Review – Gulp

Posted 28 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Gulp by Mary RoachGulp, Mary Roach

Gulp is definitely light, popular science, with an abundance of footnotes, irreverent comments, and some interesting facts/experiences. I wasn’t grossed out by it, since I can be fairly clinical, and rolled my eyes at some of the humour aimed at being gross; mostly it was an interesting read, certainly a quick one. It’s accessible, no matter what level your knowledge of biology is at, mostly dealing with the various topics in an anecdotal way.

I liked reading it, but now I have and look back, I think it dragged a little. Part of that’s doubtless my sense of humour, which is defective and needs to be returned for a refund. Part of that is the endlessly anecdotal nature of it. I’ve reserved another of Roach’s books from the library, but I wouldn’t buy it for myself; I do have a friend who I think would find this quite interesting.

Also, will people please quit hurrhurrhurring at the idea of faecal transplants? I’m sure it’s all very well to laugh at it from a distance, but a) it’s reinforcing the stigma about diseases like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis which really are not funny, and b) I have high hopes that they will actually find a way to cure or at least greatly alleviate inflammatory bowel diseases as a result of studies into this kind of thing. Several close friends have IBDs, and I cannot wait for the day they can quit feeling that shame/disgust.

Tags: , ,

Divider

Review – The Wizard’s Promise

Posted 27 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Wizard's Promise by Cassandra Rose ClarkeThe Wizard’s Promise, Cassandra Rose Clarke

I like Cassandra Rose Clarke a lot, and although her YA books aren’t as good (to my mind, anyway) as The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, they’re enjoyable. She creates interesting worlds that aren’t your typical run of the mill fantasy worlds, with female characters at the centre who aren’t limited in any way by silly sexism carried over from our world. We get several female characters, of varying importance, who do the same sorts of things as the men of their world, which is refreshing.

Some of the comments about the slowness of this plot are kinda justified, I think. It’s just awkward when your plot depends on a major character basically kidnapping another and sweeping them off into lands unknown and a fair amount of danger, without telling them anything about it. It’s hard for me to sympathise with Kolur, on those grounds, and Hanna’s entirely right to be pissed about the way he swept her off and his motives for doing so, to my mind. It’s not even entirely clear why he kept Hanna on board instead of just finding a way to send her home.

Isolfr is an interesting character in terms of what he is, but we don’t really see enough of him yet. I’ll be interested to see how he develops in the next book. I was actually a bigger fan of the husband and wife couple, Finnur and Asbera: they were good friends, understanding and accepting, and they had a strength and sweetness together that seemed entirely natural.

Overall, I enjoyed this, and will definitely read the second one when it’s available. And I, uh, need to catch up and read The Pirate’s Wish, ASAP.

Tags: , ,

Divider

Readathon: Hour 16 Mini Challenge

Posted 27 April, 2014 by Nikki in Giveaways / 63 Comments

Hey everyone, and welcome to the hour 16 mini challenge! I hosted one last time before I had this blog, and now I’ve got a permanent bookish home it’s great to welcome you all back. Last time we had a guessing game, but this time I thought I’d do something a bit more interactive to give you all a bit more of a change from reading.

It’s pretty simple:

  1. Turn to page 35 in your current read.
  2. Find sentence #3.
  3. That’s the first sentence of a little piece of writing! It doesn’t matter if that’s a short story, a poem, the introduction to something bigger… anything creative counts. Bonus points if you make it a totally different genre to your original read!
  4. Leave the piece of writing in a comment here, or link to it in the comments here.
  5. I’ll pick someone at random to pick a book up to £10 in value from The Book Depository. So make sure you leave your email for me so I can get in contact with you, or you won’t be able to pick your book!

So, for example, I’ll just grab the closest book… The Bone Season (Samantha Shannon). And the sentence is: “I realised with a start that I was naked.” So here’s my little piece of writing:

I realised with a start that I was naked. That was the first thing — the fact that I was naked under the light sheet, and the quality of the light was somehow different to my own room back at home. I could hear someone moving around, careful and quiet. My chest tightened a little, and I turned my face further into the pillow, feigning a sleepy mutter.

“I know you’re awake,” he said. I knew his voice.

“Sam?”

“It’s me, sunshine.”

It was, too. It was his voice, and his nickname for me. The only trouble was, Sam had been dead three years. I didn’t open my eyes, just burrowed deeper into the pillow, trying to figure things out. He was waiting, just standing there, waiting for me to say something. If I hadn’t said anything… But hindsight, you know what they say about that. “Why are you here?”

He came across the room, and a cold hand touched my shoulder. “I’m here for you.”

Which takes a sentence completely out of context from a fantasy book I haven’t yet read and turns it into what is the beginning, or maybe the entirety, of a horror story.

So hey, whatever your writing skills, give it a go! It’ll give your brain a nice change from all the reading. This challenge will run for five hours, to give everyone a good chance to join in. I hope the rest of the ‘thon treats you well!

Tags: , ,

Divider

Readathon Progress Post

Posted 26 April, 2014 by Nikki in General / 28 Comments

The 24 Hour Readathon starts in an hour, and the opening meme is already up, so it seems like a good time to do my first post. I’m still working for now, up until the readathon actually starts, but once it begins I’ll be diving straight in. Read More

Tags: ,

Divider

Stacking the Shelves

Posted 26 April, 2014 by Nikki in General / 24 Comments

I haven’t bought anything this week! But I have been to the library and been approved on Netgalley for a book I’m particularly excited about, so there’s that. So, as usual, here’s my post for Tynga’s Reviews‘ Stacking the Shelves. Do go and check that out and see what other people have been up to — it’s fun just to browse people’s acquisitions.

Library

Cover of Uncanny X-force: Let It Bleed Cover of Green Lantern Corps: Fearsome Cover of Half Past Human by TJ Bass Cover of The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb Cover of A Kingdom by James Hanley

Review copies

Cover of The Buried Life by Carrie Patel Cover of Defending the City of God by Sharan Newman Cover of The Shadow Master by Craig Cormick Cover of The Blasted Lands by James A. Moore

I’m particularly excited about The Buried Life because I was in the acquisitions meeting for it, way back when I won the Robot for a Day competition. I’m really excited to read all of it, and to see how the finished product has turned out.

Tags: , ,

Divider

Review – Among Others

Posted 25 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 8 Comments

Cover of Among Others by Jo Walton

Among Others, Jo Walton

I’ve reviewed this before, at great length. Rereading it was interesting, though, both because Jo Walton shares a lot of my thoughts on rereading (see her book What Makes This Book So Great, which is a collection of essays), and because it’s not the kind of book that is changed by knowing the ending, because it’s not a book with a climactic scene, really. There is one, but ultimately that’s not as important as the whole process of the book: Mori learning to live without her sister, learning to grow and find her place. I said in my original review that it’s set after the real climax of the story, and that still seems fair to say. We don’t even learn about exactly what the big events were, because what’s interesting about Among Others is watching Mori live with it.

I still feel quite personally close to this book. Mori’s general style reminds me of myself at the same age, though I was a 2000 version rather than a 1970s, so my journal was online and I had a bit of an audience, but the similarities are still there. This time I noticed the differences more — Mori’s physical disability, the fact that she was at a boarding school, the fact that she had a twin and I never did, etc — but I still felt that kinship with her, her imagination, love of books and her Welshness. Definitely not least because I still inhale books like Mori, and have a self-professed love affair with libraries. They don’t seem to make the interlibrary loan system as apparent these days, but it’s worth chasing up a little, because it might just surprise you.

Anyway, in many ways it isn’t just the big things I identify with Mori on. It’s little details. It’s when she talks about not giving anything away, because it can be used against her. When she befriends other misfits. When books are more interesting to her than the things people are doing around her. Little mistakes that she makes because she reads more than she interacts with people, like thinking “Jr” is a name in itself and pronounced “Jirr” (don’t get my mother started on this subject, please). It’s the exact same reaction to people claiming something is a “successor to Tolkien” or “as good as Tolkien”!

All in all, I loved rereading this. It made me smile, sometimes laugh; sometimes it made me shake my head at teens and Mori and myself at that age (and even, really, myself now). One of the best moments was coming to one of Mori’s entries about riding the train into Wales, rereading a book, as I was riding a train into Wales rereading Among Others. Delightfully meta.

And I still think What Makes This Book So Great makes a very good companion read to get into all sorts of classic fantasy and SF.

Tags: , ,

Divider

What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 24 April, 2014 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
I reread Among Others (Jo Walton) on the train today, which was fun because when I got to the bits about reading on trains it felt terribly meta. It ended too soon, and I still feel completely gushy about this book, and I love the way it’s put together and, and, and. You get the general gist. Also nice being sat on a train into Wales at the same point as I’m reading about the main character being on a train into Wales.

When I got back, I just read a Superman comic I need to return to the library, uh, today. By which I mean I shall have a tiny fine to pay in the morning. It’s okay, but I don’t think I’m really ever going to be much of a DC fan. Gail Simone’s Batgirl is the only one I get really enthusiastic about.

What are you currently reading?
The Broken Land (Ian McDonald). I thought I’d be able to finish it today, on the train, but people on the last leg of the trip were very loud. I am wondering why I was so hesitant to start on Ian McDonald, and why people keep saying his work is ‘difficult’, but while it’s different in some ways (the narrative style isn’t always straightforward, there’s more reported than direct speech, he’s representing non-verbal communication a lot), I don’t find that challenging. Just interesting!

What do you think you’ll read next?
Do you guys believe a word I say here? I can tell you that what I’ll dip into before I go to bed tonight is Gulp (Mary Roach), but beyond that, you may even have a better idea than I do. Half a King (Joe Abercrombie) is definitely coming up soon, after I read a review from someone I trust about it being very enthusiastic, but otherwise, it beats me.

(It strikes me that I could make a sort of lottery out of guessing what book I’ll actually read next. Or a raffle. It really would be very random.)

Tags: ,

Divider

Review – Superman: What Price Tomorrow?

Posted 23 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of DC's Superman: What Price Tomorrow?Superman: What Price Tomorrow?, George Pérez, Jesus Merino, Nicola Scott

This wasn’t as bad as I expected from the general trend of reviews on Goodreads. I don’t think I’m really a fan of DC’s stuff in general, though. I mean, I remember Superman in bright colours, as wholesome as Marvel’s Captain America, but here it’s all dark and broody. Maybe part of the problem is that I never read the comics before, but was a devotee of the tv series. No, not Smallville — Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman!

Anyway, this was… okay. I liked the redesign of Superman’s costume which keeps the important aspects of his iconic image and tweaks things we could do without (the underwear on the outside of his costume thing). I didn’t feel strongly about the art either way, though I did feel that the criticisms of the number of panels and cluttered pages are pretty valid.

The story is okay, but like I said, there’s a lot of dark and broody here, which I thought was more Batman’s line. There’s some stuff intended to make it relevant and modern, like the Daily Planet’s way of dealing with the move to digital media, but all in all, I don’t know how that works. In my head, the Daily Planet smells of paper and ink, and Metropolis never really joins the digital age.

So the only New 52 titles I’ve really been interested in following are Batgirl and Batwoman. Hmm.

Tags: , , ,

Divider

Readathon stack

Posted 22 April, 2014 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

So it’s about time I did my readathon stack post, since Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon is this weekend, and I’ll be hosting a challenge here (look out for it in hour 16 of the ‘thon). As always, I think most people on this blog are used to this, but for newcomers, there’s very little chance of me sticking very closely to this, but it’s a good jumping off point for me.

Because I like organising things and then ignoring my carefully put together lists, I’m gonna set up some categories and pick five books for each. The idea is to read at least one from each category.

Library:
-Diana Wynne Jones, The Islands of Chaldea.
-Clive Finlayson, The Humans Who Went Extinct.
-Ilona Andrews, Magic Burns.
-Rosemary Sutcliff, Knight’s Fee.
-Lisa Tuttle, The Silver Bough.

Netgalley/review copies:
-James A. Moore, Seven Forges.
-Danielle L. Jensen, Stolen Songbird.
-Cassandra Rose Clarke, The Wizard’s Promise.
-Jason M. Hough, The Darwin Elevator.
-Malinda Lo, Adaptation.

2011-2013 unread:
-Gillian Bradshaw, Magic’s Poison.
-Jennifer Pelland, Machine.
-Frances Hardinge, Fly By Night.
-Janny Wurts, That Way Lies Camelot.
-Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice.

2014 unread:
-Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl.
-Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale.
-Lisa Shearin, The Grendel Affair.
-Rachel Bach, Fortune’s Pawn.
-Jo Walton, Farthing.

Comics:
-Marvel, Young Avengers: Dark Reign.
-Marvel, Ultimate Spider-man: vol. 20.
-Marvel, Ultimate Spider-man: vol. 21.
-Marvel, Ultimate Spider-man: vol. 22.
-DC, Stormwatch: vol. 1.

Subject to some editing over the next few days as I sprawl all over the place reading.

Tags: ,

Divider

Review – House of M

Posted 21 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of House of M by Brian Michael Bendis.House of M, Brian Michael Bendis

House of M actually seems a bit old hat, coming to it after I’ve already read other crossover events and the aftermath of House of M, The Children’s Crusade. I’m trying to fit it together with some of the other comics I’ve read, and I’m a little unsure — Wanda’s children, how do they end up being Billy and Tommy from Young Avengers? When does that happen? That’s not really explained to my satisfaction anywhere in the story.

Did like the cast here, though it feels a little crowded. Spider-man gets some good lines, and I love that Ms. Marvel’s pretty important in this world. I’m not a big fan of Wolverine, and I don’t know much about Emma Frost, so their prominence wasn’t especially helpful for me.

All in all, it felt frenetic, more than a little crowded. I didn’t need background from other comics for it, but it felt like I would’ve liked it: so many people were referred to glancingly, and I know so little about them, or what I know is from Ultimates, or…

Anyway, it’s fun, but not an essential, I think.

Tags: , , ,

Divider