Category: General


WWW Wednesday

Posted 30 January, 2019 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 Glamour in Glass, by Mary Robinette KowalI’m partway through a reread of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamour in Glass; I’m being a little irritated by the lack of communication between the two main characters, which I seem to remember would solve a lot and just require a bit of trust on both sides. I hate communication issues driving plots, honestly. I don’t recall it ruining the book for me before — if I remember rightly, I quite liked it overall — but it’s a bit annoying right now.

I’m also reading Roszika Parker’s The Subversive Stitch, which is about how embroidery came to be associated primarily with women and femininity; it’s a little dry and scholarly in tone, but I am enjoying learning more about an art/craft that I’ve been getting into myself. (And which is assumed to say a lot of things about my femininity, which makes me laugh.)

Cover of Kill the Queen by Jennifer EstepI’m also about halfway through Kill the Queen, by Jennifer Estep. It’s frustrating me at the moment because I just want Everleigh to admit who she is; I’m not actually sure of the timeline of these novels (whether she’ll have revealed herself by the end); maybe I should read the summary of the next book to see whether I should be moderating my expectations!

What have you recently finished reading?

I think the last thing I finished was Mary Beard’s How Do We Look / The Eye of Faith — fascinating stuff, really. We tend to think that all ancient art is leading up to a sort of Greco-Roman realism, and interpret it accordingly; it’s worth remembering that people haven’t always thought the same way or had the same expectations of art!

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

I have no idea. I need to pick my next bookclub choice for the Habitica book club, and I’m not entirely sure what genre I’ll pick. I just got a copy of Hild, by Nicola Griffith, from a book swap… so maybe I’ll set that as the month’s book. It’s certainly high time I got to reading that; I’ve wanted to for ages.

What are you reading?

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A Personal Note

Posted 28 January, 2019 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

I don’t often post exclusively about personal things, though I think readers here know a fair bit about me; I think it’s even more rare for me to post about politics, although I suspect you also have a fair idea of my political stance. This post is a one-off, and unlikely to be repeated, but it’s something that I felt I needed to write, and and an occasion on which I felt it necessary to use my limited platform to say the things that only I can say.

We’re often told that personal stories are what sway people, more than statistics or politicians’ speeches. I’m not sure I believe anymore that there is anyone from the other side of things listening: it’s become so polarised, so fractious, with both sides so very convinced they’re right. And of course, I’m still convinced I was in the right in voting to Remain, and I would do so again — though at the same time I recognise that there’s a reason the country is going this way, and the outright bare-faced lies of the Leave faction have appealed to a real need in people to be heard and to see certain things happen. The division in this country needs to be healed, somehow.

The problem is, the disinformation is still happening. People around me — Leave and Remain voters alike — have this strange idée fixe that Brexit isn’t going to affect them or anyone they know. Even when they know darn well that my wife is Belgian, they cling to the idea that it won’t affect me because we’re married (and thus obviously safe) or it won’t affect me because it doesn’t actually mean people like my wife (who has a job here and speaks perfect English and doesn’t look or sound different).

It does mean her as well. The fact that we’re married actually has no effect on whether she’s allowed to stay or not. Having a job, no effect. Perfect English, no effect. The fact that she didn’t get here until September 2018 is a definite black mark against her (regardless of the fact that it was due to our decision to delay the move until we were financially ready for it, so that we haven’t required any benefits, etc). People with far better claims to remain in the UK — years of paying taxes, families all born here — are being rejected for “settled status”, and despite all the government’s assurances, I remain painfully aware that we have hoops to jump through: pre-settled status, settled status, citizenship… all with associated fees and inconvenience and outright invasion of privacy.

And that’s just what we’re currently being told. Who knows what is actually going to happen. We did all the right things: I had my degree(s!) finished, I had a job, she had a job, we had savings, we didn’t do anything on a whim. And this situation punishes us for it.

I’m not saying that anyone should change their minds based on our story alone, but it’s worth remembering that I planned my life based on European free movement, a right I’m now losing, and I’m far from alone. It’s worth remembering that these same uncertainties and barriers apply to NHS nurses and doctors who were born in other EU countries, and every other kind of skilled European worker. It’s worth remembering that it doesn’t just apply to stopping the free movement of unskilled workers who don’t speak English — it stops everyone’s free movement. It’s worth remembering that the UK gains very little political power by removing itself from the EU, and loses a lot — the power of veto we used to hold, the voice we had in European issues. It’s worth remembering that if we want to trade with the EU, which we will need to do, we’re going to need to abide by their trading standards anyway, so you can put away that old canard about becoming free of the EU regulating things right down to the curvature of bananas. It’s worth remembering that with the best will in the world on both sides, they’re big, and we’re small, and we’ve forfeited our right to direct their policies.

It’s worth noticing where the big companies and the millionaires are going, even the ones who said Brexit was good for Britain.

Leavers complain about the EU taking their rights away, but Brexit itself takes away rights central to my life, and gives me nothing worth the loss. I hope understanding that will help Leavers I know understand what the problem is for me, both personally and in a wider sense. At the very least, please don’t pretend to me that I’ll be better off. You know I will not, and you’re lying to yourself and to me when you pretend that things are going to work out fine for everybody.

Nonetheless, in the words of Jo Cox — murdered not far from where I grew up for her pro-EU stance: “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” Let’s try and justify her faith in us.

Note: I’ve turned comments off on this post because I don’t really want to debate it any further right now — I’m stressed out enough about the whole situation as it is: I don’t trust myself to be the kind of level-headed voice of reason I want to be — and because this is still a blog about books primarily, not a place for political debate.

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 26 January, 2019 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Good morning, folks! It’s been a heck of a week, as I think I already said; thank goodness it’s over, and I can start the next one fresh. In theory, anyway! I’m ending/starting the week with the #24in48 readathon, so that’ll be good.

Books read this week:

Cover of Ninja by John Man Cover of Band Sinister by K.J. Charles Cover of Hidden Sun by Jaine Fenn

Reviews posted this week:

Greenwitch, by Susan Cooper. Never a favourite of the series, but there’s a lot to love all the same. 4/5 stars
A Little History of Science, by W.F. Bynum. Did not finish this one, because inaccuracies. Meh. 1/5 stars
Hidden Sun, by Jaine Fenn. Did not finish this one, because despite some intriguing stuff, the characters decide that rape isn’t so bad as long as you don’t kill anyone, and I’m not into that. 2/5 stars

Discussions:

Discussion: Book Blanket. This week, I shared a photo of one motif, and the pattern I’m using to make them! The photo at least is worth it, I promise; it’s a very pretty colour combination!

Out and About:

NEAT science: ‘Gum Disease causes Alzheimer’s? You heard me! It’s a theory so far, but from what I’ve read, it’s kind of convincing!

So how’s everyone else been doing?

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Discussion: Book Blanket

Posted 24 January, 2019 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

It’s been a Week, and I’m behind on all kinds of blog things. So I thought I’d quickly share a pic of one of my recent hexagons, and the exact pattern if you wanted to follow me exactly.

So first, here’s the hexagon for Shades of Milk and Honey, a reread (the deep purple outer ring, “emperor”) that’s fantasy, romance and historical fiction (“turquoise” for fantasy, “bright pink” for romance; it’ll be “spring green” for other when I read any historical fiction, but I wanted to keep it somewhat simple).

The pattern is from CrochetSpot, but they don’t explain exactly how to do it (it’s more how to work out the pattern for an expanding motif of any number of sides) and I’ve made a few tweaks for stability. This might sound like total witchcraft if you’re not into crochet!

So if you’re looking at the pic above, we’ll call the pink colour A, the blue colour B, and the purple colour C. We’re using US terminology, because that’s what I’m most used to in patterns.

Dc – double crochet
Ss – slip stitch
Ch – chain
Chain space – the visible gap between the clusters in the previous round

Round 1: With colour A, do 3ch up from a magic circle and then 17 dc into the magic circle. Draw it closed so there’s almost no hole. Ss into the top of the 3ch. (18 stitches)
Round 2: 3ch (counts as first dc). *[dc, ch3, dc] in next stitch, dc in next two stitches*, repeat from * around until you have six clusters of four stitches each. Ss into the top of the 3ch. (24 stitches)
Round 3: Join with colour B in the first stitch of a cluster. 3ch, 3dc, *[dc, ch3, dc] in ch space, dc in next 4 stitches*, repeat from * around until you have six clusters of six stitches each. Ss into the top of the 3ch. (36 stitches)
Round 4: Join with colour C in the first stitch of a cluster. 3ch, 5dc, *[dc, ch3, dc] in ch space, dc in next 6 stitches*, repeat from * around until you have six clusters of eight stitches each. Ss into the top of the 3ch and tie off. (48 stitches)

I’ve made slight adjustments from the CrochetSpot pattern, as I mentioned, mostly for stability; I don’t like having the 3ch forming chain spaces, as then you can get stretchy gappiness when joining to the rest of the cluster instead of a smooth consistent look all round. I’ve found that making sure the 3ch is part of the cluster keeps things neat. You can improve that by starting right in the center of a cluster when you change colours.

If you’re doing that, you can just think of it as 3ch from where you are, crochet into each dc from the previous round, and [dc, 3ch, dc] in the chain spaces. It’s true in every round after the second, if you want to make the hexagon bigger. Mine comes out just a bit bigger than the palm of my hand; around 10cm in diameter. If you’re looking for an easy motif that isn’t a plain old granny square, this is pretty simple and repetitive. I’m now down to about 30 minutes for making a motif, joining it to the other squares, and tucking in the ends.

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 19 January, 2019 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Good morning, folks! It’s late as I type this (the night before, as is traditional) and my wife would really like some sleep before my fancy-ass snobby hairdresser appointment. (It’s not bleach! It’s “toner”! Well let me tell you: I have dark brown hair, naturally. You’re not going to ‘gently tone’ it into accepting bright turquoise dye, my friends.) So I do this in a rush, so please excuse anything I miss…

Books acquired:

Cover of Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Books read this week:

Cover of What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape by S Cover of Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Number of books in: 1
Number of books read: 2
Number of books from the backlog read: 0
Rereads: 1
Library books: 0
Bought in 2019: 1

Reviews posted this week:

Dead in the Water, by Carola Dunn. Not exactly surprising or revolutionary — though nor have any of the Daisy books been — but comfortably entertaining. 4/5 stars
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge. If people could put aside the kneejerking about the title (which half the time just proves it’s point), this is an informative and civil attempt to, well, talk to white people about race. The anger is there, but muted; Eddo-Lodge tries to communicate facts as much as anything. 4/5 stars
Murder Must Advertise, by Dorothy L. Sayers. Always a fun entry in this series, from my point of view; I was surprised to learn from the introduction (or was it the introduction to The Nine Tailors?) that this was more or less filler. I can see it, though, on reflection. 4/5 stars
The Crucible of Creation, by Simon Conway Morris. A response to and a rebuttal of some of Stephen Jay Gould’s work, particularly Wonderful Life, from a scientist who has made a career from working on the creatures of the Burgess Shale. Unfortunately, I didn’t find his style very engaging… 3/5 stars
A Most Novel Revenge, by Ashley Weaver. Meh. This series feels samey, though thank goodness this book put aside much of the drama about Milo being a playboy. Not continuing this series. 2/5 stars

Discussions:

Discussion: Book Blanket. Wanna see my colour palette and the motif design? Here!
WWW Wednesday. The weekly update!

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 16 January, 2019 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 Dark Days Club by Alison GoodmanWhat are you currently reading?

The Dark Days Club, by Alison Goodman. I’ve been surprised by how long it took for any (credible) supernatural elements to creep in. I did enjoy the opening very much establishing Helen’s place in society, the importance of propriety for her, etc. I’m hoping that won’t fall by the wayside as she starts to take on the ‘sacred duty to protect humanity’ mentioned by the back cover!

Cover of The Story of Pain by Joanna BourkeWhat have you recently finished reading?

Apart from Stitches in Time by Lucy Adlington, which is the last book I read cover-to-cover, I recently DNF’ed and probably won’t fully review The Story of Pain, by Joanna Bourke. Although I might, I don’t know; it could be useful to people to know that it’s a rather literature-based book rather than focusing on the science of pain, which is more what I was hoping for. It has a very dry and academic tone, too; it never uses a simple quick definition when five examples from literature and history will do.

Cover of Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette KowalWhat will you be reading next?

I don’t know. I really feel like rereading Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey; if I avoid the reread impulse, I might pick up the sequel to The Dark Days Club and read that, or delve into my backlog from last year. I haven’t read the final Murderbot novella yet, even! There’s plenty of options and as ever, I’m fickle and probably won’t get to any that I pick out.

What are you currently reading?

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Discussion: Book Blanket

Posted 14 January, 2019 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Since last week, I’ve picked out my colour palette (such as it is — my wife was involved, and she loves a riot of colour) and ordered the yarn! So I thought I’d update on the chosen colour palette. Here’s an image with some colour swatches to give you a better idea:

Graphic showing the colours I've chosen for my blanket and what each one means

Graphic showing the colours I’ve chosen for my blanket and what each one means (click to embiggen)

In other words, looking at the table below, for each square I’m going to make the centres out of a colour chosen based on the genre of the book (table A) and then a round in a colour chosen based on the source of the book (table B). If the book covers two genres, I’ll do two rounds for the first genre and two rounds for the second genre.

Table A: Genres and Colours

GenreFantasySFMysteryScienceHistoryRomanceOther
ColourTurquoiseStorm BlueClaretLobeliaGoldBright PinkGrass Green

Table B: Genre and Colour

SourceBacklog 2011-2015Backlog 2016-2018Acquired this yearLibrary, ARC, borrowed, etc
ColourBottlePetrolBoysenberryEmperor
So a book that’s a Mystery/Romance, bought back in 2014, will get two rounds in Claret and two in Bright Pink, followed by a round or two (I haven’t decided yet, it will depend on the size when made) in Bottle. That will have a border in Cream, which will also attach it to the next square. I need to look up how to join with crochet in a blanket, but that shouldn’t take too much effort!

All the colours picked were Stylecraft Special DK; I also got a refer-a-friend link which will get you 15% off a first order from LoveKnitting, which will also give me 15% off my next order for anyone who signs up! Click here for 15% off yarn from LoveKnitting!

Finally, I also picked out the design: I’m going to keep it simple and go with an expanding geometric hexagon, with the pattern from CrochetSpot — circled in red on this photo from their pattern:

Okay, that’s all for this week! Hopefully next week I’ll have some progress on the actual blanket to show you.

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 12 January, 2019 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

Good morning, folks! It’s been a somewhat busy week, aka I’ve still been catching up from the holiday and just being kinda lazy, so there hasn’t been much activity. I have bought my first two books of 2019 though, and got my first request via Netgalley.

Received to review:

Cover of Master of Sorrows by Justin Call

Bought:

Cover of What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape by S Cover of Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

Books read this week:

Cover of To Davy Jones Below by Carola Dunn Cover of Breaking the Maya Code by Michael D. Coe Cover of Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens Cover of Molecules at an Exhibition by John Emsley

Number of books in: 2
Number of books read: 4
Number of books from the backlog read: 3
Rereads: 0
Library books: 0
Bought in 2019: 1

Reviews posted this week:

The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper. Still beloved, though I had more quibbles and concerns this time. 4/5 stars
The Mycenaeans, by Rodney Castleden. I don’t know the material well enough to judge his accuracy, but there are some things from what I do know that seem problematic. 2/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussion: Book Blanket. My awesome bookish crafty project for 2019!

Out and about:

NEAT science: ‘Neanderthal diets: follow-up. Someone asked an interesting question about last week’s post, so I dug in a bit further!

So that’s it for this week, I think! How’s it going for you guys?

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Discussion: Book Blanket

Posted 7 January, 2019 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

While clicking around on Twitter, as you do, I learned about an awesome project some other book nerds are doing. (Full credit: I heard about it from a booktuber, Claire Rosseau.) I’m not much into Instagram or Youtube or whatever, so if there’s a linkup anywhere for web bloggers, someone gimme it and I’ll be right over like a shot.

Anyway, what is this awesome project? A book blanket! Basically, for every book I read in 2019, I crochet a motif to be part of a blanket. Each motif’s colours will be dictated by the book I just read (so for example, if I just read a fantasy book, I’d make a purple square). At the end, I should have a massive blanket of around 250 motifs, if I read roughly the same amount I read last year. It’s going to be epic! (And unlike some of my other blanket projects, it’s very deliberately piecemeal, and so I should be able to do it in little bits as I go along.)

And of course, I’ll blog about every step of the project. When I have an update, I’ll post about it as my discussion post for the week (and when I don’t have any news, which will be most of the time, I’ll think of something else, or post a book review instead). I’ll probably do a couple more of these in January covering my decision process, though, because here I get to combine crochet and books, and that’s pretty awesome.

So! What have I decided so far? I’ve decided that I’ll use acrylic yarn. Any wool-mix is out for me, due to sensitive skin: I can just about work with wool-mixes without problems, but they irritate my skin a lot. Cotton is nice, but could get expensive, and can also be really stiff — not what you want in a big snuggly floppy blanket. So acrylic is my decision: generally hard-wearing, easy to wash, and not too expensive either. And I think I’ll go for DK for the yarn weight; smaller is fiddlier, and there’s a lot more variety available in DK. Chunky yarn is a love of mine, but with 200 motifs, it’d come out too big.

How am I going to join them? Having laboriously sewn a blanket together at the end — a small blanket, at that — I’m going to crochet them together with white yarn. That will give each of them a border, look nice, and can be done as I go along. So I’ll need an extra skein of yarn in white.

To LoveKnitting.com! Having worked with it before and looking at the huge colour selection, I think I’m going to go for Stylecraft Special DK. I’ll probably try and keep the whole thing in the same brand of yarn, to ensure that as much is kept similar as possible, but it shouldn’t matter too much as long as the material and the weight are the same for all the motifs.

Posts to come: colours! Motif type! Maybe a tutorial video or step by step post in which I show you how to make the motif if you want to give it a try!

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 5 January, 2019 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Hello folks! It’s been a slow week and I’m only just properly getting back to my posting schedule, but there have been some posts and there has been a new book! Technically I took back a book I already had and got a new book as a swap. I’m super interested in this one since I spent my Christmas prep time learning a new fabric-based craft for people’s gifts… Actually, first, let me show off said gifts! (Click to embiggen!)

The first pic is finished and framed ones; the second pic contains some of the other pieces I finished, and shows them drying on the radiator before being pressed and framed! (Thank you, wife, for making the pressing and framing part happen.)

So here’s the new book:

Cover of The Golden Thread by Kasia St Clair

Books read this week:

Cover of Rattle His Bones by Carola Dunn The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper Cover of Greenwitch by Susan Cooper Cover of The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia McKillip

Reviews posted this week:

Death Wears a Mask, by Ashley Weaver. Not bad, but mostly just kinda lukewarm brain candy — and the romantic entanglement between the main character and her playboy husband is wearing on me. 2/5 stars

Over Sea, Under Stone, by Susan Cooper. The weakest of the series, and probably could’ve done without rereading this one, though Cooper’s deft touch with characterisation is still a joy. 3/5 stars

Other posts:

The Last Ten Books. A book tag with mostly interesting questions!
Game of Books 2019. My points-based ‘game’ that gives equal credit for many short books or one long book, while encouraging me to read my backlog too!
WWW Wednesday. An update on what I’ve been reading recently.
2018 Stats. A look back at my year in books!

Out and about:

NEAT science: ‘Neanderthal diets.‘ How do we know what Neanderthals ate? This post goes through one of the ways!

How’s everybody doing? Reading anything exciting?

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