Review – The Serpent’s Promise

Posted 21 July, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Serpent's Promise by Steve JonesThe Serpent’s Promise, Steve Jones

I’m quite enjoying Steve Jones’ other book done in this sort of style, taking the work of Charles Darwin and revising, updating and adding to it. Unfortunately, this one fell flat for me. Using some of the central stories of a religion as a gimmick while making it clear how much you look down on people who profess religious belief… ugh. Just, ugh..

Some parts of the science here were interesting, but overall it’s nothing I haven’t read elsewhere. Mostly it feels like Steve Jones riding his hobby horse, over and over. I’ve got several more of his books to read, but I’m starting to think he’s a one-trick pony.

Rating: 2/5

Tags: , ,

Divider

Review – Unthink

Posted 20 July, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Unthink by Chris PaleyUnthink, Chris Paley

I received an ARC of this via Bookbridgr. I wasn’t sure what level it would be pitched at, but as a general rule, all things to do with psychology and the weird ways our brains work interest me. It turned out that this book was probably below the level I’m reading at when it comes to psychology, which is more Steven Pinker, Jonathan Haidt, Paul Bloom, etc: because I rate my personal enjoyment of a book, that’s definitely knocked down my rating. But that’s no real comment on the content, which is interesting; just a lot of it, I happened to know already.

However, if you’re looking for a book with a lot of interesting facts, explained in an accessible manner, then Unthink may well be for you. It’s presented in a very easy to read format, with little chunks rarely more than two or three pages long, each with a descriptive chapter title. Despite the simple presentation, there is also a wealth of notes in the back which go into more detail, point to sources, etc.

Rating: 3/5

Tags: , ,

Divider

Review – The Table of Less Valued Knights

Posted 20 July, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie PhillipsThe Table of Less Valued Knights, Marie Phillips

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this one when I requested it. On the one hand, I love Arthuriana and I have enjoyed several loose interpretations of it, even humorous/light-hearted ones. On the other hand, I’m not very good at humour myself, and can be a bit snooty about anything that messes too much with my views on Arthuriana.

It turns out, I really enjoyed it, and read it in pretty much one go. I love that while there is humour, it’s pretty gentle: it doesn’t single out any character as a laughing stock, and the characters aren’t there just to be laughed at. They’re still people, with goals of their own, and they’re likeable people at that. I somewhat feared Sir Humphrey would just be a laughable oaf, but he turns out to be a good guy even if he doesn’t subscribe to the kind of honour culture the Round Table stands for.

It is all very modern and anachronistic: there’s customs officials between the kingdoms, for example, for the sake of absurdity. There’s also pretty liberal views on LGBT people, including a knight who prefers to be called Gwendoline, and a gay relationship driving part of the plot.

All in all, it’s fun, and I’m really glad I read it. The tone is maybe reminiscent of Gerald Morris, albeit for adults, but otherwise it’s quite a fresh take on the idea of Camelot.

Rating: 4/5

Tags: , , ,

Divider

Review – Rocket Girl: Times Squared

Posted 19 July, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Rocket Girl, by Brandon Montclare & Amy ReederRocket Girl: Times Squared,Brandon Montclare, Amy Reeder

Received to review from Netgalley.

Rocket Girl is kinda fun, though I felt like at a certain point, Dayoung’s flying around and crashing into things gets a bit boring and you want more substance. I do like that we’ve got a fifteen year old girl as the protagonist, though, and that she’s capable and clever, determined and principled.

Overall, though, the supporting cast just didn’t do much for me, and while the way the story plays with time is kind of fun, I wanted more from it. I’m not sure where it can go from here, either, given the ending, and… unfortunately, I’m not that interested.

Rating: 2/5

Tags: , ,

Divider

Stacking the Shelves

Posted 19 July, 2014 by Nikki in General / 61 Comments

So, time for Stacking the Shelves a la Tynga’s Reviews! You know how I keep saying my haul post is going to be smaller “next week”? Well, next week it will be. I think? That’s the idea, anyway. Part of this I blame on going to Rainbow Rowell’s signing in Waterstones with Leah @ Uncorked Thoughts. I’d pick something up to look at it and she’d chip in with “that one’s good!”

Or I might just have no restraint. There’s always that explanation. Anyway, to kick off, here’s me with Rainbow Rowell!

Photo of me and my dorky grin, with author Rainbow Rowell

If you look closely you can see a little frog in the picture. Which means this is a good time to plug my friend’s art project: basically, she’s made a hundred of the blighters and over the last few months, she’s been ‘releasing’ them into the wild, a few at a time. If you find one, take a picture of yourself with it and then move it to somewhere new! Most are in England, West Yorkshire area, but I know some have gone to London, some have been released in Cardiff and Swansea, and some are travelling round the world. If you’re going to Loncon, I have two to release there, so keep your eye out for Sad Frog Project!

Waterstones haul

Cover of The Falconer by Elizabeth May Cover of Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein Cover of Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon Cover of Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard Cover of Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan Cover of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart Cover of the special UK Collectors Edition of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

My copy of Fangirl was signed, of course. I still need to finish reading it… But I loved the way Rowell spoke about it, spoke frankly about Cath’s social anxiety, spoke with enthusiasm about fandom. So I’m very glad to have a signed copy. As for the others, some I’ve been planning to get for a while — Two Boys Kissing and Code Name Verity. Leah forced Take Back the Skies on me, and we talked about the others enough to get me interested.

Kobo store

Cover of Karma Girl by Jennifer Estep Cover of Futureland by Walter Mosley Cover of Heart of Veridon, by Tim Akers Cover of The Wanderer in Unknown Realms by John Connolly Cover of The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen Cover of Premonitions by Jamie Schultz Cover of Permanent Present Tense by Suzanne Chorkin Cover of Liars and Thieves by Karen Maitland

It’s a rather mixed bag, isn’t it? The first three were mentioned in books of essays I’ve been reading recently; I’ve enjoyed some of John Connolly’s other stuff; The Queen of the Tearling is getting interesting reviews; I thought my sister would like Premonitions but I’m gonna try it first; Permanent Present Tense is non-fiction and was mentioned in the neurobiology MOOC I’m doing; Liars and Thieves is a short by Karen Maitland, who I’m a big fan of!

Netgalley/e-ARCs

Cover of A Touch of Poison by Aaron Kite Cover of Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel Cover of The Copper Promise by Jen Williams Cover of The Godless by Ben Peek Cover of A Suitable Replacement by Megan Derr Cover of Blood Tells by Rachel White Cover of The Mapmaker's Daughter by Caroline Dunford Cover of The Passage of Pearl by Lynn E O Connacht

An interesting bunch — I’ve been interested by The Copper Promise for a while!

Bookbridgr

Cover of Elysian Fields by Suzanne Johnson Cover of The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland Cover of Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman

I think I’m in love with Bookbridgr. I’m certainly super happy about getting The Vanishing Witch! I don’t think I’ve crossposted any of my Karen Maitland reviews here so far, but I’m definitely a fan.

Library

Cover of Y: The Descent of Men by Steve Jones Cover of Coral by Steve Jones Cover of Blood & Guts by Roy Porter Cover of Jurassic Mary: Mary Anning and the Primeval Monsters by Patricia Pierce Cover of Darwin's Island by Steve Jones Cover of The Serpent's Promise by Steve Jones Cover of Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler Cover of Gloriana by Michael Moorcock Cover of My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor Cover of Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

Mostly non-fiction this week, as you can see; all my Steve Jones reservations came in, and I had a browse in the 610s-620s in the non-fiction section of the library. (Well, also the 560s, because dinosaurs.)

And finally

Comics

Cover of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Cover of The Movement volume 2 Cover of Ms Marvel #6

I didn’t actually magically get my hands on the second TPB of The Movement, but I thought it’d be silly to put up the cover of every single issue. So there y’go. And I imagine there’s no mystery as to why I picked up Guardians of the Galaxy.

Okay, I can’t believe how long this post has got, and I need to do a ton more things before I go to bed. When this goes live in the morning, I’ll already be out at the Race for Life, volunteering at a 10k event. And then on Sunday, I’m running in the 5k event. So I may not be very active this week, but I will visit back anyone that comments here, of course! Have a good week.

(Oh, and if you have some spare cash, sponsor me, please?!)

ETA: Except I can’t volunteer today due to travel problems, wah. But at least I’ll be around to chat to people!

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Divider

Review – Legends of Red Sonja

Posted 18 July, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Legends of Red Sonja, by Gail Simone et alLegends of Red Sonja,Gail Simone et al

Received to review!

I didn’t love this TPB of stories about Red Sonja as much as I did the first TPB Gail Simone worked on, but I definitely appreciate what she did, the way she drew together female creators for this, and also the stories they all chose to tell. Women are prominent in many of them, and there are some delightful lines — like, “What’s wrong with men? I know plenty of decent male fighters.”

(If you don’t know why that made me laugh, well, it’s the flipside of what you usually get. Normally it’s a man damning women with faint praise for whatever skill or job.)

The whole storyline consists of a frame story with the Grey Riders, who are hunting Red Sonja, and then a series of stories told about her by her allies. What I loved about those was the way they emphasised different aspects of Red Sonja: her body, yes, but also her links with other women, her beliefs, her skill at fighting, and her cunning. Especially loved the little hat tip to complaints about her costume when she’s first given it, with the lady who gives her it telling her that if men are watching her curves, they aren’t watching her sword.

Red Sonja is kind of a male fantasy fulfilment thing. The chainmail bikini makes no sense, and probably chafes. But Gail Simone has made me feel very fond of her anyway: she and her team take everything about Sonja makes it feel more real, more worthy of celebration. She might’ve started as a sexist fantasy, but she doesn’t have to stay that way.

Rating: 4/5

Tags: , , , ,

Divider

Thursday Thoughts: Spoilers

Posted 18 July, 2014 by Nikki in General / 1 Comment

This week’s Thursday Thoughts topic is spoilers. Now, I am weird about spoilers. I tend to want to know everything’s going to turn out okay, so I like spoilers in that sense, but… then there’s the problem I have with Supernatural, where things don’t turn out okay, or don’t stay okay for very long. I haven’t watched past early season five because of this, because just — my precious babies. So I’m somewhat the same with books. If it’s triggering my anxiety at all, I definitely look up spoilers (and find myself wishing book bloggers would just spill the beans, sometimes).

There are various studies actually showing that knowing spoilers doesn’t spoil a story for most people, which is interesting. For me, well, my academic focus was Arthuriana. I think everyone knows what happens there, the star-crossed lovers, etc, etc. I this for me that’s a lovely example of the way spoilers can’t spoil a story. You know what’s going to happen, you just don’t know exactly how, and you don’t know how the characters will react minute by minute. Some versions of the Arthurian story move me to tears (John Steinbeck, I’m looking at you), while some make me wish I believed in burning books (Marion Zimmer Bradley). And yet, it’s basically the same story; it has the same bones.

I’m a big fan of fairytales, too, and that’s the same sort of deal. You know that Sleeping Beauty’s going to prick her finger on a spindle, whether real or metaphorical, and fall into an enchanted sleep. It’s how exactly it’s going to come about that you read for.

On the other hand, I’m dodging Age of Ultron spoilers right and left while still trying to gawp at the pictures of the Avengers’ new outfits, so I guess it depends on the media. Knowing spoilers for some things will stop me from watching, not only because I’m nervous for the characters, but also if I know I’m going to be embarrassed for them. Early season three of NCIS, I’mma looking at you.

No Throwback Thursday this week because I was working too hard today to have time to set it up. (Aka, now you know my secret — I throw most of my posts together last minute.)

Tags: , ,

Divider

Review – Stranger on the Shore

Posted 17 July, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Stranger on the Shore by Josh LanyonStranger on the Shore, Josh Lanyon

Received to review. Josh Lanyon’s a writer I’m always happy to curl up with — well, with his books, anyway — in pretty much the same way as I’d read Mary Stewart (before I ran out of her books). Mind you, I don’t think Mary Stewart featured a single gay character, while I don’t think Lanyon’s written a non-gay romance.

This was fun, in the way I usually find Josh Lanyon’s books: a bit of tension, sparks flying between the romantic leads, etc, plus mystery and unexpected danger, etc. I usually work out his plots pretty quickly, and this wasn’t an exception. The clues were a bit too obvious. Nonetheless, the exact identity of the murderer was a bit of a surprise, because I didn’t particularly have anyone nailed down for that.

The romantic relationship… For the most part, it worked for me. I could believe in the characters’ complex feelings, and in their connection. But, Pierce fell into the same trap as many romantic leads in YA books and so on (an odd comparison to make, I know). There were traits that were supposed to make him sympathetic in an odd way, but which led to rather creepy things. Like, having sex with someone to get their DNA for a test. And then entering into a real relationship with that person without ‘fessing up. Just, ugh, sure Pierce is supposed to have trust issues, but I don’t see how that makes it any better for him to violate someone else’s trust.

I am not going to quote from the sex scenes, but only one of them made me giggle, which is a start. There are some things that should never be compared to silly string or smashed champagne bottles, I’m just saying.

Rating: 3/5

Tags: , , ,

Divider

What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 17 July, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?
Legends of Red Sonja (Gail Simone) et al, which was not as good as the first Red Sonja TPB under Gail Simone’s leadership, but still pretty fun, and also Rocket Girl: Times Squared (Brandon Montclare, Amy Reeder), which was… okay, but I wasn’t enamoured.

What are you currently reading?
I’m slowly-slowly making my way through Death, Disability and the Superhero (José Alaniz), which is very academic and hard going, because I haven’t had to use my brain like this in a while. I’m enjoying it, though; I’m wondering if it’s going to mention Hawkeye in, what was it, the 70s? Who was deaf, according to the internet. I think Gail Simone’s Vengeance Moth is a bit too recent for this study, but I’m gonna be interested in the stuff about Daredevil. I haven’t read any Daredevil yet, but it is something I’m interested in.

I’m also reading The Serpent’s Promise (Steve Jones), which… I’m not sure how I feel about it. He’s one of those people who is very, very dismissive of faith/religion and basically holds it up as an intellectual truth that there’s no God. Which obviously, I’m not so sure about it. Anyway, the aim is to explain events in the Bible through science.

And finally, I’m reading The Vanishing Witch (Karen Maitland). It only arrived this morning, so I probably shouldn’t jump straight to it, but I’ve enjoyed all of Karen Maitland’s books and I’m excited about this one. I accidentally read the back page (I read so fast that if my eyes fall on it, it’s read), so I have some idea of what’s going to happen, and for once I’m a little disappointed about that. Normally I don’t mind spoilers.

What will you read next?
I’m trying to work on my Netgalley ratio right now, so next is probably Yesterday’s Kin (Nancy Kress). Although I’m also thinking of Illusive (Emily Lloyd-Jones), because hey, superpowered heist story!

Tags: , , ,

Divider

Review – 21st Century Dodos

Posted 16 July, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of 21st Century Dodos by Steve Stack21st Century Dodos, Steve Stack

Received to review. I might be a bit below the target age for this one — I remember some of these things, like cassettes and candy cigarettes and Jif, but other stuff was on its way out before I got there. I’m about to turn twenty-five, so I’d guess I’m about ten years behind some of this nostalgia stuff.

It’s not a very substantial book, but if you feel like a bit of nostalgia and an opportunity to go ‘I thought I was the only one who remembered that!’, then this might be for you.

Some of it hasn’t yet gone the way of the dodo for me: my parents get milk delivered, and I remember watching the milk float arrive on those illicit late nights I stayed up reading, sometimes. Okay, the first time it actually really freaked me out. But still. Milk float.

Rating: 2/5

Tags: , ,

Divider