Category: General

Weekly Roundup

Posted June 15, 2019 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

Good morning, folks! It’s been a good week: I’ve got back on top of comments I’ve owed for nearly a month, and I’m ready to get myself into more trouble again! I’ve also got some new books (though still not my hard copy of Jo Walton’s Lent… grrrr!) and I’ve been reading a fair bit.

[Edit: this did not go live on Saturday for some unknown reason. I was wondering why I hadn’t seen any comments!]

Acquired:

Read this week:

Cover of Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan Cover of A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson Cover of The Pandemic Century by Mark Honigsbaum Cover of The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall Cover of Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marillier

Reviewed this week:

Middlegame, by Seanan McGuire. The complex timeline made my reading experience a little jerky, but I loved the relationship between the characters and a lot of the ideas. 4/5 stars
Heartstopper, by Alice Oseman. Aaarggh it’s so cute. 4/5 stars
Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee. Aaarggh it’s so clever. 4/5 stars
Magic Burns, by Ilona Andrews. I continue to think these books are underrated by a lot of people, though the pacing in this book is a bit off for me. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

WWW Wednesday. The usual update!

Out and about:

NEAT science: ‘Mutants are taking over. Yep, you contain mutant cells, probably even cells with changes that can lead to cancer… and that’s (probably) totally fine.
NEAT science: ‘An easier way to amplify DNA.‘ Want to learn about how to copy DNA in the lab? Given news about a new technique for that, I explained the genius of the old technique… and why this new one would be such an improvement.

So that’s me. How’re you doing? What are you reading? What are you stacking your shelves with? Talk to me! I promise I will reply soon this time.

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WWW Wednesday

Posted June 12, 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 The Pandemic Century by Mark HonigsbaumWhat are you currently reading?

I’m most of the way through The Pandemic Century, by Mark Honigsbaum, which has lots of interesting titbits on various pandemics — some of which I didn’t know. I’m kind of waiting to see where it’s going, though, because it seems to be leaning a bit in the direction of “we can’t predict The Big One, so why get all hysterical about it?”. Which is worrying to me.

Also, I’m sure my family are wincing to hear it, given that I only recently made my mind up to do an MSc in mental health science, but gaaah I want to do more epidemiology and microbiology. Describing how researchers work in the labs that uncover the origins of pandemic disease makes me itch to do some of that work myself. Mind you, by next week I’ll be itching to be an archaeologist or something, so folks can be pretty sure I’ll circle back round to the MSc in time to enrol.

Cover of Tropic of Serpents by Marie BrennanWhat have you recently finished reading?

My reread of The Tropic of Serpents. That book — that whole series really — just fills me with joy. I’m gonna go right on and start on Voyage of the Basilisk… or, being honest with y’all, I already have. I could just eat up Isabella’s adventures, and I love her friendship with Tom Wilker. (I still wanna figure out which part of the UK Niddey sort of corresponds to; I assume probably Ireland, but I like to think of him as a Welshman.)

Cover of Lent by Jo WaltonWhat will you be reading next?

Other than more of Lady Trent’s adventures, I’ll be properly digging into Jo Walton’s Lent now. I have an e-copy because I was so impatient for it, but have been more in the mood for physical books. My physical copy should arrive soon, but even if not, I’m goin’ in! I was excited by the bit I’ve read, and amused because I just played through the Savonarola section of Assassin’s Creed 2.

What are you currently reading?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted June 5, 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 The Dinosaurs Rediscovered by Michael J. BentonWhat are you currently reading?

The top of the pile right now is The Dinosaurs Rediscovered, by Michael J. Benton. Mostly it’s just an excuse to read about dinosaurs; I doubt there’s much that will surprise me, having read several recent dinosaur books in the last year or so. But maybe it will! We’ll see. I’m also reading The Warrior Queen, by Joanna Arman, which is shockingly badly edited. It’s very speculative and padded, which I sort of expect from a book about an Anglo-Saxon queen, but is still kind of disappointing.

Cover of Extraordinary Insects by Anne Sverdrup-ThygesonWhat have you recently finished reading?

After Wyrd and Wonder, I decided to combine a palate cleanser of something totally different with reading one of the books I’ve been buying. The result was that I read Extraordinary Insects. It’s… interesting enough if you don’t know much about insects and their importance in food webs, but I didn’t think I did know that much about insects, and yet failed to be surprised by much. Kinda meh in the end.

Cover of Heartstopper by Alice OsemanWhat will you be reading next?

Continuing the theme of palate-cleansing and reading my new books, probably Heartstopper. After that, we’ll see, but I’m thinking about The Bitter Twins (Jen Williams) and then Revenant Gun (Yoon Ha Lee) — the latter particularly because a) Hugos and b) my wife’s been reading it and making incredulous stunned noises.

What are you currently reading?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted May 29, 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.

This week’s is rather late in the day, and I know I’m lacking in posts this week as well. Having difficulty budgeting my time around being randomly massively cranky, and I know my blog posting and commenting and engaging with people sucks right now. I’m working on it!

Cover of The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth DickinsonWhat are you currently reading?

I’ve just started The Monster Baru Cormorant (Seth Dickinson) and I am so not ready for this. From the very first chapter it jumps back into the awful final point of the last book and goes on right from there, losing no momentum or impact. Gaaah.

I’m also most of the way through The True Queen (Zen Cho), which… I’m silly and never actually looked stuff up, so I was caught by surprise by the awesome queerness! And ahh I love Damerell and Rollo.

Cover of A Natural History of Dragons by Marie BrennanWhat have you recently finished reading?

I spent yesterday rereading A Natural History of Dragons (Marie Brennan), which I still adore, and then after that I settled down to finish my reread of The Traitor Baru Cormorant, which is still amazing but still absolutely exhausting and shattering to read. And gah, all those wheels within wheels of plotting.

Cover of Middle-Game by Seanan McGuireWhat will you be reading next?

I’m trying to finish up my Wyrd and Wonder reading list, though I don’t think I’ll finish all the books on it by the end of May. Still, remaining and not mentioned here already are Middlegame (Seanan McGuire), Fire Logic (Laurie J. Marks) and Spinning Silver (Naomi Novik), all of which are actually in progress at the moment. So I’m not far off, either!

What are you reading?

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Weekly Roundup

Posted May 25, 2019 by Nikki in General / 1 Comment

Hey hey hey! It’s been a quieter week on this front, and I’ve got some reading done… and, well, some books bought, as well. Here’s the haul!

Books acquired this week:

Cover of The Pandemic Century by Mark Honigsbaum Cover of Extraordinary Insects by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson 

Read this week:

Cover of Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho Cover of The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman Cover of Sunshine by Robin McKinley Cover of The Afterward by E. K. Johnson Valour and Vanity, by Mary Robinette Kowal

Reviews posted this week:

Religion and Magic in Ancient Egypt, by Rosalie David. Probably quite dry if you’re not already fascinating by the topic, but beautifully in-depth if you are. 4/5 stars
Magic for Liars, by Sarah Gailey. Beautiful writing, in the sense of being precise and fresh, but not entirely my thing in some ways. 4/5 stars
Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse. Kind of middle of the road for me. I like the setting and ideas more than the story itself. 3/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussion: Fantasy. A quick trip around the fantasy genre as I know it, with some recommendations.
Readalong: The Ninth Rain and Trail of Lightning. My readathon thoughts for last week’s prompts.
WWW Wednesday. The usual weekly update!

How’s everyone doing? Anything delicious on your reading plate?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted May 22, 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 The Afterward by E. K. JohnsonWhat are you currently reading?

I’m currently in the middle of The Afterward, by E.K. Johnstone, which I will probably finish before this post goes live. It’s kind of light, but fun all the same. I’m also partway through rereading The Traitor Baru Cormorant, in that way where I picked it up to read maybe a chapter because I wanted to remind myself I did really like it and it is not actually going to be a chore (because sometimes my brain is daft, okay) and then I read 25% of it in one fell swoop. Oops.

Cover of The Dark Days Club by Alison GoodmanWhat have you recently finished reading?

The Dark Days Club, of which I didn’t think that much; I thought it was relatively predictable, and I’m not super admiring of Lady Helen. It doesn’t feel like she’s really made a choice; it feels like her hand was forced by circumstances. Also, she’s clearly going to be special and not like other Reclaimers and so on. A certain amount of that is fine, but it feels like she breaks the rules we were literally just taught in the story. Meh.

I also finished rereading Robin McKinley’s Sunshine, which… I have more qualms and complaints about it now than I did, but I also appreciate some aspects of it a lot more.

Cover of The True Queen by Zen ChoWhat will you be reading next?

Not a clue! Probably finishing up Valour & Vanity, and then… possibly Fire Logic (Laurie J. Marks) or possibly I’ll start on Middlegame or The True Queen. As ever, I’ll probably figure out what I accidentally inhale it. What I really want to read is The Bitter Twins, but that will have to wait.

What are you currently reading?

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Discussion: Fantasy

Posted May 20, 2019 by Nikki in General / 12 Comments

Text banner: Wyrd and Wonder: Celebrate the Fantastic (1-31 May) - plus a gorgeous stylised dragon glyphFor a while now I’ve been meaning to do some little discussions of genres, talk about the books I’ve read that sold me on the genre or really formed my impressions of it, so it seems appropriate to start off now, during Wyrd & Wonder, with one of my major genres — one that I’ve been reading throughout my life.

Fantasy is a really, really big genre, to be honest. It comes in so many shapes and styles that can overlap and borrow from one another, and the tone can be anything from dead serious to satirical to silly. You can spend your whole time reading in a subgenre and there’ll still be plenty there for you, particularly if it’s a major subgenre.

What counts as fantasy?

With all the subgenres and the changes in tone, it can be hard to put a finger on. I just settle for saying that it depicts a world at an angle from ours: there may be magic, events may have been different, dragons may be real, the characters may be animals or eldritch beings… Whatever it is, you know that it isn’t our world, however much you may wish that it was.

My first fantasy novel:

I’ll have been read several as a kid, but the first one I remember reading with any clarity is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. My versions of those books had lovely covers, and I regularly read them to pieces.

My favourite fantasy novel: 

This is a toughie, and always an unfair question, but if I had to go with my gut and blurt something out, right now I would say The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison.

My favourite fantasy series: 

This one is even tougher. There are so many trilogies and sprawling multi-volume epics that I find myself without even a gut feeling. And yet something does seem like clearly the right choice if I stop and think: Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea novels.

The last fantasy novel I read:

The last one I finished was The Ninth Rain, by Jen Williams. I’m eager to jump right on the next… just as soon as I finish the last 12 books from my Wyrd & Wonder reading list!

Top five subgenres: 

  • Secondary world fantasy, where the author has invented a whole new world
  • Portal fantasy, where people from our world end up in a fantasy world
  • Historical fantasy, where historical events are retold and changed by fantastical elements
  • Urban fantasy, where fairies and magic and all kinds of chaos can intrude into the modern cityscape
  • Fairytale retellings, where traditional stories are deepened and widened, and sometimes twisted

Suggested gateway books: 

  • If you’re into secondary world fantasy, then J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea books might appeal — or for something more recent, try some N.K. Jemisin (start with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms) or Robert Jackson Bennett (City of Stairs)For a recentish but very traditional epic fantasy series, you could really get your teeth stuck into Tad Williams’ Osten Ard books.
  • When it comes to portal fantasy, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a classic, but I’d personally go for Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy instead. I need to finish Foz Meadows’ A Tyranny of Queens, but An Accident of Stars was enjoyable. If you have other good recs for portal fantasy, actually, let me know! I love the idea, but need to read more.
  • When it comes to historical fantasy, I could just refer you back to Guy Gavriel Kay (Sailing to Sarantium is a particular favourite), but I’m coming to really appreciate Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist books, and Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent books are a treat.
  • For urban fantasy, Seanan McGuire’s cooked up a treat in the October Daye books, and I’d say Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels books are well worth it as well. Urban fantasy can get a bit samey, but Toby and Kate still kick ass and takes names from where I’m sitting.
  • Naomi Novik’s Uprooted is the first book that leaps to mind when I’m talking about fairytale retellings, but there are others that hew closer to the original story — like Robin McKinley’s BeautySpindle’s End and Rose Daughter. Personally, I’d go with T. Kingfisher’s retellings, Juliet Marillier’s Heart’s Blood, and a side of Genevieve Valentine’s retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses in the 20s, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club.

There’s so much out there, so if you’re interested in fantasy but not sure where to begin, I can guarantee there’s a book out there for you — and I’ve had some of my best successes by just picking a random book off the shelves. Get out there and dabble, is my advice!

(The next genre discussion, in a couple of weeks, will be Mysteries and crime, I think, so keep an eye out if that’s more your thing!)

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Weekly Roundup

Posted May 18, 2019 by Nikki in General / 11 Comments

Good morning, folks! I’ve had a busy week, culminating in Friday’s business of going to get my new degree.

That’s an end to degree #3. From English Literature (BA) to Medieval Literature (MA) to Biology (BSc), to…?

(Classical Studies, if they let me enrol.)

Anyway, I have been doing some reading, and some buying of books, so let’s get back on topic!

Acquired: 

Cover of A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes Cover of The Gendered Brain by Gina Rippon Cover of The Bitter Twins by Jen Williams

A bit of a mixture there; the first three were treats for a rough day, and The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is on sale at the moment…

Read this week:

Cover of Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier Cover of Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey Cover of The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams

Reviews posted:

Dreamer’s Pool, by Juliet Marillier. A reread which I still enjoyed the second time, though with more reservations about one of the characters than I remembered! 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Readalong: The Ninth Rain and Trail of Lightning. My thoughts on last week’s discussion prompts!
WWW Wednesday. The weekly update.

And that’s it for another week! How’s everyone doing?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted May 15, 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 The Ninth Rain by Jen WilliamsWhat are you currently reading?

Mostly, The Ninth Rain! I think I’ll try and finish this next, because I’m well hooked on the story. I need to order the sequels too, seemingly! I’m very much enjoying it, and actually enjoying the chunkiness of it too — it feels like sinking into a deep hot bath, rather than dipping your toes into a pond: there’s so much to enjoy once you get into it. At least, that’s how it’s working for me.

Cover of Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen ChoWhat have you recently finished reading?

The last book I finished was my reread of Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho. Highly enjoyable, and I’m glad I refreshed my memory; I know The True Queen can more or less stand alone, but it was very useful to get back in the world in general and the rules that bind it. I’d forgotten far too much. Also, Prunella is excellent.

Cover of The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth DickinsonWhat will you read next?

I haven’t really decided, but it’ll be from my Wyrd and Wonder reading list. Maybe I’ll dive straight into The True Queen, or go off on a tangent and revisit The Traitor Baru Cormorant. As usual, it’s all up in the air and it’s anyone’s guess.

What are you currently reading?

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Weekly Roundup

Posted May 11, 2019 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

How’s it been another week already?! Yet, here we are… It’s felt like a busy week, I’m not sure how much reading I even got done. I guess we’ll find out as I write this post!

Books acquired:

Cover of Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse

Books read this week:

Cover of Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K.J. Parker Cover of Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse Cover of Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis

Reviews posted:

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, by K.J. Parker. I ended up entirely on the fence about this on just about every point. I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t love it. 3/5 stars
Inheritors of the Earth, by Chris D. Thomas. I found myself in agreement with so much of this. Smart, hopeful, and unexpected. 4/5 stars
In An Absent Dream, by Seanan McGuire. On one level this really stuck with me — am I giving fair value? But at the same time I felt like there was a distance that got in my way. 3/5 stars
Uprooted, by Naomi Novik. Sat down and just steamed through rereading this, though I still have some reservations! 4/5 stars
Snowspelled, by Stephanie Burgis. A short bit of fun with an interesting world we barely get to glimpse! 3/5 stars
The Incredible Crime, by Lois Austen-Leigh. Meehhhh. Horrible romance plot and not that fascinating a mystery. 2/5 stars
Magic Bites, by Ilona Andrews. A very fun reread. I do enjoy the worldbuilding a lot. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Trail of Lightning Readalong. My thoughts on the first week of questions!
WWW Wednesday. The usual weekly update!

By the way, if anyone wants to hang out on a site that’s a bit like Twitter for books, a bit more like Instagram solely for books, Litsy’s now on the web as well as on mobile! Find me here!

How’s everyone doing? Busy week? Dead tired? Good book? Let me know!

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