Category: General

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.

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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.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted June 14, 2014 by Nikki in General / 30 Comments

Yep, it’s that time again. Time for Stacking the Shelves, as hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, that is. I didn’t think I’d been too acquisitive this week, but I have been tearing a streak through Ngaio Marsh’s novels, so… heh.

Books bought

 Cover of Death in Ecstasy by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Vintage Murder, by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Artists in Crime, by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Death in a White Tie, by Ngaio MarshCover of Overture to Death by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Death at the Bar, by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Surfeit of Lampreys, by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Death and the Dancing Footman, by Ngaio Marsh    Cover of Colour Scheme, by Ngaio Marsh Cover of the anthology Long Hidden

I already had Long Hidden as an ARC, but I figured I was taking too long to read it and I wanted to get a better look at the art anyway. So tahdah. Ngaio Marsh wise, well, I think I’m doomed to the whole series. Such a hardship…

Review copies

Cover of 8 Pounds, by Chris F. Holm Cover of Dead Letters, by Chris F. Holm Cover of I, Morgana, by Felicity Pulman Cover of the comic Noir

A while back, Chris Holm pulled his crime fiction anthologies from Amazon (explanation here), and offered to send them out to anyone who got in touch to ask. I did, but forgot to load them on my Kobo at the time, so forgot to feature them here. Now I have!

Sadly, I was turned down for Garth Nix’s Clariel this week, despite the numbers of people who see my reviews across various sites. If you have it, believe me, I am burning with jealousy.

And finally, yep, it’s that time again — new Captain Marvel!

Cover of Kelly Sue DeConnick's Captain Marvel, issue #4

Enough to keep me busy, you think? What’s everyone else been stocking up on?

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Throwback Thursday

Posted June 13, 2014 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Since I liked doing this last week, here it is again — a little highlight of some books that have been lurking on my shelves for a while.

  Cover of The Adamantine Palace by Stephen DeasThe Adamantine Palace, Stephen Deas

The Adamantine Palace lies at the centre of an empire that grew out of ashes. Once dragons ruled the world and man was little more than prey. Then a way of subduing the dragons alchemically was discovered and now the dragons are bred to be little more than mounts for knights and highly valued tokens in the diplomatic power-plays that underpin the rule of the competing aristocratic houses.

Dragons! Dangerous dragons! I’ve read some less than glowing reviews since I impulsively bought this book, but I’m still pretty hopeful. If nothing else, it’ll be interesting to see how this take on dragons works out.

Century Rain, Alastair Reynolds

Three hundred years from now, Earth has been rendered uninhabitable due to a technological catastrophe known as the Nanocaust. Archaeologist Verity Auger specializes in the exploration of its surviving landCover of Century Rain by Alastair Reynoldsscape. Now, her expertise is required for a far greater purpose. Something astonishing has been discovered at the far end of a wormhole: mid-twentieth century Earth, preserved like a fly in amber. Somewhere on this alternate planet is a device capable of destroying both worlds at either end of the wormhole. And Verity must find the device, and the man who plans to activate it, before it is too late – for the past and the future of two worlds.

I’ve actually read this before, but something like eight years ago. Eep. Now I feel old. Anyway, I picked this up again when I went to a signing by Alastair Reynolds, and it’s high time I got round to rereading it. It is, after all, the book that got my sister back into reading.

A Sudden Wild Magic, Diana Wynne Jones

Our world has long been protected by “The Ring” – a benevolent secret society of witches and conjurers Cover of A Sudden Wild Magic by Diana Wynne Jonesdedicated to the continuance and well-being of humankind. Now, in the face of impending climatic disaster, the Ring has uncovered a conspiracy potentially more destructive than any it has ever had to contend with. For eons, the mages of a neighboring universe have been looting the Earth of ideas, innovations and technologies – all the while manipulating events and creating devastating catastrophes for their own edification. And unless the brazen piracy is halted, our planet is certainly doomed.

It’s the words “kamikaze sex” later in the blurb that really get my attention. Diana Wynne Jones does a more adult novel, which sounds like a sexier version of her usual quirky worlds. It’s not gonna beat Fire and Hemlock, but it should be fun.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted June 12, 2014 by Nikki in General / 3 Comments

Running a little behind on answering email, returning comments, etc. Soon!

What have you recently finished reading?
Artists in Crime (Ngaio Marsh). I’m really tearing through these books. I don’t think they’re as accomplished or interesting as Sayers’ Lord Peter books — not least because Alleyn is plainly reading from Wimsey’s crib sheet — but they’re just right to tuck myself up with and spend a few hours. I’m slowly getting fond of Alleyn, too.

What are you currently reading?
As usual, far too much, but only three things really actively. One is the current Ngaio Marsh I’m onto, of course, which is Death in a White Tie. Then I’m a chunk of the way into Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct, which is interesting. I don’t know enough about linguistics to really argue with Pinker, but I’m not completely convinced that language is genetically coded into us. Mind you, it shares some features with other things — in the same way as it becomes harder to learn a new language as you get older, it’s also hard to learn to use senses you didn’t have at a formative age. Still, that might be more to do with the way we learn and the plasticity of the brain… Anyway, the third book is Out on Blue Six (Ian McDonald). I feel quite deja vu-ish about this one, though. Or maybe it’s just that people have copied it since: it was originally published in the year I was born.

Oh, and I’m also dipping into Long Hidden (ed. Daniel José Older and Rose Fox). I actually got myself a print copy since I was taking so long to get to the ARC and felt guilty. Interesting that there’s a Welsh story in here.

What will you read next?
Well, it’s a reasonably good guess that Overture to Death (Ngaio Marsh) is coming up next. Other than that, there’s tons of stuff from previous weeks that I keep ignoring, so I probably should refrain from starting anything new.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted June 10, 2014 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

Hooray, another Top Ten Tuesday post, run by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far This Year. Luckily, I have no lack of awesome books that I’ve been reading. I’ll link to my reviews on this blog. These are not in order of awesomeness, I couldn’t manage that! I’m not including rereads, or Jo Walton would swamp everything.

Cover of The Winter Soldier comic by Ed Brubaker Cover of Spillover by David Quamnem Cover of The Universe Versus Alex Woods, by Gavin Extence Cover of What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton Cover of Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, by Ed Brubaker et al. I just. All the feels.
  2. Spillover, by David Quammen. This one was fascinating. Lots and lots of stuff about not just the way animal diseases spill over into humans, but on the way humans interact with the environment, how we come into contact with these kinds of diseases.
  3. The Universe Versus Alex Woods, by Gavin Extence. I loved this, and really didn’t expect to. The quirky friendship, the bonding over books, and the things Alex ends up doing for that friendship. It’s beautiful and I’m pretty sure I cried. It deals with a topic that’s really important to me, too — as it happens, my tithe this month went to Dignity in Dying, campaigning for the right to voluntary euthanasia in this country.
  4. What Makes This Book So Great, by Jo Walton. I love this as a resource for more books to read, and as a way to read insightful discussions about books and get a different perspective on them. Also, it’s just a really good read.
  5. Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell. I think this one may have surprised people who know me, but somehow I just adored it. Good building of characters, and I like the way the love story comes about.
  6. Cuckoo Song, by Frances Hardinge. Got this as an ARC, had it finished before the end of the day. Just captivating. I love that it’s a changeling story, and the story itself doesn’t work out the way you might expect.
  7. My Real Children, by Jo Walton. Can’t miss this one out. I was uncertain how I felt about the style and structure, and then right at the end Jo pulled everything together and made it work. And despite a certain simplicity about it, I cried — multiple times.
  8. Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, by J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. Christopher Tolkien. I’ve been waiting for this for, literally, years. I always hoped Christopher Tolkien would publish this, and stop holding it back. The translation is interesting, but actually what really excited me were Tolkien’s in depth notes on just about every aspect of the poem, including close reading of the actual Anglo-Saxon words.
  9. Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues, by Gail Simone et al. I only really knew of Red Sonja as a sexist symbol whose image caused some trouble in the SF/F community. So I wasn’t sure about trying this out, but I’d heard good things about Gail Simone. And it turns out she created a good story with fun characters, full of powerful women who are not perfect, but who are compelling and are not just fan service.
  10. The Broken Land, by Ian McDonald. I wasn’t expecting to love this one so much, but it fascinated me. It creates a world that’s different to pretty much anything else I can think of, and comments on civil wars and the rifts they can create. It’s not light reading, but I thought it was good.

Cover of Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge Cover of My Real Children by Jo Walton Cover of Beowulf trans. J.R.R. Tolkien Cover of Red Sonja by Gail Simone Cover of The Broken Land by Ian McDonald

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted June 7, 2014 by Nikki in General / 38 Comments

Time for Stacking the Shelves, hosted by Tynga’s Reviews! It hasn’t been that busy a week, really, though I went to the library twice, so it looks substantial. It was mostly a non-fiction week, it seems, but there were a couple of fiction books sprinkled in, and both my review copies from this week are fiction.

Bought

Cover of Sidekick by Auralee Wallace

Library

Cover of The language Instinct by Steven Pinker Cover of Genes, Peoples and Languages by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza Cover of Monster of God by David Quammen Cover of Darwin's Ghosts by Rebecca Stott Cover of The Kiwi's Egg by David Quammen Cover of Fated by Benedict Jacka

For review

Cover of Stories of the Raksura by Martha Wells Cover of Space Opera anthology

I really need to read the other Raksura books, but I am pretty excited about the Martha Wells one. Such glee when I spotted it on Edelweiss! I love her work.

What’s everyone else been grabbing?

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Throwback Thursday

Posted June 6, 2014 by Nikki in General / 12 Comments

Love the idea of this one, hosted here. The idea is to share a couple of the books that have been waiting on your shelves for a while, as opposed to something like Stacking the Shelves, where you share books you’ve just picked up. So here’s three I’ve picked for this week.

Cover of Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge

Fly by Night, Frances Hardinge

A breath-taking adventure story, set in reimagined eighteenth-century England. As the realm struggles to maintain an uneasy peace after years of cival war and tyranny, a twelve-year-old orphan and her loyal companion, a grumpy goose, are about to become the unlikely heroes of a radical revolution.

I’ve had this on my list for ages, since the first book by Frances Hardinge I read (which was A Face Like Glass, and absolutely excellent). I’ve nearly picked it up so many times since, but I keep wanting to pick the right time so I really get to savour it.

The Beacon at Alexandria, Gillian Bradshaw

In the Fourth Century A.D., independent and determined young Charis is forbidden to become a doctor because she is a woman. Disguising herself as a eunuch she flees Ephesus for Alexandria, then the center of learning. There she apprentices to a Jewish doctor but eventually becomes drawn into Church politics and is forced once again to flee. She serves as an army doctoCover of The Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshawr at a Roman outpost in Thrace until, kidnapped by barbarian Visigoths, she finds her destiny to heal and also to be a woman and a wife.

I wouldn’t be sure about that “finding her destiny” part, normally, but I tend to trust Gillian Bradshaw — I’ve really enjoyed most of her work that I’ve read so far. She seems to do a lot of work on her settings, although as I think on it, she tends to focus more on male characters.

The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories, Vol. 2: Outer Space, Inner Lands, Ursula Le Guin

Cover of The Unreal and the Real by Ursula Le GuinOuter Space, Inner Lands includes many of the best known Ursula K. Le Guin nonrealistic stories (such as “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” “Semley’s Necklace,” and “She Unnames Them”) which have shaped the way many readers see the world. She gives voice to the voiceless, hope to the outsider, and speaks truth to power—all the time maintaining her independence and sense of humor.

Companion volume Where on Earth explores Le Guin’s satirical, risky, political and experimental earthbound stories. Both volumes include new introductions by the author.

I’m looking forward to both volumes of this, but particularly to volume two. Ursula Le Guin has been a huge influence on me and this sounds like a pretty definitive collection. I’ve probably read a lot of them before, though not all. If you’ve never read ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas’, I definitely recommend that one if you’re okay with discomforting ethical dilemmas.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted June 4, 2014 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
A Man Lay Dead, by Ngaio Marsh, and Trilobite!: Eyewitness to Evolution, by Richard Fortey. I wasn’t overwhelmed by either, sadly. The mystery in the former didn’t work for me, requiring too much suspension of disbelief due to a muddle of whether the crime was premeditated or opportunistic (it had both elements, but needed to be one or the other). The science in the latter was okay, but Fortey’s personality seemed to get in the way, a bit like someone who really, really wants you to like a book and so shoves it in your face all the time, only with trilobites.

What are you currently reading?
Darwin’s Ghost, by Steve Jones, which is an update on The Origin of Species. I wasn’t getting on with it at first, but I seem to have got into the swing of it, now. And Enter A Murderer, by Ngaio Marsh, because I have it and I thought I’d give Marsh a good chance. Oh, and also Velveteen vs. The Junior Super-Patriots, by Seanan Mcguire, because superheroes! An author I keep getting recced! Hijinks! It’s fun enough so far.

Oh, and I’ve nearly finished The King of Elfland’s Daughter (love Dunsany’s style) and A Fall of Moondust (Arthur C. Clarke), the latter of which I’m finding somewhat less enjoyable than 2001: A Space Odyssey, but I’m still enjoying it.

What will you read next?
Need to get back to Steven Brust, feeling an itch for Martha Wells’ work, ever present urge to reread The Lord of the Rings… Who knows, though? I also have books from the library by Steven Pinker and David Quammen that look very interesting.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted May 31, 2014 by Nikki in General / 41 Comments

It’s been a busy week! I’ve been saving up for this, since I went to the Hay Literary Festival this week, and wanted to explore some of the many bookshops in Hay (which is, after all, called “the town of books”). I didn’t buy much while I was in Hay, though, ’cause it was raining and I needed the bus back, etc, etc, so I ended up spending the money I saved on other books which I wanted to read/reread.

Hay Haul

Cover of Knight Moves by Walter Jon Williams Cover of The Praxis by Walter Jon Williams Cover of Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke Cover of A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke Cover of The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany

I haven’t actually read anything by Walter Jon Williams yet, I think, but people I trust have been very enthusiastic about his work, so now I seem to have a backlog. Whoops! Arthur C. Clarke is a classic, of course, and 2001: A Space Odyssey was much more fun that I expected, so I’m looking forward to these. And as for Lord Dunsany, well, I’ve read one of his books and snatched that one as soon as I saw it.

Ebooks

Cover of Black Wine by Candas Jane Dorsey Cover of Velveteen vs. The Junior Super Patriots by Seanan Mcguire Cover of Sacrifice of Fools by Ian McDonald Cover of Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey Cover of Saints Astray by Jacqueline Carey Cover of Banewreaker by Jacqueline Carey Cover of Godslayer by Jacqueline Carey Cover of Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey Cover of Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey Cover of Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey

Yep, I am a big fan of Jacqueline Carey’s work (though I know it isn’t for everyone). Most of these are rereads, apart from Saints Astray. I’m not sure what I think of the new covers for the Kushiel books, though. I think the first and third ones look like they’re supposed to be for a vampire book of some kind, which… these definitely are not. I’m very fond of the old covers…

Original covers of the first three Kushiel books by Jacqueline Carey

Ah well.

Review copies

Cover of The Gas Sealing by Andrew Leon Hudson Cover of A Call to Arms by P.G. Nagle

The Glass Sealing was sent to me by the author, very kindly, and A Call to Arms was sent to me after winning it on LibraryThing Early Reviewers. Can’t remember what it’s about, but look forward to finding out…

Last but not least, a new issue of Ms. Marvel is out!

Cover of Ms Marvel issue four

And of course, the entire Hugo Voter Packet, which of course is far too huge to list here.

So what’s everyone else been getting their hands on? Anyone else been to Hay? I was at the Gillian Clarke/Carol Ann Duffy poetry reading, loved it.

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