Review – Eorzea Academy

Posted February 15, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Eorzea Academy

Final Fantasy XIV: Eorzea Academy

by Esora Amaichi

Genres: Fantasy, Game, Graphic Novels
Pages: 192
Rating: four-stars

Join all your favorite Final Fantasy XIV characters in this rollicking, modern-day high school comedy!

Alisaie is a student attending Eorzea Academy, an exclusive institution created by the merger of former rival schools the Academy of Light and the Academy of Darkness. However, frequent quarrels between the students prove that a bitter divide remains between the Class of Light and the Class of Darkness. Worried about the ongoing conflict, headmistress Tataru decides it's time for some bold solutions to raise morale. Let the school games begin!

Eorzea Academy is a fun manga placing Final Fantasy XIV’s Scions of the Seventh Dawn in a school setting as the Class of Light, alongside the Class of Darkness, after a recent merger between two schools. Headmistress Tataru has a plan to get people to cooperate and forge a friendly rivalry between the two classes, which (of course) leads to plenty of hijinks.

If you don’t yet know the characters of Final Fantasy XIV, this probably isn’t for you. If you do… well, then you get to see them all running around in an alternative universe as students, with lots of funny moments that reference their canon appearances. Estinien never does his homework, G’raha seems to have a crush on him, Alphinaud’s a goodie-goodie, Y’shtola’s secretly nicknamed “mommy”… If you know the characters, then it’s worth a smile.

Obviously it’s pretty light stuff, and even Zenos, Yotsuyu and Asahi aren’t so bad here (fans of any of them as villains might be disappointed). I found it fun to see the references to the game, and the art is cute.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Someone from the Past

Posted February 14, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Someone from the Past

Someone from the Past

by Margot Bennett

Genres: Crime, Mystery
Pages: 256
Series: British Library Crime Classics
Rating: one-star

Sarah has been receiving threatening anonymous letters, seemingly from a former lover. Just one day after revealing this information to her co-worker Nancy, Sarah is found shot in her bedroom by one of her past flames, Donald. Hearing the news and desperate to clear any evidence of Donald’s presence at the scene due to her own infatuations, Nancy finds herself as the key suspect when she is discovered in the apartment.

As the real killer uses the situation to their advantage, Bennett crafts a tense and nuanced story through flashbacks to Sarah’s life and loves in this Gold-Dagger-award-winning, Hitchcockian story of deceit and murder.

It’s rare that I give a British Library Crime Classic a really low rating, but Margot Bennett is one of those writers I don’t really get on with… and Someone from the Past got on my last nerve. The introduction is all about what a fine book it was thought and how amazing it is, but I found it really tiresome.

The main reason was that the main character does some completely daft stuff, lies badly, tries to be witty and fails, and then tries to run away to Ireland like the police don’t know all the tricks and all the ways you might try to skip the country. She has these long dialogues with people that Martin Edwards (the editor of the British Library Crime Classics series) thinks are great, and which to me just end up being set pieces for the sake of showing off how oh-so-wittily Bennett thinks she writes dialogue.

One or two scenes like that might be okay, but I just don’t believe this character has a braincell in her head, and I’m not interested in her sparring with people. And then the book goes and ends with a get together where the man in question literally spends the whole book manipulating her “for her own good”, and sometimes being physically threatening to the point of terror for her. And I’m supposed to believe that’s a happy end?

Maybe not: maybe the point is to look at Nancy getting back on the merry-go-round of stupid and think “oh boy”. But it felt more like an attempt to tidy up loose ends, to let the reader feel like things are going to be okay now — and either way, I just didn’t enjoy it.

Rating: 1/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted February 14, 2024 by Nicky in General / 4 Comments

It’s time for What Are You Reading Wednesday:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What have you recently finished reading?
  • What are you reading next?

Linking up with Taking on a World of Words.

Cover of Impact of Evidence by Carol Carnac AKA E.C.R. LoracWhat are you currently reading?

I got the latest British Library Crime Classic release from my subscription yesterday, so I’ve dived into that! It’s a new E.C.R. Lorac, Impact of Evidence, written under her other pseudonym, Carol Carnac. It’s set on the Welsh borders and has an intriguing set up of a flood, a car accident, and a mysterious extra corpse no one recognises. I want to finish it today!

I’m still reading Work: A History of How We Spend Our Time, which so far has been all about pre-farming societies, and is only just starting to move onto more modern stuff, even though I’m halfway through it. I need to settle down for a longer reading session on this one, I think, else I lose the thread of it.

Cover of The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System vol 2What have you recently finished reading?

Last thing I finished up was my reread of the second volume of The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System (Mò Xiāng Tóng Xiù), which… I only read it in January, but I wanted to reread after finishing the last volume because I felt like I’d missed some details. And I definitely had!

Also, my wife’s started reading the series now, finallyyyy. So I have some company in my new obsession, ha.

Cover of Seanan McGuire's Mislaid in Parts Half-KnownWhat are you reading next?

Well… most likely it’ll be the third volume of The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System, for a start. But I’m also planning to read Seanan McGuire’s Mislaid in Parts Half-Known. It looks like there are dinosaurs, based on the cover?! I want dinosaurs for sure.

Other than that, I’m not sure. Wherever my whim takes me!

How about you, dear reader? What are you currently reading?

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Review – Glitter

Posted February 13, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Glitter


by Nicole Seymour

Genres: History, Non-fiction
Pages: 184
Series: Object Lessons
Rating: four-stars

Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.

Glitter reveals the complexity of an object often dismissed as frivolous. Nicole Seymour describes how glitter's consumption and status have shifted across centuries-from ancient cosmetic to queer activist tool, environmental pollutant to biodegradable accessory-along with its composition, which has variously included insects, glass, rocks, salt, sugar, plastic, and cellulose. Through a variety of examples, from glitterbombing to glitter beer, Seymour shows how this substance reflects the entanglements of consumerism, emotion, environmentalism, and gender/sexual identity.

Broadly speaking, I really liked Nicole Seymour’s Glitter. Love it or hate it, glitter is everywhere — and some of the hatred of glitter sometimes seems more like an “ew, I’m not gay!” or a performative “ugh, I’m like those other girls”, “I’m not a child”, etc. Seymour makes this clear, regularly referencing how important glitter is to members of the queer community, for various reasons.

I’d have liked a little more detail on one or two points — there are lots of references to what glitter is made of, the effort to make it biodegradable, etc, but I’d have loved a little more detail on the options, what people are using, etc — but overall I found it pretty good.

It did also make me think. I must admit to not being a great fan of glitter myself, but I couldn’t honestly say why. It’s relatively harmless (Seymour points out that the impact on the environment of the plastic variety is fairly tiny, and of course not all glitter is made from plastic), and a little bit of sparkle does people no harm. I suppose I find it a little bit cringe when people attribute absolutely magical things to it, which at times I think Seymour’s at risk of doing.

Rating: 4/5

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Top Ten Tuesday: All About Love

Posted February 13, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 24 Comments

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is a love-themed freebie.

There are some relationships in books which live in my head rent-free, so this list is about all of those. The books aren’t necessarily romances (though some of them are) — just books where a central relationship has well and truly taken up a place in my own heart. I stuck to romantic relationships, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, though platonic relationships are the beating heart of many stories, and I love them too!

Cover of The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System vol 4 by MXTX Cover of The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison Cover of Heartstopper by Alice Oseman Cover of Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews Cover of Band Sinister by K.J. Charles

  1. Shen Qingqiu and Luo Binghe (The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System, by Mò Xiāng Tóng Xiù). Let’s start with an obvious and recent one. Sure, it took until the third book for me to be really swept away, and the fourth book (which contains short stories from various parts of the story’s timeline) to really cement it… but now I’m actually rereading the series (already!) to better understand these characters, what makes them tick, and especially Luo Binghe’s thoughts during certain parts of the plot. I’m not saying this is an exemplary relationship or something: these guys are messed up. But I love them.
  2. Maia Drazhar and Csethiro Ceredin (The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison). I love The Goblin Emperor so much, though I’d be delighted to get a little more “screen time” for Csethiro. I love that she’s clever, that she’s not willing to just do anything to marry an emperor, and that she genuinely comes to care for Maia. Her scenes are some of my favourites in the book, and I’d love to have seen a lot more of her.
  3. Nick Nelson and Charlie Spring (Heartstopper, by Alice Oseman). These two are just so cute, and come of age together in a way that… yeah, maybe I’m a bit envious of. Like Charlie, I was outed at school, but it didn’t go as well for me (and it didn’t go great for Charlie, at least at first). They’re just solid and wholesome and maybe a little too ideal at times, but it’s nice to be reminded that that genuinely happens for some people.
  4. Kate Daniels and Curran Lennart (Magic Bites, by Ilona Andrews). I had so much fun reading this series, and part of it is the bond that gets forged between these two. They’re both strong, stubborn, and in need of one another — and they can only really win by leaning on each other, trusting each other, and trusting that the other won’t break. It takes time for them to get there, but once they do, they’re unstoppable.
  5. Philip Rookwood and Guy Frisby (Band Sinister, by KJ Charles). This is one of my favourite of KJ Charles’ books. I was originally going to pick a different couple of hers, Kim Secretan and Will Darling from Slippery Creatures… but Philip and Guy are the ones I first really fell in love with, in Charles’ work. I enjoyed her work before, but the way this relationship works — the communication and care that Philip teaches Guy — sticks in my head more than anything.
  6. Griffin Moss and Sabine Strohem (Griffin & Sabine, by Nick Bantock). Part of the attraction here is the mystery of it, it must be said: why are they connected? How? And let’s be fair, the novelty of the presentation of this book is a huge part of my fondness for it. But even still, I find myself thinking about these two sometimes. I’d love to read the sequel trilogy, though the books tend to be pretty expensive.
  7. Tobias Finch and Henry Silver (Silver in the Wood, by Emily Tesh). It’s funny remembering how mad I was about the start of Drowned Country when these two were clearly not together anymore, ha. The duology handles this relationship in a lovely way, and it’s one thousand percent worth reading Drowned Country as well… but it didn’t start with them in the position I really wanted to see them in: secure and safe with one another. Drowned Country develops their relationship and their individual characters beautifully, though.
  8. Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey (Strong Poison, by Dorothy L. Sayers). In a way, these two should probably have been first on my list. In the end, I think Sayers’ books became much more about illuminating the relationship between these two characters (and what it says about each of them, singly and together), more than the mystery plots they were wrapped around. The mysteries were intrinsic to Peter Wimsey’s life, but once Harriet came along, she quickly became the guiding star (both for him, and for me as the reader).
  9. Sir Gawain and Rhian (Camelot’s Shadow, by Sarah Zettel). I love Sir Gawain as a character, though I’m often picky about how he’s deployed. Zettel understands the dream of Camelot very well, and handles a bunch of disparate myths and stories fascinatingly to create her world where the sons of Lot of Orkney are central to that dream. Gawain and Rhian in particular stick in my mind, though I love all four of the novels. To be honest, it’s probably part of why I’m so fascinated by Gawain.
  10. Charlotte Neville and Karl von Wultendorf (A Taste of Blood Wine, by Freda Warrington). It’s been a long time since I read these books, but I keep thinking about reading them again, because I loved the way they handled the vampires — frightening, amoral, intense, and alluring all the same. Warrington went to town with her vampire romance, fully cognisant of what she was doing, and it makes for a lush story. You can’t say Charlotte and Karl have a healthy relationship, but it’s a powerful one that sticks in the mind, and there’s no doubt of their love.

Cover of Griffin & Sabine by Nick Bantock Cover of Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh Cover of Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers Cover of Camelot's Shadow by Sarah Zettel Cover of A Taste of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington

Are there any literary couples that stick in your mind? I feel like I could go on and on, especially with KJ Charles’ characters… and I didn’t mention Jordan L. Hawk, or Cat Sebastian!

Very curious to see where other people have taken this freebie week!

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Review – Memoria

Posted February 12, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Memoria


by Curt Pires, Sunando C, Mark Dale, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

Genres: Crime, Graphic Novels, Mystery
Pages: 132
Rating: three-stars

When an aged terminally ill detective and a young burnout are partnered up and saddled with an unsolvable case, they begin to unravel a sprawling conspiracy that points to one thing: The most prolific serial killer in american history. As they further investigate the case they make discoveries that will force them to question everything and everyone they know.

Memoria is a gritty crime story in graphic novel form, from a team of four. It’s pretty short, with a structure that makes it clear some dark stuff is coming later on, and it won’t be a terribly happy ending — it’s just not quite clear how unhappy the ending will be. It relies on a couple of coincidences, though to be honest it wasn’t clear to me how much those were engineered by a particular character in order to bring the truth out.

The story wasn’t too surprising to me: it felt like watching a cop show, like I was watching actors run through the usual stereotyped parts. Tough talk, roughing up a witness, the department’s gonna dump a case on the fuckups in order to have them take the fall, etc, etc.

In the end I was just curious enough to finish, and I think my rating reflects the fact that it just isn’t a genre I enjoy (I’m a fan of classic crime/mystery, which is usually a lot less gritty). The art suited it, even if I didn’t love it, and I did appreciate it being a standalone and crafted to work as such.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – The Iron Children

Posted February 11, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – The Iron Children

The Iron Children

by Rebecca Fraimow

Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Pages: 159
Rating: four-stars

Asher has been training her entire life to become a Sor-Commander. One day she’ll give her soul to the gilded, mechanical body and fully ascend. She’ll be a master of the Celesti faith, and the commander to a whole battalion of Dedicates. These soldiers, human bodies encased in exoskeletons, with extra arms, and telepathic subordination to the Sor-Commanders, are the only thing that’s kept the much larger Levastani army of conquest at bay for decades.

But while on a training journey, Asher and her party are attacked, and her commander is incapacitated, leaving her alone to lead the unit across a bitterly cold, unstable mountain.

It should be fine. She has the terrain memorised, and Sergeant Barghest is exceptional at their job. But one of the Dedicates is not what they seem: a spy for the enemy, with their own reasons to hate their mechanical body and the people who put them in it.

To get off the mountain alive, Asher and her unit will need to decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice—and what for.

Rebecca Fraimow’s The Iron Children packs a lot into quite a small space. The basics are easy: there are two nations at war, and one of the tools used by one side against the other is the ability to turn people (Dedicates) into mechs, who are deployed under a fully mechanical commander who can take control of their bodies when needed (or wanted).

We get just a glimpse of how things are supposed to work, before things go south and Asher — a young training officer, still human for now — has to take charge of the situation. It’s all pretty claustrophobic as we follow the unit through an avalanche and into a cave system, and we know that one member of the group is a traitor. It’s not immediately obvious who, because their sections are written in first person. The switching between first and third is a little odd sometimes, but it makes sense for telling this particular story.

There’s a heck of a lot of potential to the world, but mostly the story stays focused on this particular group and the frictions between them, which helps it feel very immediate and urgent. Like I said, claustrophobic, as well.

The ending feels slightly unsatisfactory; it’s not clear to me exactly what Asher intends to do, or how she and Barghest are going to conceal the fallout of what happened — if they are. Won’t people work it out quickly? I don’t always need my stories wrapped up in a tidy bow, but I could’ve used a little more here at the end. Otherwise, though, I found this one pretty compelling.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – How To Make A Vaccine

Posted February 10, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 3 Comments

Review – How To Make A Vaccine

How To Make a Vaccine

by John Rhodes

Genres: Non-fiction, Science
Pages: 160
Rating: three-stars

Distinguished expert in vaccine development John Rhodes tells the story of the first approved COVID-19 vaccines and offers an essential, up-to-the-minute primer on how scientists discover, test, and distribute vaccines.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every corner of the world, changing our relationship to our communities, to our jobs, and to each other, the most pressing question has been—when will it end? Researchers around the globe are urgently trying to answer this question by racing to test and distribute a vaccine that could end the greatest public health threat of our time. In How to Make a Vaccine, an expert who has firsthand experience developing vaccines tells an optimistic story of how three hundred years of vaccine discovery and a century and a half of immunology research have come together at this powerful moment—and will lead to multiple COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr. John Rhodes draws on his experience as an immunologist, including working alongside a young Anthony Fauci, to unravel the mystery of how vaccines are designed, tested, and produced at scale for global deployment. Concise and accessible, this book describes in everyday language how the immune system evolved to combat infection, how viruses responded by evolving ways to evade our defenses, and how vaccines do their work. That history, and the pace of current research developments, make Rhodes hopeful that multiple vaccines will protect us. Today the complex workings of the immune system are well understood. The tools needed by biomedical scientists stand ready to be used, and more than 160 vaccine candidates have already been produced. But defeating COVID-19 won’t be the end of the story: Rhodes describes how discoveries today are also empowering scientists to combat future threats to global health, including a recent breakthrough in the development of genetic vaccines, which have never before been used in humans.

As the world prepares for a vaccine, Rhodes offers a current and informative look at the science and strategies that deliver solutions to the crisis.

For a short book, John Rhodes’ How To Make a Vaccine is surprisingly in-depth. Motivated by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, Rhodes discusses how vaccines are manufactured, along with some of the history of vaccination and the cultural reaction to it. While most of this obviously isn’t new to me (as someone studying for my MSc in infectious diseases), his explanations are very clear.

I did find that after a while he got a little too in depth, towards the end of the book, discussing every single possible type of vaccine and adjuvant. For me, it got a little tedious because I know this stuff in slightly more depth… and I worry that for a layperson, it’s actually a bit too much depth. It’s hard for me to judge, though, as I haven’t been a layperson for a while now!

If you’re curious about the topic, and ready for some of the ins and outs of the regulatory proces, different types of vaccine and adjuvant, etc, I think this would be of interest, all the same.

Rating: 3/5

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Stacking the Shelves & The Sunday Post

Posted February 10, 2024 by Nicky in General / 36 Comments

I’ve had a busy busy week with writing an assignment — sometimes I wonder why I like studying so much, ha! I think after this degree I’m going to take a break for a couple of years… but I’ve said that before.

Anyway, time to show what I’ve been up to in the reading realm.

As usual, linking up with Reading Reality’s Stacking the Shelves, Caffeinated Reviewer’s The Sunday Post, and the Sunday Salon over at Readerbuzz.

Books acquired this week:

…Nothing! I know, it’s unusual for me, but I’m really trying to behave myself and read the books I have as well as hungrily acquiring. Plus, I need to build up some buffer on my Beeminder goal so that I can get stacks and stacks of books next time I arrange a meetup with my friend from FFXIV.

(Hey Prof, are you reading this? March sometime maybe?!)

Posts from this week:

As usual, here’s a roundup of the reviews I’ve posted this week:

Other posts:

What I’m reading:

This week I started on a chonker from my backlog, James Suzman’s Work: A History of How We Spend Our Time, which is no doubt going to take up a good amount of time this weekend. I’m also planning to just go ahead and reread The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System from the start, because there are some details I find myself irritatingly forgetting. Reading the first book or two, I didn’t know I was going to love it so much!

And here’s a sneak peek at the books I’ve finished this week that I plan to review on the blog:

Cover of Soonish by Zach & Kelly Weinersmith Cover of Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett Cover of Someone From The Past by Margot Bennett Cover of Magic Stars by Ilona Andrews

Cover of The October Faction by Steve Niles et al Cover of The October Faction vol 2 by Steve Niles et al Cover of The October Faction vol 3 by Steve Niles et al Cover of The October Faction vol 4 by Steve Niles et al Cover of The October Faction vol 5 by Steve Niles et al

And that’s it for this week! How’s everyone else doing? Reading anything good?

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Review – Murder on Milverton Square

Posted February 9, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Murder on Milverton Square

Murder on Milverton Square

by G.B. Ralph

Genres: Crime, Mystery
Pages: 260
Series: The Milverton Mysteries #1
Rating: two-stars

Addison Harper is abruptly summoned to Milverton at the behest of an abrasive lawyer. He plans to be in and out, back to the city lickety-split. Instead, he finds himself charmed by the small town with its delightful and eccentric residents, not to mention the rather easy-on-the-eye Sergeant Jake Murphy.

Despite the rocky start, Addison admits he’s had a pleasant day out. That is, until returning to find the prickly old lawyer on the floor, and very much dead. Worse, it looks like murder, and Addison’s fingerprints are all over the crime scene.

Murder on Milverton Square is the first in a wonderful new cosy mystery series set in an enchanting small town nestled amongst stunning New Zealand scenery. The Milverton Mysteries features a chaotic cast of local busybodies, delicious baked treats, a demanding and disdainful ginger cat, a very slow-burn romance with a rather appealing policeman, and of course, murder…

G.B. Ralph’s Murder on Milverton Square is a fairly short mystery story with a romance subplot. In some ways, the setup is classic: a death, an inheritance, the big city boy coming to a small town and getting enmeshed in trouble there, to the general suspicion of the populace. It’s set in New Zealand, though it’s relatively easy to forget that (though there are some scenes pointing out the wildlife, etc), and tries to give us an idyllic small-town life, etc, etc. Nothing particularly surprising there.

The same goes for the plot, as well, including the romance between Addison and the cop investigating the murder of his deceased relative’s lawyer, the gossipy older lady, the poking about, etc, etc. Nothing too surprising here.

It’s not bad, I just can’t say I got enthusiastic by it or surprised by it, and I don’t feel any particular urge to pick up another book in the series.

Rating: 2/5

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