Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 15 July, 2014 by Nikki in General / 18 Comments

Top Ten Tuesday is a bit different this week — top ten movies or TV shows. Hmmm. I don’t actually watch much TV, and getting round to watching films is hard for me, so you might find this list surprisingly outdated.

  1. Iron Man 3: Tony Stark has panic attacks. Pepper gets superpowers. I love the way they handle the racist trope of the Mandarin.
    “I’m cold.”
    “I know.”
    “How can you tell?”
    “Because we’re connected.”
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier: On your left! Because I love the comic, I love the way they adapted it, I love the politics of it, and I love what the MCU does with Steve’s character. He can be a dick in the comics, but in the film, he’s a good guy struggling to reconcile his morals with a drastically changed world, and he does it while making me want to hug him. Also: who the hell is Bucky?
    “Can any of you boys direct me to the Smithsonian? I’m here to pick up a fossil.”
  3. Howl’s Moving Castle: It cuts a lot of aspects I like from the book (like the whole fact of Howl being Welsh), but I still really love it. It’s one of my comfort films. Calcifer is just… <3
    “She likes my spark!”
  4. Spirited Away: I don’t think I have a pithy quote from this one, I just love it all.
  5. due South: Childhood nostalgia. Fraser was my first squish. And just… <3 Also, one of the few successful major actor-swaps between seasons I know of.
    “She shot me in the hat, Ray.”
  6. Stardust: Again, it’s not a perfect translation of the book, it definitely changes things, but it makes a great adaptation.
    Would I be correct in thinking that you can neither see nor hear me? Then I’d like to tell you that you smell of pee. You look like the wrong end of a dog. And I swear if I don’t get my Tristan back as he was, I’ll be your personal poltergeist!”
  7. Apollo 13: I have a lot of feelings about this film. The first time, it made me cry, even though I knew they were going to get safely home.
    “We just put Sir Isaac Newton in the driver’s seat. “
  8. Firefly & Serenity: Yeah, of course they’re on this list. I love the crew, I love everyone, and I hate Joss Whedon. Understood? (Well, really, I hate Fox.)
    “I swear by my pretty floral bonnet I will end you.”
  9. Castle: More Nathan Fillion! Also, best father-daughter friendship in the ‘verse. Beckett’s kickass too, but for me, the relationship between Rick and Alexis is centre stage.
    “He’s like a 9 year old on a sugar rush.”
  10. NCIS: This is part because it’s awesome, part because Grandad loved it and now when I watch it I think of him. His favourite character was Abby. “She’s crazy,” he’d say. “I like her.”
    “I’ve never experienced Gibbs without his morning coffee. We’re in uncharted waters here, Kate.”

And now I should get ready for my volunteering shift, but I’ll be back later to see what everyone else’s talking about!

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Review – Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains

Posted 14 July, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil GaimanTruth is a Cave in the Black Mountains, Neil Gaiman, Eddie Campbell

I got this to review from Headline via Bookbridgr. Like I needed another source of goodies! Anyway, I hadn’t read this short story before, so my first experience of it was this version with Eddie Campbell’s illustrations and the slightly odd partial graphic novel format (which I wanted to kill with fire because for whatever reason I found the lettering hard to decipher, I don’t know if I’m the only one).

Viewed as a sort of fable/folk tale, I enjoyed it. The structure is great, too: the slow unspooling of information so that it all comes together close to the end, and if you were to start reading it again right away, you could appreciate the little clues. The art worked well for me, too, slightly unsettling and vivid, without any attempt to be photo-realistic.

What didn’t work for me so well was the treatment of women. The frankly unnecessary rape scene in the middle — I’m not going to tone it down and say it was “almost” a rape scene: it was a man having sex with his frightened wife after beating her, let’s call it what it is — and the idea of an independent, fierce young woman dying because her hair is tied to a thorn bush. That sort of works in a fairytale sense, but in reality… if I had to separately break every strand of my hair to get free, I would (yes, even back in the days when I had long hair and it was my pride and joy). I’m pretty sure 99% of people with long hair would value their lives over their hair.

And you know, the main character… I could forgive him wanting vengeance, and I could forgive him for the thing he can’t forgive himself for. What I can’t forgive him for is lying there on the floor of a hut where a woman has given him hospitality while she is beaten and raped for doing so — after he got her to come out from where she was hiding with promises she wouldn’t be harmed. Especially as it’s all focused on how uncomfortable he thinks about it — I’m pretty sure a woman in that situation would be feeling worse.

I know it’s set in a different culture, etc, etc, but it isn’t even necessary to the narrative or characterisation. Passing the woman’s husband outside would yield the same information, and we could avoid the whole sorry episode.

Rating: 3/5

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Strange Chemistry & Exhibit A Reading Month

Posted 13 July, 2014 by Nikki in General / 10 Comments

Banner with images from Strange Chemistry cover art, announcing a reading month in August

I’ve been looking forward to this since Lynn and I were first talking about it. So come on, join in! We’re celebrating Strange Chemistry now that it’s been shut down; the authors deserve and need support right now, and a great way for bloggers to do that is creating buzz. So you, me, Lynn, everyone we can get our hands on: August, 1st-31st. To take part, you only need to read one Strange Chemistry book, so it doesn’t matter if you think you’re the slowest reader in the world.

Go to Lynn’s post here to sign up.

Here’s my list of probable reads:

  • Pantomime and Shadowplay, by Laura Lam.
  • Shift and Control, by Kim Curran.
  • Blackwood and The Woken Gods, by Gwenda Bond.
  • Zenn Scarlett, by Christian Schoon.
  • The Pirate’s Wish, by Cassandra Rose Clarke.
  • Stolen Songbird, by Danielle L. Jensen.

Some of these I should’ve got round to ages ago, so it’ll be good to have an excuse, and company on the journey.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 12 July, 2014 by Nikki in General / 48 Comments

Wait, how is it time for Stacking the Shelves again already?! Oh well, happy Saturday, all, and don’t forget to check out Tynga’s Reviews to find everyone else’s posts and interact with loads of wonderful other people.

I was actually going to say it’s been a quiet week, but then I remembered a bunch of books I’d ordered arrived, and I got quite a few ARCs too. Plus, me and my sis had a day trip to York with one of my closest friends, and that more or less inevitably meant a bookshop. (Less inevitably, it meant even my friend picked up something — my hunger for books is one of those things we really don’t share, but now she’s prepping for a teaching course, so she has to do more reading. I am trying to get her to try Attachments by Rainbow Rowell for fun…)

Anyway, I’ll just… split these up however comes to mind.

Ordered before this week!

Cover of Died in the Wool by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Final Curtain by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Swing, Brother, Swing, by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Storm Front by Jim Butcher Cover of Fool Moon by Jim Butcher Cover of Grave Peril by Jim Butcher Cover of Sea of Shadows by Kelley ArmstrongCover of Wings to the Kingdom by Cherie Priest Cover of Sunrise of Avalon by Anna Elliott

So yeah, more Ngaio Marsh, no one’s surprised. Cherie Priest, ditto. Jim Butcher might be a bit of a surprise because I didn’t get on that well with the series the first time I tried to read it, and found some aspects of it problematic. Still, I did enjoy them for light reading, and The Works (yes, again) was selling them for around ~£2 each. So. Might as well see if I can get back into the series.

Re: Anna Elliott, Lynn O’Connacht bought me the first two books yeaaars ago. I spotted this one in, oddly enough, The Works’ online shop and went oh yeah, I never read that.

Bought in York

Cover of Opening Night by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Spinsters in Jeopardy by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Scales of Justice by Ngaio Marsh Cover of A Plague on Both Your Houses by Susanna Gregory Cover of The Boy with the Porcelain Blade by Den Patrick

And… more Ngaio Marsh. I’m not even that huge a fan, in that sense, I just find reading her work really relaxing. Susanna Gregory, I’ve been meaning to try. And automatic recommendation sites keep suggesting The Boy with the Porcelain Blade, and the first few pages intrigued me well enough, so with that comparison to Scott Lynch… yeah, worth a try.

One lonely ebook

Cover of Landline by Rainbow Rowell

ARCs

Cover of Rocket Girl, by Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder Cover of Yesterday's Kin by Nancy Kress Cover of Detour from Normal by Ken Dickson Cover of Legends of Red Sonja, by Gail Simone et al Cover of Conquering the Electron by Derek Cheung and Eric Brach Cover of Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch

Yep, that’s a pretty odd mix. Nancy Kress, I’ve liked some of her other work; Gail Simone is just awesome and Kelly Sue DeConnick’s in there too; Ken Dickson’s story about his experience with mental illness sounded interesting enough; electrons are cool; Rocket Girl was on read now; Tomorrow and Tomorrow was the first book I spotted on BookBridgr that intrigued me.

And finally, new Captain Marvel. <3

Cover of Captain Marvel #5

So what’s everyone else been stacking their shelves with? Say hi, link your posts, let’s talk books!

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Review – Black and Brown Planets

Posted 11 July, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Black and Brown PlanetsBlack and Brown Planets: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction, ed. Isiah Lavender III

The only stuff like this I’ve read before was during my degree, when I read books on postcolonial fiction as part of my Welsh Fiction in English class. The whole topic fascinated me, particularly because of the parallels between Welsh fiction and that of other non-dominant identities, so I have kept an eye on fandom discussions, and become involved in some (on both the right and the wrong sides, sometimes simultaneously). That’s not quite the same as reading a book like this one, with references, formal language, bibliographies, etc.

So I was interested to see how I got on with academic language again, since it’s been a while. Fortunately for me, this one is on ‘read now’ on Netgalley. And unfortunately for me, as well as being an interesting exploration of race in SF, it’s also generated a list of books I want to read/reread. For example, Malisa Kurtz’s piece on Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl. I remember not enjoying that, but picking apart the complexities of it has made me interested all over again.

I was also a big fan of De Witt Douglas Kilgore’s essay discussing DS9, and Gerry Canavan’s referencing it as well. I remember being quite a fan of DS9 as a kid, and never realising that Ben Sisko was that revolutionary a character. I just took him for granted. The possible link Kilgore draws between Sisko and Obama becoming present seems to me like a big jump because of that, but I’ll keep my mouth shut on that one since that’s very much a US politics thing.

Oh, and I loved Isiah Lavender III’s own essay on Octavia Butler’s work; I haven’t read enough Butler yet, but she’s excellent and well worth the analysis.

I don’t know when, but I will be picking up some of the books — both fiction and non-fiction — mentioned in this collection, in future. It’s an area of literature about which I know I’ve got tons to learn, and I hate having to admit ignorance. This makes a good start.

Rating: 4/5

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Throwback Thursday

Posted 10 July, 2014 by Nikki in General / 7 Comments

I kinda missed doing this last week, so despite two posts having gone live already today, here we go. Here’s three books from way back on my to read list; one of them I bought more recently, but I was recced it back in 2011, and the other two books are from my 2011 list too.

So You Want to Be a Wizard, Diane Duane

Nita Callahan is at the end of her rope because of the bullies who’ve been hounding her at school… until she discovers Cover of So You Want to Be A Wizard by Diane Duanea mysterious library book that promises her the chance to become a wizard. But she has no idea of the difference that taking the Wizard’s Oath is going to make in her life. Shortly, in company with fellow beginner-wizard Kit Rodriguez, Nita’s catapulted into what will be the adventure of a lifetime — if she and Kit can both live through it. For every wizard’s career starts with an Ordeal in which he or she must challenge the one power in the universe that hates wizardry more than anything else: the Lone Power that invented death and turned it loose in the worlds. Plunged into a dark and deadly alternate New York full of the Lone One’s creatures, Kit and Nita must venture into the very heart of darkness to find the stolen, legendary Book of Night with Moon. Only with the dangerous power of the wizardly Book do they have a chance to save not just their own lives, but their world…

Lots of people sing Duane’s praises, and I have enjoyed one of her books that I’ve read before, The Door into Fire. Plus, when she had a sale on at her site I bought the whole series of these books. Actually, there’s nearly always a sale going on there, so don’t feel pressured by any one! more! day! announcements on twitter. Another sale will be round pretty soon.

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, Christopher Moore

Cover of Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff by Christopher MooreThe birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his glorious teachings, acts, and divine sacrifice after his thirtieth birthday. But no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years — except Biff, the Messiah’s best bud, who has been resurrected to tell the story in the divinely hilarious yet heartfelt work “reminiscent of Vonnegut and Douglas Adams” (Philadelphia Inquirer).

Verily, the story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one, filled with remarkable journeys, magic, healings, kung fu, corpse reanimations, demons, and hot babes. Even the considerable wiles and devotion of the Savior’s pal may not be enough to divert Joshua from his tragic destiny. But there’s no one who loves Josh more — except maybe “Maggie,” Mary of Magdala — and Biff isn’t about to let his extraordinary pal suffer and ascend without a fight.

This… could be a very bad match for me, but I trusted the person who recced it to me enough to stick it on my list and later buy a copy, so I’ve committed myself to this one. The comparison to Vonnegut and Adams helps a bit, too.

Mortal Engines, Phillip Reeve

Cover of Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve“It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea.”

The great traction city London has been skulking in the hills to avoid the bigger, faster, hungrier cities loose in the Great Hunting Ground. But now, the sinister plans of Lord Mayor Mangus Crome can finally unfold.

Thaddeus Valentine, London’s Head Historian and adored famous archaeologist, and his lovely daughter, Katherine, are down in The Gut when the young assassin with the black scarf strikes toward his heart, saved by the quick intervention of Tom, a lowly third-class apprentice. Racing after the fleeing girl, Tom suddenly glimpses her hideous face: scarred from forehead to jaw, nose a smashed stump, a single eye glaring back at him. “Look at what your Valentine did to me!” she screams. “Ask him! Ask him what he did to Hester Shaw!” And with that she jumps down the waste chute to her death. Minutes later Tom finds himself tumbling down the same chute and stranded in the Out-Country, a sea of mud scored by the huge caterpillar tracks of cities like the one now steaming off over the horizon.

I can’t quite see how anyone could read that blurb and not be fascinated. I’m quite hopeful about this one; I’ve read some of Reeve’s other stuff, and people I know have been enthusiastic. It’s just finding the time and the energy.

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Thursday Thoughts: Book Tastes

Posted 10 July, 2014 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

This week’s topic from Ok, Let’s Read for Thursday Thoughts is “book tastes”. I’ve already kind of covered this here, but it never hurts to talk it over again. My rating systems post (or rather, the comments I received) convinced me to start putting quick ratings on my reviews, proving it’s always interesting to discuss stuff with other bloggers. Here’s the prompt paragraph:

Currently, do you feel like you have a set genre or type of book that is your go-to and people know as “your genre?” Is there a genre that you’ve always loved or been drawn to in particular? Have you noticed your taste in books changing over time? Is there a genre or type of book that you used to love, but no longer read/enjoy? If so, what genre and why do you think that is?

The answer to the first question is no. I think at one point people would’ve definitely pegged me for an SF/F person, but I read too much of everything else I come across for that now. Still, I’d say that’s the genre I’ve always loved and been drawn to, and that’s the section I make a bee-line for in the library or bookshop. My first bee-line, anyway, heh.

Over the last few years, I’ve developed more of an interest in non-fiction. I think that really kicked off around the time I read an article about the fact that curiosity is the antidote to anxiety. I can’t find it again now, which is annoying because I’m sure it linked a study and stuff, but it made me curious(!) about whether reading non-fiction engaged my brain and got me interested in helpful ways. Spoiler: it does. I was even able to read a book about deadly epidemic diseases, Spillover, by treating it with curiosity.

I also got more into romance books, via Mary Stewart’s non-Arthurian work. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it at first, but turns out, I prefer it to her Arthurian work, and I got really invested in getting all her books and reading them. I’ve finished them now, which is sad, but it encouraged me to branch out into other stuff like Georgette Heyer (brilliance!).

I don’t think there’s any particular genre I’ve abandoned. Not even a subgenre; I still read steampunk or military SF or whatever if it has interesting elements, even if there’s maybe too much of it in the market.

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Review – The Planets

Posted 10 July, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Planets by Dava SobelThe Planets, Dava Sobel

I think I expected this to be more scientific than it turned out to be, which may be a common problem judging from other reviews. It’s actually more of a historical glance at the way humanity has envisioned the galaxy, and the way our knowledge has grown over the millennia. It’s a lot literary, with bits of science and mythology thrown in. Some parts of it were lovely for that, though I wasn’t sure about the emphasis on linking the Old Testament Genesis story with the scientific facts of creation. It seems likely to alienate a lot of readers, even if it sounds pretty.

Of course, we mustn’t forget that this is also quite behind the times now: published in 2007ish, shortly after the demotion of Pluto, it has nothing to say about more recent discoveries about the moons of the outer planets, or Curiosity, or anything like that. It’s quite accessible, but not up to date, which is a pity.

Sometimes the literary interludes really got on my nerves, with Sobel putting words into people’s mouths and anthropomorphizing inanimate objects. I like literary tricks like that as much as the next person, but it just seems ridiculous when they’re giving words and complex thought to a meteorite…

Rating: 3/5

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 9 July, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?
The Planets, by Dava Sobel, which was… more literary than I expected. I mean, it’s more of a history of the way we’ve seen the planets than a gathering of scientific knowledge about them, though there’s some of that too.

What are you currently reading?
I’m trying to narrow my focus to one or two books at a time, which actually leaves me with two non-fiction books this week: The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker, which I think I’ve talked about here before, and Black and Brown Planets (ed. Isiah Lavender III). This is a perspective I don’t think I’ve really come across elsewhere: SF fandom through the eyes of POC, critiqued using the same rigour of any academic essays in any subject. I’m more used to fandom stuff, tumblr rants and DW posts, which are often deeply thoughtful and informative, but not in this format. I’m really enjoying it — and it’s increasing my interest in reading Samuel R. Delany’s stuff and rewatching Deep Space 9.

(I’m also getting a list of books I want to pick up that’re referenced in it; this is bad for me, in one way, but hey, I get to practice having restraint!)

What will you read next?
I’m going to focus on finishing Darwin’s Ghost (Steve Jones) and Elantris (Brandon Sanderson), I think. Maybe Knight’s Fee (Rosemary Sutcliff) and/or Hounded (Kevin Hearne), since the library is cruelly refusing to let me renew them anymore, and it’s high time I returned them anyway.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 8 July, 2014 by Nikki in General / 20 Comments

I was bad at participating in this one last week — I did my own post, but I don’t think I commented on any others. I meant to, but stuff kept happening. I feel like a bad book blogger! And on that note, this week’s Top Ten Tuesday is “top ten blogging confessions”.

  1. I’m starting to have trouble getting round to reading longer books/series because I feel like I should be reviewing more often. This was totally encouraged by GR’s reading challenge and stuff like that. I’m trying to be more sensible about it, but it’s strange; I used to rip right through even really long books, but now that I worry about not being able to do so, somehow I have a problem.
  2. Sometimes I equivocate far too much writing a review because people whose opinions I respect liked the book, and I just didn’t. Or an editor/publisher I normally think is great, or want to support, put out the book. Or I know the author a bit on twitter and I’m afraid they’ll find it. (N.B. In that case, I usually go with rating it with my gut feeling, but the review will probably talk about why it wasn’t my thing instead of me saying anything bad about the book itself.)
  3. I find it hard to be social with other book bloggers. I have a pretty broad range of interests, so that makes some meme posts and so on really weird — I might know some of the books they’re reading, but often they won’t know any of mine, or they don’t even venture into whatever genre I’m currently most into. Then I feel awkward and not sure if I’m really having fun interacting, or just doing it to get page views. (Given the number of books I’m finding through blogs, though, I’m pretty sure it’s the former.)
  4. My mother reads my blog. You see “alc3261” commenting? Yeah. Hi, Mum.
  5. I am way, way behind on reading/blogging about ARCs. I really need to have a ban on asking for any more, but as soon as I make that resolution, something awesome shows up.
  6. I don’t like anyone else trying to dictate the content of my blog. So if someone’s publicist sets up an interview with them or something on my blog, I get pretty twitchy when they start saying that I have to link to certain things, say certain things, not say others. Sometimes I’ll work around that (it’s natural to remind me to link to a pre-order page or something!); other times, it might end up making me not want to work with the company again.
  7. I keep starting new books before I’ve finished the old ones. And buying new books, too. Ahem. I’ve been trying to work on this, but honestly having the full list of books I technically have in progress might be putting me off. Time to weed it out?
  8. I have no idea what people will find interesting, most of the time. Like, memes, well, people are doing those, so maybe they’ll provide some relevant content. But when I write about the stuff that really matters to me (mental health, access to reading after sight loss, or my interview with Carrie Patel, just for example), I get fretful about whether it gets hits/comments, etc.
  9. I rarely have more than one post scheduled. I could get really organised and sort out some of my meme posts weeks in advance, but I’ve always been more one to play it by ear. Although I’m doing better at remembering to do this stuff than I ever did at remembering my homework.
  10. I go through phases. I tend to have a fairly cyclical approach to my hobbies. The main five, I guess, are reading, writing, gaming, running, and crochet. I’ve been on more of a reading phase for quite a while now, but writing and gaming are in the ascendent right now. This may mean fewer posts… It probably won’t, though, because reading is always my dominant hobby.

Don’t forget to link me to your TTT posts, people — or anything you’ve written in the last week that you think is interesting and would like some eyes/comments on!

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