Category: Reviews


Review – Trouble and Her Friends

Posted 19 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Trouble and Her Friends by Melissa ScottTrouble and Her Friends, Melissa Scott

Trouble and Her Friends is old school queer cyberpunk — enough said? It is a little on the slow side, but I found that the pacing worked for me: I needed to get to know Trouble (and, well, her friends), and get settled in the world and the old school view of the internet and how it works. I enjoyed the sheer number of queer characters a lot, although it was a little jarring to have a world where they’re clearly somewhat looked down on. From my comfortable position here, it feels like most things are pretty okay on that front.

Once you get a handle on the lingo, it’s a pretty easy read. It’s not hard to guess where certain plot threads are going — surprise! Cerise and Trouble reunite; they keep talking about Seahaven and its Mayor for a reason! — but it takes its sweet time in unwinding all of that. There’s no sudden jumps ahead without pausing to consider, and the characters typically do not do stupid unhelpful things that cause them more trouble. Each step is a step forward, more or less.

I really enjoyed visiting this world, even though it’s one that took its time. The details of the net, the brainworm, the way the characters could hack in a sort of virtual reality, were all fascinating — and so were their relationships and goals. Honestly, I was going to compare it to a sort of cowboy story for the internet before they wore white hats in the final section.

Rating: 4/5

Buy this book: Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository
The above affiliate links, at no extra cost to you, provide a small commission for me if you purchase something.

Tags: , , ,

Divider

Review – The Hanging Tree

Posted 18 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

The Hanging Tree, Ben Aaronovitch

The Hanging Tree does a hell of a lot, gathering together some plot points, revealing some secrets, teasing some future potential, humanising (well, sort of) characters like Lady Ty we might be tempted to just despise… It’s one of the plot-heavy entries to the series, featuring the Faceless Man and Lesley prominently, so predictably it gets a bit frenetic near the end. Characters flit in and out of sight; Peter stumbles into bad situation after bad situation; lots of property damage is incurred.

For the most part, it really worked. The tension ratcheted up as I realised exactly what was at stake, and new characters revealed things I’d wondered about (like a tradition of British women doing magic). Little ironies came up — if the Folly hadn’t been such an old boys’ club, and the new characters had been involved, would Lesley be with the Faceless Man at all? Could he have really tempted her?

And no doubt if this had ended the ongoing plot, I’d have been disappointed that it was so ‘easy’. Yet the ending seemed a little toothless: we know more about the Faceless Man and what he can do, but do we really have information to stop him? It feels like this series could easily go on another six books in this way: a book off and then a book that ends with Peter grappling with the Faceless Man, only for him to get away… I think I wanted a little more forward progress by the end.

There has to be space, though, for appreciating how much I love the new pathologist and Guleed’s involvement. I’m surprised she’s not being trained up at the Folly yet (but then, it’s also cool that she isn’t just following the same path as Lesley, like some “better” Lesley — she’s definitely her own character, with her own approach to problems)…

Despite my slight quibbles, it’s a fun read and a more than worthy entry to the series. Bring on the next! Sooner rather than later, please.

Rating: 4/5

Buy this book: Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository
The above affiliate links, at no extra cost to you, provide a small commission for me if you purchase something.

Tags: , , , , ,

Divider

Review – Ebola

Posted 17 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Ebola by David QuammenEbola, David Quammen

This is actually an excerpt from the excellent book Spillover, with a few details added because it was published slightly later, as the ebola epidemic really kicked off. It doesn’t contain anything new that wasn’t in Spillover, and I actually ended up asking for a refund because that wasn’t clear up-front.

However, it’s a great excerpt, and I do strongly recommend Quammen’s writing on diseases — just don’t be fooled into getting the excerpts of Spillover instead of just buying the whole book. It’s a crafty idea by his publishers, but it’s just annoying. The full book links up the various diseases and expands on themes they share; this mostly comes across from Ebola on its own, but you get a much fuller picture with the rest of the book to refer to.

Information: good, packaging: disingenuous.

Rating: 3/5

Buy this book: Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository
The above affiliate links, at no extra cost to you, provide a small commission for me if you purchase something.

Tags: , , ,

Divider

Review – The Five Daughters of the Moon

Posted 16 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 5 Comments

Cover of The Five Daughters of the Moon by Leena LikitaloThe Five Daughters of the Moon, Leena Likitalo

First off: if you’re like me and don’t pay enough attention, you might miss that this book is the first of a duology. It very much just comes to a stop, and will require the second volume to become a full story. You might want to hold off until you have your hands on both of them to start reading, because they’re the same story.

Anyway, The Five Daughters of the Moon is a historical fantasy based on the story of the Russian revolution. If you know the story of the Romanov sisters, you know there’s not likely to be a happy ending coming — and you know which characters to be suspicious of. Each chapter is told from the point of one of the five girls, from the youngest to the oldest. Likitalo actually does a pretty good job of distinguishing each of the voices — you wouldn’t think Sibilia was Celestia or Alina when reading, for a certainty — but Alina’s narration, at six years old, sounds rather too mature for her age.

Setting that aside, it’s beautifully written, and the worldbuilding that emerges slowly is lovely. The idea of the Empress being married to the moon, the arrangement whereby each of the girls has a different earthly father (or “seed”) but is considered a daughter of the Moon, the soul beads — it isn’t all immediately apparent how it works, but as you need to know, you learn. I think that’s well done.

Overall, a fascinating novella retelling, to my mind, but I do wish the two books had come out together (or that it was just sold as a novel).

Rating: 4/5

Buy this book: Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository
The above affiliate links, at no extra cost to you, provide a small commission for me if you purchase something.

Tags: , , ,

Divider

Review – Sea, Swallow Me

Posted 15 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Sea, Swallow MeSea, Swallow Me, and Other Stories, Craig Laurence Gidney

I’m not honestly sure what I thought of this collection. The writing is really strong, and I found that I had to keep turning the pages to get more of it — but some of the stories just grossed me out so much and made me feel really uncomfortable. They’re undoubtedly powerful, but not really a style that I enjoy. There’s a bit in the Goodreads description that about sums this set of stories up: “rich, poetic, dark and disturbing”. Yep.

One of the most powerful of the bunch is definitely the most disturbing to me; if you want warnings about what ‘Etiolate’ contains, I can let you know.

Rating: 3/5

Tags: , ,

Divider

Review – Bring Back the King

Posted 14 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Bring Back the King by Helen PilcherBring Back the King, Helen Pilcher

If you’ve read Beth Shapiro’s How to Clone a Mammoth, all of the content in this book should be pretty familiar. Helen Pilcher’s voice is entertaining, and some of her examples are different, but the basic concept is the same. I wouldn’t recommend reading both, though I would recommend either of them if you haven’t read the other.

The only thing you may not enjoy about Pilcher’s is the flippant humour — she even has a chapter about cloning Elvis, for example. She’s a stand-up comedian as well a biologist and a journalist, so it might well be that you just don’t get along with her sense of humour. I’ll admit it did begin to wear on me. Nonetheless, she presents the information clearly and in a way that’s easy to digest, so it might be the best way to get the information across for some folks.

Rating: 3/5

Tags: , , ,

Divider

Review – The Chocolatier’s Wife

Posted 13 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Chocolatier's Wife by Cindy Lynn SpeerThe Chocolatier’s Wife, Cindy Lynn Speer

This is a romance set in a fantasy world, with a bit of mystery as well, so if any of those things fail to appeal, you probably won’t get on with it. I found it delightful, though: the world isn’t incredibly rich or anything, but there’s enough there to give a solid background to the story and prevent it feeling paper-thin. The romance is sweet, and the characters are enjoyable: the way they deal with their situation right from the start, the way they write to each other, the way they take care of one another.

There are a few instances of stupid misunderstandings which mostly just serve to drag out the tension, which is a little annoying — my least favourite trope or way of spinning out a story ever. Still, it wasn’t too painful, and the way they worked out their issues and actually communicated actually kinda made up for it.

I’m definitely planning to read more of Speer’s work in future.

Rating: 4/5

Tags: , , ,

Divider

Review – Connection Error

Posted 12 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Connection Error by Annabeth AlbertConnection Error, Annabeth Albert

I originally received this to review, but ended up picking it up on the Kobo store when I needed a pick-me-up, rather later than the release date! It’s the third in a series, but it’s a loosely connected series with new main characters for each book; this one features Navy SEAL Ryan, an amputee, and game designer Josiah. Both of them have disabilities: Ryan is just learning to cope with being an amputee and going back to civilian life, while Josiah has ADHD which makes him impulsive and prone to forgetting the important things. This sets up a nice dynamic between the two of them, and I enjoy that it isn’t just plain sailing: Josiah blurts out the wrong thing several times, apologises awkwardly, etc, etc, while Ryan’s steady ability to look ahead and work things out helps Josiah steady himself.

It isn’t all plain sailing in terms of their relationship, either, starting with a casual sort-of-hook-up in a hotel while stranded by snow, supplemented by some gaming, and slowly growing into a stronger connection which both of them avoid naming or solidifying for far too long, despite their growing attachment. The emotional stuff between them is well-written, and their actions make sense: there’s no stupid misunderstandings that would just be solved by some basic communication, but rather genuine issues caused by their situations and personalities.

The exploration of Ryan’s new disabilities is well done, in my opinion; it explores some of the difficulties he has with physicality, some of the things he has to get used to, but he is also unequivocally still a sexual person. Josiah’s ADHD, too, is dealt with sympathetically.

There are quite a few sex scenes in this book, as with much romance (particularly queer romances); they’re well-written and don’t forget the characters’ limitations or characteristics, and though they’re not exactly essential to the plot, they are key in demonstrating how the relationship between the two men works and grows. The main thing that I enjoyed, though, is that it isn’t just about the sex, and we get windows into both characters as they navigate life. My only quibble is that sometimes the time jumps felt a little weird, and the formatting of the Kobo ebook made it difficult to tell what was actually typed and what was just thought during the gaming sessions.

Rating: 4/5

Tags: , , ,

Divider

Review – Bog Bodies Uncovered

Posted 11 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Bog Bodies UncoveredBog Bodies Uncovered, Miranda Aldhouse-Green

I’m not sure about the subtitle of “solving Europe’s ancient mystery”. It is a mystery, of course, and it’s comparatively ancient, but I don’t think Aldhouse-Green manages to solve it. Examine it closely and lay out what evidence we have, yes, but that evidence doesn’t convince me that we have enough to make real judgements about what was going on. Especially not because Aldhouse-Green’s book takes in bog bodies all over Europe — places that in many other ways haven’t been demonstrated to have similar beliefs.

The book is strongest when she sticks to the facts. If you’re fascinated by bog bodies, there’s a whole range of them discussed at length, both the forensics of their deaths and the items that were found with them, and even what we know now with modern science about their lives. Even if you’re with me in thinking that some of the theories lean too hard on supposing there are commonalities across huge breadths of space and time, there’s a lot to learn here.

Rating: 4/5

Tags: , , ,

Divider

Review – I Hate Everyone But You

Posted 10 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of I Hate Everyone But YouI Hate Everyone But You, Gaby Dunn, Allison Rankin

Ohhhh this book was so not my thing. I am not the target age group, for sure, but I’m not sure I would have been the target even then, despite being queer and having anxiety. It’s all hurry-hurry-hurry to have sex, worry about sororities, sleeping with teachers, getting drunk and high, and kicking off the drama. I found the characters unpleasant, the story predictable, and the voices insufficiently distinct from one another.

And when reviews shout about this encapsulating the college experience, I am just confused, because my college experience — albeit in Britain — involved a lot of work. Hard work. I didn’t have time to get drunk and high and have sex with random strangers, even if I’d wanted to (and I did not; my idea of a wild fun time was maxing out my library cards), and I don’t honestly know anyone who did — not this much time, anyway.

Just overall very much not for me. Nope nope nope.

Rating: 1/5

Tags: ,

Divider