Category: General


Stacking the Shelves

Posted 12 August, 2017 by Nikki in General / 20 Comments

Good morning! I’m in the UK again, visiting my parents for my birthday, so I’d better go with the tradition — here’s a pic of one of the buns which my wife sent me! Here Breakfast is somewhere he shouldn’t be, looking very curious…

He’s going to get himself in trouble any minute now.

So, right, the haul. Here goes…

Received to review:

Cover of Harkworth Hall Cover of Swearing Off Stars Cover of Fowl Language by Brian Gordon Cover of Skyfarer by Joseph Brassey

I asked for Harkworth Hall after reading Bob @ Beauty in Ruins’ review, and it was worth it! Swearing Off Stars was a random grab, while I got Fowl Language because I’ve loved the cartoons from Brian Gordon’s series that I’ve seen around.

Fiction books bought:

Cover of Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older Cover of The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston Cover of The Red by Linda Nagata Cover of The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst

Cover of Arena by Holly Jennings Cover of In the Shadow of the Gods by Rachel Dunne Cover of After the Crown by K.B. Wagers Cover of Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Cover of The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin Cover of Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson Cover of Europe in Winter by Dave Hutchinson

 Cover of Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells Cover of Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

I know, I know, it’s an amazing haul. Woohoo for the American Book Centre in Amsterdam — definitely recommended: great deals on books, a good selection, and friendly staff. 10% off for students, too! A bunch of these were just €6.99, which is amazingly cheap for imported books in Europe.

Non-fiction books bought:

 

 Cover of The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukharjee Cover of A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley Cover of The Button Box by Lynn Knight

I was initially going to complain that I wanted more non-fiction books, but I let myself buy a few more as I passed through London, and now I have quite the satisfactory haul!

Books read this week: 

Cover of Hengeworld by Mike Pitts Cover of Catching Breath by Kathryn Lougheed Cover of Fowl Language by Brian Gordon Cover of The Secret History of the World by Jonathan Black Cover of Harkworth Hall

Four stars to: Hengeworld, Catching Breath, Harkworth Hall.
Three stars to: Fowl Language.
One star to: The Secret History of the World.

Reviews posted this week:

Star-shot, by Mary Ann Constantin. This wasn’t quite my thing, but I was still impressed by the way it was written and some of the fascinating images. 3/5 stars
Machine, by Jennifer Pelland. This left me with pretty mixed feelings. It’s a powerful story, but also disturbing. 3/5 stars
Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie. I want more, but this is still a great book. 5/5 stars
The Refrigerator Monologues, by Catherynne Valente. Very fun, although also depressing. 4/5 stars
Life Unfolding, by Jamie T. Davies. A really fascinating exploration of how the human body develops. 4/5 stars
The Paper Magician, by Charlie N. Holmberg. This is a bag of cotton candy as far as my brain is concerned. Sweet and some fascinating magic. 3/5 stars
Incognito, by David Eagleman. Very readable, but it won’t contain any surprises if you’ve read other pop-sci about the brain and its weird ways before. 3/5 stars

Other posts:

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Was Forced To Read (And Loved).
WWW Wednesday. The weekly update!
The Reading Quest. My sign-up for a new readathon.

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The Reading Quest

Posted 11 August, 2017 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

Sign up card for the Reading Quest readathon

I’m a sucker for a good readathon, and this version sounds awesome; there’s so much attention to detail! I shall be embarking on the Knight’s Quest first. Provisional reading choices:

  • The first book of a series: Pantomime, by Laura Lam.
  • A book with a verb in its title: Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple.
  • A book with a weapon on its cover: Magic Binds, by Ilona Andrews.
  • A book with a red cover: Chameleon Moon, by RoAnna Sylver.
  • A book that has a TV/movie adaptation: Caliban’s War, by James S.A. Corey.

I plan to go on and try and do all the squares, but that’s where I’ll start… You can read up on all the rules here, and credit for the art goes to CW of Read, Think, Ponder.

Are we there yet!?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 9 August, 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 Carpet Makers by Andreas EschbachI’m rereading Andreas Eschbach’s The Carpet Makers, because I’ve been meaning to and it was there when I couldn’t sleep and didn’t feel like starting something new. I’m also reading Pantomime, by Laura Lam, though I’m not very far into it, and The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden. I’m about halfway through the latter and not entirely sure what I think. I’m finding it somewhat predictable so far. I’m still reading Assassin’s Apprentice, too.

Cover of Hengeworld by Mike PittsWhat have you recently finished reading?

Hengeworld, by Mike Pitts. It’s an examination of the whole ritual landscape in palaeolithic times, mostly in Wessex — Stonehenge, Avebury, Silbury Hill and other associated monuments. It’s pretty fascinating, and it digs deep into all the different digs which have gone on at those sites.

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

I think I’m going to embark on my reread of Jacqueline Carey’s work, starting with Kushiel’s Dart. It’s been ages since I read it, and I conveniently have copies of this trilogy available both at my wife’s and at my parents’ place, so I don’t have to drag them around while travelling.

What are you reading?

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 8 August, 2017 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is gleaned from the old prompts on the page. Here’s ten books I was forced to read — which I loved! I’ve a vague feeling I’ve done this before, but I can’t find it by searching back, so why not?

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. It’s a classic, of course.
  2. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. I even had to read it in a week, thanks to a dare with my dad.
  3. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. I didn’t get far with this when I tried to read this as a kid, but when I finally had to read it for school, I fell in love.
  4. Troilus and Criseyde, by Geoffrey Chaucer. I didn’t have high hopes for this because I wasn’t a fan of The Canterbury Tales, in general. But I really got into dissecting it, in the end.
  5. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Is this cheating? I read a translation, of course, but I had to read it in the Middle English for my BA, and that was revelatory. The playing with language is gorgeous.
  6. The French Lieutenant’s Woman, by John Fowles. In style and content it’s not at all what you’d expect me to enjoy, but I really did.
  7. Postcolonialism Revisited, by Kirsti Bohata. I was never much of a fan of actually reading theory, in my lit degrees, preferring to closely analyse the texts. But this was pretty revelatory, discussing Welsh fiction as postcolonial fiction — because in many ways, the Welsh experience was like that of colonialism.
  8. Richard III, by William Shakespeare. I was never a fan of Shakespeare, but I ended up having to take a class on his history plays for lack of other modules that interested me. And I loved this one.
  9. Country Dance, by Margiad Evans. Or indeed, all the other Welsh fiction I read for that particular class. I’d never even been fully aware there was Welsh fiction like this out there.
  10. The Annotated Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien et al. I love The Hobbit, of course, but I’m not really a fan of annotated texts. Still, the annotated version of The Hobbit was fascinating for its insights on Tolkien’s process.

There’s probably dozens of others I should think of — at one point, my mother bought me a whole bunch of classics she said I had to read before I went to university, for example! (She wasn’t wrong in suggesting they were important to know. Should’ve included more Oscar Wilde, though, Mum, and insisted I read more Shakespeare. Now you know!)

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 5 August, 2017 by Nikki in General / 18 Comments

Good morning, folks! Today I’m off to Amsterdam with my wife to celebrate our paper wedding anniversary in bookshops. Hurrah! To celebrate the one-year anniversary of our wedding (and the 12th anniversary of being together), here are a couple of our wedding pics! Click to embiggen, if you’re so inclined.

And now, back to books.

Bought:

Cover of Caliban's War by James S.A. Corey Cover of A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived by Adam Rutherford

I needed Caliban’s War for a book club read, and A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived was on sale on the Kindle store for 99p!

Received to review:

Cover of Acadie by Dave Hutchinson Cover of Ruin of Angels by Max Gladstone Cover of Why Dinosaurs Matter by Kenneth Lacovara

Cover of Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng Cover of The Man in the Tree by Sage Walker Cover of The Fifth Doll by Charlie Holmberg

A lucky week, though I’m still sad I didn’t get approved for Provenance or Into the Drowning Deep on Edelweiss!

Books read this week:

Cover of Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey Cover of Babylon by Paul Kriwaczek Cover of The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley Cover of The Real Lives of Roman Britain by Guy de la Bedoyere

Cover of Starborn by Lucy Hounsom Cover of Why Dinosaurs Matter by Kenneth Lacovara Cover of Acadie by Dave Hutchinson

Reviews posted this week:

Unnatural, by Philip Ball. This is billed as popular science, but honestly it’s as much lit-crit as it is science. Interesting topic, of course, but… 3/5 stars
Nova, by Samuel R. Delany. I wasn’t as big a fan as I hoped I was going to be. I feel like a bad SF fan. 3/5 stars
Personality, by Daniel Nettle. Landmark science this is not, but it is interesting enough. 3/5 stars
Reality 36, Guy Haley. Not characters I want to hang out with. 1/5 stars
Caesar’s Last Breath, by Sam Kean. Not as entertaining as his book on neurology, but still interesting. 3/5 stars
Killing is My Business, by Adam Christopher. Another entertaining entry in this series — and I want to know where it’s going next! 4/5 stars
Genomes and What To Make of Them, by Barry Barnes and John Dupré. Somewhat out of date now, and probably not worth picking up. 2/5 stars

Other posts:

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookshops I Have Loved. More or less as you’d expect, though you might not expect that bookshops in Dublin, Ireland and Calgary, Canada are on the same list…
WWW Wednesday. This week’s update on what I’m reading.

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 2 August, 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.
Cover of The Real Lives of Roman Britain by Guy de la Bedoyere

What are you currently reading?

I’ve just finished the book I was reading earlier, so now the only book actively on the go is Guy de la Bedoyere’s The Real Lives of Roman Britain, which I’ve really only just started. Oh, and I’m still partway through rereading Assassin’s Apprentice, by Robin Hobb. Other than that, there’s a bunch of books sat around with bookmarks in, but I haven’t touched them in, uhhh… too long. Oops.

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of The Shadowy Horses by Susanna KearsleyThe Shadowy Horses, by Susanna Kearsley. It was a lot of fun — yay, archaeology-based stories! Yay, romantic Scotsmen! Yay, friendly ghosts! Once upon a time I’d have described Kearsley’s books as a guilty pleasure, but stuff that. I like reading romance sometimes, apparently. (I do need recs for other stuff like Susanna Kearsley, Jane Aiken Hodge, Mary Stewart… Do feel free to indulge me, if you know of anything that might suit.)

Before that, I finished James S.A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes. Whoa. I need to sit down and collect my thoughts on that.
Cover of Starborn by Lucy Hounsom

What will you read next?

I’m planning to try Lucy Hounsom’s Starborn, to see if I want to request the sequel on Netgalley. I think I’ll start on Caliban’s War, the sequel to Leviathan Wakes, pretty soon as well. So much reading to do. So little time. I should also get back to Assassin’s Apprentice and the sequels, and maybe finish up The Essex Serpent.

What are you reading?

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 1 August, 2017 by Nikki in General / 7 Comments

There’s still no official theme from The Broke and the Bookish, so this TTT is again of my own devising. This time I’m going to look at bookshops I have loved!

  1. Waterstones (Wakefield). I’ve had plenty of nice chats with the people working there, and some of the same people still work there from when I was a kid. They’ve held some great events — I attended a talk by Robin Hobb back when Fool’s Fate came out, for example — and though the shop is a little small for my tastes, the SF/F section has typically been good enough that I can find what I want.
  2. Waterstones (Manchester). One of the biggest bookshops in the north of England, I think? Nice little cafe, and so many books. And they have baskets you can grab at convenient intervals, which is useful because I’ve never got out of there without needing a shopping basket. A really great non-fic selection as well as a good amount of SF/F.
  3. Paramount Books (Manchester). When I last went, it was still tiny and inaccessible for someone in a wheelchair or possibly even on crutches, but it was a great place to browse, with all kinds of second hand books.
  4. Hatchard’s St Pancras (London). I’m not a huge fan of their fiction section, which isn’t divided up into genres. They have some SF/F books, but it’s not always easy to pick them out. I love how convenient it is to drop in on my way to or from the Eurostar, though, and their non-fiction section has pretty much always been worth the browsing.
  5. Forbidden Planet (London). Signed books, American books, new releases… I’m not sure what I haven’t been able to find there. And even though it’s Forbidden Planet, I don’t just mean comics. They have a great selection of SF/F books, and I’ve seen some really good bargains there as well.
  6. Wellfield Bookshop (Cardiff). It might be small, but I always felt at home there and perfectly welcome to browse. They’re very helpful and would always offer to order in anything I wanted.
  7. Sterling Books (Brussels). They’ve moved to a smaller location, which is a crime as far as I’m concerned, but they still have a reasonably good selection of English books, both fiction and non-fiction. Also, free bookmarks!
  8. Chapters (Dublin). New and used books, and tons of them. The staff weren’t the friendliest, but the selection more than made up for it.
  9. Fair’s Fair (Calgary). They have a couple of stores, and nearly all of them contained some delights for me. Seriously recommended, if you’re in Calgary.
  10. Troutmark Books (Cardiff). A treasure trove to me when I was a student — and apparently served my grampy with bags of books before me. It’s conveniently in the centre of Cardiff, and too many people miss it because it’s tucked away in one of the arcades. Well worth going to — great selection and great pricing.

That’s not all of the bookshops I’ve ever loved, of course, but I thought I’d share a little bit of the joy!

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 29 July, 2017 by Nikki in General / 20 Comments

Good morning, folks! Today I’m off to spend the day with my grandparents-in-law until evening, so I might not comment (or comment back) until tomorrow. It’s been a quiet week, really; I worked on reading some difficult stuff, so I haven’t finished nearly as many books as I’d like. As for new books, well… just one ARC, and a quiet week ahead too, I think. But next weekend is my paper wedding anniversary, and we’re celebrating in style by going to Amsterdam to browse their bookshops, so that might well be a busy week for books!

Received to review:

Cover of The Warrior Princess by K.M. Ashman

I was going to pass on this one, until I realised that the warrior princess in question is Welsh, and this is set in Wales! You have my attention, sir!

Finished reading this week:

Cover of Mapping the Interior Cover of The Trouble with Physics by Lee Smolin Cover of Life on the Edge by Joe Al-Khalili and Johnjoe MacFadden Cover of American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Four stars: Mapping the Interior, The Trouble With Physics, Life on the Edge, American Gods (reread).

Reviews posted this week:

Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie. I appreciated this one more on a reread, just like the first book. A really great trilogy, and this middle book doesn’t disappoint. 5/5 stars
Bloodshot, by Cherie Priest. I didn’t love this as much as I remembered, but there’s still so much awesome about it. 4/5 stars
The City of Dreaming Books, by Walter Moers. So much to love about this, particularly the way it bursts at the seams with inventiveness and love of books. 4/5 stars
Journey to the Centre of the Earth, by David Whitehouse. Not my favourite area of science, but still an interesting diversion. 3/5 stars

Other posts:

Top Ten Tuesday: Pet Peeves About Blogging. Featuring: why do I get spammed with my own copy?!
WWW Wednesday. The update on what I’m reading, what I’ve just read, and what I’m going to read.

So how’re you all doing?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 26 July, 2017 by Nikki in General / 7 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 Assassin's Apprentice by Robin HobbAt the moment, I’m mostly working on my reread of Assassin’s Apprentice, by Robin Hobb, and I’ve just started a reread of American Gods, by Neil Gaiman — I’ve been meaning to reread it for a while, since the show started. Not that I’ve been watching the show (I hardly ever watch tv), but it brought it to mind and I did see bits of it while my wife was watching it.

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of The Trouble with Physics by Lee SmolinI juuuust finished reading The Trouble With Physics, by Lee Smolin. It’s a little out of date, I suspect, since it’s from 2007, so before the Higgs boson was found and so on, but I think a lot of the points still hold true. String theory still, as far as I know, hasn’t come up with any predictions or designed any major experiments to prove or disprove the theory, and the musing on the academic community in the sciences is still relevant too.

What will you read next?

Cover of Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. CoreyI’m going to read Leviathan Wakes, by James S.A. Corey, since that’s a book club read, and then Life on the Edge, by Jim Al-Khalili and Johnjoe McFadden, because I’m going to the NS Live event in September and one of the authors is going to be there. Also, because I have no idea what quantum biology is, and I want to find out.

So what are you reading?

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 25 July, 2017 by Nikki in General / 10 Comments

There’s still no official theme, so this week I’m going to take a chance on being curmudgeonly. Here’s ten things that annoy me about being a book blogger!

  1. When people don’t comment back, ever. Sometimes, there just isn’t something that they want to comment on, or they’re too busy for a week or two. I totally get that. But if they never drop by in return, it feels totally one-sided — like I’m a number that helps them get ARCs or whatever, but they’re not willing to put in any effort to make a real link between us.
  2. When people comment without reading. I know that when it’s a big link-up like Stacking the Shelves or whatever, people mostly drop by to get visits in return, so they often copy/paste “looks like a great haul!” and a link to their own post. Or “looks like you got a ton of books!” I can get that, but I wish people would put at least a little effort in — don’t tell me I got a ton of books when the text of the post says clearly that those are the books I read this week. I always try to say something about the books they’ve got, or the life updates in their post!
  3. Snobbery. It’s okay to have reading preferences, obviously, and even to comment about why you don’t enjoy x or y. But if you’re only coming by to link your blog, and you say things like “I never read fantasy, it’s all too childish”… well, it doesn’t sound good (and you look silly, since there’s a ton of adult fantasy).
  4. Spam. Why do I get so much spam?! The number one target review seems to be one of my Susanna Kearsley reviews, and I don’t get it at all.
  5. When I get spammed by my own copy. I mean, I’m a copywriter. It makes sense that sometimes I might run into stuff I wrote the advertising for. But it just feels beyond rude when it shows up in the comment spam on my WordPress. One, hey! I didn’t write that for you to spam with! And two, oi, spam filter — are you saying my writing looks like spam?! And three, this is a book blog, so why are you targeting it with copy about picture frames and saving whales?
  6. People making assumptions. When a blogger assumes I’m not a writer, or I don’t read x genre, or that I’m a certain age… Don’t assume, guys, you know who it makes an ass out of.
  7. “I prefer real books.” Ebooks are real. They’re different, and maybe they don’t work for you, but hey. Ereaders help all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons.
  8. People who openly tell authors they’ve pirated their books. Why? Why would you do that? Authors have a right to earn a living, and “exposure” doesn’t pay for food.
  9. People tagging authors in bad reviews. Unless there’s some prior relationship there or the critique is something they might benefit from, why would you do that? And don’t do that even given that if the person who wrote the review doesn’t say it’s okay. Some people don’t want to interact with the author.
  10. Authors commenting on my reviews of their book to argue with me. Most often, it’s male science writers who feel the desperate need to tell me I’m wrong about their book, so you’ll have to excuse the sinking feeling I get when I realise a given comment is from an author. I’ve had some great interactions with authors I’ve critiqued — Tony Hays, author of The Killing Way and the rest of that series, would be one example. But mostly it just doesn’t work out.

I’m sure that I could be hoist by my own petard for some of these, because I can be a cranky snob as much as anyone. I try and keep a lid on it, though.

What’re your pet peeves?

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