Category: General

Stacking the Shelves

Posted 20 January, 2018 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

Good morning, folks! It’s been a slow reading week for me, with one really disappointing book, but I’ve got an assignment done and I’ve been doing quite a bit of work, so that’s not bad!

Received to review:

Cover of The Toy Maker by Robert Dinsdale Cover of Semiosis by Sue Burke Cover of Quietus by Tristan Palmgren Cover of Smoke Eaters by Sean Grigsby

I really should stop requesting until I’m all caught up, but it was so tempting…

Read this week:

Cover of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Cover of Restless Creatures by Wilkinson Cover of The Written World by Martin Puchner

Four stars: Six of Crows, The Written World.
Two stars: Restless Creatures.

Reviewed this week:

The Power of Babel, by John McWhorter. Surprised me somewhat, since it contradicted some of the stuff I’d always read about languages, e.g. that only children turn pidgins into creoles where they become actual full languages. 3/5 stars
Arabella of Mars, by David D. Levine. So much fun, and a really quick read. Like a classic adventure story. 4/5 stars
Unnatural Death, by Dorothy L. Sayers. The motive and method are just so clever in this one. 4/5 stars
Priam’s Gold, by Caroline Moorehead. More of a biography of Heinrich Schliemann than really being about Troy, though there is some interesting stuff on when the Russians looted the treasure from Germany. 4/5 stars
The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. I reread it again, so no surprise that I loved it again. 5/5 stars
Lumberjanes to the Max: Volume 1, by Noelle Stephenson et al. So much fun, and really cute too. 5/5 stars
Fossils: The Key to the Past, by Richard Fortey. Not Fortey’s most fascinating work in terms of the prose, but all the colour photography and reconstructions make it worth having just to look at! 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Top Ten Tuesday. My bookish resolutions for 2018!
WWW Wednesday. The latest on my TBR pile.

How’s everyone doing? Good week, bad week, somewhere in the middle?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 17 January, 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 Restless Creatures by WilkinsonRestless Creatures, by Matt Wilkinson. It’s evolutionary biology focused on the importance of locomotion in selection, and in theory it should be right up my alley… in practice, I just kind of want to have finished it. It’s not bad and I don’t feel like it’d be fair to drop it… but it’s mostly either principles I’m not interested in (physics of motion), principles I know extremely well already (homology in HOX genes), or principles I both know well and am not interested in (physics of flight; blame my years as an RAF cadet).

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of Six of Crows by Leigh BardugoSix of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo. I found it a really quick read, and I’m pretty into some of the character dynamics… though I have some reservations about how some things are going to turn out. It’s a lot of fun, anyway, and I’m glad I picked it for this month’s book club read on Habitica.

What will you be reading next?

Cover of Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette KowalApart from the follow-up to Six of Crows, I want to knuckle down and actually finish my reread of Kushiel’s Dart — I think I only stalled because I was busy at the time, and I’m about to hand in an assignment and have at least a few days’ breathing space. Other than that, from my ‘sell me a book’ post, I want to pick up Mary Robinette Kowal’s Ghost Talkers. 

What about you? What’re you reading?

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 16 January, 2018 by Nikki in General / 12 Comments

Top Ten Tuesday has moved homes! You can now find it at That Artsy Reader Girl‘s blog. Since I did want to post something about this topic — “bookish resolutions/goals” — I thought I’d join in again, at least for this week!

  1. Read for joy. I still keep on reading books I think I “ought” to read, or picking up something from my backlog just because I was interested in it once and I no longer am. There’s space for that, when it’s a topic I want to learn about or something I’d like to comment on, but this year my resolution is definitely to read primarily for joy.
  2. Write reviews within 24 hours of finishing the book. I used to do this, and then I fell into bad habits. No more writing of vague reviews because the book didn’t leave much of an impression and it’s been three weeks…
  3. Keep up my practice of commenting on at least one other blog per day. I’ve been doing this almost every day for two years now, and it might not be ideal for my reading list — argh, so many books I want — but it’s a great way to keep in touch with other bloggers.
  4. Earn my book purchases. Me and my wife have a system we call “Adulting: The Game”. We get stars for stuff we do towards various goals like keeping up with chores, eating more healthily, keeping up with class, taking care of our finances… I get to buy one book per twenty stars I earn. (But it’s okay for me to use Amazon vouchers, etc; that counts as gifts.)
  5. Read from my backlog. Last year’s goal was 200, and I didn’t make it. This year… we’ll see. But I’m doing well so far, with eight of the ten books I’ve read being from my backlog.
  6. Catch up with ARCs. I’m going to try to stop looking at Netgalley and requesting stuff. Of course, that’s partly fuelled by the fact that I can only “wish for” books from a lot of publishers on Netgalley now, but it’s also because I have one heckuva backlog there.
  7. Give up on Goodreads. I used Goodreads to catalogue my books for years, but now I’m just using it as a way to get some book recommendations from reviewers I’ve known for years and to post my own reviews for them. Gone are the days of making any obsessive searches to get all my lists to agree.
  8. Reread when I want. This kind of goes with “read for joy” — I love to reread, but I haven’t been doing it as much as I’d like because I feel like I should only be providing “fresh” content for my readers. Pffft, half the time people don’t even know that I’ve posted a review for a particular book before; there’s no drop in interest for my reviews of books I’ve reread. I think enthusiasm is more valuable to readers anyway.
  9. Go to bed a little earlier than necessary to get in some time to read. Or, as me and my wife put it, “bookbed”. We did that a lot before Christmas, and it was nice. Time to resurrect it, if only because it’s entertaining to watch Lisa gasp and cuss as she reads James S.A. Corey’s books.
  10. Read things that scare me. Whether that’s reading books about bugs, physics that turns my brain inside out, or just massive fantasy tomes that would squash my bunnies flat if I dropped them, it’s always good to challenge yourself. There’s a big place for comfort and familiarity in my reading repertoire, but it’s also important to step into the unknown.

So what’re your resolutions?

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 13 January, 2018 by Nikki in General / 20 Comments

Good morning, folks! I sort of haven’t got new books to show off today… but I sort of have, as a preorder arrived on my Kindle this week and I realised I didn’t feature a book I bought just after Christmas. So here they are!

Cover of Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan Mcguire Cover of Failure to Communicate by Kaia Sønderby

Books read this week:

Cover of Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn Cover of In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan Cover of The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukharjee Cover of Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine

Two stars: Heroine Complex.
Four stars: In Other Lands, Arabella of Mars.
Five stars: The Emperor of All Maladies.

Reviews posted this week:

The Unbelievable Gwenpool: Believe It, by Christopher Hastings et al. Not quite my thing, but fun and great colours. 3/5 stars
Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell. A reread just for the pure fun of it, and it was very satisfying. 5/5 stars
Tutankhamen, by Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt. I loved this as a kid, and even now it still fascinated me. It’s a great account of Tutankhamen’s tomb and the earliest theories about his life. 4/5 stars
Heroine Complex, by Sarah Kuhn. It’s fun in many ways, but not for me. 2/5 stars
Bones of Contention, by Paul Chambers. A fascinating retrospective of the Archaeopteryx fossils and what they’ve meant to the scientific community. 4/5 stars
The Sutton Hoo Story, by Martin Carver. A survey of the Sutton Hoo site and the archaeology done there since excavations began. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Sell me a book! The catch is, it’s gotta be a book from my backlog.
WWW Wednesday. What I’ve been reading, what I’m going to read.

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 10 January, 2018 by Nikki in General / 12 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 In Other Lands by Sarah Rees BrennanI’m partway through Sarah Rees Brennan’s In Other Lands. I haven’t enjoyed her work that much before, but this one is working quite well for me. I love the main character’s snark and how he uses it in self-defence, and also the commentaries on the genre (because of course).

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of Heroine Complex by Sarah KuhnI haven’t actually been reading very much in the past week or so. Suddenly got all tired and had to focus on just getting work done! The last thing I read was Heroine Complex, by Sarah Kuhn; enjoyable in many ways, but I just didn’t want to stay with the main character given the running joke about her being dead inside.

What will you be reading next?

Cover of Arabella of Mars by David D. LevineI don’t know yet! Per my “sell me a book” promise, my next fiction book will be David D. Levine’s Arabella of Mars, but I’m tempted to read Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies first. I’ve been doing a lot of transcription work involving stuff about cancer, and I feel like knowing more about it — from a less clinical point of view, perhaps, since this has all been about clinical trials and five year survival rates.

So what are you reading, folks?

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Sell me a book!

Posted 7 January, 2018 by Nikki in General / 21 Comments

This is your opportunity to get me to read something, anything, you think I really ought to read. There’s just one catch.

It has to be from my backlog.

Quick access links:

2011 Backlog.
2012 Backlog.
2013 Backlog.
2014 Backlog.
2015 Backlog.
2016 Backlog.
2017 Backlog.

So pick a favourite book, or something you’d like to hear my thoughts on, and ‘sell’ me it by letting me know exactly why it’s interesting or exciting or toe-curlingly awesome. In return, I promise I will endeavour to read it within a month of this post, unless I get so many responses that it’s unfeasible (unlikely, given my usual commenting rate on here).

(Hint: if you think of something but you’re not sure if I own it, you could just use my blog’s search function. That also goes for checking whether I’ve already read it.)

Yes, this is a shameless way of trying to get myself excited about books I might’ve forgotten all about.

Some examples from my friends elsewebs

Ryan @ SpecFic Junkie:

I’m reading Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are [Frans de Waal]?_ right now, and while it has some overlap with The Bonobo and the Atheist with regards to animal data and anecdotes, it’s got a whole bunch of new stuff and feels great.

Saga: Volume 6 [Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples] I haven’t read yet, but I WILL READ WITH YOU because SAGA

The Ghost Brigades [John Scalzi] is a good read, fun Scalzi time, but I mostly recommend it because The Lost Colony is as good as Old Man’s War and I’ve got reviews here.

I’m currently re-reading God’s War [Kameron Hurley] and alkjdflkasjdf loving it more than the first time I read it. Bug-magic, queerness, a society that’s predominantly female and racism and war and it’s really, really good.

Zoo City [Lauren Beukes] was really, really good. An unfiltered take on a non-Western world with non-Western magic and unf.

redphoenix of Habitica: 

I read Caraval [Stephanie Garber] recently. If you enjoyed the worldbuilding of the Night Circus [Erin Morgenstern], it’s in a very similar vein and I found the plot to be less predictable than Night Circus’s (but thoroughly enjoyed both!). Additional note for Caraval: the emotional driving force for that book is the character’s love for her sister. As someone with younger sister, I could definitely relate, and the plot doesn’t just treat the sister as a macguffin.

Arabella of Mars [David D. Levine] is a pitch perfect Victorian-era-girls-having-adventures romp (and we were on a panel with the author of that book at the Nebula conference last year)

I thoroughly enjoyed Jade City [Fonda Lee] (NB I read more than one Godfather book and also lots of martial arts; it was great to read something of both over-the-top genres so I’d be curious as to what you thought of it)

Ghost Talkers [Mary Robinette Kowal] made me cry and miss my husband, so you may also want to time that for proximity to Lisa. It _sucked_ not to be able to go find him for comfort snuggles.

Sparrow Hill Road [Seanan McGuire] is one of my desert island books!!!

If you dream of flying or paragliding, Updraft [Fran Wilde] is perfect (with some solid aerodynamics)

Lemoness of Habitica:

Seconding Ghost Talkers <3

Across the Wall [Garth Nix] is a collection so not all of them are equally good but there were a few in there that I thoroughly enjoyed!!

SIX OF CROWS [Leigh Bardugo]. PLEASE READ SIX OF CROWS. The pace is excellent, the characters are complex and compelling, and it really does feel like the most satisfying of heists in terms of the way information is withheld and revealed. I will say that Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom are really two halves of a whole, so I’d have them both on hand to read at once!!

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Unstacking the Shelves

Posted 6 January, 2018 by Nikki in General / 12 Comments

Hey everyone!

Perhaps it’s no surprise, but after the epic barrage of books for Christmas, I didn’t get anything this week. So I just get to showcase the books I read!

Books read last week

 Cover of The Unbelievable Gwenpool: Believe It Cover of Lumberjanes Vol 1 Cover of The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers Cover of Fossils by Richard Fortey

Five stars: The Goblin Emperor (reread), Lumberjanes to the Max vol 1.
Four stars: Fossils: The Key to the PastThe Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (reread).
Three stars: The Unbelievable Gwenpool: Believe It.

Reviews posted this week:

Prime Meridian, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I feel like saying too much about this would be a disservice — not that it has an epic plot to be spoiled, but I don’t think I’d be able to convey the right things. 4/5 stars
Imagining Head-Smashed-In, by Jack W. Brink. About the buffalo jump called Head-Smashed-In, this goes into all the details of how people made the buffalo jumps work and why they needed them. It goes into a lot of detail I didn’t really find interesting at times, but it’s definitely a great window into a different way of life. 4/5 stars
The Statues that Walked, by Carl Lipo and Terry Hunt. Fascinating stuff about Rapa Nui, better known as Easter Island, and debunks the “ecocide” theory credibly. 4/5 stars
The Earth After Us, by Jan Salasiewicz. More geology-focused than I hoped (perhaps not surprising, given the author’s other book I’ve read) but it does have a good chapter at the end that was more what I was looking for. 3/5 stars
The Glass Town Game, by Catherynne M. Valente. This feels very like the Fairyland books, but if you’re a fan of both those and the Brontes, this might well be right up your alley. 4/5 stars
Winterwood, by Dorothy Eden. Not the most original or fascinating Gothic-romance-mystery I’ve ever read, but solid enough fun. 3/5 stars
Suspicious Minds, by Rob Brotherton. Not about conspiracy theories as such, but about why we believe in them. I found it interesting, though not always surprising. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

2017 stats. What I read, when I read it, and other such fascinating stats from 2017’s reading year.
Game of Books 2018. Did you join in my little game last year? Whether you did or not, you miiiight be interested in checking out this post which explains how I earn points by reading whatever I want, instead of a strict challenge.

So how’s everyone’s 2018 looking so far? Read anything good?

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Game of Books 2018

Posted 4 January, 2018 by Nikki in General / 15 Comments

It’s time for another game. A game to keep me reading my backlog.

A game of books!

A "Game of Books" image, based on the Iron Throne

By some miraculous alchemy, I figure out how many points I want to aim for in a year, and then I can earn them in various ways through reading. It goes like this…

PointsAcquisitionLengthJoy Factor (calculated before reading)SeriesHow long did it take to read?
0Comic or novellaFrom the bookshop straight to my eyeballsNot in a seriesLess than a week
12018, borrowed, ARC, etc250+MUST READ NOWFirst in a seriesLess than two weeks
22017400+It can waitNext in a seriesLess than three weeks
32015-2016500+I'm not exactly pumpedFinishes a seriesLess than a month
42013-2014600+Do I have to?Less than two months
52011-2012700+WHY?OMG NIKKI

So say I have a book I purchased back in 2013… let’s say I read A Shadow in Summer. Purchased in 2013, so that’s four points for acquisition. It’s 336 pages long according to Goodreads, so that’s one point for length. I’d rate it as “it can wait” — it’s something I intend to read, but I don’t feel a burning need — so that’s three points if I finally get round to it. It’s the first in a series, so that’s one point, and… let’s say I devour it overnight, so I get no points for “how long?” Altogether, that’s nine points toward my monthly goal of 120, chosen based on my progress last year.

To work this out for yourself, you might want to see how many points you’d get for an average easy read from your TBR pile, and then add them up and multiply by however many of those you’d read in a month. That was my original reasoning, and it worked quite well in encouraging me to read longer books which would reduce my overall number of books per month, but get the same amount of points.

I have a template spreadsheet all ready here, and you’re welcome to steal the formatting from my own (locked for editing) sheet if you want to add in more of the bells and whistles. Feel free to customise it however you want, for your own goals; I only ask that you have fun and credit me for the idea, with a link back here.

Let the games begin!

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2017 Stats

Posted 1 January, 2018 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i bawb!

That is, Happy New Year to everyone, if you don’t speak Welsh. (It’s okay. Neither do I.)

I’m not sure how many people will be interested in this, but I saw Chuckles’ pie charts and decided I rather liked the idea — if nothing else, for the sake of self-reflection! I’ve tried not to be too excessive, though. Below you’ll find a line graph showing how many books I read per month, and then for comparison, how many points I earned in Game of Books for each month. Below that there’s a pie chart showing what genres I’ve been reading, and another showing the sources of the books I read. You can click to embiggen. I used this site to make my graphs.

Graph showing number of books read per month with peaks in January, May, July and November Graph showing the number of points I gained in Game of Books, with minor peaks in January, May and November, and one major peak in July.

Pie chart showing what genres I read this year, with science, fantasy, SF and history taking up the biggest portions in that order Pie chart showing the sources of books read in 2017, with the largest segment being borrowed/ARCs, followed by backlog, bought 2017 and rereads, in that order

A note on how I calculated genres: on the rare occasions when a book was hard to pin down, I marked it in multiple genres, but for the most part I assigned each book a single genre.

Other stats:

Total read: 311
Number of rereads: 21
Total page count: 56,886
Most-read genre per month:

  • January: Fantasy
  • February: Science
  • March: Science
  • April: Fantasy
  • May: Science
  • June: Science
  • July: Fantasy
  • August: History
  • September: Fantasy
  • October: Science
  • November: Fantasy
  • December: History

Number of ratings:

  • Five stars: 16
  • Four stars: 155
  • Three stars: 105
  • Two stars: 29
  • One star: 6

I was a bit surprised by some of this — clearly my comics consumption has been hit hard by the fact that I was boycotting Marvel while Steve Rogers was a Nazi. My non-fiction consumption has gone sharply up, but given I’m in my third year of a science degree, I’m not terribly surprised by the amount of science I’m reading. SF was a sizeable genre throughout the year, but never beat out non-fiction or fantasy for being the most read in a single month.

Perhaps most surprising to me was the fact that I’ve actually read quite a bit of horror this year. It’s not really my kind of genre at all!

This is probably the least amount I’ve read in terms of total number of books in many years, but I have tackled my backlog somewhat and kept much more on top of reading the books I bought than usual. Game of Books worked out well, prompting me to read books that had been hanging around for longer, but I can always do better next year. (And yes, Game of Books is returning; I’ll make the spreadsheet later today, but probably won’t post about it until tomorrow. Let me know if you need a link sooner!)

It’s been a rough year in some ways, but we’ve survived it and here we are. Here’s to 2018 — may it bring us all joy (and many books).

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 30 December, 2017 by Nikki in General / 18 Comments

Good morning, all! I hope you had a good festive season, whatever you celebrate — or a nice week, if you don’t celebrate! I certainly did, and I’ve got a heck of a haul to share with you guys.

New fiction

Cover of The End of the Day by Claire North Cover of The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman Cover of Runebinder by Alex R. Kahler

Cover of The Seafarer's Kiss by Julia Ember Cover of Jade City by Fonda Lee Cover of Ars Historica by Marie Brennan

I’ve been looking forward to some of these for quite a while, so I’m excited!

New non-fiction

Cover of Power, Sex, Suicide by Nick Lane Cover of The Story of Pain by Joanna Bourke Cover of A History of Ancient Egypt Volume 2 by John Romer Cover of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are by Frans de Waal

Cover of Fossils by Richard Fortey Cover of Kin by John Ingraham Cover of Improbable Destinies by Jonathan Losos Cover of How Language Began by Daniel Everett

Cover of Into the Grey Zone by Adrian Owen Cover of The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu by Charlie English Cover of Almost Human by Lee Berger Cover of The Sutton Hoo Story by Martin Carver

Quite a stack, on all kinds of topics — but that’s me all over.


Cover of Captain Marvel: Alien Nation Cover of Spider-Gwen: Weapon of Choice Cover of The Unbelievable Gwenpool: Believe It Cover of Lumberjanes Vol 1

I’m interested to see what the new run of Captain Marvel is like! I did not like the direction they went with her for Civil War II etc, but this is a new volume one…

Books read this week:

Cover of How The Zebra Got Its Stripes by Leo Grasset Cover of Cro-Magnon by Brian Fagan Cover of The Sutton Hoo Story by Martin Carver Cover of Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers

Yeesh, I need to fit in some more fiction sometime soon!

Reviews posted: 

Three Stones Make A Wall, by Eric H. Cline. This was a really fascinating survey of a lot of different archaeological sites, which mostly pointed me at things I want to read more about. 5/5 stars
The Intimate Bond, by Brian Fagan. An interesting account of how human lives have been entwined with those of animals, for a long time. 3/5 stars
Murder in Montparnasse, by Kerry Greenwood. Better on a second reading, with a lot going on. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

WWW Wednesday. Updates from the TBR pile this week.

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