Category: General


Weekly Roundup

Posted 27 April, 2019 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

Good morning, world! I need to queue up these posts further in advance, because I’m writing this at Late On Friday Night and wife would like to be asleep. Whoops.

Received to review:

Cover of The Toll by Cherie Priest

Bought:

Cover of Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis

Read this week:

Cover of Religion and Magic in Ancient Egypt by Rosalie David Cover of Spineless by Juli Berwald Cover of An Incredible Crime by Lois Austen-Leigh

Reviews posted this week:

Ragged Alice, by Gareth L. Powell. Enjoyed the setting a lot. The plot is a bit shakier, but I’d read more in the same world. 3/5 stars
Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee. It’s still brilliant, ’nuff said. And better for a reread, even. 5/5 stars
Catullus’ Bedspread: The Life of Rome’s Most Erotic Poet, by Daisy Dunn. Not sure if author knows whether they’re writing fiction or not. 2/5 stars
The Bull of Minos, by Leonard Cottrell. Way out of date and focusing on fairly discredited archaeologists, but interested in its own dated way. Not really about the Minoan civilisation at all. 2/5 stars
Hacking the Code of Life, by Nessa Carey. Really accessible and easy to read; could’ve wished for a bit more meat on it. 4/5 stars
Searching For The Lost Tombs Of Egypt, by Chris Naunton. Fascinating stuff and it all seemed plausible and not pie-in-the-sky; Naunton isn’t actually saying all these tombs will be found or that there’ll be miraculous treasure if we do find them. He’s just weighing up the evidence. 4/5 stars
King Arthur: The Making of the Legend, by Nicholas J. Higham. Absolutely great. This looks like it could be another book going in search of a dubious historical source for King Arthur, but actually it dismantles every one of them with meticulously explained evidence. 5/5 stars

Other posts:

Top Ten Tuesday. Kinda less a Top Ten and more just my First Ten, but that was the prompt!
WWW Wednesday. The usual update!

How’re you doing, fair reader? Big reading plans this weekend?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 24 April, 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 An Incredible Crime by Lois Austen-LeighWhat are you currently reading?

Too much, as ever. The first two my eyes fall on are Spineless, by Juli Berwald, and The Incredible Crime, by Lois Austen-Leigh. The former is fascinating, though I’m gonna have to have a squint at the notes at the end — there’s at least one claim where I can’t find a source by googling. The latter is… well, it’s a Golden Age crime novel, so relaxing in the way I find almost all of those books relaxing: it’s not yet all about the most gruesome murder or the most twisted serial killer. It’s usually more of a puzzle. I’m not far into it, really, though.

Cover of Religion and Magic in Ancient Egypt by Rosalie DavidWhat have you recently finished reading?

Religion and Magic in Ancient Egypt, by Rosalie David. There were some odd decisions at points — like a chapter where David seemed to be taking the Bible fairly literally as a historical document, which I’ve previously understood is not a very good idea — but it goes through the beliefs of Egyptians both common and aristocratic, as far as we can understand them, explaining the evidence and implications..

Cover of Hild by Nicola GriffithWhat will you be reading next?

Why do I still try to answer this part? I’m fairly sure I’m never accurate. At a guess… well, I need to finish Hild sometime in the next week in order to get the Game of Books points for reading it on time for the book club. So that, maybe?

What are you currently reading?

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 23 April, 2019 by Nikki in General / 9 Comments

This week’s theme is: your first ten reviews! I’m not going to delve into the Goodreads rabbit hole to figure out what my first ten were there, so here’s a blast from the past of this blog…

Cover of Captain Marvel #1

  1. Captain Marvel: In Pursuit of Flight, by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Dexter Soy and Emma Rios. My first experience with Captain Marvel! DeConnick’s run was pretty badass.
  2. Dead Harvest, The Wrong Goodbye and The Big Reap, by Chris F. Holm. I re-posted these reviews from Goodreads due to a great experience with Chris Holm. <3
  3. The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, by Cassandra Rose Clarke. I really loved this one! I’m kind of curious to reread it now.
  4. Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh. Still great. Clean all the things!
  5. The Stepford Wives, by Ira Levin. Didn’t get on with his writing then, still don’t now. Plus ça change…
  6. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey. A reread at the time, and one I surprisingly still enjoyed.
  7. A Gift Upon the Shore, by M.K. Wren. I can’t remember this at all, but apparently I wasn’t a fan!
  8. Swords of the Six, by Scott Appleton. Nope, completely blank on this as well!
  9. Between Two Thorns, by Emma Newman. I’ve been meaning to reread this and try the rest of the series!
  10. Zealot, by Reza Aslan. Hmm, I don’t seem to have been much of a fan.

Interesting how little I remember about some of these! I think my more recent reviews might be a bit more helpful in prompting the memory…

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 20 April, 2019 by Nikki in General / 9 Comments

Good morning, folks! It’s ridiculously late as I’m queuing this up and I’m rather tired, and I really haven’t got to read enough this week. How’re you guys?!

Received to review:

Cover of Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky Cover of The Undefeated by Una McCormack Cover of Dragonslayer by Duncan M. Hamilton Cover of The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall

Cover of Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water by Vlyar Kaftan Cover of Perihelion Summer by Greg Egan Cover of Longer by Michael Blumlein

I’m excited to read more in that universe from Tchaikovsky, and I couldn’t resist the description of The Undefeated

Bought:

Cover of Hacking the Code of Life by Nessa Carey

New pop science from Nessa Carey? Yes, please!

Received from a swap:

Cover of Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte Cover of An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir Cover of The Prey of Gods, by Nicky Drayden

This should be fascinating! Thank you to Tatiana for my Litsy SFF swap box! I need to tuck into the fudge I got, too. Nom nom nommm…

Read this week:

Cover of Hacking the Code of Life by Nessa Carey Cover of Inheritors of the Earth by Chris D Thomas Cover of The Undefeated by Una McCormack

Reviewed this week:

Clouds of Witness, by Dorothy L. Sayers. Whose Body is a fun book, but it doesn’t have quite the same emotional hook as Clouds of Witness, and that connection to the case for the defence makes this rather more engaging. 4/5 stars
Without a Summer, by Mary Robinette Kowal. A lovely blend of history and fantasy that’s really well thought out, and far from what I expected from reading the first book! 4/5 stars
Enchanted Glass, by Diana Wynne Jones. Another reread! In style it’s rather typical of Diana Wynne Jones’ work, and that means it was a lot of fun. 4/5 stars
Life in a Medieval Castle, by Frances Gies and Joseph Gies. Not bad, and probably good writing resource, but Marc Morris’ book on castles would be my preference! 3/5 stars

Other posts:

Top Ten Tuesday: Rainy Day Reads. Five books I go back to for comfort reading, and five that I’ve been saving for a rainy day.
WWW Wednesday. The usual weekly update on what I’m reading.
Wyrd & Wonder 2019. A giveaway!

Out and About:

NEAT science: ‘IN MICE.‘ Highlighting an excellent Twitter account, and the reasons to applaud it.
Once Upon A Blue Moon: ‘A Hard Day’s Work for a Very Small Librarian‘. The short story written to go with this bookmark I stitched for my SF/F bookswap partner.

So that was my week! How was yours?

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Wyrd and Wonder 2019

Posted 18 April, 2019 by Nikki in General, Giveaways / 16 Comments

Text banner: Wyrd and Wonder: Celebrate the Fantastic (1-31 May) - plus a gorgeous stylised dragon glyph

It’s nearly time for Wyrd & Wonder! I suppose I better do the introduction if you haven’t met W&W before, Dear Reader. Wyrd & Wonder, meet the Dear Reader! Dear Reader, this is Wyrd and Wonder! It’s a month-long celebration of all things fantastical, with various readalongs, discussions, giveaways and shenanigans throughout the month.

I’m notoriously bad at keeping up with this kind of thing, but I thought I’d do a start-up post at the very least! And while I’m at it, why not take the opportunity for a giveaway?

Rules and Ways to Enter:

  • The prize: One (1) book of your choice from the fantasy books I read during the period 1st May – 31st May, to be mailed to you directly from BookDepository.com or gifted via Kindle if you’re in an eligible country (this is flexible — if you have another preference, let me know if you win!)
  • How to enter: Use the Rafflecopter below! There are three ways to enter:
    1. Click once for a free entry
    2. Leave a comment on this post. The prompt in the Rafflecopter is: “Are you doing anything for Wyrd & Wonder? (You don’t have to be for a chance to win, I promise!)”
    3. Posted about Wyrd & Wonder! Post something Wyrd & Wonder themed and give me the link to the post! Tweets don’t count, sorry, but anything longer-form does! You can do this multiple times, once per day!
  • Terms and conditions: 
    • By entering, you consent for your details to be collected by Rafflecopter for the sole purpose of verifying your entry and contacting you if you win.
    • The winner will be contacted via email and will have three days to respond before I contact a runner-up to offer them the prize.
  • Duration: Until 31st May!
  • The books you can choose from: 
    • Magic Bites, by Ilona Andrews
    • A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan
    • Snowspelled, by Stephanie Burgis
    • Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho
    • The True Queen, by Zen Cho
    • The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson
    • Magic for Liars, by Sarah Gailey
    • The Dark Days Club, by Alison Goodman
    • The Afterward, by E.K. Johnston
    • Valour & Vanity, by Mary Robinette Kowal
    • Of Noble Family, by Mary Robinette Kowal
    • Dreamer’s Pool, by Juliet Marillier
    • Fire Logic, by Laurie J. Marks
    • In An Absent Dream, by Seanan McGuire
    • Middlegame, by Seanan McGuire
    • Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
    • Uprooted, by Naomi Novik
    • Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik
    • Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, by K.J. Parker
    • Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse
    • The Ninth Rain, by Jen Williams

Welp, that should do it! Are you ready for this, folks?!

IMAGE CREDIT: Dragon – by  kasana86

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 17 April, 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 Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha LeeWhat are you currently reading?

Far, far too much at once, of course! I’m partway through rereading Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee — I tore through my reread of Ninefox Gambit. The books really are pretty compulsive reading, especially now that (given it’s a reread) I know the world a little and what things are possible. I did find the magic-math a little mind-bending the first time, but it’s easier this time. Aaaaahhhh Jedao. AAAH.

I’m also reading Religion and Magic in Ancient Egypt, because I can never stay away from books about Ancient Egypt. I’m not very far into it, but it seems so far to be taking a common-sense approach that attempts to unify the various different threads of evidence (graves, texts, monuments, artefacts) rather than relying on just the mummies, or just the texts.

Cover of Hacking the Code of Life by Nessa CareyWhat have you recently finished reading?

I just finished Nessa Carey’s new book, about CRISPR (or really, gene editing a little more broadly). It’s rather short and the emphasis is much more on the pop than on the science aspect, but it does feature an extremely excellent description of how exactly CRISPR works, and the discussion of the ethics is timely and important, if rather basic because it’s addressed to a non-scientific audience.

Cover of Inheritors of the Earth by Chris D ThomasWhat will you be reading next?

*shakes Magic 8 Ball* “My sources say no”?

Well, I’m guessing I’m going to be as capricious as usual. I do know that I’d like to have fewer books on the go at once, so chances are high I’ll be finishing Inheritors of the Earth — a discussion of whether species diversity is really under threat in the Anthropocene, taking a common-sense approach to things like invasive species — and other books recently added to my currently reading pile, like Hild. Probably especially Hild, since it’s a book-club read!

What are you reading? Please do comment and let me know so I can raid your books when you’re done!

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 16 April, 2019 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

This week’s topic is “Rainy Day Reads”, and like imyril, I can’t help reading that as books for a metaphorical rainy day. So here are five books I always turn to when I want a comfort read — and five books I’ve been saving for a rainy day.

Comfort Reads for a Rainy Day:

Cover of Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart Cover of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers Cover of Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw Cover of A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

  1. The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. I mean, come on, you knew I was going to say it. I adore the decency of Maia — he’s not perfect: he can be petty and waspish and he does things he regrets, and he’s not always the sharpest crayon in the box either, but he tries his damnedest and he wins hearts (including mine) because of it. <3
  2. Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart. I used to be rather snobbish about these even as I enjoyed them, so here I am eating humble pie. There’s something about Mary Stewart’s ability with settings and her masterful heroes that works, even as I get annoyed with them — the hero of this book does not comport himself beautifully, to say the least. But there is some lovely stuff about grief, and learning to love again, and… I don’t know! It just works for me. It helps that Charity is a badass.
  3. A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers. It made me cry in the bath, but it’s still a favourite. It’s all… warm and squishy, even as it’s occasionally upsetting and harrowing.
  4. Strange Practice, by Vivian Shaw. It’s a newcomer to the list, I’m sure — I think I’ve written a comfort reads list before, at least — but I’ve been craving it when feeling down and ugh-y, so I guess it qualifies by now! I’ve read it twice, and I really kinda just want to read it again. Now.
  5. A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan. Which is funny, considering I didn’t love it the first time I read it. But it grew on me, rather the same way that Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey grew on me. (And I read them both at around the same time, actually…)

Books I’ve Been Saving for a Rainy Day:

Cover of Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers Cover of The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson Cover of The Books of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin and Charles Vess Cover of The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin Cover of Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

  1. Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers. I’ve actually started it now, but for a while there it was just sat on my pile, gently tempting…
  2. The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt, by Toby Wilkinson. I might have an odd idea of comfort, but… there’s something nice about having this waiting for me somewhere along the line. I hope it’s a good overview, and not too similar to John Romer’s volumes, but either way I’ll probably enjoy it for the familiar magic of Egyptian archaeology and history.
  3. The Books of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin, illustrated by Charles Vess. Technically, the story isn’t new to me, but this illustrated version will be! It promises to be a real pleasure, which I’ve been putting off for the right moment, when I need it!
  4. The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin. I did actually start this, got partway through it, got distracted, and then sort of ‘banked’ it to await the full series. Which is all out now and has been for some time, but I know it’ll be good, so… it just kind of waits there.
  5. Republic of Thieves, by Scott Lynch. To the eternal frustration of Lisa and Mum. I’m in no hurry to be left hanging for the next book like I was after Red Seas Under Red Skies, people!

And an honourable mention to The Tethered Mage, which imyril has been tempting me with on Litsy all this week…

So that’s my rainy day reads — what’re yours?

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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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