Category: General


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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Weekly Roundup

Posted 16 March, 2019 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

Good morning, folks. I am writing this the night before, as usual, and very very sleepy. Thank you wife for once more coming to my rescue and setting most of this up!

Books acquired:

Cover of Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

Books read this week:

Cover of Spirals in Time by Helen Scales Cover of A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers Cover of The Unexpected Truth about Animals by Lucy Cooke Cover of The Mummies of Urumchi by Elizabeth Barber Cover of Beauty by Robin McKinley

Reviews posted this week:

The Hollow Man, by John Dickson Carr. I know Dickson Carr is the king of the locked room mystery, but this just wasn’t my thing. It’s all about the puzzle, not people. 2/5 stars
A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, by Adam Rutherford. Some interesting stuff, but a bit basic for me and very disorganised. 3/5 stars
A Kiss Before Dying, by Ira Levin. Meh, charming psychopath story. Well-written, but I’m sick of charming psychopaths. 2/5 stars
Threads of Life, by Clare Hunter. A fascinating history of embroidery and sewing; necessarily cherry picks some particularly interesting individual stuff, and no doubt misses out a lot of other things, but fascinating. 4/5 stars
The Copernicus Complex, by Caleb Scharf. I agree with Scharf mostly, but he takes a long time to get to actually expressing an opinion. It’s more a primer on factors that might be involved when you try and guess whether there’s life elsewhere in the universe. 3/5 stars

Other posts:

WWW Wednesday. Such book, very update, wow.

How’s everyone doing? Good week?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 13 March, 2019 by Nikki in General / 1 Comment

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 Lucy: The Beginnings of MankindWhat are you currently reading?

At this very moment, typing this the night before, Beauty, by Robin McKinley. I’m very sure I’ll have finished it by morning, though! I’m also partway through Donald Johanson’s book, Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind. It’s out of date in terms of the conclusions, of course: much has moved on since Lucy was found. But it’s still a fascinating insight into the early days of palaeoanthropology, and into the conditions out on a dig.

What have you recently finished reading?

The Unexpected Truth About Animals, which is okay, but contained a lot of stuff that was not unexpected for me, and was not in fact that interesting. There were some titbits, but mostly… nah, it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped.

Cover of Rose Daughter by Robin McKinleyWhat will you be reading next?

Rose Daughter, by Robin McKinley; I always enjoy reading her two takes on Beauty and the Beast at around the same time, to watch what she does differently each time.

What are you currently reading?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 6 March, 2019 by Nikki in General / 3 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 Space Opera by Catherynne M ValenteWhat are you currently reading?

I’m making another attack on Space Opera; I’m half-tempted to just ditch it, but I keep wondering if there’s a plot in there somewhere, under the frippery. I’m also reading Kassia St Clair’s The Golden Thread, which is just the sort of focused history I like. I just learned that Viking sails were made of wool — which surprises me, but I’m not sure what I thought they were made of.

What have you recently finished reading?

The Hollow Man, by John Dickson Carr. It’s a clever setup for a mystery, but I feel kinda meh about it because it has no characters that I like. There’s no personal side to it: it’s all about the central puzzle. So meh.

What will you be reading next?

Cover of The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha ShannonThe Priory of the Orange Tree, maybe? Finishing my reread of Glamour in Glass and the rest of that series? Not sure! I am trying pretty hard to finish the books I start, at the moment, and also trying to read the books I buy this year before buying any more, so either of those are good guesses.

What are you currently reading?

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