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?

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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is loose in the city, her parents want to marry her off to a killer, and there is a plot brewing against the old and withdrawn King Orrikan.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?

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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

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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

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 21 June, 2014 by Nikki in General / 38 Comments

Good morning, folks. Once again I have acquired more books than anyone rightfully should, and can’t help but feel rather smug about that. But in the interests of stacking your shelves, let me just direct your attention to my giveaway post for Strange Chemistry/Exhibit A books here. Please link it to anyone you think will be interested: the authors concerned need our help right now.

Otherwise, back to your normal programming: Stacking the Shelves, as hosted by Tynga’s Reviews! This week with the theme I Just Got Paid So I Will Buy Everything, Who Cares About A Theme? Which isn’t as fun as buying all superhero novels all the time, but is still pretty fun.

Review copies

Cover of The Invisible Orientation by Julie Sondra Decker Cover of Nice Dragons Finish Last, by Rachel Aaron Cover of Stranger on the Shore by Josh Lanyon

I’m kind of most excited about The Invisible Orientation, because I’m halfway through and it talks so much sense about the range of queerness that’s out there, never mind just asexuality. But I’m also interested in Rachel Aaron and Josh Lanyon: it’s been a while since I read any Lanyon, but there was a point when I read his books like candy.

Library

Cover of The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris Cover of The Goldilocks Enigma by Paul Davies Cover of When a Gene Makes You Smell Like a Fish by Lisa Seachrist Chiu Cover of Ignobel Prizes by Marc Abrahams

Another sciency week, apparently. The first two are my srs reading, the second two fuel my love of knowing really random crap.

Received

Cover of Ultimate X-Men vol 3 Cover of Ultimate X-Men vol 4

Actually Christmas presents from my partner, but Amazon didn’t deliver the third volume and so I didn’t want to feature the fourth until now. But here they are! Time for me to get myself educated on some X-Men stuff. (I picked Ultimates because I liked their appearances in Ultimate Spider-man.)

Bought (ebooks)

Cover of Sabriel by Garth Nix Cover of Lirael by Garth Nix Cover of Abhorsen by Garth Nix Cover of Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn Cover of Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly  Cover of A Soldier's Duty by Jean Johnson Cover of Straying from the Path by Carrie Vaughn Cover of The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison Cover of Heaven's Queen by Rachel Bach Cover of Clean Sweep, by Ilona Andrews Cover of The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne Cover of Glaze by Kim Curran

I rebought the Garth Nix books, which I love, because they’re finally out in ebook in the UK and Clariel will be coming out soon. Otherwise it’s a mix of recs or liking the author’s other stuff. I’m very glad now I got Glaze, considering the bad news about Kim Curran’s publishers for her other books.

Bought (dead tree)

Cover of The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar Cover of Koko Takes a Holiday by Kieran Shea Cover of City of Silk and Steel by the Careys

I’ve heard good buzz about the first two, I’ve liked some of Tidhar’s other work, and the third promises a more Arabian Nights than European setting, plus the first line is “Once there was a city of women.” Which is bound to catch my eye when I’m pretty sure it’s not referring to the Arthurian Castle of Maidens.

My plan for this next week is not to buy or borrow anything more, and take a leaf out of Under The Mountain‘s book and do Unstacking the Shelves.

So what’s anybody else been picking up? Don’t forget about my giveaways, and make sure to leave a link here when you comment on this post, so I can visit your blog in return!

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Farewell to Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A

Posted 20 June, 2014 by Nikki in General, Giveaways / 60 Comments

I was really sad and shocked today when I was scrolling through twitter and saw this sudden announcement from Angry Robot:

As you will be aware, Angry Robot Books has a history of innovation and we continue to go from strength to strength. We’re constantly trying out new concepts and new ideas, and we continue to publish popular and award-winning books. Our YA imprint Strange Chemistry and our crime/mystery imprint Exhibit A have – due mainly to market saturation – unfortunately been unable to carve out their own niches with as much success.

We have therefore made the difficult decision to discontinue Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A, effective immediately, and no further titles will be published from these two imprints.

A few links:
The announcement
A former intern’s farewell
Gwenda Bond’s reaction post
Kim Curran’s post
The Bookseller’s article
The Bookseller reports on potential sales from Osprey
Commentary from Fantasy Faction
Kameron Hurley’s post
Sean Cummings’ post
Laura Lam’s post
Laura Lam giveaway (INT)
Rachel Neumeier’s post
Strange Chemistry book giveaway (INT)
Blog hop

That’s not all that’s out there by a long shot, but that should give everyone an idea of the fanbase those imprints had out there, and how shocking the news was for everyone. I’ve been a fan of Angry Robot and everything they do for a while, especially since I won the Robot for a Day competition (where I met the staff and the blogger who was at that point their intern, Leah @ Uncorked Thoughts). I have a huge backlog of their stuff to read, from all three imprints, but I think I might spend this weekend finally getting round to books by Kim Curran, Laura Lam, Gwenda Bond, etc.

The good news is, the books already published will still be supported by Angry Robot, and rights for future books are reverting to the authors. The bad news is that various books that were slated to come out in the next few months won’t be, some series aren’t going to be finished (at least not with Strange Chemistry), and some authors don’t know where they can go next.

I’m going to follow the example of one of the posts linked above and do a giveaway of some of my favourite Strange Chemistry books. Comment with which you want to be entered for, and I’ll pick at random on the 1st July. You can enter for multiple books, but you will only win one. If you would prefer ebooks, we can probably arrange something, but the idea is that I will buy copies via The Book Depository and send them straight to you. I want to encourage new readers to get their mitts on these books and generate some buzz that might help the authors place future books with publishers! And yes, this is international.

So, without further ado, the giveaways:

  • Martha Wells, Emilie & The Hollow World.
  • Sean Cummings, Poltergeeks.
  • Rachel Neumeier, Black Dog.
  • Cassandra Rose Clarke, The Assassin’s Curse.
  • Winner’s choice of any book from Strange Chemistry or Exhibit A.

And honestly? I wish it could be more. I have so much sympathy with all the authors and staff affected. Let’s give them a good send off!

ETA: So, the winners! Grace won Emilie & the Hollow World; majoline won Poltergeeks; Erin won Black Dog; ameliazane won The Assassin’s Curse; Jessica won the winner’s choice (and chose Gwenda Bond’s Blackwood). All of them have been emailed and all of them responded already, so the books have been ordered and are en route.

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Review – Death in a White Tie

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

Cover of Death in a White Tie, by Ngaio MarshDeath in a White Tie, Ngaio Marsh

I think this is the first Alleyn mystery where I genuinely felt for the victim, which helped greatly in my enjoyment of the story. It’s the first one where you spend part of the book following the victim closely, too, and where Alleyn has personal feelings on the matter, both of which I think are relevant. I know that the trope of the personally involved detective can be exasperating — and Alleyn even refers to it, in one of those unsubtle bits of meta — but at least it’s another way for the reader to engage with the case.

The actual puzzle aspect of the story is more or less as usual: a character you wouldn’t normally suspect ends up in it up to the neck, where the guy who looks like a sure thing is actually innocent. Still, the reasoning does make sense, all the timings match up, etc, so it makes perfect sense, which Ngaio Marsh is admittedly good at (apart from the weird mix of opportunism and premeditation in the crime in the first Alleyn book).

As for Alleyn’s personal life, well. I still can’t help but feel he’s a cut rate Wimsey. His relationship with Troy has some similar ups and downs to Wimsey’s with Harriet, but we don’t get to see as much interaction, as much of the push-and-pull they feel, and so it feels less compelling. I know I’m biased as a major fan of Sayers already, but I can’t help the feeling.

Rating: 4/5

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Throwback Thursday

Posted 19 June, 2014 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

As with the last couple of weeks, I’m using Throwback Thursday (hosted here) to highlight some books that’ve been knocking round on my to read shelves for a while (aka, too long). This week, I actually have a theme: vampires! Don’t ask me why I always pick three. Probably something OCD related. Or I just like the alliteration with Throwback Thursday.

CCover of Carpathia, by Matt Forbeckarpathia, Matt Forbeck

It’s Titanic meets 30 Days of Night. When the survivors of the Titanic are picked up by the passenger steamship Carpathia, they thought their problems were over.

But something’s sleeping in the darkest recesses of the ship. Something old. Something hungry.

I’ve had this since I visited Angry Robot HQ, so it’s high time I got round to it. I’ve enjoyed some of Matt Forbeck’s other work for them, so I’m hopeful about this, though some of the GR reviews aren’t so positive. Fingers crossed!

Blood Price, Tanya Huff

Vicki Nelson, formerly of Toronto’s homicide unit and now a private detective, witnesses the first of many vicious attacks that are now plaguing the city of Toronto. As death follows unspeakable Cover of Blood Price, by Tanya Huffdeath, Vicki is forced to renew her tempestuous relationship with her former partner, Mike Celluci, to stop these forces of dark magic—along with another, unexpected ally…

Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate son of King Henry VIII, has learned over the course of his long life how to blend with humans, how to deny the call for blood in his veins. Without him, Vicki and Mike would not survive the ancient force of chaos that has been unleashed upon the world—but in doing so, his identity may be exposed, and his life forfeit.

I’ve actually read this one already, many moons ago, but I have the whole set to get round to; I only read this first one. Trivia: Vicki Nelson has retinitis pigmentosa, a common reason people come to the eye clinic I volunteer at. (Is this where I throw in a PSA about getting your eyes checked regularly? Because you should. There’s lots we can do if we only catch the problem early.)

Anyway, I like Tanya Huff in general. She has a handful of queer characters, and her writing’s always fun.

The Passage, Justin Cronin

Cover of The Passage by Justin CroninAn epic and gripping tale of catastrophe and survival, The Passage is the story of Amy—abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her. As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape—but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.

I know I’m way behind the curve on this one, but a friend just posted an enthusiastic review, so I’m bringing it back up the list.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 18 June, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?
Yesterday I finished Fortune’s Pawn (Rachel Bach) while I was at the clinic — man, I’m glad they let me read when it’s quiet now. It was a fun book, anyway: I loved the fighting scenes and the fact that the main character is a woman in an awesome mech. I was less fond of the heavy romance skew, partially because there were some tropes I’m less than fond of.

Today, I finished reading Death in a White Tie (Ngaio Marsh), which was the first of these mysteries that really got to me in terms of the feeling. In many ways it was typical, but I cared about the victim, genuinely felt he was a nice guy. I actually felt more about that than about Alleyn’s love affair. He hasn’t got a patch on Lord Peter, still, and ugh, that whole bit about women liking men who can bully them.

What are you reading now?
Lots and lots. But to highlight two, I’ve just started on Wen Spencer’s A Brother’s Price. It’s very interesting to read something that flips the gender roles like this, and I think I’m going to get along with the main character. I did read a review quite critical of it because it makes it seem like women are just as bad/worse than men, but I don’t see it that way. I mean, the situation as set up so far seems logical: men are scarce, and therefore precious and protected. Women are very defensive of them, and possessive too.

All of this makes sense for either gender, and here the women actually have a reason for it, unlike men IRL, because in our world, natural selection will always keep the number of babies of each gender born roughly equal. (It might dip to 49%-51% in a generation, or something like that, but it’s always going to self-correct.) I am wondering if it’s explained why men are rare and why natural selection isn’t fixing it. (I.e. if it’s something that can be adapted to, nature would quickly re-select for men who are fertile and have male children, because those male children will do well and go on to have more fertile male children. Eventually the balance would get to male 60-40 female or something, and then natural selection would select for women who bear more fertile female children, etc. I don’t know if I’m overthinking this for a speculative book that’s just reversing the genders, but this is the kind of thing I wonder.)

And of course, I’ve started on the next Alleyn book, Overture to Death, but I’m really not far into it.

What will you read next?
Death at the Bar (Ngaio Marsh) is a reasonable bet. Other than that, I don’t know. I’ll probably read some of my ARCs, particularly the comics — Pretty Deadly (Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Rios) and Noir (Victor Gischler). Also, I have a handful of pages left of Seven Forges (James A. Moore), which I enjoyed greatly and yet somehow have not yet managed to finish. That might well be next, so I can read the sequel.

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Review – Fortune’s Pawn

Posted 17 June, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Fortune's Pawn by Rachel BachFortune’s Pawn, Rachel Bach

In many ways, this is awesome and completely up my street. Mysteries in space (not that it’s a detective story, but there are unexplained phenomena), kickass female lead in a mech suit who owns her sexuality and doesn’t take any crap from anyone. The problem for me is that alongside all of that, there’s a heaping of romance tropes, including “we shouldn’t be together because I have secrets and you might get hurt” and even “I might hurt you”, which sets us up for one of those horrid endings where the guy decides he knows what’s best for his partner without thinking about what she might prefer.

All in all, though, it is fun. The action scenes work well, and you never get the sense that Devi is somehow getting preferential treatment from the author. She can screw up, she can get her ass kicked, and it doesn’t just follow the dictates of the story. She feels real in that sense: she’s not just driven by the story.

It’s a quick read, and the sci-fi aspects are enough to keep me interested despite the romance not really being to my taste. The next book might change my mind, but for now I’m definitely along for the ride.

Rating: 3/5

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