Review – Dry Store Room No. 1

Posted 27 March, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Dry Store Room No. 1 by Richard ForteyDry Store Room No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum, Richard Fortey

A lot of reviews comment on how dry they found this book, but I rather enjoyed it. I like Richard Fortey’s style of writing, despite his tendency to ramble and get distracted. It’s more of a biography or history of the Natural History Museum than a chronicle of the science that goes on there, but there’s some of that, too.

I liked the sense of exploring a wonderland — Fortey plainly finds everything in the Natural History Museum a delight and a revelation, and I shared in that. He got in some apt comparisons, too, like comparing the museum’s storage to Gormenghast.

I was vaguely aware of most of the broader details here about trends in collecting and displaying, but most of the details about the actual scientists and curators were completely new to me. This book has a distinctly gossip-like feeling, which I didn’t mind at all.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 26 March, 2014 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
Well, I’ve been reading like fury today, so the answer is a lot of things. The last thing I finished was Brenda Chamberlain’s The Water-castle; before that, it was Laini Taylor’s Night of Cake and Puppets. Reviews for both of those are coming up on the blog over the next couple of days. Suffice it to say that I’ve been having a glut of books today. People normally have chocolate cravings? I have book cravings.

What are you currently reading?
As usual, the key word would be “actively”, and I’ll stick to that. I’m reading The Earth: An Intimate History, by Richard Fortey, which I’m enjoying: I’ve now read a couple of Fortey’s books and I enjoy his somewhat rambling style that conveys his sense of wonder. I also started reading the biography of Beatrix Potter I’ve got from the library, by Linda Lear. I knew even less than I thought about Beatrix Potter, and am rather enjoying the sketch of family life I’m getting here.

Fiction-wise, I’m still reading Cassandra Rose Clarke’s The Wizard’s Promise, though I haven’t picked it up in a couple of days. I really should, because I know I’m going to enjoy it.

What do you think you’ll read next?
The plan is to make a concerted attack on my ARC list before the end of Clean Out Your Ereader, so I think that will entail finally finishing up Seven Forges (James A. Moore) and The Holders (Julianna Scott), for a start. After that, I’m not sure. Probably The Darwin Elevator (Jason M. Hough), because I’ve been partway through that for too long, and Sandman Slim (Richard Kadrey), since that’s been hanging around my to read list for so long and I did start it a couple of weeks ago, only to get distracted.

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Review – The Midnight Side

Posted 26 March, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Midnight Side by Natasha MostertThe Midnight Side, Natasha Mostert

The Midnight Side is an interesting enough slightly supernatural thriller, but I didn’t find it exceptional. Alette sounded like the sort of person you wouldn’t want to know from the very start, to me, so I was wary of her from the beginning — I didn’t buy into the whole plot of revenge from beyond the grave because I didn’t buy into Alette and her story.

The writer isn’t a bad writer, and the plot moves along at a fair pace, but I wasn’t entranced by the characters and I really didn’t think Isa was being very sensible. The twists didn’t really surprise me, in the end, because I was expecting something like that from the whole set up and structure.

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Review – Grimm Fairy Tales: Oz

Posted 26 March, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of graphic novel OzGrimm Fairy Tales: Oz, Joe Brusha

Definitely not a fan of this one. I gather it’s part of a wider ‘verse of stories, which might have helped my opinion of it, but I wasn’t enchanted by the rewrite of Oz (though I’m not a big fan of Oz to begin with either, so maybe my reaction is somewhat to be expected).

I’m not a great fan of the art: the faces never seem to stay quite the same, and while scantily clad women are a common problem in comics, that doesn’t make it any less wearing. I mean, what the hell is Dorothy supposed to be wearing? How does she get a bra on invisibly under that get up? Etc.

So yeah, thanks for the Netgalley access, but in general, no thanks.

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Review – Journey into Mystery: Stronger than Monsters

Posted 26 March, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Journey into Mystery by Kathryn ImmonenJourney into Mystery featuring Sif: Stronger than Monsters, Kathryn Immonen, Valerio Schiti

I liked this quite a bit. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen Sif’s character explored anywhere else in Marvel-verse, whether it be the comics or MCU, but I was just glad to see her front and centre. I liked the art, and I liked the tie-in to known Norse mythology (the concept of berserkers). Other stuff, I think I’d have picked up on more if I was used to the version of Asgardian mythology created by Marvel, but it still worked pretty well.

I think some people talking about her just being bloodthirsty and so on missed all the points where she held back the other Berserkers and forced them to behave fairly. So the spell gives her “licence” — but she fights that even before she knows anything about it.

I did like the bits with Heimdall, too. Also nice to see Asgard with barely a trace of Thor. (I like Thor, but he steals the show.)

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Review – The Biggest Bangs

Posted 25 March, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Biggest Bangs by Jonathan KatzThe Biggest Bangs, Jonathan I. Katz

This is supposed to be written for a layman, or so the introduction says, but it pretty much made my eyes cross with the technical stuff. I mean, I can follow the explanation of how gamma rays free electrons which then cause damage to neighbouring atoms, and then the energy of all this and the ‘healing’ atoms makes the other element glow with heat, but I have a limited amount of tolerance for pages on pages explaining the difficulty in getting a direction for the gamma ray bursts from that.

Just, generally, too much information for me. I suspect that someone more interested in astrophysics would enjoy it more, but mine is a casual interest. I’m most interested in gamma rays when Bruce Banner and Tony Stark are studying them to locate an object of immense power in the hands of most emphatically the wrong person.

(Or if there was a description of the effect of gamma rays on DNA. That too would’ve got my attention as surely as a giant green ragemonster.)

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Review – An Introduction to English Poetry

Posted 24 March, 2014 by Nikki in Academic, Reviews / 3 Comments

Cover of An Introduction to English Poetry by James FentonAn Introduction to English Poetry, James Fenton

This is a very clear introduction to the formal aspects of poetry, but it also serves as a reintroduction for someone who has an English Lit degree but never got very interested in the technical aspects of poetry.

We disagree on quite a few things — his characterisation of Anglo-Saxon poetry as “not English” (because of course, it is quintessentially English: the Anglo-Saxons became the English), for example, and his doubtfulness about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (there are dialect words in Sir Gawain which survive still: just because Chaucer’s Middle English is closer to what became universal doesn’t mean Sir Gawain is irrelevant). Also his relative dismissiveness of tight forms like the villanelle: he rightly praises one of the most famous, Dylan Thomas’, but is otherwise fairly unimpressed by it. I love villanelles, and I think more people have “done them right” than he suggests.

Still, with short, easy-to-digest chapters, clear explanations, and a helpful glossary, not to mention the addition of his thoughts as a practitioner of the craft, this is an interesting and informative introduction to a cross-section of English poetry.

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Review – Survivors

Posted 23 March, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Survivors by Richard ForteySurvivors: The Animals and Plants that Time Has Left Behind,
Richard Fortey

I enjoyed this enough that I’ve reserved the other books by Richard Fortey that my local library has. He has a somewhat rambling style, though, which might not be to your taste. I enjoyed the ride, in general; in terms of the science, I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know, concept-wise, but some of the animals and habitats Fortey described were new to me.

It was quite personal to him, in a way, covering stuff he’s particularly interested in and documenting his travels to find these creatures (to the extent of talking about sipping gin and tonic from a plastic cup while sat on the balcony of the inn at Yellowstone). That might be less than interesting to some, but I did quite like knowing about the wider habitats surrounding these creatures, and the human context that they’re so often really close to, maybe even endangered by.

The inserts with colour photos are nice: words generally work better for me than pictures, so I wasn’t that interested, but it does give you a glance at some of the stranger, more anciently derived creatures of our planet.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 22 March, 2014 by Nikki in General / 28 Comments

The fun thing about Saturdays: doing my Stacking the Shelves post (hosted, as usual, by Tynga’s Reviews)! This week has been quite busy, though mostly because of library books. Because I don’t have a mountain of ARCs or a TBR list longer than my entire body…

Freebies

Cover of Prospero's Children by Jan Siegel Cover of Pen Pal by Francesca Forrest

Bought

Cover of The King in the North by Max Adams

Gifted (from the lovely Lynn O’Connacht!)

Cover of Orion's Kiss by Becca Lusher

Netgalley

 Cover of graphic novel Oz Cover of Adaptation by Malinda Lo Cover of Marketing the Moon by David Meerman Scott, Richard Jurek, Eugene A. Cernan Cover of Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

Library (ebooks)

Cover of Blondel's Song by David Boyle Cover of The Universe: A Biography by John Gribbin Cover of a biography of Beatrix Potter Cover of The Eerie Silence by Paul Davies Cover of An Introduction to English Poetry by James Fenton Cover of The Biggest Bangs by Jonathan Katz

Library books

Cover of Virginia Woolf by James King Cover of I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan Cover of Knight's Fee by Rosemary Sutcliff Cover of The Silver Bough by Lisa TuttleCover of The Story of God by Robert Winston Cover of The Tribes of Britain by David Miles  Cover of Survivors by Richard Fortey Cover of Gulp by Mary Roach

Cover of Spillover by David Quamnem Cover of Journey into Mystery by Kathryn Immonen

Comics (issues)

Cover of Ms Marvel issue #2

So I don’t even know where to start with what I’m excited about here. It’s my typical really really random selection. I’ll probably read the graphic novels soon — I’m partway through the Oz one, though it’s making my eyes roll out of my head, and the Sif one is pretty short and Sif is pretty awesome, so. Other than that, I’m in a science type of mood, so Spillover or The Eerie Silence are probably up next. Or I might go for Knight’s Fee because it’s a Rosemary Sutcliff book I haven’t read and those’re getting pretty rare. Oh, and I already read Frances Hardinge’s Cuckoo Song. It’s amazing.

What’s everyone else been up to? Anything you’re excited about this week?

Oh, and a few I keep forgetting to add that I was sent a month or so ago!

Cover of The Iron Hunt by Marjorie M. Liu Cover of Darkness Calls by Marjorie M. Liu Cover of A Wild Light by Marjorie M. Liu Cover of The Mortal Bone by Marjorie M. Liu

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What I read

Posted 20 March, 2014 by Nikki in General / 5 Comments

So one thing I was asked to write about here a while ago, and something which I think confuses publishers who look at my reviews, is the sheer spread of stuff I read. Crime, fantasy, hard SF, YA of all stripes, comic books, serious graphic novels, literature, non-fiction science, history… I’m currently reading Survivors: The Animals and Plants That Time Has Left Behind (Richard Fortey) alongside Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell), Tam Lin (Pamela Dean) and The Wizard’s Promise (Cassandra Rose Clarke), for example.

(A related question would be how I keep all these books I’m reading concurrently separate and fresh in my mind. I can only say, uh, practice? Necessity?)

It basically runs in my family. We’re all a bit “grass-hopper minded”, jumping to new interests all the time. We all have some unexpected hobbies and interests — my dad, who now only reads non-fiction, once shocked me profoundly by admitting he’d read all the Brother Cadfael books by Ellis Peters and thought they were “quite good”; my grandmother did her A Levels at the same time as her daughters and has dabbled in just about every craft I can think of; my mother’s a doctor and a passionate lover of both Tolkien and the seemingly endless stream of academic stuff I had to write about topics from Sir Gawain to Tennyson (which is almost the most modern I ever got, apart from some Arthurian literature and Welsh writing, which tend to come from fairly deep roots anyway). My sister’s in medical sciences, but I’ve caught her reading about sparkly vampires.

So it might look, Dear Publisher Considering Me For An ARC, like I’m only interested in reading a ton of books about biology, and it makes no sense that I’m requesting your upcoming cheesy space opera. Or that I’m not likely to be interested in fantasy when I’m reading books about astronomy and archaeology and the latest in the field of genetics. Or one week I might be catching up on my stack of comics, and then it’ll be all Captain Marvel all the time — not the reader you’d expect to be interested in your non-fiction book about potential life outside the solar system.

Now, I wouldn’t say I’m a polymath, but I’m here with my MA in English Literature, pondering either a PhD in literature or a switch to genetics or medicine. (And people who know me can tell you, it’s still very much up in the air with me, no matter what you’d think with me having gone as far as completing my Master’s degree.) Trust me, if I’ve requested your book, I’m interested.

So, yeah, in summary? I’m just interested in everything. Bring it on. I want to learn, but I also want to be entertained; I read like I breathe (that’s why I’m the Bibliophibian) and I never, ever go anywhere without a book. Preferably two or three.

Now will someone please rec me a good non-fiction book on dinosaurs that isn’t an encyclopedia? Actually, fiction works too. Just, dinosaurs. Please?

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