Category: General

Weekly Roundup

Posted January 26, 2020 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

I didn’t manage this last week, did I? Whoops. Still, there have been no books entering the Bibliophibian compound — and a lot exiting it; stand by for a post nattering about how I chose what to cull and why I think Marie Kondo has some really good ideas.

Here’s what I’ve been reading since my last roundup:

Cover of Biased by Jennifer Eberhardt Cover of Captain Ingram's Inheritance by Carola Dunn Cover of Jackdaw by K.J. Charles Cover of Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire Cover of Bloodlust & Bonnets by Emily McGovern

Reviews posted since the last roundup:

Flight of Magpies, by K.J. Charles. The end of Stephen and Lucien’s story, and it doesn’t skimp on the drama or the HEA. 4/5 stars
Biased: The New Science of Race and Inequality, by Jennifer Eberhardt. It’s very interesting, though relies a lot on anecdote rather than science. 4/5 stars
Captain Ingram’s Inheritance, by Carola Dunn. I worried about the plot, but it did actually turn out okay, and they are very sweet. 4/5 stars
Upright Women Wanted, by Sarah Gailey. It was fun, but I was more interested in other characters than the main ones. 3/5 stars
Jackdaw, by K.J. Charles. I warmed to the characters in the end, but it took me a while to really like either of them. It’s grimmer than the main series in being more realistic about the morals of the time. 3/5 stars
Come Tumbling Down, by Seanan McGuire. As a quick read, I enjoyed it, but the more I think about the portrayal of OCD and the particular outlook on OCD of the characters, the less happy I am. (Yes, I know Seanan McGuire is #ownvoices when it comes to OCD; so am I.) 2/5 stars

Other posts:

The Finished Books Tag. What do I do when I’ve finished a book? Well…
WWW Wednesday. This week I talked about Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch, and Seanan McGuire’s Come Tumbling Down.

That’s it for now! Maybe next week I’ll get this post out on time. I can dream, eh?

So what’ve you been stacking and unstacking? Any new favourites this past week or so? Let me know in the comments!

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WWW Wednesday

Posted January 22, 2020 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. This week’s check-in is here!

Cover of Because Internet by Gretchen McCullochWhat are you currently reading?

I’ve started on Because Internet, by Gretchen McCulloch, which is all about how the internet (and to some extent, other instant written communication like text messages) is changing the way we speak. I’m not far into it, but I’ve already looked up at least half a dozen times to tell my wife interesting facts or read out good bits.

Cover of Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuireWhat have you recently finished reading?

I finished two books yesterday; one was K.J. Charles’ Jackdaw, which I didn’t love as much as the rest of the series, but did warm up to significantly in the last half. And especially when Lucien and Stephen showed up, admittedly.

I also read Seanan McGuire’s Come Tumbling Down, which I really didn’t linger over. Jack’s OCD is a bit too familiar (the bit where she worries about every mole on the body she’s swapped into being potentially cancerous, aaah), but also so… overblown and pathologised that it both felt very much about people like me, but also very disparaging about people like me. Jack literally starts losing her sanity completely because of OCD, and… it felt very extreme, and I did not enjoy it. This is probably largely a personal thing, of course.

Cover of The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn by Tyler WhitesidesWhat will you read next?

I have nooo idea. Re-cataloguing my books has moved some further up in the queue. The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn by Tyler Whitesides, for example, caught my attention the day before yesterday. Ultimately, though, I’m finding that reading by whim is working well for me, and I want to stick to it. Maybe I’ll pick up something I see people talking about in the comments here, and that’s awesome.

What are you currently reading?

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The Finished Books Tag

Posted January 22, 2020 by Nikki in General / 10 Comments

Stolen shamelessly from imyril, who won’t mind.

Do you keep a list of the books you have read?

At least two lists, heh. I track all my reads both in a spreadsheet adapted from Reader Voracious, and also in my Game of Books spreadsheet. I used to have a post on LJ (like imyril! I wonder if we ever crossed paths back on there!), but I’ve stopped having a list like that because — like many of my listing and recording habits — it was actually counterproductive. I’d be finishing books just to add to the list. Blech.

If you record statistics, what statistics do you record?

I track the points in Game of Books, and then track title, author, date started/date finished, genre, source (i.e. either year bought or whether it’s an ARC, library book, etc) and page count, in my big stats spreadsheet. I currently have ‘audience’ as well (adult, new adult, young adult, etc), but it’s just not a useful/interesting thing to track for me, so I’m nixing that. Not sure if I’ll replace it with anything… if I did, I could add a nice new table in its place on the spreadsheet.

Do you give star ratings for books and if so, what do you score books out of and how do you come about this score?

Yep! I use basically the Goodreads scale:

* – Didn’t like it
** – It was okay
*** – Liked it
**** – Really liked it
***** – It was amazing

I don’t see the point in having gradations of ratings for disliked books, so it skews to the positive end. I try to be really selective about my five-star books, so people can be sure I really, really mean it when I rate a book five stars. Even a three-star review isn’t bad from me, and even a two-star will have had good points, though I admit that if I were an author I wouldn’t enjoy it either.

I do rate on enjoyment rather than on technical merit, though technical merit is of course part of what will help me to enjoy a book. Still, if I found a reading experience really grating, even if the book was technically amazing or the plot was super innovative, nah, that’s still a one/two-star book. I have been told people expect “better” of me given that I have an MA in literature, but I refuse to budge. You want to know if I liked books, not if I thought they were objectively good. Objectivity isn’t really that helpful in deciding what to read.

Do you review books?

Yep! Everything I read. I’ve got into a habit of writing longer-form reviews here than I used to on Goodreads, because they look so pointless if they’re short! I always tend to brevity, though: I can’t believe the length of other people’s reviews, when mine already feel padded sometimes!

Where do you put your finished books?

If I’m keeping it, then back on the shelf. If I didn’t love it enough that I’ll want to reread it one day, it goes in a bag to be taken to a charity shop, donation bin, or our knit and natter group (depending on whether it’ll be interesting to them).

How do you pick your next book?

I go through phases. Sometimes I have really strict lists of what to read in a given month, what to read in time to review it, etc. I’ve significantly softened on that of late, and in fact this year I am trying to go completely on a whim. Someone quoted Marie Kondo to me when I was talking about how I struggle with my enormous TBR. I know some people really hate her rules, and I’ve been fairly lax with them myself in my great big cull, but there’s a lot of wisdom there too. I should probably do a whole post about what I did and didn’t adhere to when I’m completely done with re-organising, but here’s the one I’m really trying to keep in mind:

“For books, timing is everything. The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it. To avoid missing that moment, I recommend that you keep your collection small.”

So when folks talk about a book they really love, and it sounds like something I want to read right now… fuck it, I’m buying a copy (assuming it’s in-budget) and going for it. I did that with Sisters of the Vast Black due to imyril’s Litsy comments about it, and it was very worth it.

My book collection isn’t small, but it’s smaller than it was two weeks ago, and I’m trying to let my whims speak here with what I read of what’s left. I think having “obligations” about reading was really artificial, and also really stifling.

Do you have any other rituals for when you have finished a book?

I update my stat posts and write my Litsy review as soon as possible (and usually my blog review too) so it’s still fresh in my mind when I rate it and talk about it, but otherwise, no. I really try not to be precious about this kind of thing. I think it’s fair to say that I literally have OCD (though my anxiety in general is under pretty good control at the moment, it is always under control and not gone), so any kind of ritual behaviour that doesn’t serve a purpose is worth avoiding, for me.

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WWW Wednesday

Posted January 15, 2020 by Nikki in General / 8 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. This week’s check-in is here!

Cover of Biased by Jennifer EberhardtWhat are you currently reading? 

I’m most of the way through Biased: The New Science of Race and Inequality, by Jennifer Eberhardt. It is decidedly light on the science, and heavy on anecdotes about the current state of racial inequality in the USA, used to illustrate the statistics. The more I think about it, the less science I can actually think of, especially in the last couple of chapters. She’ll mention a study briefly, but then tell a long story that illustrates the same point, and often also explain her emotions about it — at times, it’s autobiographical. It’s not ineffective, but it’s not quite what I came here for!

Cover of Flight of Magpies by KJ CharlesWhat have you recently finished reading?

The last thing I finished was the last book of the Charm of Magpies trilogy by K.J. Charles, Flight of Magpies. Hell of a showdown, everything coming together, and of course a happy-ever-after. Makes me want to pin my K.J. Charles ‘romance with body count’ badge to my bag — I’m terribly prone to just hoarding badges like this, worried about losing them or something, but… then what fun are they?

Cover of Captain Ingram's Inheritance by Carola DunnWhat will you be reading next? 

Goodness only knows, as ever. I think I’d like to pick up the third book in Carola Dunn’s romance series set during the Napoleonic Wars, Captain Ingram’s Inheritance. It’s fairly slim and will be a quick read, and then it can go back to the library. I’m definitely going to try and pick up copies of this trilogy for myself; I can see myself rereading it for comfort. Though I suppose that depends on whether this third book ends up messing everything up!

How ‘bout you folks? 

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Weekly Roundup

Posted January 13, 2020 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

What do you mean, I’m late? 😀

Well, okay, I’m late, but I don’t want to end up rounding up two weeks again next Saturday, so let’s chalk it up to experience and do this one late.

Books acquired:

Cover of The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh by KJ Charles Cover of A Fashionable Indulgence by KJ Charles Cover of A Seditious Affair by KJ Charles

Cover of A Gentleman's Position by KJ Charles Cover of Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather

Yep, that’s my wife finishing up spoiling me by buying me the Society of Gentlemen books. Plus a new Tor novella, after imyril tempted me on Litsy.

Books read this week:

Cover of Watchtower by Elizabeth A. Lynn Cover of Tea & Sympathetic Magic by Tansy Rayner Roberts Cover of The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles Cover of Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather

Cover of Venus & Aphrodite by Bettany Hughes Cover of A Case of Possession by KJ Charles Cover of Flight of Magpies by KJ Charles

Reviews posted:

Sorting the Beef from the Bull, by Nicola Temple and Richard Evershed. A bit frightening, and pretty darn interesting. It goes into the science of food fraud — and how to detect food fraud when it happens. Think Horsegate, but also fake eggs, adulterated spices and other weirdness. 4/5 stars
A Hidden Hope, by Laura Ambrose. I didn’t love this, though I recognised a lot of myself in the girls’ actions and relationship. I just didn’t feel there was enough of them outside the relationship to really root for. 2/5 stars
Watchtower, by Elizabeth A. Lynn. I confess, I didn’t really get it. The characters all seemed opaque to me, I couldn’t figure out what everyone was thinking. 3/5 stars
Tea & Sympathetic Magic, by Tansy Rayner Roberts. Cute and fun, and a quick read too. 3/5 stars
The Magpie Lord, by K.J. Charles. This was a reread, and yep, I enjoyed it just as much as I did before. The sexual tension went unresolved longer than I remembered! And wow, that horrific scene is still pretty horrific. 4/5 stars
Sisters of the Vast Black, by Lina Rather. If you liked Jesuits In Space (The Sparrow), then try Nuns In Space! Okay, it’s not quite as heavy as The Sparrow and definitely not as philosophical, but it does justice to the idea. It’s also powerfully hopeful. 4/5 stars
Venus & Aphrodite, by Bettany Hughes. Fairly light, but some interesting stuff I didn’t know yet about the development of the Aphrodite myth. 3/5 stars
A Case of Possession, by K.J. Charles. More development for Stephen and Lucien’s relationship, and they’re mostly not too stupid at each other. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

WWW Wednesday. The usual weekly update on what I’m reading at the time!

Out and about:

NEAT science: ‘Falling temperatures.It’s not the weather report! It’s all about the observation that the average body temperature of humans seems to be falling by the decade, and why that might be.

And that’s it, that’s everything. Whew.

How’re you all doing?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted January 8, 2020 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. Check out the link-up post here.

Cover of Venus & Aphrodite by Bettany HughesWhat are you currently reading?

I’m trying to be pretty spontaneous and be really excited about everything I read this year, so I am only officially partway through one book (though others on the shelves are part-read and might get resumed in future). That is Bettany Hughes’ Venus & Aphrodite.

I’ve half-followed Bettany Hughes’ work since my first graduation, because at the same ceremony she received an honorary doctorate from my university, but I hadn’t picked this up yet. Actually, I wasn’t expecting to; I do a challenge where each month a random Dewey category gets chosen and you need to read one book from it for a chance to win, and this month was the 200s. Venus & Aphrodite happened to catch my eye when I couldn’t find the book on Judaism I’d searched up to get, so I took it instead.

I’m honestly pretty near finished; I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit, though it’s very light.

Cover of Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina RatherWhat have you recently finished reading?

The last thing I finished was Sisters of the Vast Black, by Lina Rather. Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow primed me not to even flinch at the idea of nuns in space, so I didn’t consider it gimmicky (contrast my initial reaction to “Jesuits in space” when I first read The Sparrow). I enjoyed it a lot, and there’s something powerfully hopeful about it — about rebellion and doing the right thing, and shining your light when no one else can or will.

Cover of A Case of Possession by KJ CharlesWhat will you read next?

I’ve just been buddy-reading The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles with my wife. She’s solidly on her way through A Case of Possession, so I guess I’d better catch up! Otherwise, it’s going to be even more based on whim than my usual. I’m going through my shelves and re-cataloguing my books, so it really could be anything.

What about you folks? Whatcha reading?

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Weekly Roundup

Posted January 4, 2020 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Well, Happy New Year! It’s been a quiet-ish week, but I did pick up a new book today. I don’t watch much TV, but hearing people talk about The Witcher made me curious. So, of course…

Cover of The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

Books read: 

Cover of Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole Cover of Wanted, a Gentleman by K.J. Charles Cover of The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by K.J. Charles Cover of Sorting the Beef from the Bull Cover of A Hidden Hope by Laura Ambrose

Reviews posted:

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy, by Alyssa Cole. Author does not seem to know the meaning of ghosting (the breakup is emphatic and final, kind of the opposite of ghosting), but the relationship is sweet. 3/5 stars
Wanted, a Gentleman, by K.J. Charles. This didn’t go anywhere I didn’t expect, but I enjoyed it anyway; it’s very Regency in some ways, and yet of course a black former slave and a poor man would not be the heroes of a Regency novel. 4/5 stars
The Santa Klaus Murder, by Mavis Doriel Hay. Actually a repost, because something went awry somewhere. A Christmas-themed mystery, but like most sold that way, doesn’t feel Christmas-y; too sordid and full of family squabbling. 3/5 stars

Other posts:

Game of Books 2020. The rules and my set-up for this year.
2019 Stats. A bit of a breakdown of last year’s reading!
How to Meet Your 2020 Reading Goal. My tips and tricks for reading as much as I do (and more).

And that’s it for this week! How’re you guys doing? Bought your first books of 2020 yet, or holding out?

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How To Meet Your 2020 Reading Goal

Posted January 1, 2020 by Nikki in General / 13 Comments

Because I read a lot (once upon a time I managed 500 books in a year; now it’s more like 200), I frequently get asked what the trick is. People seem to think I have a lifehack or something that I can share with other people. I’ll break that down a bit more below, but here’s what I think (looking back) is the biggest driver for me meeting my reading goals…

I do best when I don’t care about the goals at all.

My reading has slowed down more and more with every goal I add, every challenge I decide I have to meet. It’s also slowed down because I’m an adult working 30 hours a week and studying and trying to be a healthy person with a tidy house — there’s no denying that. And the increased amount of non-fiction I read now is a factor as well. But there’s a fairly large correlation between when I started really worrying about meeting reading goals and when my reading speed abruptly dropped.

Now, I do have some habits which I think help me read a lot, so I’ll summarise them below:

  1. Always have a book with you. You never know when you’re going to have a tedious hour stuck by the side of the road waiting for a bus or a towtruck. Or a 30-minute wait at an appointment. Even a five-minute wait for the train gives me time to fit in a chapter.
  2. Pick up the book, not your phone (unless the book is on your phone). It goes without saying, really.
  3. Give yourself at least a little room to read based on whims. Reading isn’t meant to be a chore. You don’t need a pre-planned TBR. If you’re really excited to read a book, you’ll remember it. You won’t be able to keep your hands off it.
  4. Buy books you’re excited about. If it’s just a case of “I feel like I should read this”, that book is destined to moulder on the TBR pile forever. And my TBR pile is daunting as heck now because of exactly the wrong kinds of purchasing decisions.
  5. Make the time. It’s been a shit day, but you can still turn some pages. And if you like reading and you’re reading a book you’re excited about, that’s only gonna make your day better.

That’s it. That’s my magic bullet. Everything else comes and goes, but these things are constant and always help toward meeting my goals.

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2019 Stats

Posted December 31, 2019 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Welp, here we are at the end of the year, and I don’t think I’ll be finishing another book before midnight. How’s it been? Well. I’ve read less than I have in a long time. I think I’ve enjoyed my reading more than maybe last year, when I was starting to feel painted into a corner with silly rules. I don’t know if I’ve fixed that, exactly, but I’m hoping I have.

Here are some neat figures from my organisational spreadsheet:

OTHER STATS:

Total read: 213
Number of rereads: 51 (24%)
Total page count: 62,991 (-10,090 from last year)
Most-read genre per month:

  • January: History
  • February: Science
  • March: Science & History (tied)
  • April: Fantasy
  • May: Fantasy
  • June: Fantasy
  • July: Fantasy
  • August: Fantasy
  • September: Fantasy
  • October: Mystery
  • November: Mystery
  • December: Romance

Number of ratings:

  • Five stars: 17
  • Four stars: 97
  • Three stars: 66
  • Two stars: 27
  • One star: 6

First book read: The Bell at Sealey Head (Patricia A. McKillip)
Last book read: The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal (K.J. Charles)
First book bought: A Murder Most Unladylike (Robin Stevens)
Last book bought: Sorting the Beef from the Bull (Nicola Temple & Richard Evershed)

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Game of Books 2020

Posted December 29, 2019 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

A "Game of Books" image, based on the Iron ThroneIt’s almost that time again! This is the fourth year of Game of Books, intended to incentivise reading and focus not on the total number of books read, but balancing a variety of goals like reading longer books, finishing up books in a series, reading books I’ve had on my TBR for longer…

In any case, everyone’s welcome to join in! I suggest you read through my ramble about how it works if you haven’t encountered the idea before, but skip to the end if you just want the spreadsheet!

So this year I’m personally trying to lean really hard on reading things I enjoy. Accordingly, the “joy factor” I’ve previously used has been scrapped — I’d get more points for reading books I hated, which was silly! I don’t think I did read anything I hated for that, but I did keep on with books I would probably have stopped. Also, I was supposed to guess the joy factor of a book before reading it, and that just never really worked.

So, instead I have the “enjoyment” column, which rewards me for DNFing, for being so excited about books I babble at my wife about them, for picking up a book to read the first page and accidentally getting halfway through, etc.

I’ve also nixed the one that rewards me for taking longer over reading a book, because if I can’t read a book in a couple of days, I’m probably not having fun, and that is not good.

I do also want to read books I’ve owned for longer, keep up with reading books in a series, and reward reading longer books.

Here’s my full setup:

PointsAcquisitionLength (pages)SeriesEnjoymentBonus
12020, reread, ARC, library book0-100Not in a series/not going to read more of the seriesFinished itFor each 100 pages over 500
22018-2019101-200First book in a seriesDNFed itARC 2019-2020
32016-2017201-300Middle book of a trilogyWas so excited I infodumped at LisaARC 2018 and older
42014-2015301-400Last book of a trilogy, middle book of a seriesRead the first page and accidentally ended up halfway throughBook club book read on time
52011-2013401-500+Last book of a series (to date)Read in 1-3 sittingsRead within a week of purchase or borrowing

I’ve made my monthly goal 220 points. To work that out, I tallied up how some random books I enjoyed from 2019 would score in the new system, and figured out the average score (11), and then multiplied that by how many books I would want to read each month if I was setting a simple reading goal. In theory, then, I can read fewer than 20 books as long as I enjoy them a lot or finish series I’m reading or whatever scores the high points. This usually gets revised a bit when I have a feel for how it’s going.

And that’s it! Feel free to share, join in, modify it however you wish (the idea is to ignore simplistic targets of books read to incentivise your ideal reading experience — which won’t be the same as mine!) and have fun with it!

You can find the spreadsheet here, and then:

  • Claim a sheet that isn’t already named (or duplicate the template sheet)
  • Rename it to your name/blog name/a unique identifier
  • Click on the arrow next to it and select “Protect the sheet”
  • Set it so only you can edit your own sheet
  • Copy over anything you want from the template
  • Personalise
  • Fill in throughout the year!
  • Profit???

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