Review – The Battle of the Sun

Posted 29 July, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of The Battle of the Sun by Jeanette WintersonThe Battle of the Sun, Jeannette Winterson

I remember quite enjoying Tanglewreck, so I was somewhat surprised to be rather unhappy with The Battle of the Sun. The opening is fairly promising — the description of Jack being so, so eager for his spaniel, so full of thoughts of the spaniel, that he’s practically a spaniel himself, it really works and paints exactly the picture it needs to. Not that vivid imagery has ever been a problem for Winterson, and it’s so surprise that her writing is poetic and vivid and phantasmagoric.

However, it’s also quicksilver, jumping from thought to thought, and things aren’t explained — they just happen, one after another, and who knows why? I can’t remember if I found Tanglewreck to be like that, but I can’t say I enjoyed it in this book. In the end, I zipped through to the end on my ereader and put it down with a sigh of relief. Just not one that worked for me.

Rating: 2/5

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Review – Crooked Kingdom

Posted 28 July, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Crooked Kingdom by Leigh BardugoCrooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo

It took me a while to get into this — around 50% of the book, actually — because it all felt like Kaz was being driven by Van Eck, instead of the crew banding together and calling the shots, which I badly wanted after the ending of Six of Crows. Kaz felt too cold and distant for a lot of it, and his POV took a long time to come round. Still, once it did, I did enjoy the way Kaz’s need for vengeance was handled, and his difficulties in touching people and expressing his feelings, etc. There’s a great bit which just describes perfectly how those OCD behaviours get established if you don’t fight them every step of the way.

And once you hit that 50% mark, the crew really start to take back what’s theirs and fight back, and it’s a lot of fun. Wylan and Jesper’s relationship is adorable, and I rather enjoy Jesper’s father’s part as well. The comeuppance is great, and the end of the book did not go quite exactly as I’d pictured. Gah, some of the last imagery of Nina and Matthias… But ahh, Inej’s ending is everything I needed, and Wylan’s position at the end is awesome.

If you enjoyed Six of Crows, you’ll probably enjoy this, and if you find it slow at first you probably just need to hold out for about 50% of the way through.

Rating: 4/5

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 28 July, 2018 by Nikki in General / 10 Comments

Good morning, folks! Here it is mostly far too warm and I am very much hoping that when I travel back to the UK on Tuesday, it’s going to be cooler there. Mind you, I hope it cools down here too, because the bunnies are too warm to even be nuisances, which is always worrying.

Received to review:

Cover of Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

Read this week:

Cover of Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo Cover of The Zoo by Isobel Charman Cover of The Murder of My Aunt by Richard Hull Cover of The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman

Reviews posted this week:

Hadrian’s Wall, by David Breeze and Brian Dobson. Lots and lots of info, most of which the layperson won’t want to memorise, but interestingly presented. 4/5 stars
Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky. A book I enjoyed a great deal, although a good bit of my review is puzzling over the science! 4/5 stars
Human Universe, by Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen. Very much a book by Brian Cox, so it’s quite physics-focused, but more comprehensible to the non-math minded than, say, Universal. 3/5 stars
The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All The Way Home, by Catherynne M. Valente. A lovely end to a lovely series. 4/5 stars
The Henchmen of Zenda, by K.J. Charles. An entertaining rewrite which doesn’t quite rehabilitate the Zenda side of the conflict, but adds some interesting motivations. 3/5 stars
Thirteen Guests, by J. Jefferson Farjeon. I find something really moreish about this author’s books: it’s a shame I only have a couple left to read. Thank goodness the love story in this one is far less creepy, though. 4/5 stars
Gorgon, by Peter D. Ward. Mostly about Ward’s work in the field, rather than actually being about gorgonopsids. Interesting in its way, but not quite what it says it’s going to be. 3/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussion: Rereading. Once more, probably predictably, I argue in favour of reading for fun, whatever that might be, and never letting it turn into work for any reason.
WWW Wednesday. My usual weekly update on what I’m currently reading.
Find me elsewhere. If you feel like checking out my other blogs…

Out and about:

NEAT science: the first giant. Wanna read about one of the earliest giant dinosaurs?
NEAT science: should boys get the HPV vaccine? Spoiler: yes. Obviously.
Once Upon A Blue Moon: ‘How The Story Goes’. A short (very short) story about two men and a woman and a story many of us know very well indeed. If you’re a fan of Arthuriana, this one might just be for you.

So how’s everyone doing? Too warm where you are, or not so bad? Plenty of reading getting done?

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Find me elsewhere

Posted 27 July, 2018 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

Interrupting your normal scheduled posts here to point out to anyone new that you can find me elsewhere online! I have two other blogs, and one of them is brand new.

First we have, of course, my popular science blog. I suspect it’ll always be biology-heavy, because I’m a biologist, but it’s partly based on what I get questions about. So feel free to make me put my research skills to work and ask me awkward questions…

Notable posts have included an introduction to my dissertation, experimental proof that reading is good for me, a warning about the upcoming post-antibiotic world, and an explanation of why science is WEIRD.

Then we’ve got my fiction blog, which is brand new and which you can find here. It’s a bit of an experiment for now, but let’s see what happens.

And because it’s so new, there’s only one post: a 300-word piece of fiction called How the Story Goes.

So hey, if those interest you, now you know they’re out there and can follow them or drop in occasionally. Don’t forget to wave!

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Review – Gorgon

Posted 27 July, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Gorgon by Peter D WardGorgon, Peter D. Ward

If you’re looking for information on the gorgonopsids and their world, this book is rather thin on that. Instead, it’s mostly about Ward’s career and some of his excavations and initiatives. Admittedly, much of that is in the service of getting information about the gorgonopsids, but the book is rather thin on what was actually found. There is some interesting stuff on pinning down that mass extinction and figuring out how fast it happened, but the gorgonopsids in life — how they lived, what they did — are absent.

So pretty interesting in terms of understanding Ward’s career as a palaeontologist, with the appropriate set pieces about how hot it was and how difficult, etc, etc, but low on actual pre-dinosaurian monsters ruling the Earth.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Thirteen Guests

Posted 26 July, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Thirteen Guests by J. Jefferson FarjohnThirteen Guests, J. Jefferson Farjeon

Like Seven Dead, this actually includes a love story as well, although of a rather different stripe (and maybe a bit less of the focus, since neither party is seriously suspected of the murders). It’s less prominent than the love story in Seven Dead, and thankfully less creepy as well, with some rather good scenes between the two of them negotiating their relationship. At the same time, there’s a convoluted mystery going on with several deaths, complex interrelationships and, well, the usual stock in trade of Golden Age crime fiction, really. It’s a country house mystery, too, just to hit all those traditional notes.

I found it solidly entertaining, and though it’s a bit less weird/creepy than Seven Dead, I think it was probably stronger for it. There’s something about Farjeon’s writing that I find rather more-ish, and I’d gladly pick up a bunch more of his novels. Sadly, I only seem to have The Z Murders left… though I should check for something by other publishers or maybe as an ebook.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Henchmen of Zenda

Posted 25 July, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Henchmen of Zenda by KJ CharlesThe Henchmen of Zenda, K.J. Charles

If you don’t know The Prisoner of Zenda, then I doubt this will be of much interest — and I think you’d also have to be interested in m/m romance to really appreciate it, as well. With both those things in mind, it’s a fun romp, turning aspects of The Prisoner of Zenda on their head and making a little more of two background characters, and particularly the flamboyant and unrepentant Rupert of Hentzau. Detchard is a total cipher in the original book, really, so he makes good ground for Charles to play with in rewriting the story.

Ultimately, is it an amazing work of literature? No. Does it do anything particularly new or interesting in rewriting The Prisoner of Zenda? Also no (though I enjoyed that Charles didn’t try too hard, Black Michael is still as black as he’s painted). It doesn’t depart too far from the original, though I enjoyed the friendship between Detchard and Antoinette, and Rupert’s actual loyalties, as additions to the original plot.

It may not be very startling, but it’s solid fun, and I do enjoy the bantering, slightly adversarial relationship between Detchard and Rupert. Charles doesn’t lay it on too thick or try to change the essentials of the characters, and it produces a good romp.

Rating: 3/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 25 July, 2018 by Nikki in General / 10 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.

Cover of The Zoo by Isobel CharmanWhat are you currently reading?

The Zoo, by Isobel Charman: it’s not exactly “wild and wonderful”, as the subtitle goes, but it’s still quite an interesting reconstruction of history. It probably takes too many liberties in imagining what the real people it follows thought and felt, but it’s entertaining enough.

I’m also partway through rereading The Burning Page, by Genevieve Cogman. That’s as entertaining as you’d expect, and I’m looking forward to finally getting onto the fourth book, The Lost Plot.

Cover of Crooked Kingdom by Leigh BardugoWhat have you recently finished reading?

The last thing I finished was Crooked Kingdom. Everyone who told me it picks up halfway through was right — yeesh, I barely put it down after I got just past 50%. At first it felt like Kaz’s team just weren’t coming together properly to pull things off, but once they figured things out… Also, ouch, that ending. Ouch.

Cover of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky ChambersWhat will you be reading next?

Record of a Spaceborn Few is out, so I’m thinking of rereading The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit first, because that’s how I roll. Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw is also about to come out, so I want to reread Strange Practice as well, but I’ll probably read Small Angry Planet again first.

What about you?

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Review – The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All The Way Home

Posted 24 July, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home by Catherynne ValenteThe Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home, Catherynne M. Valente

It’s been a long road with September, and she’s grown up so much. The final book does so much, winding all the stories to a graceful close and doing so with style, emotion and a lot of cleverness. In other words, exactly as you’d expect from Valente and this series. I won’t say she can’t put a foot wrong, but the narrator is so charming and the world of Fairyland so wild and wonderful that I’m willing to forgive it any number of sins. (Whether it’s willing to forgive me entirely depends on its mood that day. But there, that’s the whimsy getting hold of me.)

And again, the ending is why I think this series is really more for adults than it’s been marketed, or even reviewed by a lot of people: you need to know the stories and have the experiences to understand what Valente does with them fully. The cleverness isn’t all obvious, and if you think you’re too adult for this series, well… I can understand it not being your thing, but there’s also a fair bit of snobbishness going round about books that get classed as YA.

In any case, it’s always a relief to come to the narrator’s reassurance at the end that she’s waiting for us to come back, settle in, and read it all again. I have no doubt I will.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Human Universe

Posted 23 July, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Human Universe by Brian CoxHuman Universe, Brian Cox, Andrew Cohen

If you’re expecting something based a bit more on humans and how they evolved, remember it’s Brian Cox and think bigger — it’s more about our place in the universe, our understanding of it, and what we might find out there in the vastness of space. It’s not really about us as a species, I think, but about how we see the world around us. So yeah, more physics, less biology. Which makes sense, given the author, and it’s easier to absorb than his other book I’ve read (Universal). It goes into interesting stuff like the Fermi Paradox and the Drake Equation, which is right up my street, and it avoids too much jargon or demands that the reader understand math.

That said, it wasn’t amazing, from my point of view — mildly interesting, but not really my thing.

Rating: 3/5

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