowal examines the issues of the historical period with a fantastical twist, and explores the implications of her changes.

Cover of The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha ShannonWhat will you be reading next?

I should get stuck back into The Priory of the Orange Tree, honestly! Maybe I need to grab an ebook version, so I can read it in bed…

What are you currently reading?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 20 March, 2019 by Nikki in General / 0 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 Watch the Wall, My Darling, by Jane Aiken HodgeWhat are you currently reading?

Most actively, Watch the Wall, My Darling, by Jane Aiken Hodge. I remember liking at least one of her romances before, and I wouldn’t mind this one if it finished soon… but instead, it has a climax-y feeling at 50% of the way through, and according to reviews it has a whole weird bit to go. I’m pretty sure I am going to stop enjoying it. But I’ll give it a bit more of a chance…

Cover of Glamour in Glass, by Mary Robinette KowalWhat have you recently finished reading?

Glamour in Glass, which was a reread; this series has really grown on me, and I enjoyed reading the author’s note about how the particular themes of this book came about. And I do enjoy Jane and Vincent’s relationship; it is certainly loving, but it isn’t perfect — but they communicate.

Cover of The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha ShannonWhat will you be reading next?

I should read more of The Priory of the Orange Tree! It’s just so massive I can’t read it in bed, and that’s when I’ve been doing most of my reading, but I plan to get back into that because I was tearing through it when I had a quiet weekend.

What are you reading?

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