Review – Masquerade

Posted 22 March, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Masquerade by Laura LamMasquerade, Laura Lam

I was pretty much glued to this for a train journey in which I just ate it up. There are some very satisfying reveals, and one particular plot element I was somewhat dreading was actually handled in a way that made me feel not so terrible about it. Content note, though, if you have problems with addiction — there’s quite a few references to drugs and craving in this one. There’s a lot I still want to know — how can Cyan be Matla and Micah, Dev? What exactly did Doctor Pozzi do? And other aspects wrapped up a little too easily; the change in the aristocracy was just, whomp, suddenly there in the epilogue.

But it was still really satisfying, and what I really loved is the relationship between Drystan and Micah. I wasn’t sure I’d support it from the first book, got fully on board in the second, and have now decided they’re a definite favourite fictional couple. I adore that they make mistakes and have trouble with communication, but they deal with it. And where authors often have adversity tearing characters apart, straining the relationships almost to breaking point, Drystan and Micah turn to each other even more, and that’s just… yeah.

Also, shoutout for Cyril as a pretty awesome secondary character in his unwavering acceptance of his sibling, always.

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 21 March, 2018 by Nikki in General / 4 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 An Accident of Stars by Foz MeadowsI still have two books in progress: Masquerade, by Laura Lam, and An Accident of Stars, by Foz Meadows. I have actually made some progress with both since my last post, but I’m still spending possibly far too much time crocheting… I have a train journey today, so I’m hoping to finish one of them — probably Masquerade.

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of A Borrowed Man by Gene WolfeThe last thing I read was A Borrowed Man, which I’ve already reviewed here. I found some of the ideas really fascinating, but in execution… well, I wasn’t sold, anyway.

What will you be reading next?

Cover of Evolution in Four Dimensions by Eva JablonkaOther than my books on TB from the WHO, I’ve packed Evolution in Four Dimensions, which is all about epigenetics. I’ve been meaning to read it for ages, so maybe my long (long, long) train journeys today will give me a chance to get started, once I’ve polished off Masquerade.

Knowing me though, I might read something totally different. I’ve given up trying too hard to predict it.

What are you reading?

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Review – Experiment Eleven

Posted 20 March, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Experiment Eleven by Peter PringleExperiment Eleven, Peter Pringle

I initially picked this up because of the subtitle, which specifically mentions the discovery of a cure for tuberculosis. In fact, for the most part it isn’t about the science, but more about the intellectual property battle that surrounded the discovery of streptomycin. It’s more about the two main scientists it discusses, and their struggle over who really found streptomycin. The way the book tells it, I think it’s clear that Waksman was wrong to claim all the credit, and knew he was; Schatz should have received much more credit and recognition for what he did.

It’s interesting in the sense of illuminating what goes on to get drugs from the lab bench to actual development, where Waksman really did play a key role. It might be a bit wearing if you’re not that interested in what’s essentially a biography of the two scientists, though.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – A Borrowed Man

Posted 19 March, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of A Borrowed Man by Gene WolfeA Borrowed Man, Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe’s work is reliably weird, and this is another example. It’s nearish-future SF with a noirish mystery plot — I say noir because of the characterisation and treatment of women, and some of the protagonist’s ways of talking. He sounds like he stepped out of Chandler, and some of the narration feels like that too. The background idea, that an author can be scanned, cloned, and then the clone be made available like a book to be borrowed from libraries, is intriguing and weird and creepy all at once. Honestly, I’m not sure this book really used to the idea to its fullest extent: in a way it’s just Castle, only with a clone of the author coming along to solve things based on his books instead of the author himself.

(Except Ern is less charming than Rick Castle.)

I was hooked as long as I didn’t think too much about it, and then I took a moment to think about the way Colette (the main female character) and Arabella (love interest, ex-wife) are treated and just felt kind of grossed out. Curves in all the right places, every man’s daydream kind of women — bleh. They’re just there to be desired, particularly in Arabella’s case.

I worked out the mystery fairly easily too. Overall, it’s entertaining, but I doubt I’ll keep thinking about it or come back to it in the future. The idea is pretty awesome; the execution is pretty slender.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Ironclads

Posted 18 March, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Ironclads by Adrian TchiakovskyIronclads, Adrian Tchaikovsky

It’s frightening to me that the UK separating from Europe and ending up alone (and usually screwed, as in this case) is a theme in fiction these days. I feel like there’s no positive (and believable) predictions for how this is going to go and — although I’m a Remainer myself — I do wish we had a little more hope all round. So in this one, the UK splits off and ends up on its own, and has to call in the US to save them. That’s just background to this story, but gah!

I wasn’t totally in love with the story in general. It’s entertaining enough, and it’s interesting to see the point of view of the grunts and cannonfodder in a world of people fighting in big mechs. There are some really fun moments, like when someone complains about being bombed by regiments from Ikea — not fun for them, I mean, but for that recognition for the reader. I found the plot pretty predictable after the aftermath of one of the characters’ injuries, and I felt like the story just stopped without much by way of payoff. Big things happened for society, maybe, but I wanted something more emotional — and I didn’t want the characters to all go their separate ways.

Still, it’s an interesting take on a near-future world where knights in shining armour are basically a thing again, only mechanised.

Rating: 3/5

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Unstacking the Shelves

Posted 17 March, 2018 by Nikki in General / 12 Comments

It’s been a quiet week for me, book-wise — actually, I’m really stressed — but I did read the books below…

Cover of The Gene by Siddhartha Mukkherjee Cover of The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson Cover of The Mummy Congress by Heather Pringle

… and these things were posted.

Reviews from this week:

Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacqueline Carey. Okay, it’s a problematic fave in some ways, but I still adored it. Joscelin is just… gah. <3 5/5 stars
An Unnatural Vice, by K.J. Charles. Not my favourite of the trilogy, but that’s mostly because I didn’t love the characters. Still a fun read. 3/5 stars
The Master Magician, by Charlie N. Holmberg. More of the same if you’ve read the previous books; wraps things up neatly. 3/5 stars
The Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson. Lots of interesting stuff on this specific cholera outbreak, though the coda about living in cities is kind of weird. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

WWW Wednesday: The usual weekly update on what’s currently on my side table.

How’s everybody doing?

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Review – The Ghost Map

Posted 15 March, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Ghost Map by Steven JohnsonThe Ghost Map, Steven Johnson

This is a really good account of the outbreak of cholera that led to John Snow’s famous map, showing that a particular water pump was the culprit. He traces the history of how London dealt with sewage and how it became such a big issue, and also examines some of the main characters in the drama of trying to stop the outbreak — and trying to challenge miasma theory, which was so much the paradigm at the time. There isn’t a lot of specific science stuff here, but Johnson makes clear why the cholera pathogen is so deadly in a very accessible way.

The only weird part is in the conclusion/afterword to the book, where Johnson talks more generally about the risks to city life and starts discussing nuclear war and terrorism. It seems very much a non-sequitur, and adds nothing to the book to my mind.

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 14 March, 2018 by Nikki in General / 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 The Ghost Map by Steven JohnsonMost actively, I’m reading The Ghost Map, which is about the cholera outbreak in London which began in Broad Street and resulted in John Snow figuring out where the contagion was coming from (and removing the pump handle). I also have Masquerade and An Accident of Stars still on the go.

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of The Gene by Siddhartha MukkherjeeThe Gene, by Siddhartha Mukherjee. I was enjoying it a lot, but I wasn’t so sure of his genetic determinism in the sections about gender and identity — I think it’s a bit off for him to be declaring that the genders of intersex people are all determined by one particular genetic switch and there’s no variation. It doesn’t ring true from people I actually know. But for the most part he’s a fascinating writer.

What will you be reading next?

Cover of An Accident of Stars by Foz MeadowsI’ll probably focus on finishing An Accident of Stars, and then I want to start on Cibola Burn, after taking a bit of a break from reading the Expanse books. It’s right there! And I’d like to read it soon! But who knows…

What are you reading?

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Review – The Master Magician

Posted 13 March, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Master Magician by Charlie N HolmbergThe Master Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg

The Master Magician makes a good end to the series, bringing Ceony to the end of her apprenticeship, and her relationship with Emery to a satisfying point. If you found everything a bit too fluffy and light, and Ceony’s abilities a bit too good to be true, then this book will probably tier up with that — she’s now able to do pretty much anything she wants, and does, having mastered all other kinds of magic in the meantime.

I don’t think it was the best written trilogy ever, but I enjoyed it, particularly when I wanted something pretty easy and fast to read. There are some horrific bits (i.e. when Ceony faces psychopathic magicians), but for the most part… yeah, just a really easy read.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – An Unnatural Vice

Posted 12 March, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Unnatural Vice by K.J. CharlesAn Unnatural Vice, K.J. Charles

This is probably my least favourite of the trilogy, though it’s partly down to personal taste: I didn’t enjoy the characters or their dynamic as much. Nathaniel is pretty awesome in his unthinking protectiveness and willingness to help others, but Justin mostly just ticked me off. He does have some redeeming features (particularly his relationship with the kids he looks after), but I still didn’t quite get that relationship.

It’s useful for piecing together the full story begun in An Unseen Attraction (or An Unsuitable Heir if you started with that, like I did!) but it’s not necessary, and personally, I wouldn’t have minded giving it a miss. It’s not a bad story, and there certainly is intensity between the main couple, but they just weren’t the type of characters I really root for.

Rating: 3/5

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