Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 2 July, 2014 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

This is gonna be a really quick Top Ten Tuesday post, because it’s now very early on Wednesday, and I’m a very sleepy Nikki. I’ll be commenting on other people’s posts tomorrow; for now I’m just turning in my work, doing this post, and going to bed!

So this week’s theme is ten classic books, either favourites or going to read. I’ll go with ‘going to read’, and pick from the Fantasy Masterworks series by Gollancz, because I actually a) own a bunch of those already and b) need to finish reading them.

  1. The Book of the New Sun, by Gene Wolfe. I already know I enjoy Gene Wolfe’s work, even if it’s prone to making my head spin with the complexity/weirdness. I’ve had these books for a while now, since I read some really good reviews of them; now it’s just getting over the fact that I know it’s going to make my head spin!
  2. Little, Big, by John Crowley. I’ve been meaning to read this for even longer than I’ve been meaning to read Gene Wolfe. I think someone recommended it to me back when I read Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I’m not sure if it’s actually similar, or if there’s just similar themes, or if this person just knew I read a bit of everything anyway.
  3. Suldrun’s Garden, by Jack Vance. Yet another that I’ve been meaning to read forever. I think I originally picked it up just because of the reference to Lyonesse, wondering if it was Arthurian at all. Since then I’ve just heard it touted as some of the greatest fantasy ever. I doubt it’s going to topple my favourite (go on, guess), but that’s a promising lead-in.
  4. Lud-in-the-Mist, by Hope Mirlees. This list is mostly showing me how far behind I am on my reading list, since this is another I’ve been planning to read for ages. I’ve actually glanced at the first few pages before, and it looks like fun…
  5. The Compleat Enchanter, by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt. This hasn’t been on my list that long — just sense I read 100 Must-read Fantasy Novels, I think. I like parallel world stories.
  6. The Worm Ouroboros, by E.R. Eddison. Tolkien was a fan. Next?
  7. Was, by Geoff Ryman. I keep looking at this and feeling unsure. It being based on linkages between people based on L. Frank Baum’s Oz books gives me pause.
  8. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, by Patricia McKillip. I love Patricia McKillip, I don’t care what she writes about, I’m gonna read it. She writes so beautifully, and creates really interesting worlds.
  9. Replay, by Ken Grimwood. This intrigues me because when I was a young teen, my mother prompted me for a story with a similar plot. I’m wondering if she ever read this and the idea just stuck in her mind, or if it was a coincidence.
  10. Time and Again, by Jack Finney. Time travel! And an author I admire recently mentioned this on twitter — I can’t remember who, but I know it brought the book to mind again. I think I already own a copy, so that’ll shuffle it up the list.

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Review – Hard Spell

Posted 1 July, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Hard Spell by Justin GustainisHard Spell, Justin Gustainis

Hard Spell isn’t the best thing I’ve ever read, but it was fun — fairly typical in some ways, for urban fantasy, but still, compelling enough that I finished it and have grabbed the second book from my TBR pile. There’s a lot of male gaze-y stuff going on, with a couple of blatant male fantasy characters, but there are some surprises too — the main character starts with some prejudices pretty well fixed, but he’s able to change with the circumstances, which makes for a pretty satisfying end.

Overall, the plot is nothing new, but the writing is solid and it avoids shoehorning in sex and romance as the most important thing, which other urban fantasy can fall afoul of. In fact, that’s not a thing at all here — the leading lady in Stan Markowski’s life is his daughter, Christine, if anything. He does have a tragic past, etc, which all sets up how the story works out, but at least that all hangs together coherently. There’s some cool world building done on the premise that supernatural creatures are a part of the world for good — SWAT teams exist, but mean something else entirely, for example…

This is a pretty ambivalent review, I know. It’s pretty much a “hey, Gustainis, better impress me next time” kind of review.

Rating: 2/5

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Mental Health Awareness Month: Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Me

Posted 30 June, 2014 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

There have been some great posts over at Uncorked Thoughts on Mental Health Awareness Month. Reading Leah’s post about her anxiety made me want to put together something about mine, because it’s important, and because people like me so often feel alone. It takes over and makes everything ten times harder.

If you’re not in a great place yourself right now, read this with caution. There’s a lot of health detail. If you’re just here for the books, feel free to skip this!

Read More

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Review – The Snake Charm

Posted 30 June, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Snake Charm by Laura LamThe Snake Charm, Laura Lam

Another review of this said that you can read it without having read Pantomime and Shadowplay, but I’m not sure of that; I think I might’ve preferred to start with those two, after all. Still, it gives a nice taster of the world and some of the things that’re out there — and, I gather, some of the characters. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Drystan, and exploring this world more.

I did feel like I was at a disadvantage, though, not knowing the world already. You can pick up on the key terms/concepts — Vestige, Lethe, Drystan being the son of some high-class family — and maybe it’s just my love of world-building, but I felt like I wanted to know more before reading this, to appreciate it more, and maybe how it fits in with the novels.

Ah well, definite impetus to get on with it and read Pantomime and Shadowplay!

Rating: 3/5

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Review – The Movement

Posted 29 June, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Movement by Gail SimoneThe Movement, vol. 1: Class Warfare, Gail Simone, Freddie Williams II

I decided to get this one on the strength of the fact that a) it’s Gail Simone, and though I don’t like DC that much, I do like her work and b) I was fascinated by the diversity of the team line-up. They’re all different — characters of colour, a girl with a wheelchair, an ex-cop… they all have different backgrounds, different motivations, and the same goal that they have to struggle against the world and each other to achieve.

Much as I love Billy Kaplan and company (Young Avengers), that aspect never came through the way it did here. These guys feel more real. I know it’s a criticism often levelled at DC, that they focus too much on trying to be dark and gritty. Well, this is, but it’s also relevant in a way that I’ve never found Batman to be: this is a group of young people getting together against injustice. Not supervillains: injustice. Crooked cops who beat poor people and POC because they can. The whole system of privilege and disprivilege. It’s a team of heroes for the Occupy Movement, for the 99%, for the disenfranchised.

And I enjoy the way they play off each other. The chirpy brightness of Vengeance Moth, the righteousness of Virtue, the struggle between Katharsis and Tremor. Mouse’s crush on Tremor is sweet. I like the fact that — like the Occupy movement itself — they aren’t of one accord, and they aren’t perfect people. Katharsis wants to beat people’s faces into pulp, while Vengeance Moth gives them hamburgers and doesn’t see the risks.

My one problem so far is that Vengeance Moth’s power takes her out of the chair. That’s twice now for Gail Simone, that I know of: Barbara Gordon gets out of the wheelchair to be Batgirl again after that stint as Oracle, and then Moth gets tipped out of the chair and suddenly can fly. It’s great to have superheroes in wheelchairs, and it’s great that Simone doesn’t limit them or think they’re incapable as too many people do, but… I wanted Moth to fight from the wheelchair if she had to.

Let’s have some badasses be badass while still in their wheelchairs, yeah? And let’s not have any miraculous cures as though they need them to be really badass. If only my AU roleplay Steve Rogers was canon somewhere (had polio, in a chair, still fights, maybe has to work a bit harder for the respect he deserves but never gives up, never puts up with any bullshit).

Still, overall, I really loved this. I like the art a lot. And I can’t wait for the second TPB, so I’ll be hitting Comixology in hope pretty darn shortly.

Rating: 5/5

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Custom Kobo case

Posted 28 June, 2014 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

The good thing about being crafty is being able to make your own stuff. Coming from a crafty family is even better, because when you’re not sure your crochet will work for what you want to do, there’s always your mother’s sewing. I should probably say up front that if you’re interested in something like this, mostly Mum makes pen wraps, but custom stuff could be negotiated. Her Etsy is here. If you like (fountain) pens, you have lots in common with my mother and should definitely follow that link.

I’ve volunteered at an eye clinic for a while, and now I have a new boss, who very kindly lets me read during downtime. Which we don’t get that much time of, but now I don’t have to stand there looking jealously at the patients reading while they wait when we do. Unfortunately, I have no pockets on my work uniform, and when I have the keys I have them dangling from my lanyard, so I just have to keep handing Extremis (that’s my Kobo’s name: spot the fandom!) to the coordinators to look after when I have to work. This doesn’t work so well.

My solution went something like this: “Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum. I need a case for my Kobo with a little clip so I can attach it to my belt so I don’t have to carry it all the time at the clinic, Muuuuuuuuuuuuuum are you listening, Muuuuuuuuuuum have you bought fabric for it yet, Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum when will it be finished?”

(She will probably happily testify that I am indeed that bloody annoying.)

And today I finally have my wish: a lightweight little case that can be clipped to straps to carry, clipped to a beltloop (as in the photo below), slipped in my bag, etc. And it has a little pocket inside, too, for some change or keys or something of that sort.

Photo of my custom Kobo case, with bookworm fabric and my Kobo peeking out Photo of me, wearing a Mass Effect t-shirt and modelling my new Kobo case

(Yes, that is a photo of me, and yes, I think that may well be only the second ever on this blog. Yes, that’s me: short hair that currently needs redyeing but is usually red; chubby; geeky; yes that’s a Mass Effect t-shirt encouraging you to vote Shepard/Vakarian for president/vice president in 2012. And yes, the book my Kobo has active is The Snake Charm, by Laura Lam.)

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Review – We Have Always Fought

Posted 28 June, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of We Have Always Fought by Kameron Hurley‘We Have Always Fought’: Essays on Craft, Fiction and Fandom, Kameron Hurley

This is a great collection of essays, and on the strength of it, Kameron Hurley’s getting my Hugo vote for sure. In fact, brb, I’m going to do that bit of my vote now.

There. So yeah, reading this, I was wondering how I missed some of these. Some, like ‘We Have Always Fought’: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative and Hurley’s post on the Hugos, got shared a lot so I did see them, but I’d have been interested in a lot of these posts, from the more personal ones to the general.

I won’t do that whole ~she’s so inspiring~ thing about this, but she writes frankly and clearly about chronic illness and how close she came to death. She writes her truth hard and clear, and speaks up for herself and others in a way that’s frankly admirable. She can recognise and break that inertia people get, bystander effect, and yet her saying so doesn’t come across as bragging. I feel like if I asked her one of the questions most important to me for judging people, she’d give me a straight answer: do you think you could say no to authority? And I don’t think she’d shame anyone else for not being able to say yes, yes I could, right away, even if she could. She knows life’s tough and people are people.

This is also great for picking up recs for other books/media. Orphan Black might be a thing I look into, and I think her analysis might encourage some people towards True Detective, though it doesn’t sound like my thing. Must look up Tim Akers; I’ve always sort of meant to read his stuff and then the first book hasn’t been in the library or whatever.

I really enjoyed reading these essays, and now is as good a time as any to mention that you can (as of the time of writing, at least) get them free. Here! And don’t say I never give you anything… Uh. Well.

Rating: 5/5

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 28 June, 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?

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Review – Agatha H. and the Airship City

Posted 27 June, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Agatha H and the Airship City by the FogliosAgatha H. and the Airship City, Phil & Kaja Foglio

Agatha H. and the Airship City is based on a number of graphic novels by the same authors. And it’s… okay. It’s a fun adventure story, female protagonist with brains, etc. But something felt off to me — the way her figure was constantly emphasised, the whole bit where she was in her underwear… I don’t know what the context of that is, but if it worked in the comics, it didn’t work here. Especially since the opening made her seem so very young, and then suddenly it’s all about her being a young woman and people perving on her. Bleh.

I might check out the graphic novels, but I’m not going to read any more of the books. I don’t think they make good adaptations, or the authors don’t translate their ideas well to a novel rather than a webcomic. It felt pretty mediocre, which is kinda disappointing since I know people adore the series.

Rating: 2/5

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Throwback Thursday

Posted 27 June, 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!

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