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.)

Tags: , ,

Divider

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

Tags: , , ,

Divider

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?

Tags: , ,

Divider

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

Tags: , ,

Divider

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!

Tags: , , ,

Divider

Thursday Thoughts: Rating Systems

Posted 26 June, 2014 by Nikki in General / 11 Comments

There’s getting to be far too many interesting weekly events. Next I’ll even be updating my blog every day… or more than once every day! So yeah, this week’s Thursday Thoughts, hosted by Ok, Let’s Read, are around rating systems. Well, anybody who’s looked at my reviews here will know that I don’t post ratings on here. I prefer to let my thoughts on the books I’m reviewing come through more than my arbitrary, very personal gut feeling, which is what my ratings on Netgalley, Goodreads and LibraryThing are.

When I rate on sites that do use it, I tend to pretty much use GR’s scale, since I’ve been posting there the longest:

  • 1 star: Didn’t like it
  • 2 star: It was okay
  • 3 star: I liked it
  • 4 star: I really liked it
  • 5 star: It was amazing!

I like that because it’s nice and subjective. If I had to rate books on their technical merits, I’d probably be very critical and end up giving low ratings to books I actually really enjoyed. Or sometimes I’d feel compelled to give them low ratings based on things that might bother other people (but don’t bother me in that specific instance), e.g. ratio of male to female characters. I do still dock stars for things that really get in my way while reading, of course, but it’s possible to enjoy less well-written and even problematic media, and I do. At least when we’re talking subjective ratings, you can’t argue that just because you gave a book five stars, everybody should.

On Goodreads, there’s often been discussion about the skewed ratings (i.e. towards the positive) and more granular ratings (half-stars/ten point rating system). On the former, I feel that it’s more useful to be able to separate out positive reactions to books than negative ones. You’re usually going to skew to liking books unless you pick books without regard to genre, blurbs, etc. — I do know of someone who does that — because you know your preferences. It doesn’t stop you coming across some real stinkers, but generally being able to separate out much you liked something is more important than quantifying exactly how much you disliked something.

In terms of half-stars, I’ve just never seen the point. Sure, you can always get a more complex rating system that arguably expresses your feelings more accurately, but that tends not to work well for people. I can’t find the link now, but I think it was Netflix that found that people used the rating system less the more complicated it got.

Honestly, though, I find that my own ratings are more useful to me than anyone else’s. I don’t know what standards people are using when they rate stuff on Goodreads — they could be using the site’s standards, but plenty of people use alternate methods which they state in their profiles, but are still treated as standard in the aggregate, etc. Sometimes it works okay when you know the person’s tastes — for example, I’ve been following Dan Schwent‘s reviews on Goodreads for years, so I know when he rates something four stars what he means by that, and I can sort of gauge how I’d rate the same books because we’ve had significant overlap — but mostly, the star rating doesn’t tell me that much without the review.

I can start including star ratings on here at some point if people seem to want it, but I try to be clear enough about my feelings on books that it isn’t necessary.

Tags: , ,

Divider

What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 26 June, 2014 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?
Agatha H. and the Airship City, which… I’m not too impressed. It’s the novelisation rather than the (I gather) original comics, but still. I don’t think I could stand to hear much more about Agatha’s gorgeous figure.

What are you currently reading?
Lirael, by Garth Nix. I love love love the exploring-in-the-library parts. I’m less keen on Sameth in general; I find Lirael more compelling, though they’re both fairly typical teenagers.

What will you read next?
Abhorsen, probably, the third book in Garth Nix’s series. I’m also eying some Angry Robot books, particularly the Justin Gustainis ones for some reason. I’ve brought my book on the history of Marvel with me, too.

In short, as usual: who knows?

Tags: , ,

Divider

Waiting on Wednesday: Garth Nix’s Clariel

Posted 25 June, 2014 by Nikki in General / 10 Comments

Meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.

This is kind of inevitable and needs no spotlighting from me, but since I’m knee-deep in a reread of Lirael at the moment, it leaps to mind — and I really like the cover. Sadly, I haven’t been able to get approved for the e-ARC of this on Edelweiss, so I’m just hoping to win it… or I’ll have to wait until my pre-order arrives.

(If you have a copy you’re done with and are in the UK, I’d pay for the postage to borrow it. Just saying.)

Clariel is the daughter of the one of the most notable families in the Old Kingdom, with blood relations to the Abhorsen and, most importantly, to the King. When her family moves to the city of Belisaere, there are rumors that her mother is next in line for the throne. However, Clariel wants no part of it—a natural hunter, all she ever Cover of Clariel by Garth Nixthinks about is escaping the city’s confining walls and journeying back to the quiet, green world of the Great Forest.

But many forces conspire against Clariel’s dream. A dangerous Free Magic creature is loose in the city, her parents want to marry her off to a killer, and there is a plot brewing against the old and withdrawn King Orrikan. When Clariel is drawn into the efforts to find and capture the creature, she discovers hidden sorcery within herself, yet it is magic that carries great dangers. Can she rise above the temptation of power, escape the unwanted marriage, and save the King?

Tags: , ,

Divider

Review – Sabriel

Posted 25 June, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Sabriel by Garth NixSabriel, Garth Nix

It was lovely to reread Sabriel. I think I read it quite a few times when I was younger, but luckily, Garth Nix seems to have lost none of his charm for me. It helps that he has a female protagonist who isn’t perfect, who ends up with a near-broken nose, battered to bits, and still finds love — but that love isn’t the most important thing: the important thing, the thing Sabriel really has to accept, is the passing on of her father’s duties to her, and her own entry into adulthood.

I enjoy the fact that no detail is wasted, too. The story could open with Sabriel crossing into the Old Kingdom: not much terribly important happens before that, just scene setting. But then it turns out to be important because the story cycles back to that location, because the previous Abhorsen knew it would from the Clayr — and we get to see life on that side of the border, we see the people Sabriel’s been raised with and how that interacts with what she has to become. And we see people that later will prove important: those innocent schoolgirls who are Charter Mages, who ultimately give up their life to help Sabriel, because that’s the person she has to become, the person who accepts those lives as part of the cost of what she must do. They have a kind of strength that serves Sabriel well, both because she’s been raised among them and because they then help her, even though she ends up so alien to them. And I like the little details, like the dying schoolgirl’s touch to Sabriel’s ankle which is ultimately what gives her the strength to fight on, or Horyse’s vision of what’s going to happen to him.

The nice thing about the UK ebook of this is that it contains some commentary from Garth Nix on the process of writing the story. It was interesting to have him point things out, like the focus on clothing, armour, weaponry, that adds the touch of realism — I hadn’t thought about that before. It can be a liiiittle jarring to read those at the end of chapters like that, but I’m glad that extra content was included anyway.

I think of the three books, this is actually my favourite. Lirael has its attractions too, but I’m most attached to Sabriel’s character and the vitality of her romance with Touchstone — I always thought that bite/kiss to keep them both in Life when her father rang Astarael was the most wonderful thing ever, and I still found that scene pretty powerful.

Rating: 4/5

Tags: , ,

Divider

Review – Ignobel Prizes

Posted 22 June, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Ignobel Prizes by Marc AbrahamsIgnobel Prizes, Marc Abrahams

I like reading popular science books that dig deep into something serious like genetics or something. But, a book that digs shallowly into something frivolous like the history and recipients of the Ig Nobel Prizes works just fine for me too. It’s light reading, obviously, and some of it is gross, weird, and pretty much all of it is just silly. Which is, probably, what makes it so interesting.

Marc Abrahams is the founder of the awards, so this isn’t exactly an impartial look at the awards, and I do like someone else’s comment that the book “tr[ies] too hard to make it seem like they don’t take themselves seriously”. Yep. It’s all very ridiculous.

What makes it fun to me is that all of the research in this book has been genuinely carried out, and some of it is surprisingly sensible when you learn about the rationale behind it.

Rating: 3/5

Tags: , ,

Divider