Cover reveal – The Buried Life

Posted 11 April, 2014 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

TheBuried-Life-400Remember way back in, what was it, November? When I won the Robot For a Day prize with Angry Robot, and attended an acquisitions meeting where they decided to acquire Carrie Patel’s The Buried Life?

Well, now the cover’s been revealed by SF Signal, and there’s a giveaway running there too! Go here to enter the giveaway and get a better look at the cover.

I really hope I get hold of a copy soon… It’s pretty exciting to be however minor a part of this process and see it all actually happening. I read the first few chapters back when I was preparing for the acquisitions meeting, and I can’t wait to read the rest.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 9 April, 2014 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
After the Apocalypse (Maureen F. McHugh), which I really wasn’t too taken with. There was nothing major wrong with the stories, it just seemed so bland. I think I’ve had that problem with McHugh’s writing before. The last book before that was a reread of Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic; I’m planning to finally get round to reading the whole Discworld series for my 101 things/1001 days challenge list, so this is a start.

What are you currently reading?
Delusions of Gender (Cordelia Fine). I’ve been meaning to read this one for ages. It’s more recent than I thought, but I’ve seen a lot of people talking about it. I’m not very far into it yet, though, so I’ll reserve judgement.

I’m also just getting started on The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Catherynne M. Valente) — I’m about 20% of the way through, I think. It’s very typical of Valente, of course; whimsical and sweet, with a touch of Peter Pan about it. I’m enjoying it.

Everything else I’m currently reading, well, you can find out here. It’s a tad ridiculous.

What do you think you’ll read next?
I think I’m gonna finally finish up The Best of All Possible Worlds (Karen Lord), and I’m planning to get through a whole stack of comics — Wonder Woman, Spider-man, Avengers vs. X-men, Neil Gaiman’s Eternals. I want to finish Maus (Art Spiegelman), too, and after seeing the Wicked musical on tour last week, I want to reread Gregory Maguire’s Wicked.

I think that’s enough to be getting on with…

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Review – Wonder Woman: Blood

Posted 9 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Wonder Woman: Blood by DC ComicsWonder Woman: Blood, Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins

This was one of the first DC books I picked up, I think, but I didn’t get round to it till now. I have to say I’m more fond of Batgirl — I’m not sure this was a very good introduction to Wonder Woman. I mean, there’s very little by way of explanation of her motivations going on. She just kills some stuff dead and finds out some secrets about her past.

It’s fun enough, and the art is good, and the mythology goes pretty well with actual Greek mythology (unlike, say, Marvel’s Thor). I think the review/s that mention it being a bit like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman have got something there, too.

In any case, I have the second volume already, so we’ll see how that goes. But I may not be buying any more Wonder Woman after that.

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Review – Young Avengers Vol. 2

Posted 8 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Young Avengers Style > Substance by Kieron GillenStyle > Substance, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie

I’ve been sort of reading this since the individual issues came out, but this is the first time I’ve properly sat down with it and read it all the way through. I’m pretty sure I’m going to love Gillen’s run on Young Avengers — I mean, he gets the humour just right, he combines the characters in fun ways, and the art does a lot of interesting meta things that my comics & graphic novels class would’ve had a whale of a time with.

Since I haven’t read the Secret Invasion, Civil War or Dark Reign Young Avengers comics (yet), I’m unsure how Kate got together with Noh-Varr, and I don’t know much about America Chavez, but this new make-up of the team is pretty awesome, adding Noh-Varr, Kid Loki and America Chavez to the original Young Avengers line-up. I miss Iron Lad/Vision and Cassie, but this does deal with the fallout of that somewhat too, which means it all works really well.

Obviously, Loki’s up to something, and I mostly know what that is; and I know what happens in terms of Billy and Teddy’s relationship in the other volumes, so there’s not as much mystery for me as there would be for most readers, but for the reader coming in fresh there’s stuff to work out, too, which is cool.

Alternative Culture, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Kate BrownCover of Marvel's Young Avengers: Alternative Culture

Alternative Culture is fun and meta, once again. The only annoying thing was how little was revealed. I mean, where does Leah tie in? Who is the fake Patriot?

But in terms of characters and the art and design of the comic, it was amazing. I like Prodigy as a character — he can stay in the team — and I loved some of the throwaway lines like Hulkling finding the little green things really cute, and Kate telling Noh-Varr to shut up and look pretty (and being, at least according to one of Noh-Varr’s exes, pretty kinky).

I’m not as fond of McKelvie’s art as I was of the original Young Avengers art, but it is pretty good.

Cover of Marvel's Young Avengers: Mic-Drop at the Edge of Time and SpaceMic-Drop at the Edge of Time and Space, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, et al

Volume three definitely makes a great ending to this run of Young Avengers. It continues with all the great things about the previous volumes, and wraps things up pretty satisfyingly. I’m intrigued by the ending with Patri-not, and Loki’s character arc works well too.

The hints about what Billy will be/do are interesting, as well as how Patri-not links into that. And I love the new team, the way it didn’t make sense at the beginning how all these kids would be together at the end, and now I’ve got there it seems perfect.

I love the New Year’s party, too. Tommy’s dorky dancing is the best.

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Review – Just Babies

Posted 8 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Just Babies by Paul BloomJust Babies, Paul Bloom

I’ve read one of Paul Bloom’s books already (How Pleasure Works) as well as being part of his Moralities of Everyday Life MOOC on Coursera, so a lot of the psychology experiments and arguments were not at all new to me.

Just Babies is, like Bloom’s other work, accessible to the lay reader, written without frills and complications. Bloom sets out his argument quite simply, without over-complicating anything. Overall, I find it hard to say what I think about this book specifically, since I was already aware of Bloom’s ideas and already had opinions on them. There’s certainly nothing I violently disagree with, for all that Bloom is much more of a utilitarian than I am.

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Review – Death and the Penguin

Posted 7 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Death and the Penguin by Andrey KurkovDeath and the Penguin, Andrey Kurkov

I don’t think I’d have ended up reading Death and the Penguin without a little challenge I’m doing to read twenty books recommended by friends. (It took me a while to get my twenty, but maybe now I should post them or make a shelf for them or something.) It’s interesting, though. I’m not generally very good at politics and satire, particularly when I’m not very aware of the historical context, but this is enjoyable anyway.

You see, the penguin is not metaphorical. Viktor literally has a pet penguin who lives with him. Honestly, that was my main motivation in reading on: I didn’t care so much for Viktor, but Misha is really compelling for all that he’s the only character who never says a word. The other absurd elements of the plot somehow only work for me because of Misha.

It’s simply written, easy to follow despite the absurdities — the person who recommended it to me said it’s a good Russian lit for beginners type book. I’d agree; I mean, I love War and Peace, but I can understand it being rough going for some people, and Anna Karenina and Crime and Punishment took me forever. I do recommend this: the relationship between Misha and Viktor is sweet and somehow melancholy, a mutual loneliness.

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Review – The Earth: An Intimate History

Posted 5 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Earth: An Intimate History by Richard ForteyThe Earth: An Intimate History, Richard Fortey

As with Fortey’s other books, I really enjoyed this — and that seems more important with this one since it’s about geology, which is not something that’s ever been a particular interest of mine. Fortey has a discursive, conversational style, while still getting in a lot of information and technical language. And in all of his books, it’s a sort of travelogue, too, which is quite interesting.

It’s hardly a completely exhaustive history of Earth, but it takes exemplars from various geographies and shows how they apply to the whole of the planet. It works quite well, though it is still a pretty dense book.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 5 April, 2014 by Nikki in General / 48 Comments

It wasn’t going to be a busy week for books. Then there were libraries, and my sister wanted to go to Waterstones, and… yeah. So, as usual, here’s my Stacking the Shelves post!

Fiction (library)

Cover of Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov Cover of More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon Cover of The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey Cover of The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones & Ursula Jones

Fiction (bought)

Cover of Jacques the Fatalist and his Master by Diderot Cover of A Widow in Waiting by Anne B. Walsh Cover of Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson Cover of Taste of Darkness, by Maria V. Snyder Cover of Tamburlaine Must Die by Louise Welsh

Non-fiction (bought)

Cover of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe

Non-fiction (library)

Cover of Life: An Unauthorised Biography by Richard Fortey Cover of The Humans Who Went Extinct by Clive Finlayson Cover of The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz

Comics (bought)

Cover of Marvel's Young Avengers: Alternative Culture Cover of Marvel's Young Avengers: Mic-Drop at the Edge of Time and Space

Comics (library)

Stormwatch by Warren Ellis Cover of DC's Superman: What Price Tomorrow?

That may have got a little… out of hand. Anyway, I’ve read a couple of these already, and I’m partway through a couple more. I’m actually looking forward to the non-fiction book about Marvel quite a bit, but also The Girl With All The Gifts, as someone in a book club I’m in praised it to the skies. And Steelheart I’ve been coveting for a couple of weeks now.

What’s anyone else excited about?

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 3 April, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
Stephen Grosz’s The Examined Life, which was a rec from someone on twitter. I need to digest it a bit more, I think, but it was certainly interesting, sometimes very touching. Before that, it was Tamburlaine Must Die, which was actually a rec for the same challenge (get recommendations from twenty people and read them all), which… I liked it well enough, but I’m not sure it all connected up for me.

What are you currently reading?
With the usual caveat of “actively”, let’s see — Death and the Penguin, by Andrey Kurkov, which is for the same challenge again. Other than that, still working through The Earth: An Intimate History by Richard Fortey. Somewhat taking my time here, but enjoying it. I mean, someone who can make geology fascinating to me needs to be cherished, I think. He talks about Earth with such power!

Fiction-wise, I am being terrible about Cassandra Rose Clarke’s The Wizard’s Promise and Rosemary Sutcliff’s Knight’s Fee, which are both in progress without any actual progress being made. (Along with Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, and various others.)

What do you think you’ll read next?
Probably Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones’ The Islands of Chaldea, since the library informed me yesterday that they’ve got their orders in and I am, oh glory, first in the queue for it. I have Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson on hold, too, but the person ahead of me in the queue is taking an age.

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If you can afford this, you can afford that

Posted 2 April, 2014 by Nikki in General / 10 Comments

So today Chuck Wendig posted a thing about piracy and why he won’t put out a tip jar, which I’m not interested in arguing with. What I am interested in arguing with is this whole idea in the comments that if you’re reading ebooks, you must have an ereader, therefore you must be able to afford ebooks. Which is complete crap, guys, I can’t even tell you. Here’s some examples of what’s been said — it’s been said in public, so I think it’s fair to copy/paste:

My thoughts on the “but I can’t afford it!” argument are thus –

1. You can’t afford a $5 e-book, but you can afford monthly internet? My internet bill (whether via my computer line or smart phone) is roughly thirty times my cost for an average e-book. Granted, that’s an average. I buy a lot of low-cost author-pubbed items at 99c to level out the $6-10 fare. Still, internet costs a lot more than an e-book.
2. You can’t afford a $5 e-book, but you can afford something to read that it on? Whether it’s a computer, smart phone, tablet, or e-reader, these things out-cost the average e-book by at least 5 times if not more. Yes, the e-reader, etc, could be a gift, but seriously? If I was so broke I couldn’t afford a $5 e-book (or the internet service to download it), then getting an e-reader is pretty crappy and mean-spirited unless they were showering me with gift cards throughout the year. It’s like buying someone a saddle when they can’t afford the pony.

And:

So wait…. this guy ‘can’t afford’ to buy all the ebooks he wants (I know that feeling – I can’t afford to buy all the designer dresses I want either… so sad…) but he CAN afford to have bought whatever ebook reader-thingy he reads his pirated books on? Strange, I thought compared to ebooks those things were WAY more expensive… I had to save up for three years to get mine…

So yeah, the first quote is roughly correct, even given my £25 ereader: let’s say an average retail ebook is £5, going by, say, Angry Robot (who publish, among many others, Chuck Wendig). That comes out about right: my reader cost five times the book. But it’s a window to many, many more books, including free books from a range of sources (Project Gutenberg, Smashwords, my local library, Baen, Netgalley, Edelweiss, publishers, authors) and cheap books. It’s easily worth it.

What really gets me is the sniffy judgement going on here. “You don’t spend your money the way I approve of, how dare you pay for internet and an ereader instead of books” — in fact, phrased like that, it’s downright snobbish. I get that it’s not fair authors aren’t getting paid, and some authors and series have suffered from it. But you don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life.

Like hey, let me paint you a picture: me, a year ago. I live with my grandmother; my mother pays her some rent for me. I had no job, and I didn’t go on benefits, so I lived entirely on the kindness of my family. Depressing enough to start with, right? And then there was my grandfather’s death, and my spiral into depression and anxiety that had been going on and getting worse since my second year of university. Guess what I clung onto when I was too depressed and scared to get out of bed?

Yup. Since you’re reading this blog, I’m gonna assume you’ve figured it out: books, and the internet.* I was too damn scared to leave the house some days. Going to the library where there were people, and germs, and possibly the need to communicate with people I don’t know — gah. Buying books in a store? Well, like I said, any money I had was my mother’s. So my ereader was a lifeline, and my grandmother paid for the internet, so it was easy enough to download books from Netgalley, the library, etc, etc.

Those are not the only reasons that scraping together £25 for an ereader instead of five books (or rather, three, given UK pricing for dead tree books, or less than five trips to my nearest library last year) might be more cost effective for someone. You just don’t know. So please stop making these assumptions and trying to police how people spend their money, and go back to making the very fair argument that authors deserve to be paid.

(Not to mention the sensible point someone else is making that you don’t need a dedicated ereader to read ebooks. Your most basic smartphone can do it, your computer can do it, my five year old iPod can do it…)

ETA: Since I’ve been accused of piracy/theft in the comments, I will just point out that every method of obtaining books mentioned in this post is both legal and moral. It’s not an argument for piracy, it’s an argument for getting your nose the fuck out of other people’s financial decisions.

 

*Me: Here’s a thing. Imagine the prospect of me without an ereader, especially during the worst times in the last two years. Is there a quotable quote of your reaction to that idea?
Partner: A damn wreck? You’d have been a wreck going in circles, driving yourself insane.
(Pretty fair assessment.)

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