Category: General

Stacking the Shelves

Posted June 28, 2014 by Nikki in General / 43 Comments

So you know I said this would be an Unstacking the Shelves? Hehe, no.

As usual, hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, go over there to get to everybody else’s posts!

Received for review

Cover of The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton Cover of The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips Cover of Solaris Rising 3, ed. Ian Whates

I’m an enormous fan of Arthuriana, so the Marie Phillips book really has my attention. I wrote a lot of my BA and MA work on Arthurian stories, and never miss the chance to expand my horizons. Uh, except I’ll never read a Marion Zimmer Bradley book again, after being forced to read The Mists of Avalon and after all I’ve found out about her in the last week or so.

Fiction bought

Cover of Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal Cover of Glamour in Glass, by Mary Robinette Kowal Cover of Without a Summer Valour and Vanity, by Mary Robinette Kowal Cover of The Snake Charm by Laura Lam Cover of Broken by Susan Bigelow Cover of The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters Cover of Countdown City by Ben H. Winters
Cover of A Reason to Live by Matthew Iden Cover of Blueblood by Matthew Iden Cover of One Right Thing, by Matthew Iden

I read Shades of Milk and Honey a while ago, and I remember being interested enough to finish it but not a huge fan. But someone whose taste I trust ripped through the books recently, and I liked it well enough to have another go. And the covers are pretty.

Non-fiction bought/downloaded

Cover of In the Land of Invented Languages, by Arika Okrent Cover of From Elvish to Klingon, by Michael Adams Cover of We Have Always Fought by Kameron Hurley

The two language books are going to be interesting, probably a good complement to The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker, which I’m reading at the moment. And Kameron Hurley’s essays, well, I need to read those for Hugo voting.

Comics

Cover of The Movement by Gail Simone Cover of Ms Marvel #5

The Movement is the TPB and Ms. Marvel is just issue #5, but both are obviously exciting. I am pretty psyched about The Movement, with the heroine in a wheelchair, etc.

What’s anyone else been grabbing?

Tags: , ,

Divider

Throwback Thursday

Posted June 27, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

Throwback Thursday, the “I really need to get round to reading this for Hugo voting” edition! (See also: my post about how I will be reading/voting.) Also, if you’re curious, I’ll be attending Loncon on 16th August, and while I am quite an anxious creature still, it would be great to meet any other bloggers I know there.

A Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar

Jevick, the pepper merchant’s son, has been raised on stories of Olondria, a distant land where books are as common as they are rare in his home. When his father dies and Jevick takes his place on the yearly selling trip to Olondria, JevicCover of A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatark’s life is as close to perfect as he can imagine. But just as he revels in Olondria’s Rabelaisian Feast of Birds, he is pulled drastically off course and becomes haunted by the ghost of an illiterate young girl.

In desperation, Jevick seeks the aid of Olondrian priests and quickly becomes a pawn in the struggle between the empire’s two most powerful cults. Yet even as the country shimmers on the cusp of war, he must face his ghost and learn her story before he has any chance of becoming free by setting her free: an ordeal that challenges his understanding of art and life, home and exile, and the limits of that seductive necromancy, reading.

I’ve been looking forward to this for a while, so the Hugos just make a good excuse to shuffle it up the pile. Samatar is up for a Campbell award, which is not technically a Hugo, but shush. It’s voted for during the Hugo voting process. I don’t actually know much about the plot of the novel beyond the blurb, so this should be exciting.

Nexus, Ramez Naam

In the near future, the experimental nano-drug Nexus can link human together, mind to mind. There are some who want to improve it. There are some who want to eradicate it. And there are others who just want to exploit it.

Cover of Nexus by Ramez NaamWhen a young scientist is caught improving Nexus, he’s thrust over his head into a world of danger and international espionage – for there is far more at stake than anyone realizes.

From the halls of academe to the halls of power, from the headquarters of an elite US agency in Washington DC to a secret lab beneath a top university in Shanghai, from the underground parties of San Francisco to the illegal biotech markets of Bangkok, from an international neuroscience conference to a remote monastery in the mountains of Thailand – Nexus is a thrill ride through a future on the brink of explosion.

The idea sounds amazing. The idea of being able to link mind to mind — well, it’s sort of appealing, until you think about the kinds of thoughts you prefer not to share even with your nearest and dearest. If you say you’ve never had an uncharitable or inappropriate thought, I won’t believe you. Plus, an Angry Robot author!

Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie

From Nebula and Arthur C. Clarke Award nominated debut author, Ann Leckie, comes Ancillary Justice, a stunning space opera that asks what it means to be human in a universe guided by artificial intelligence. Cover of Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren–a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.

An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose–to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.

Yeah, I’m way behind on this one. So many people I know have read it, loved it, criticised it, talked about it — I really need to catch up, even if we ignore the Hugos!

Tags: , , ,

Divider

Thursday Thoughts: Rating Systems

Posted June 26, 2014 by Nikki in General / 11 Comments

There’s getting to be far too many interesting weekly events. Next I’ll even be updating my blog every day… or more than once every day! So yeah, this week’s Thursday Thoughts, hosted by Ok, Let’s Read, are around rating systems. Well, anybody who’s looked at my reviews here will know that I don’t post ratings on here. I prefer to let my thoughts on the books I’m reviewing come through more than my arbitrary, very personal gut feeling, which is what my ratings on Netgalley, Goodreads and LibraryThing are.

When I rate on sites that do use it, I tend to pretty much use GR’s scale, since I’ve been posting there the longest:

  • 1 star: Didn’t like it
  • 2 star: It was okay
  • 3 star: I liked it
  • 4 star: I really liked it
  • 5 star: It was amazing!

I like that because it’s nice and subjective. If I had to rate books on their technical merits, I’d probably be very critical and end up giving low ratings to books I actually really enjoyed. Or sometimes I’d feel compelled to give them low ratings based on things that might bother other people (but don’t bother me in that specific instance), e.g. ratio of male to female characters. I do still dock stars for things that really get in my way while reading, of course, but it’s possible to enjoy less well-written and even problematic media, and I do. At least when we’re talking subjective ratings, you can’t argue that just because you gave a book five stars, everybody should.

On Goodreads, there’s often been discussion about the skewed ratings (i.e. towards the positive) and more granular ratings (half-stars/ten point rating system). On the former, I feel that it’s more useful to be able to separate out positive reactions to books than negative ones. You’re usually going to skew to liking books unless you pick books without regard to genre, blurbs, etc. — I do know of someone who does that — because you know your preferences. It doesn’t stop you coming across some real stinkers, but generally being able to separate out much you liked something is more important than quantifying exactly how much you disliked something.

In terms of half-stars, I’ve just never seen the point. Sure, you can always get a more complex rating system that arguably expresses your feelings more accurately, but that tends not to work well for people. I can’t find the link now, but I think it was Netflix that found that people used the rating system less the more complicated it got.

Honestly, though, I find that my own ratings are more useful to me than anyone else’s. I don’t know what standards people are using when they rate stuff on Goodreads — they could be using the site’s standards, but plenty of people use alternate methods which they state in their profiles, but are still treated as standard in the aggregate, etc. Sometimes it works okay when you know the person’s tastes — for example, I’ve been following Dan Schwent‘s reviews on Goodreads for years, so I know when he rates something four stars what he means by that, and I can sort of gauge how I’d rate the same books because we’ve had significant overlap — but mostly, the star rating doesn’t tell me that much without the review.

I can start including star ratings on here at some point if people seem to want it, but I try to be clear enough about my feelings on books that it isn’t necessary.

Tags: , ,

Divider

What are you reading Wednesday

Posted June 26, 2014 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?
Agatha H. and the Airship City, which… I’m not too impressed. It’s the novelisation rather than the (I gather) original comics, but still. I don’t think I could stand to hear much more about Agatha’s gorgeous figure.

What are you currently reading?
Lirael, by Garth Nix. I love love love the exploring-in-the-library parts. I’m less keen on Sameth in general; I find Lirael more compelling, though they’re both fairly typical teenagers.

What will you read next?
Abhorsen, probably, the third book in Garth Nix’s series. I’m also eying some Angry Robot books, particularly the Justin Gustainis ones for some reason. I’ve brought my book on the history of Marvel with me, too.

In short, as usual: who knows?

Tags: , ,

Divider

Waiting on Wednesday: Garth Nix’s Clariel

Posted June 25, 2014 by Nikki in General / 10 Comments

Meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.

This is kind of inevitable and needs no spotlighting from me, but since I’m knee-deep in a reread of Lirael at the moment, it leaps to mind — and I really like the cover. Sadly, I haven’t been able to get approved for the e-ARC of this on Edelweiss, so I’m just hoping to win it… or I’ll have to wait until my pre-order arrives.

(If you have a copy you’re done with and are in the UK, I’d pay for the postage to borrow it. Just saying.)

Clariel is the daughter of the one of the most notable families in the Old Kingdom, with blood relations to the Abhorsen and, most importantly, to the King. When her family moves to the city of Belisaere, there are rumors that her mother is next in line for the throne. However, Clariel wants no part of it—a natural hunter, all she ever Cover of Clariel by Garth Nixthinks about is escaping the city’s confining walls and journeying back to the quiet, green world of the Great Forest.

But many forces conspire against Clariel’s dream. A dangerous Free Magic creature is loose in the city, her parents want to marry her off to a killer, and there is a plot brewing against the old and withdrawn King Orrikan. When Clariel is drawn into the efforts to find and capture the creature, she discovers hidden sorcery within herself, yet it is magic that carries great dangers. Can she rise above the temptation of power, escape the unwanted marriage, and save the King?

Tags: , ,

Divider

Stacking the Shelves

Posted June 21, 2014 by Nikki in General / 38 Comments

Good morning, folks. Once again I have acquired more books than anyone rightfully should, and can’t help but feel rather smug about that. But in the interests of stacking your shelves, let me just direct your attention to my giveaway post for Strange Chemistry/Exhibit A books here. Please link it to anyone you think will be interested: the authors concerned need our help right now.

Otherwise, back to your normal programming: Stacking the Shelves, as hosted by Tynga’s Reviews! This week with the theme I Just Got Paid So I Will Buy Everything, Who Cares About A Theme? Which isn’t as fun as buying all superhero novels all the time, but is still pretty fun.

Review copies

Cover of The Invisible Orientation by Julie Sondra Decker Cover of Nice Dragons Finish Last, by Rachel Aaron Cover of Stranger on the Shore by Josh Lanyon

I’m kind of most excited about The Invisible Orientation, because I’m halfway through and it talks so much sense about the range of queerness that’s out there, never mind just asexuality. But I’m also interested in Rachel Aaron and Josh Lanyon: it’s been a while since I read any Lanyon, but there was a point when I read his books like candy.

Library

Cover of The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris Cover of The Goldilocks Enigma by Paul Davies Cover of When a Gene Makes You Smell Like a Fish by Lisa Seachrist Chiu Cover of Ignobel Prizes by Marc Abrahams

Another sciency week, apparently. The first two are my srs reading, the second two fuel my love of knowing really random crap.

Received

Cover of Ultimate X-Men vol 3 Cover of Ultimate X-Men vol 4

Actually Christmas presents from my partner, but Amazon didn’t deliver the third volume and so I didn’t want to feature the fourth until now. But here they are! Time for me to get myself educated on some X-Men stuff. (I picked Ultimates because I liked their appearances in Ultimate Spider-man.)

Bought (ebooks)

Cover of Sabriel by Garth Nix Cover of Lirael by Garth Nix Cover of Abhorsen by Garth Nix Cover of Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn Cover of Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly  Cover of A Soldier's Duty by Jean Johnson Cover of Straying from the Path by Carrie Vaughn Cover of The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison Cover of Heaven's Queen by Rachel Bach Cover of Clean Sweep, by Ilona Andrews Cover of The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne Cover of Glaze by Kim Curran

I rebought the Garth Nix books, which I love, because they’re finally out in ebook in the UK and Clariel will be coming out soon. Otherwise it’s a mix of recs or liking the author’s other stuff. I’m very glad now I got Glaze, considering the bad news about Kim Curran’s publishers for her other books.

Bought (dead tree)

Cover of The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar Cover of Koko Takes a Holiday by Kieran Shea Cover of City of Silk and Steel by the Careys

I’ve heard good buzz about the first two, I’ve liked some of Tidhar’s other work, and the third promises a more Arabian Nights than European setting, plus the first line is “Once there was a city of women.” Which is bound to catch my eye when I’m pretty sure it’s not referring to the Arthurian Castle of Maidens.

My plan for this next week is not to buy or borrow anything more, and take a leaf out of Under The Mountain‘s book and do Unstacking the Shelves.

So what’s anybody else been picking up? Don’t forget about my giveaways, and make sure to leave a link here when you comment on this post, so I can visit your blog in return!

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Divider

Farewell to Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A

Posted June 20, 2014 by Nikki in General, Giveaways / 60 Comments

I was really sad and shocked today when I was scrolling through twitter and saw this sudden announcement from Angry Robot:

As you will be aware, Angry Robot Books has a history of innovation and we continue to go from strength to strength. We’re constantly trying out new concepts and new ideas, and we continue to publish popular and award-winning books. Our YA imprint Strange Chemistry and our crime/mystery imprint Exhibit A have – due mainly to market saturation – unfortunately been unable to carve out their own niches with as much success.

We have therefore made the difficult decision to discontinue Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A, effective immediately, and no further titles will be published from these two imprints.

A few links:
The announcement
A former intern’s farewell
Gwenda Bond’s reaction post
Kim Curran’s post
The Bookseller’s article
The Bookseller reports on potential sales from Osprey
Commentary from Fantasy Faction
Kameron Hurley’s post
Sean Cummings’ post
Laura Lam’s post
Laura Lam giveaway (INT)
Rachel Neumeier’s post
Strange Chemistry book giveaway (INT)
Blog hop

That’s not all that’s out there by a long shot, but that should give everyone an idea of the fanbase those imprints had out there, and how shocking the news was for everyone. I’ve been a fan of Angry Robot and everything they do for a while, especially since I won the Robot for a Day competition (where I met the staff and the blogger who was at that point their intern, Leah @ Uncorked Thoughts). I have a huge backlog of their stuff to read, from all three imprints, but I think I might spend this weekend finally getting round to books by Kim Curran, Laura Lam, Gwenda Bond, etc.

The good news is, the books already published will still be supported by Angry Robot, and rights for future books are reverting to the authors. The bad news is that various books that were slated to come out in the next few months won’t be, some series aren’t going to be finished (at least not with Strange Chemistry), and some authors don’t know where they can go next.

I’m going to follow the example of one of the posts linked above and do a giveaway of some of my favourite Strange Chemistry books. Comment with which you want to be entered for, and I’ll pick at random on the 1st July. You can enter for multiple books, but you will only win one. If you would prefer ebooks, we can probably arrange something, but the idea is that I will buy copies via The Book Depository and send them straight to you. I want to encourage new readers to get their mitts on these books and generate some buzz that might help the authors place future books with publishers! And yes, this is international.

So, without further ado, the giveaways:

  • Martha Wells, Emilie & The Hollow World.
  • Sean Cummings, Poltergeeks.
  • Rachel Neumeier, Black Dog.
  • Cassandra Rose Clarke, The Assassin’s Curse.
  • Winner’s choice of any book from Strange Chemistry or Exhibit A.

And honestly? I wish it could be more. I have so much sympathy with all the authors and staff affected. Let’s give them a good send off!

ETA: So, the winners! Grace won Emilie & the Hollow World; majoline won Poltergeeks; Erin won Black Dog; ameliazane won The Assassin’s Curse; Jessica won the winner’s choice (and chose Gwenda Bond’s Blackwood). All of them have been emailed and all of them responded already, so the books have been ordered and are en route.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Divider

Throwback Thursday

Posted June 19, 2014 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

As with the last couple of weeks, I’m using Throwback Thursday (hosted here) to highlight some books that’ve been knocking round on my to read shelves for a while (aka, too long). This week, I actually have a theme: vampires! Don’t ask me why I always pick three. Probably something OCD related. Or I just like the alliteration with Throwback Thursday.

CCover of Carpathia, by Matt Forbeckarpathia, Matt Forbeck

It’s Titanic meets 30 Days of Night. When the survivors of the Titanic are picked up by the passenger steamship Carpathia, they thought their problems were over.

But something’s sleeping in the darkest recesses of the ship. Something old. Something hungry.

I’ve had this since I visited Angry Robot HQ, so it’s high time I got round to it. I’ve enjoyed some of Matt Forbeck’s other work for them, so I’m hopeful about this, though some of the GR reviews aren’t so positive. Fingers crossed!

Blood Price, Tanya Huff

Vicki Nelson, formerly of Toronto’s homicide unit and now a private detective, witnesses the first of many vicious attacks that are now plaguing the city of Toronto. As death follows unspeakable Cover of Blood Price, by Tanya Huffdeath, Vicki is forced to renew her tempestuous relationship with her former partner, Mike Celluci, to stop these forces of dark magic—along with another, unexpected ally…

Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate son of King Henry VIII, has learned over the course of his long life how to blend with humans, how to deny the call for blood in his veins. Without him, Vicki and Mike would not survive the ancient force of chaos that has been unleashed upon the world—but in doing so, his identity may be exposed, and his life forfeit.

I’ve actually read this one already, many moons ago, but I have the whole set to get round to; I only read this first one. Trivia: Vicki Nelson has retinitis pigmentosa, a common reason people come to the eye clinic I volunteer at. (Is this where I throw in a PSA about getting your eyes checked regularly? Because you should. There’s lots we can do if we only catch the problem early.)

Anyway, I like Tanya Huff in general. She has a handful of queer characters, and her writing’s always fun.

The Passage, Justin Cronin

Cover of The Passage by Justin CroninAn epic and gripping tale of catastrophe and survival, The Passage is the story of Amy—abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her. As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape—but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.

I know I’m way behind the curve on this one, but a friend just posted an enthusiastic review, so I’m bringing it back up the list.

Tags: , , ,

Divider

What are you reading Wednesday

Posted June 18, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?
Yesterday I finished Fortune’s Pawn (Rachel Bach) while I was at the clinic — man, I’m glad they let me read when it’s quiet now. It was a fun book, anyway: I loved the fighting scenes and the fact that the main character is a woman in an awesome mech. I was less fond of the heavy romance skew, partially because there were some tropes I’m less than fond of.

Today, I finished reading Death in a White Tie (Ngaio Marsh), which was the first of these mysteries that really got to me in terms of the feeling. In many ways it was typical, but I cared about the victim, genuinely felt he was a nice guy. I actually felt more about that than about Alleyn’s love affair. He hasn’t got a patch on Lord Peter, still, and ugh, that whole bit about women liking men who can bully them.

What are you reading now?
Lots and lots. But to highlight two, I’ve just started on Wen Spencer’s A Brother’s Price. It’s very interesting to read something that flips the gender roles like this, and I think I’m going to get along with the main character. I did read a review quite critical of it because it makes it seem like women are just as bad/worse than men, but I don’t see it that way. I mean, the situation as set up so far seems logical: men are scarce, and therefore precious and protected. Women are very defensive of them, and possessive too.

All of this makes sense for either gender, and here the women actually have a reason for it, unlike men IRL, because in our world, natural selection will always keep the number of babies of each gender born roughly equal. (It might dip to 49%-51% in a generation, or something like that, but it’s always going to self-correct.) I am wondering if it’s explained why men are rare and why natural selection isn’t fixing it. (I.e. if it’s something that can be adapted to, nature would quickly re-select for men who are fertile and have male children, because those male children will do well and go on to have more fertile male children. Eventually the balance would get to male 60-40 female or something, and then natural selection would select for women who bear more fertile female children, etc. I don’t know if I’m overthinking this for a speculative book that’s just reversing the genders, but this is the kind of thing I wonder.)

And of course, I’ve started on the next Alleyn book, Overture to Death, but I’m really not far into it.

What will you read next?
Death at the Bar (Ngaio Marsh) is a reasonable bet. Other than that, I don’t know. I’ll probably read some of my ARCs, particularly the comics — Pretty Deadly (Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Rios) and Noir (Victor Gischler). Also, I have a handful of pages left of Seven Forges (James A. Moore), which I enjoyed greatly and yet somehow have not yet managed to finish. That might well be next, so I can read the sequel.

Tags: , , ,

Divider

Top Ten Tuesday

Posted June 17, 2014 by Nikki in General / 31 Comments

This week’s theme from The Broke and the Bookish is “top ten books on my TBR list this summer”. I don’t pick them for any particular summeryness, so it’s not especially topical: this is just a bunch of the books I really hope to get through this summer. I’ve split it into two sets of five, too; five new books, five rereads.

New books

 Cover of The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher Cover of Yendi, by Steven Brust Cover of Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell Cover of The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones & Ursula Jones Cover of Tam Lin, by Pamela Dean

  1. The Burning Dark, by Adam Christopher. I’ve been meaning to read this for a while, it keeps catching my eye, so hey, why not. And since it’s supposed to be creepy, maybe reading it in the bright sunshine will help avoid me getting too twitchy…
  2. Yendi, by Steven Brust. Because I’ve started it already and really should get on with it!
  3. Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell. I like her style, and this’ll give me something relatively breezy to read. I might end up reading it while I’m ‘on duty’ at the clinic, in the quiet moments: I think it might suit that sort of reading, for me.
  4. Tam Lin, by Pamela Dean. I’ve had this on the in-progress pile for a little while now, to my shame. And I could do with the nostalgia for college right now.
  5. The Islands of Chaldea, by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones. I’ve been saving this for a rainy day, and there are plenty of those in Wales.

Rereads

Cover of The Fire's Stone by Tanya Huff Cover of Sunshine by Robin McKinley Cover of Lifelode by Jo Walton Cover of Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey Cover of The Drowning City by Amanda Downum

  1. The Fire’s Stone, by Tanya Huff. I’ve been meaning to reread this for a while, and Tanya Huff is always fun.
  2. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley. This has been on my list of favourite books for quiiiite a long time, but I haven’t read it recently.
  3. Lifelode, by Jo Walton. I’m rereading a lot of Jo’s work at the moment, and Lifelode is pretty special. I’m looking forward to reading it again.
  4. Santa Olivia, by Jacqueline Carey. Because hey, werewolves! Sorta. And I still haven’t read the second book.
  5. The Drowning City, by Amanda Downum. I remember really liking this, and I first read it a few summers ago, so it seems like high time.

Tags: ,

Divider