Review – Widdershins

Posted May 8, 2020 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Widdershins by Jordan L. HawkWiddershins, Jordan L. Hawk

I’ve been meaning to try out Jordan L. Hawk’s work for a while, partly at the urging of Portal Bookshop, and partly because I already loved K.J. Charles’ work — and this series crosses over with one of Charles’ series. If you’re a fan of K.J. Charles, this is definitely going to be for you; it has many of the same hallmarks.

Whyborne is a philologist working in a small museum who gets suckered into helping an ex-Pinkerton detective (Griffin) unravel the murder of a museum patron’s son. At first, he’s just meant to translate a coded book for the detective, but he quickly finds himself drawn in deeper — partly due to interest in the case itself, and a large part because he finds himself attracted (of course) to Griffin. Both of their pasts become absolutely key to the investigation, laying them bare to each other (in more ways than one, hurr hurr) and forging an incredible bond.

Their relationship progresses pretty fast, but it makes sense that it does: both are lonely, and Whyborne in particular has been hiding his desires and repressing everything for a long, long time. It’s also great fun to watch as he opens up and throws fears to the wind, figuring out how to stand tall in his own way. I liked the glimpse of his family (or mostly just his mother), and the slight complexity to his relationship with his father that creeps in at the end.

All in all, I’m excited to read more, really!

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted May 6, 2020 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

It’s that time again! Check out Taking On A World Of Words to chat with everyone else who has posted what they’re reading right now!

Cover of Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary StewartWhat are you currently reading?

Fiction: I’m rereading Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart, after chatting with someone on Twitter about Stewart’s work. They’re the perfect comfort reads, partly because they’re light and partly through familiarity, though Nine Coaches Waiting is one of the ones I’m least familiar with — I’ve only read it once before. I’m also partway through Jordan L. Hawk’s Widdershins, because I said I’d probably read it during Wyrd and Wonder, and it felt about time to pick up something for W&W!

Non-fiction: no change! I’ve actually not really touched Digging Up Armageddon for… at least two weeks now. Whoops!

Cover of Grave Importance by Vivian ShawWhat have you recently finished reading?

Uhh, I think the most recent thing might be Grave Importance. It’s a good wrap-up to the trilogy, though I found one little aspect a bit too much. It solved things just a little too easily.

I don’t think I’ve finished anything else since then, and we’re solidly into May without me having finished a single book yet. Gah!

What will you be reading next?

Oh, goodness knows. I did raid the library’s ebook catalogue, though, and came away with a book on castles, a few different books on infectious diseases (I know, I know, it’s a bit on the nose but honestly I’d have picked these up on sight anyway!) and a couple of other odd choices. I have a couple of new books coming, too!

And then I could also just pick up something else on a whim. Who knows?

What about you?

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted May 5, 2020 by Nikki in General / 14 Comments

A Top Ten Tuesday post? Oh yes! I’ve been meaning to pick the habit back up for a while. This week’s theme is “Things I’d Have at My Bookish Party”… and I’m not really the party type. But here’s some ideas…

  1. Books. I mean, obviously, right? But seriously, I’m not so much for dressing up or book-themed stuff. I’d need actual books. And by that I mean something you can read, so of course comics are fine and ereaders are fine and audiobooks are fine if you listen to them with earbuds. I’m not gatekeeping what counts as a book. Read fanfic on your phone if you like! The point is that a bookish party should involve at least some time spent rapt and focused on a narrative.
  2. Quiet. There can be talking about books! Lots of talking about books, even! But there’s got to be a quiet corner to hide in and actually read.
  3. Teddy bears. No judgement here. I’m 30 and my favourite reading companion is still Helen Hippo, with me since I was two days old.
  4. …Or other fuzzy reading companions. If your pet can be quiet and cuddle while reading, I’m all for it. Bring back my nan’s dog from when I was a child and I could prop my book on him, warm my feet under him, lie back to back with him… Okay, he’d have a shock that I’m not little anymore, but I’m pretty sure he’d take it all in stride. (Bunnies are banned from this party, on account of their propensity to nibble books.)
  5. Snacks. For me, particular books require particular snacks. The Hobbit is forever Werther’s Originals, for instance. Everyone should bring their own favourite snack.
  6. Pyjamas. If they’re comfortable, at least. For me, my soft grey jammies or my WRU jammies, please. Ideal for just sprawling out with a book.
  7. Blankets. We’re going to curl up and read, after all!
  8. The right sort of people. You’re all invited, of course! At least if you enjoy all the above.
  9. A browsing session in a bookshop. Especially if the party involves meeting new people! Shopping for books with people is my absolute #1 way to break the ice, and it’s stood me in good stead in the past. There’s always gonna be something to talk about even if your tastes don’t coincide.
  10. Presents. I don’t mind being a hobbit and giving other people presents. In fact, that’s a lot of fun. Maybe everyone buys someone else a present! I don’t know, presents are good.

I’m sure other people are coming up with amazing themed parties, but I’m easily overwhelmed by lots of noise and people, so… a party which would actually be quiet and cosy and rejuvenating sounds good.

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Weekly Roundup

Posted May 3, 2020 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

Good afternoon, folks! I hoped to do this yesterday, but I had work and other stuff that needed to be done, boo. So it’s been a quiet week around here, with a lot less reading.

Linking up with The Sunday Post @ The Caffeinated Reviewer and Stacking the Shelves @ Reading Reality & Tynga’s Reviews.

New books:

Cover of A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn Cover of A Murderous Relation by Deanna Raybourn Cover of Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri

Thank you to my wife for two of these, and to Moon Dreams for Empire of Sand in her cool giveaway on Twitter! <3

I’m looking forward to a few different book orders (two indie bookshops, one second-hand bookshop) to come in, with great impatience. Feeling the need for some bookish comforts, at the moment!

Read this week:

Cover of A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn Cover of Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw

Reviews posted this week:

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis. Still pretty wonderful, to my mind! 4/5 stars
A Treacherous Curse, by Deanna Raybourn. Bags of fun, as expected; the mystery’s kind of background to the will-they-won’t-they, for me. 4/5 stars
The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis. Never my favourite, so not surprisingly, I still didn’t really jive with it. 2/5 stars
The Steerswoman, by Rosemary Kirstein. Aarrgghhh so much I still want to know! 4/5 stars
Grave Importance, by Vivian Shaw. Lovely lovely lovely. Excellent ending to the series, though I didn’t love one specific aspect of it. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

WWW Wednesday. This week it was mostly about Grave Importance!
Wyrd and Wonder: A TBR. Ready for May’s fantasy reading event!

Out and about:

NEAT science: ‘Soap versus virus.‘ Been wondering why soap is the #1 recommendation to avoid catching SARS-CoV-2? A quick explanation of why soap is ideal.

There we go; that’s it for this week! How’s everyone doing?

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Review – Grave Importance

Posted May 2, 2020 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Grave Importance by Vivian ShawGrave Importance, Vivian Shaw

Grave Importance is the final book of this trilogy, in which Greta Helsing finds herself invited to become the interim medical director of an exclusive facility in France: Oasis Natrun, the spa-and-clinic location for a particularly exclusive sort of customer… mummies! She needs to deal with delicate operations, treat ancient TB infections, and deal with pesky infestations in somebody’s mummy wrappings. Oh, and her patients are frequently experiencing a weird draining, something that makes them woozy and lacking in strength. Nope, no one has any idea.

Of course, it’s not just a medical mystery: Ruthven and Grisaille meet two strange beings in Rome, and a certain amateur enthusiast collector of Egyptian antiquities is getting younger all the time. Fass isn’t having a good time of it dealing with the Monitoring and Evaluation department… And of course, you guessed it, all these things are somehow linked.

I couldn’t believe I took so long to pick this up; once I did, it was everything I wanted. The romance between Greta and Varney remains adorable, Grisaille is the best unsuitable boyfriend, Ruthven is still everything, and I love the entire found family they’ve built up… and all the weird little touches like the fact that screaming skulls are a real thing, but they’re mostly not a problem, and a young screaming skull mostly just squeaks.

I just. I love it. I love the idea of treating medicine for monsters seriously; I love Greta’s dedication to her work; I love her bizarre found family’s shenanigans, including a heist.

Now, I didn’t quite jive with it all. I was a bit put off by the ending; I don’t want to spoiler it for anyone, but I felt like the solution to all the problems was a little… pat. In a sense, it’s been foreshadowed in the first book, if I remember rightly… but it just didn’t quite come off, for me. I like Varney, but it was all A Bit Much.

That said, I love 95% of this book, even the bits that hurt, like Greta trying to doctor angels in a makeshift demonic clinic. I could honestly start rereading this trilogy again right now and I’d be entirely happy to steam through it all in one go, without stopping. There’s something profoundly comforting in the love and caring of these books, something profoundly hopeful. Awful shit happens and people still care. Gah. It’s the best.

Rating: 4/5

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Wyrd and Wonder: A TBR

Posted May 1, 2020 by Nikki in General / 17 Comments

IMAGE CREDIT: Flaming phoenix by Sujono Sujono

It’s time for Wyrd and Wonder! I’ve taken a while to firm up my plans for it… and honestly, they’re still not very firm. I’m still firmly in the school of “as my whimsy takes me” with reading (and if you get that reference and you’re into fantasy, we should be friends), but sometimes it’s nice to have some ideas. So… here are some ideas!

Rereads

I really love rereading books. First off, it’s usually something that you know you’re going to enjoy, or at least get something out of. It can be such a great comfort, too. And for me, I think I get something slightly different out of it each time. Here’s what I’m hoping to reread this month!

  • The Books of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin. It’ll be my first time reading the illustrated edition!
  • The Midnight Queen, by Sylvia Izzo Hunter. I meant to reread it last month, but so much stuff happened and I didn’t feel much like reading.
  • The Lost Plot, by Genevieve Cogman. I’m actually partway through this already!
  • The Copper Promise, by Jen Williams. I don’t remember that much about this one, and clearly I need to in order to read the whole trilogy!

New-to-me reads

These can be divided into two groups: books I’ve already started and stalled with for whatever reason, and books I’ve never even started. Of the first group, I definitely want to tackle these:

  • A Conspiracy of Truths, by Alexandra Rowland. I suspect it’s at least six months, maybe nine, since I actually picked this up. Whooops.
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow. This has not been stalled for nearly as long, thankfully!
  • The Priory of the Orange Tree, by Samantha Shannon. I’m actually working through this at an average speed of 5 pages per day, due to reading it with my coworkers. I won’t finish it this month unless I sprint away from them, but it’ll be on my mind!
  • The Library of the Unwritten, by A.J. Hackwith. I’m sorrrryyyyy. I’m slow.

And the ones which are wholly new to me:

  • The Tethered Mage, by Melissa Caruso. I hear so many good things!
  • Hexbreaker, by Jordan L. Hawk. Or maybe the start of the Whyborne & Griffin series. I’ve been meaning to read Hawk’s work for a while, anyway!
  • The Ninth House, by Leigh Bardugo. I’m late to the party, I know.
  • The Mortal Word, by Genevieve Cogman. Also late to the party! I want to catch up with this series.
  • The Secret Chapter, by Genevieve Cogman. These books are like candy for me, after all.
  • Brightfall, by Jaime Lee Moyer. I don’t know how I’m going to feel about this from the sound of it, given my Medieval Lit background, but I’m ready to give it a try!
  • Hallowdene, by George Mann. I need to return this to the library once it opens again, so I figured I might as well include it!

Aaaaand I think that’s more than enough, and I’m unlikely to finish this many! But who knows.

What will you be reading for Wyrd and Wonder, if you’re taking part?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted April 29, 2020 by Nikki in General / 5 Comments

It’s that time again! Check out Taking On A World Of Words to chat with everyone else who has posted what they’re reading right now!

Cover of Grave Importance by Vivian ShawWhat are you currently reading?

Non-fiction: No progress since last week!

Fiction: I’m 60% of the way through Grave Importance (Vivian Shaw), and honestly, I’m mad every time I have to put it down and double mad I didn’t get to read it at all today. Maybe a liiiittle before bed? Anyway, this series is solid comfort for me: despite everything bad that goes on, Greta does her best to be a doctor, to take care of people whether she likes them or not, whether they’re even good people or not. And she has such a good found family around her, though I’m afraid Ruthven is my favourite forever and ever. And I love the little details like the baby screaming skulls and 3D printed replacement bones for mummies.

I’m also 30% of the way through Network Effect (Martha Wells). Obviously I couldn’t just say no to my wife reading it too, so I’m waiting for her to catch up. All I have to say so far is oh nooooo.

Cover of A Treacherous Curse by Deanna RaybournWhat have you recently finished?

Er. I’m not sure. It was during the readathon on the weekend, probably, so… A Treacherous Curse (Deanna Raybourn)? Always solid fun, though I can’t quite view them as proper historical fiction with everything Veronica gets up to (without even the good taste to have more money than God in order to excuse her peccadilloes).

Cover of Goldilocks by Laura LamWhat will you read next?

Who knooooows? I probably want to finish up Goldilocks (Laura Lam) and The Ten Thousand Doors of January (Alix E. Harrow). I’m annoyed I stopped reading The Ten Thousand Doors of January, because I was inhaling it, and it’s not even that I’m not in the mood — I just got distracted.

What’re you reading?

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Review – The Steerswoman

Posted April 26, 2020 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Steerswoman, by Rosemary KirsteinThe Steerswoman, Rosemary Kirstein

The Steerswoman is the first book of a series, focusing on the explorations of a steerswoman. The steerswomen seek after knowledge wherever they go: learning about local customs, drawing maps, and passing on their knowledge. If a steerswoman asks you a question, you must answer; if you do not, they will place you under a ban, and no steerswoman will ever answer your questions again. Rowan has been a steerswoman long enough that it’s baked into her through and through, and she loves her work — even as it begins to get her into trouble, even though she doesn’t understand why.

This is a book you need to have patience with, because the details come to the reader slowly. I really enjoyed reading it at the same time as my wife and fitting together what we’d noticed (example: the gum-soled shoes that sailors and steerswomen wear!) but it’s still a little frustrating to watch Rowan’s slow progress. Readers have a bit of an advantage on Rowan, though, so it’s also fun to try to be ahead and figure out where things are going.

Rowan isn’t the only main character; the other is Bel, an Outskirter warrior who upends some of Rowan’s assumptions as she comes along for the ride. They complement each other well, and it’s fun to watch them play off each other. I wish we had more information about Bel and her motivations, though; I don’t doubt her interest in helping Rowan, but she’s gone to a lot of effort by now, and some of it before she really got to know Rowan. I’m hoping for more about her in the next book! (Which, since it’s called The Outskirter’s Secret, I suspect is exactly what will be served up.)

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Silver Chair

Posted April 26, 2020 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Silver Chair by C.S. LewisThe Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis

For whatever reason, I’ve never really liked this book. Part of it, I think, is that I often stopped with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, as a kid — I couldn’t quite tell you why, except maybe that nothing could match up to how much I loved that book. When I try to be objective, I can see that it’s really no different in quality to the others… and Puddleglum is hilarious! But I persist in disliking Eustace and Jill, and I feel like Rillian is a complete non-entity.

It’s probably also that I really dislike Caspian being old and no longer really a part of things. Okay, the bit at the end helps with that, but still… I’m just not keen on the whole tone of this book: Eustace and Jill are always arguing, Puddleglum is always fatalistic, and Rillian starts off rather patronising and awful (albeit because of the spell). There’s not much of Aslan, and not much faith in Aslan. It feels like Jill in particular doesn’t really understand who he is and why she should obey him, and that changes things rather.

In the end, it’s quite possible I’m making excuses, but… still not one I enjoy, I’m afraid!

Rating: 2/5

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Review – A Treacherous Curse

Posted April 25, 2020 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of A Treacherous Curse by Deanna RaybournA Treacherous Curse, Deanna Raybourn

In their third outing, Veronica Speedwell and Revelstoke Templeton-Vane (better known simply as Stoker) have to unravel the mystery of a mummy’s curse, to salvage what’s left of Stoker’s reputation. That means hunting for the man who stole Stoker’s wife, dealing with said wife (who turns out to be a real piece of work, the clues about which I felt like I’d missed), and figuring out what exactly is going wrong with the exhibition of the funerary goods of an Egyptian princess. As with the previous two books, it’s a lot of fun, and I read it almost in one go.

The main draw for me is Veronica and Stoker’s relationship. They’re delightfully volatile, and yet you know it’s because they’re alike and are good for one another. Veronica’s unbelievable, of course, but taking that as read I just relax into it. Of course she can do more or less anything, and faces very little censure. Why not? Anyway, now these books are very much about the will-they-won’t-they for me, and I can’t say they made as much progress as I hoped — though at least more of Stoker’s past has been revealed!

The mystery was fun enough; I can’t resist a bit of Egyptological jiggery-pokery, I have to confess. I did work things out ahead of the reveals, in most cases, but it still worked for me. It’s not about the result, but how you get there, and Veronica and Stoker do it in style.

Rating: 4/5

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