Category: General


WWW Wednesday

Posted 7 November, 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 The Roman Forum by David WatkinThe Secret of Chimneys, by Agatha Christie. I’m trying to whittle down my library pile and Christie’s a good quick read, so, tada. I’m not a little confused at this point, partly because I read the first two chapters a couple of weeks ago and then tried to pick up where I left off, but hopefully I’ll get up to speed soon…

Also, The Roman Forum, by David Watkin, which takes a view less archaeological (and less focused on the Romans exclusively) than a lot of other writers. He talks about the afterlife of the forum too, the way its been used over time — something I honestly find more interesting, especially for being a rare approach, though I think he’s too down on archaeology.

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of The Greeks by H.D.F. KittoThe Greeks, by H.D.F. Kitto. Out of date in information and decidedly so in attitude, and yet his enthusiasm is boundless and kind of worth reading anyway, if you can handle him being very much of his moment re: issues like enfranchisement of women. (He’s not anti, but he’s so condescending about it that you almost wish he’d straight up say that women are too stupid for the vote, so you could be properly fully annoyed at him.)

What will you be reading next?

Cover of The Division Bell Mystery by Ellen WilkinsonGoodness only knows. There’s the next Murderbot, there’s a whole range of library books… Oh, I do know I need to start on The Division Bell Mystery, because I’m buddy reading that with someone on Litsy. Better grab that off the shelf!

What are you reading at the moment?

Tags: ,

Divider

Discussion: Film Adaptations

Posted 5 November, 2018 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

I don’t think I’ve ever really discussed how I feel about movie adaptations in general. It’s a bit of a hot button topic among book lovers, isn’t it? “The book is always better” purists and those who just don’t trust Hollywood on principle (smart move)… Me? I don’t watch films or TV much at all, so it’s a bit of a moot point. I think comic book movies work really well: it’s a visual medium being adapted into another visual medium, so it’s not quite as tricky, and actors like Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans have done a good job at somehow embodying the larger than life characters from comics. When it’s done well, it can even bring a new cohesiveness to disparate material — I don’t follow how the fuck most of Marvel’s comics fit together most of the time, but the Cinematic Universe has allowed a lot more interlinking.

(On the other hand, maybe too much. Civil War was billed rather awkwardly as a Captain America movie when it was clearly an Avengers movie. It was about the whole team, not Cap as such. You wouldn’t get away with that in comics; a lot of people follow particular headline characters, not teams and crossovers.)

Books, on the other hand, can be a bit trickier. They’re not a visual medium, and the translation can be harder. I think some movies have done it extremely well — Lord of the Rings, but not the Hobbit, for instance — by taking pains to be as close to the source as possible. Some have been super boring because they stuck close to a book that didn’t translate well, either through narrative voice or through much of the action being in thought rather than deed. Others have benefitted by going off at a right angle (Stardust, Howl’s Moving Castle). Some have just bombed by doing that (The Seeker).

All in all, I think adaptation is an art in itself, which you have to keep in mind as well as film-making. The same goes in the opposite direction — I’m sure a very good book can be written based on a movie, but it can’t just repeat the action word for word. It’s an act of translation to a new medium, and really you need to understand the needs of both media.

Tags: ,

Divider

Weekly Roundup

Posted 3 November, 2018 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

Happy weekend! It’s been a rollercoaster of a week for me — new bunnies, degree results, dentist appointments… But in the end, it’s pretty good. And worth celebrating with an immense book-spree, obviously, because hey! I’ve gone and graduated with first class honours (again).

Also, these guys. Meet Biscuit and Eclair! The left pics are Eclair, our new baby boy, and right is Biscuit, a girl who is already planning to rival Hulk in size.

It was super hard to pick which photos to share. They’ve had their first vet checkup and are doing well.

Received to review:

Cover of Middle-Game by Seanan McGuire Cover of In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

Aka AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA I am so excited.

New books:

Cover of King Arthur: The Making of the Legend by Nicholas J Higham Cover of Searching for the Lost Tombs of Egypt by Chris Naunton Cover of Inheritors of the Earth by Chris D Thomas Cover of Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Cover of Pale Rider by Laura Spinney Cover of Breaking The Chains of Gravity by Amy Shira Teitel Cover of A History of Histories by John Burrow Cover of T. Rex and the Crater of Doom by Walter Alvarez

Cover of The Amazons by Adrienne Mayor Cover of The Lost World of Byzantium by Jonathan Harris Cover of China A History by John Keay Cover of The Roman Forum by David Watkin

Read this week:

Cover of The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien Cover of The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles Cover of War Cry by Brian McClellan Cover of The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

 Cover of Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells Cover of A Little History of Science by William F BynumCover of Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

Reviews posted this week:

The Winter Garden Mystery, by Carola Dunn. A good follow-up to the first book, though the phonetic Welsh accent is a bit comical (and bad) and I wouldn’t be inviting Daisy round to my house anytime soon… murders follow her! 4/5 stars
The Incas, by Craig Morris, Adriana Van Hagen. This is great — detailed, but absorbing all the same, and richly illustrated too. 4/5 stars
In The Vanishers’ Palace, by Aliette De Bodard. I didn’t get it, alas. 2/5 stars
Daughter of Mystery, by Heather Rose Jones. This might’ve been mediocre as a fantasy, mystery or romance story on its own. The combination of the three made it really absorbing. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussion: Likeable Characters. How do you feel about the importance of characters in fiction? Super important, or is the plot or the writing quality more important to you?
WWW Wednesday. The usual weekly update!

Out and about:

NEAT science: ‘Gravitational Waves’Have they really been detected? What about that controversial article and coverage saying that there’s something up with the results?! Answer: the team are being tardy in full publication, but… well, read the post!

This post was brought to you by WifePress, aka Lisa did most of the formatting and left me free to do other things. Much gratefulness.

How’s everyone doing?

Tags: , ,

Divider

WWW Wednesday

Posted 31 October, 2018 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 The Fellowship of the Ring by TolkienVarious things, as ever, but most actively I’m getting stuck in to reading The Lord of the Rings again. I’m at the sign of the Prancing Pony, so things are about to kick off, and Strider’s just joined the party. I can never not remember the feel of the scenery from Lord of the Rings Online, and I always hear the voices of the BBC Radio adaptation. So I get to imagine it in much higher detail than I normally manage! It’s totally added something to my reading of the books, given my lack of visual imagination when left to my own devices.

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of Rogue Protocol by Martha WellsRogue Protocol was the most recent book I finished, I think! Oh my goodness, Miki! I don’t want Exit Strategy to be the last book — it feels like so little space for everything to come together. I haven’t been reading other people’s reviews… I really hope it does all come together wonderfully.

What will you read next?

Cover of Requiem for a Mezzo by Carola DunnOne possibility is Exit Strategy, or I might try and save it. The next thing I’ll focus on finishing is probably Requiem for a Mezzo, maybe if I have a nice relaxing bath after going to the gym tomorrow night… Then there’s a book on the history of science that I’ve had out of the library rather too long now, which I think I might focus on as my next non-fiction read.

What are you currently reading?

Tags: ,

Divider

Discussion: Likeable Characters

Posted 29 October, 2018 by Nikki in General / 19 Comments

For ages on Goodreads I had a really annoying follower who would always complain when I reviewed a book on the basis of liking or not liking the characters. Honestly, I’ve lost track of why they felt that was the case, but it was based on some idea of how one should actually appreciate books, and particularly given the fact I was an English Lit student (and later graduate, and then postgrad).

Friends, it’s bullshit. You can like or not like a book for whatever reason you want on your own time. Personal reading for pleasure has nothing to do with an academic assessment of a book’s merits — if you even think that the job of academia is to sit in judgement over whether a book is good or not (which I think would’ve had the entire literature department at daggers drawn if it was truly what the study of literature is all about).

So yeah. I’ll come right out and say it: likeable characters are a big part of whether I enjoy a book or not. They don’t have to be perfect (that’s just boring), but mostly I do need to be able to root for them, care about what happens, and not just be waiting for them to hurry up and die. It’s part of what adds tension to a story. If you don’t care whether the characters live or die, that climatic scene with the big bad doesn’t mean very much.

There are books you like in spite of characters — and characters who are terrible people but engaging anyway, too! Likeable doesn’t have to mean in the right, either. And characters definitely don’t have to be relateable in the sense of sharing experiences with me: what’s important is that I can understand why they think and feel the way they do.

So, how about you guys? Characters? Or could they be cardboard cutouts for all you care?

Tags: ,

Divider

Weekly Roundup

Posted 27 October, 2018 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

Good morning, folks! Today I’m out in the chilly pre-dawn (okay, well, not quite) to go to Liverpool for the day to see the Terracotta Warriors exhibit, and whatever else catches my fancy. And then tomorrow, the new bunnies arrive. We’ve been talking about boxing up this old one and sending it away…

(No, of course not really.)

And then on Tuesday I should get my dissertation marks, and thus know how well I graduate. And sometime in the next week or so I need my teeth fixed again because the fix that was meant to help is causing pain in itself. Gah. Buy me books. (Is my constant cry when I feel terrible.)

The bunnies did actually buy me a couple of books this week, so it’s only fair to share.

New books:

Cover of The Mystic Marriage by Heather Rose Jones Cover of Band Sinister by K.J. Charles

I am especially excited about Band Sinister, since it’s a homage to Georgette Heyer, except with queer people.

Read this week:

Cover of Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones Cover of The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien Cover of In The Vanishers' Palace by Aliette de BodardCover of One Way by S.J. Morden

Reviews posted this week:

Alpha Beta, by John Man. A competent pop-history on the origins of the Roman alphabet. 3/5 stars
Death at Wentwater Court, by Carola Dunn. Entertaining and just cosy enough, with a hint of romance to come. 4/5 stars
The Maya, by Michael D. Coe. Interesting topic, but Coe’s treatment of it is somewhat dry. 3/5 stars
The Seventh Miss Hatfield, by Anna Caltabiano. Incoherent and badly written, alas. 1/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussion: Real Life. How much do you reveal?
WWW Wednesday. The usual weekly update.

Out and about:

NEAT science: ‘Neat little boxes‘. Why biological sexual development isn’t at all that simple. If you think there’s men and women and nothing else in between, this is specially for you.
Once Upon A Blue Moon: ‘On Books‘. A triolet on the topic of books, mostly written for the fun of writing to a strict structure.

Tags: , ,

Divider

WWW Wednesday

Posted 24 October, 2018 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 The Hobbit, by J.R.R. TolkienWhat are you currently reading?

I’m mostly engaged in rereading The Hobbit, because I felt the need for something cosy, and our Sunday afternoon walk in the local country park feels a little like walking through Hobbiton. I’m also reading Pax Romana, by Adrian Goldsworthy, because it’s due back at the library and I can’t renew it (someone’s reserved it). Other than that, of course, there’s a whole assortment of things I’m partway through — but those are the two I’m focused on.

Cover of In The Vanishers' Palace by Aliette de BodardWhat have you recently finished reading?

The last thing I finished was In the Vanishers’ Palace, which… despite all my hopes and excitement, I did not love. I think I’d better let my review speak for me on that one, but it’s a few days before that one goes live. It just didn’t work for me, in sum.

Daughter of Mystery was the book I read before that, and that did work for me, for the most part. I’m eager to get the second book and follow other characters as well. It’s like… it’s a solid enough world, and a solid enough romance, but alone they wouldn’t really be anything I’d want to shout about. Yet together they make something rather satisfying.

Cover of Requiem for a Mezzo by Carola DunnWhat will you be reading next?

Well, probably The Lord of the Rings will be one thing, but I have a couple of John Man’s non-fiction books out of the library that are due back soonish. I should get back to reading Ashley Weaver’s detective books, and various other library books like A Talent for Murder (AKA what “really” happened that time when Agatha Christie went missing)… In summary, lots of library books.

Then of course there’s finishing books I’m partway through; Carola Dunn’s Requiem for a Mezzo, for instance, and my reread of Vandermeer’s Authority

What about you? What are you reading?

Tags: ,

Divider

Discussion: Real Life

Posted 22 October, 2018 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

So both last week’s post and my question about prompts for discussion posts raised similar issues: how much do you share about yourself on your blog, and how much are you interested in other people sharing?

Personally, I’m relatively open about identity things (mental illness, being queer, being Welsh, etc) and share some snippets about my life (e.g. the bunnies, a couple of my wedding photos), while keeping it fairly low-key — just the intro to my Weekly Roundups or an aside during a review. I figure you’re here for the books, and though it’s useful to know that I have two English lit degrees in the bag and a biology degree pending, or that I’m queer, or whatever, because it informs what I read and how I review things, it’s not like you want to know what I ate for breakfast or the details of my gym routine.

On the other hand, some people think that even what I share is too much — that one should let their reviews speak for themselves, and not reveal identity, political affiliations, etc.

There’s a few different aspects of that for me: one is that I’ve never had much luck hiding my orientation or my interests. I was forcibly outed when I was thirteen and the cat’s never gone back into the bag, and I think I prefer it that way — there’s no emotional blackmail if I don’t have secrets. (The relief when I told my grandmother I was married, my goodness!) Another aspect of that is that I want people to know I’m queer because it normalises it, for people who’ve never knowingly encountered queer people and for younger queer people who might think they’re alone.

And finally, I think it’s important to know where someone stands in order to properly contextualise their reactions to books. If someone reviews a book that happens to include a gay couple and they give it two stars for “disgusting content”, then if you know they’re homophobic you know that it may not actually be about the quality of the book. Likewise, if I review a book with a serial killer and say that I found it annoying because the serial killer had OCD and that was meant to be a “warning sign” of their mental state, you know that I have OCD and this kind of thing is bound to infuriate me. If that’s not a bugbear of yours, you know that you might well enjoy the book more than I did.

Anyway, so I think I’m likely to keep on as I am in terms of personal commentary. You’ll get to know me a little through what I say about books, and you’ll know when I have an amazingly cute bunny picture — but I’m unlikely to do a weekly feature on what’s up in Nikkiland. The blog is primarily about books, after all. But if you feel super strongly about wanting to know more about me as a person and how I’m doing, maybe I can make a point of including a little more detail in my weekly roundups.

Tags: ,

Divider

Weekly Roundup

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

Good morning, guys! Not next week, but the week after, I should be able to introduce you all to our new bunnies! For now, Breakfast has a fistbump for you all.

A brown bun wants to fistbump you

I should hurry up, because I’m writing this on Friday evening (as ever) and we’ve been to the gym and are tired. We being me and my wife, not me and the bunnies, entertaining though the image of them hopping on a treadmill is (and much as Hulk could use the exercise). So here goes!

Books acquired this week:

Cover of The Cardinal's Blades by Pierre Pevel Cover of Hounded by Kevin Hearne Cover of Sharps by K.J. Parker

Cover of Requiem for a Mezzo by Carola Dunn Cover of Murder on the Flying Scotsman by Carola Dunn Cover of Damsel in Distress by Carola Dunn

Library sale + falling in love with a new series!

Books read this week:

Cover Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn Cover of The Winter Garden Mystery by Carola Dunn Cover of The Ancient Celts by Barry Cunliffe

Reviews posted this week:

The Mystery of the Skeleton Key, by Bernard Capes. Nothing groundbreaking, and a bit slow, but if you’re into Golden Age crime fiction… 2/5 stars
Endless Forms Most Beautiful, by Sean Carroll. A great entry-level book on Evo Devo. 4/5 stars
Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection, by John Man. Another entertaining pop-history part-travelogue book from Man… 3/5 stars
Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer. This was a reread for me, and one I found worth it. I enjoy the narrator’s matter-of-fact tone a lot. 4/5 stars
Rebel of the Sands, by Alwyn Hamilton. Another reread, so I can get on with the series. Still entertaining, without being very groundbreaking. 3/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussion: Returning Comments. What do you do if someone comments on your blog, you go to return it, and you find out they think you’re going to hell and frequently post saying so whenever homosexuality comes up in the books they read? To the extent of no longer supporting an author because they’re tolerant of homosexuality?
WWW Wednesday. The usual weekly update.

Out and about:

Once Upon A Blue Moon: ‘[UNTRANSLATABLE]‘. A rather cynical take on why an alien might be interested in Earth.

So how’s everyone’s week been? Anything exciting going on for you?

Tags: , ,

Divider

Discussion: Returning comments

Posted 15 October, 2018 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

Normally, I have a policy of commenting back on the blogs of everyone who comments here. It slipped for a while due to complete lack of time between working, studying and moving, but I’m trying to get back into the habit now. However, during the last week someone commented on my blog and I blithely went to comment back on theirs… only to find that they hold views completely repugnant to me.

I’m (somewhat) okay with having friends who disagree with me, who even think that (for example) homosexuality is a sin, support Trump, support Brexit, think that trigger/content warnings are political correctness gone mad, etc, etc. But those friends are usually friends who mostly keep it under their hat when around me unless we decide to discuss it in a civil manner: they don’t openly rank homosexuality with paedophilia, or tell me my wife should have been turned back at the border, etc. I don’t usually make friends with people who openly declare that they think I’m going to hell, and to be quite frank, pushing one’s boundaries and not living in an echo chamber is one thing — putting up with someone who sounds honestly gleeful about how disgusting they find me and people I love is quite another.

And, being honest… I know another blogger can’t do anything to harm me, but going to their blog to find their comments about homosexuality being a sin and perversion felt like a bucket of ice cold water being dumped over my head. I was scared. People like that make the world a frightening place for people like me. Even if they themselves do nothing but talk, people like them followed me and my sister around at school telling us we should kill ourselves; people like that leave people like me for dead on the side of the road, not just historically but now (with homophobic attacks in my own country up almost 80% in the last four years). People like me have to be careful.

It was a harsh reminder that sharing a love of books with someone doesn’t mean we share anything else. Maybe if their top review hadn’t contained a disgusted comment about the book involving homosexuality, we’d have had a short chat about books and parted none the wiser. But I did see that.

So, should I have commented? I don’t know. In the end, I decided that they too would probably prefer it if I didn’t comment, given the givens. I definitely felt safer not doing so.

Tags:

Divider