Review – Connection Error

Posted 12 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Connection Error by Annabeth AlbertConnection Error, Annabeth Albert

I originally received this to review, but ended up picking it up on the Kobo store when I needed a pick-me-up, rather later than the release date! It’s the third in a series, but it’s a loosely connected series with new main characters for each book; this one features Navy SEAL Ryan, an amputee, and game designer Josiah. Both of them have disabilities: Ryan is just learning to cope with being an amputee and going back to civilian life, while Josiah has ADHD which makes him impulsive and prone to forgetting the important things. This sets up a nice dynamic between the two of them, and I enjoy that it isn’t just plain sailing: Josiah blurts out the wrong thing several times, apologises awkwardly, etc, etc, while Ryan’s steady ability to look ahead and work things out helps Josiah steady himself.

It isn’t all plain sailing in terms of their relationship, either, starting with a casual sort-of-hook-up in a hotel while stranded by snow, supplemented by some gaming, and slowly growing into a stronger connection which both of them avoid naming or solidifying for far too long, despite their growing attachment. The emotional stuff between them is well-written, and their actions make sense: there’s no stupid misunderstandings that would just be solved by some basic communication, but rather genuine issues caused by their situations and personalities.

The exploration of Ryan’s new disabilities is well done, in my opinion; it explores some of the difficulties he has with physicality, some of the things he has to get used to, but he is also unequivocally still a sexual person. Josiah’s ADHD, too, is dealt with sympathetically.

There are quite a few sex scenes in this book, as with much romance (particularly queer romances); they’re well-written and don’t forget the characters’ limitations or characteristics, and though they’re not exactly essential to the plot, they are key in demonstrating how the relationship between the two men works and grows. The main thing that I enjoyed, though, is that it isn’t just about the sex, and we get windows into both characters as they navigate life. My only quibble is that sometimes the time jumps felt a little weird, and the formatting of the Kobo ebook made it difficult to tell what was actually typed and what was just thought during the gaming sessions.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Bog Bodies Uncovered

Posted 11 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Bog Bodies UncoveredBog Bodies Uncovered, Miranda Aldhouse-Green

I’m not sure about the subtitle of “solving Europe’s ancient mystery”. It is a mystery, of course, and it’s comparatively ancient, but I don’t think Aldhouse-Green manages to solve it. Examine it closely and lay out what evidence we have, yes, but that evidence doesn’t convince me that we have enough to make real judgements about what was going on. Especially not because Aldhouse-Green’s book takes in bog bodies all over Europe — places that in many other ways haven’t been demonstrated to have similar beliefs.

The book is strongest when she sticks to the facts. If you’re fascinated by bog bodies, there’s a whole range of them discussed at length, both the forensics of their deaths and the items that were found with them, and even what we know now with modern science about their lives. Even if you’re with me in thinking that some of the theories lean too hard on supposing there are commonalities across huge breadths of space and time, there’s a lot to learn here.

Rating: 4/5

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 11 November, 2017 by Nikki in General / 12 Comments

I have all of one book to feature this week, and it’s not even one I bought! Yep, I passed through London and did not buy a book ‘for the road’ (for the Eurostar), and now I’m back in Belgium where the chocolate is good and the books are expensive.

Received to review: 

Cover of The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

I quite enjoyed The Darkest Part of the Forest, as I recall, so I’m interested to follow Holly Black’s new foray into Faerie.

Read this week:

Cover of Goldilocks and the Water Bears by Louisa Preston Cover of The Earth After Us Cover of ZIka Cover of Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle Cover of Futureland by Walter Mosley

Four stars: Zika: The Emerging Epidemic.
Three stars: Goldilocks and the Water Bears, The Earth After Us, Summerlong and Futureland.

Reviews posted this week:

The Brain, by David Eagleman. A bit basic for me, but probably great if you haven’t taken every free course on neurology you could find! 2/5 stars
Away with the Fairies, by Kerry Greenwood. Phryne is terribly daring, there’s a blatant homage to Sayers, and everything ends well for the good guys. It’s your standard Miss Fisher mystery, and none the worse for that. 4/5 stars
A Sting in the Tale, by David Goulson. A nice non-fic book that makes bees seem rather charming. 4/5 stars
Close Encounters with Humankind, by Sang-Hee Lee. Some interesting topics tackling humans from the point of view of a palaeoanthropologist. 3/5 stars
Adventures in Human Being, by Gavin Francis. A readable set of facts illustrated by anecdotes about the human body. 3/5 stars
The Twilight Pariah, by Jeffrey Ford. Kind of fun, but not really very memorable in the end. Bit goofy at times. 2/5 stars
I Hate Everyone But You, by Gaby Dunn and Allison Rankin. I was not a fan. 1/5 stars

Other posts: 

WWW Wednesday: The latest from my climb of Mount TBR.

So how’s everyone doing?

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Review – I Hate Everyone But You

Posted 10 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of I Hate Everyone But YouI Hate Everyone But You, Gaby Dunn, Allison Rankin

Ohhhh this book was so not my thing. I am not the target age group, for sure, but I’m not sure I would have been the target even then, despite being queer and having anxiety. It’s all hurry-hurry-hurry to have sex, worry about sororities, sleeping with teachers, getting drunk and high, and kicking off the drama. I found the characters unpleasant, the story predictable, and the voices insufficiently distinct from one another.

And when reviews shout about this encapsulating the college experience, I am just confused, because my college experience — albeit in Britain — involved a lot of work. Hard work. I didn’t have time to get drunk and high and have sex with random strangers, even if I’d wanted to (and I did not; my idea of a wild fun time was maxing out my library cards), and I don’t honestly know anyone who did — not this much time, anyway.

Just overall very much not for me. Nope nope nope.

Rating: 1/5

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Review – The Twilight Pariah

Posted 9 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of The Twilight Pariah by Jeffrey FordThe Twilight Pariah, Jeffrey Ford

I am a total wuss. Complete and total. So I expected to have the pants scared off me for picking up a horror novella, and it didn’t really happen. There were a few creepy moments, but mostly I found myself wondering why it felt like an episode of Scooby Doo. (Considering Scooby Doo on Zombie Island gave me nightmares as a kid, that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be scary, but… I don’t know.)

The actual haunting part seemed solid and interesting. It was the characters and the way they went about tackling the problem that didn’t work for me — it just all felt totally unreal, and like set-up for the three main characters to set up like the Winchester brothers or the Mystery Gang. It felt truncated and just too easy, and some of the action scenes just made me go… “Really??”

If you’re looking for something scary, then this isn’t it, I think. There is a good story somewhere in here, but mostly it didn’t work for me.

Rating: 2/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 8 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

The three ‘W’s are what are you reading now, what have you recently finished reading, and what are you going to read next, and you can find this week’s post at the host’s blog here if you want to check out other posts.

What are you currently reading?

Cover of Pantomime by Laura LamActively, Laura Lam’s Pantomime. And I’m probably going to finish it today! For some reason I didn’t really get into it before, but this time I’m tearing through it. Right time, I guess? That and I have a challenge to read two books from my currently reading pile for one new book (whether that’s actually new or a reread). It’s actually working really well for me, for once; I’m down to eight, counting Pantomime. 

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of ZIkaZika: The Emerging Epidemic; I found it really interesting, although it’s by a science reporter rather than a scientist who has actually been researching Zika directly. Sometimes I didn’t quite fall in with the tone — he goes a bit Not All Men for a while about women’s worries about pregnancy through rape — but I didn’t disagree with his campaign to get the CDC, etc, to issue the advice that women should delay pregnancy if possible. I’ll probably write more about this in my review, but yeah. I totally agree with the advice and if anyone reaaaally needs me to explain why, I can always do a post on my science blog.

What will you be reading next?

Cover of Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha LeeI think I’ll target finishing Raven Stratagem next. I think I only stopped reading it because I forgot to take it on the plane to Canada, or something like that, and I’m now in the same place as my copy again. My copy that I bought urgently after finishing the first book. Oops.

Other than that, for a Habitica challenge I’m going to read Castles: Their History and Evolution in Medieval Britain, by Marc Morris. I’ve been meaning to read this for a while and it fits into the Dewey Decimal category for this month, so it’s the perfect excuse.

What are you reading? 

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Review – Adventures in Human Being

Posted 8 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Adventures in Human Being by Gavin FrancisAdventures in Human Being, Gavin Francis

Gavin Francis’ book is basically a series of essays about the human body and how it works (and how it breaks), from the head down. It’s pretty readable, with anecdotes from Francis’ time as a doctor, though it’s not something that grabbed me as much as, say, Henry Marsh’s Do No Harm. Actually, it’s fading a bit from memory already. It’s certainly readable and filled some time during an epic plane and train ride from Canada through Amsterdam to Belgium; it’s not revelatory, or amazingly written. I’m a little surprised, though, at how ‘meh’ I feel about it in retrospect.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Close Encounters with Humankind

Posted 7 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Close Encounters with Humankind by Sang-Hee LeeClose Encounters with Humankind, Sang-Hee Lee

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 20th February 2018

Close Encounters with Humankind is a sort of compendium of various questions about hominid ancestors. It doesn’t try to tackle things chronologically or systematically. Instead, it poses interesting questions — are there cannibals in the line of human descent? How much of a Neanderthal am I? — and then tries to answer them with the best of what we know at the moment. Sometimes the answers aren’t entirely satisfactory or complete, because the evidence isn’t there (yet, or perhaps ever; behaviour, after all, does not fossilise).

It’s a pretty good tour through some interesting topics, although if you’re already interested in this sort of thing, you may well find that there’s nothing much new here for you. But if that knowledge is a bit cursory or out of date, this’d probably be perfect.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – A Sting in the Tale

Posted 6 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of A Sting in the Tale by Dave GoulsonA Sting in the Tale, Dave Goulson

I’m not a big fan of insects. If you know me personally, even a little, you’re probably laughing at the understatement there. So okay, the truth is that insects scare me silly. But so did disease at one point, and now look at me tearing through my degree and thinking of working in a lab to study infectious diseases… All through the power of reading enough about it to really pique my curiosity. So maybe I can do the same with insects, and hence this book. Not that bumblebees frighten me that dreadfully; they’re sort of endearing, at their best. But it’s a place to start, and Goulson’s enthusiasm really sold me on it. I even have another book potentially lined up about bees now…

There’s a lot of personal reflection, including talking about what he did as a kid to get involved with bees, and his place in France where he’s rewilding a field to attract more wildlife. It’s not strictly scientific, by-the-book facts, that’s for sure; for me, that added to the appeal. I could almost get excited about bees, through the eyes of Dave Goulson — and I could definitely get excited about his conservation goals and hopes.

Also, you get to learn fun things like the fact that bees have smelly feet…

Recommended! Even if bees are not exactly your cup of honey-sweetened tea. (And yes, yes, I know, bumblebees do not actually make honey. I did pay attention to that much, I promise.)

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Away With the Fairies

Posted 5 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Away With the Fairies by Kerry GreenwoodAway with the Fairies, Kerry Greenwood

Phryne’s answer to Murder Must Advertise, and loaded with references to Sayers’ work (Nutrax Nerve Food, you say? smuggling clues in magazine copy, really?) — but also very much a novel in its own right, as Phryne goes above and beyond any of the on-screen heroism displayed by Lord Peter by rescuing her lover, Lin Chung, from pirates. Yep, pirates. As ever, it’s the usual mix for a Miss Fisher novel: a bit of mystery, some very fashionable clothing, some sex, a murder or so, and daring rescues featuring guns and requiring Phryne to get her kit off.

It kind of sounds formulaic when I put it that way, but it doesn’t feel that way when reading. It remains a ‘cosy’ mystery despite the guns and murder, even when it’s not a reread, because you know Phryne’s going to fix things in the end, with only minor damage to those around her. (Though I admit to being sceptical that Lin Chung’s replacement rubber ear is that realistic.)

The mystery part of it is fairly staid in comparison, though I do love the engagement with then-current politics (i.e. the mild background commentary on Mussolini).

Rating: 4/5

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