Review – The Emerald Planet

Posted 21 September, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 3 Comments

Cover of The Emerald Planet by David BeerlingThe Emerald Planet, David Beerling

I confess that I wasn’t expecting to love a book that focuses on photosynthesising plants; I don’t have a huge interest in plants, as a general rule, and I picked this up because it was one of the Oxford Landmark Science books. Buuuut this book definitely got me interested in the way plants work, the various types of photosynthesis, etc. It’s written in an engaging style — you can feel that Beerling loves his topic, and it really works.

I find myself recommending this to people now. If you don’t understand how much we rely on the photosynthesising part of the biosphere, well, maybe it’s time you got a wake-up call. And I think this book could get anyone enthused.

Rating: 5/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 20 September, 2017 by Nikki in General / 6 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 Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette NgWhat are you currently reading?

Under the Pendulum Sun, by Jeannette Ng. I’m not far into it, but I’m quite intrigued: basically, Christian missionaries go to Fairyland to convert the Fae, and right now the book has a decidedly Gothic feel about it. I’m also reading Caliban’s War; the bits with Holden are getting a bit repetitive, since he basically blunders into trouble in the name of helping people over and over again. I like Avasarala, though.

Cover of The Tiger's Daughter by K. Arsenault RiveraWhat have you recently finished reading?

The Tiger’s Daughter, by K. Arsenault Rivera. I found it really appropriative and while the writing was pretty, it was painfully slow. The format, a letter written by one protagonist to the other, just got awkward — it described events at which both were present to the recipient. Whaaat? People wouldn’t actually do that, at least not at such length. It just felt too contrived for me.

Cover of Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline CareyWhat will you read next?

I really haven’t decided. I have a little shortlist I want to finish before the end of the month, so it might be my Kushiel’s Dart reread (finally) or getting onto the second book of my Robin Hobb reread.

What are you reading?

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Review – Defy

Posted 20 September, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Defy by Sara LarsonDefy, Sara B. Larson

I loved the sound of this — set in the jungle, with a heroine who has dressed herself as a boy and maintains her position in the prince’s guard. More than maintains it: she can beat any of them. It seemed typical in other ways, in fact reminiscent of Throne of Glass, but I was ready to follow along for the fun of it. Unfortunately, Alexa keeps nearly revealing herself as a woman by being uncontrollably attracted to men and prone to blushing.

Now one, attraction to men does not make you a woman. I know this is YA, but that’s not the first assumption people would necessarily make. And two, I know I don’t have any experience with overwhelming attraction, being ace, but I still haven’t much noticed people being this thrown off by random thoughts about how attractive other people are. With that and the fact that whoops, everyone seems to know she’s a girl and whoops, they start acting protective once that is out in the open… blech. I lost interest. The love triangle didn’t help, either. It just felt so. very. generic.

I mean, come on. If you’ve known someone is a girl for a long time and managed to avoid acting protective, why would you start up being protective just because the girl now knows you know she’s a girl? Especially when she’s been regularly thrashing every one of the guard in sparring matches since she first joined.

Rating: 2/5

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Review – The Button Box

Posted 19 September, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Button Box by Lynn KnightThe Button Box, Lynn Knight

The subtitle kind of sums this book up: “The story of women in the 20th century, told through the clothes they wore”. It covers the wars, the periods when women went to work and when they were turned back out of the work force, suffragettes and suffragists, the New Look… It’s not my usual area of interest, but Lynn Knight makes this about more than fashion — it’s about how fashion highlighted the preoccupations of women and what it said about their status and expectations.

I found it really restful and, yes, interesting — I love the concept of rummaging through a family button box to look at past garments and fashions. It makes me wish I’d dug through some of my grandmother’s stuff sometimes. I think even my mother has some odd buttons and so on lying around; in a way, ready-made clothes being such a thing has cut my generation (and somewhat the previous generation) off from the continuity with family we used to have through rag bags and button boxes. That’s not all a bad thing, but I loved the anecdotes from Knight about playing shop with the buttons for payment, the buttons that reminded her of home made clothes…

If you’re a fan of the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee, you’ll probably love this. If you’re a fan of microhistory, again, it’s probably up your street. And if you need something restful to remind you of a childhood playing with buttons and doll houses, well, it might also be for you.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Ghoul King

Posted 18 September, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Ghoul King by Guy HaleyThe Ghoul King, Guy Haley

I was intrigued by Quinn in the previous novella, and this one takes much the same stance: rather than following Quinn directly, the bulk of it is told from the point of view of someone who happens to be protected by him during a journey. It reveals a little more of the world-building and the reason certain things are as they are, while still leaving a whole lot still to explore. I hope there’s going to be more, and soon.

I love the way it becomes apparent to the narrator-character, Jaxom, that Quinn is a good man — not a fun man to be around, not a safe man, not good company or just mildly principled. He’s a good man, prepared to take risks for others even if he doesn’t like them, because his word is his bond.

I still mostly didn’t get into Jaxom’s story for his sake — I was interested in Quinn, what happened to him, what he’s seeking, where he’s going next, and who opposes him. Ideally, I’d like to learn why, too.

Like I said, I hope there’s more, and soon.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Deeper Genome

Posted 17 September, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Deeper Genome by John ParringtonThe Deeper Genome, John Parrington

I should have reviewed this when I read it, but it seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle somewhere. I’m left with only general impressions and the knowledge that I intended to give it a four star rating. That alone should tell you it’s decent pop-science, delving into the genome and trying to give the reader a deeper understanding of it — not just the basic string of AACTGGA or whatever, but more detail. The first chapters are more basic, of course, giving the reader a bit of a background against which to evaluate all the new research.

I recall it being clear and easy to read, and where it went into epigenetics, microRNAs and piRNAs, I was fascinated. Some of this stuff, it only touches on, because it’s complex or not fully researched yet. Still a good read!

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Harkworth Hall

Posted 16 September, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Harkworth HallHarkworth Hall, L.S. Johnson

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 1st August 2017

I picked up Harkworth Hall thanks to Bob @ Beauty in Ruins’ review; it sounded like a fun piece of Gothic romance with horror along the lines of William Hope Hodgson, rather than, say, Stephen King. All in all, pretty much up my alley — and even better, it features a relationship between two women (about which I’d better not say too much; Bob’s review already has a minor spoiler). I loved the women of the story: yes, they’re of their time, but they’re not completely circumscribed by the most strait-laced options available to women — Caroline has an independent streak, for one.

As for the horror aspect, it doesn’t go into that too much. It’s more of a sense of unease, of something uncanny, rather than all-out gore and cheap thrills (though there is a scene or two in which the threat is realised!).

I have just one quibble. At one point, two women are talking about being sensible, in the sense of being responsible and not rushing into danger, etc. Then one comments that they lack “sensibility”. Nooooo, that’s not what that word means! “Sensibility” is about appreciating and responding to emotion, not “being sensible” in our modern sense. Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is contrasting the two in its title, not pairing two like words.

That said, I’m looking forward to reading more of Caroline’s adventures, for sure.

Rating: 4/5

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 16 September, 2017 by Nikki in General / 23 Comments

Hey everyone! I’m back! And now I have to actually account for my hauls, erk. I’m gonna split it up into two posts, because, um, yeah. So look out next week for my fantasy haul!

Received to review:

Cover of First Grave On the Right by Darynda Jones Cover of Snowdrift & Other Stories by Georgette Heyer Cover of Immortal Architects by Paige Orwin Cover of A Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey

Cover of The Stone in the Skull by Elizabeth Bear Cover of The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo Cover of Not Your Villain by C.B. Lee Cover of The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

Quite a bunch, right? I was really excited about most of these, and I’m so glad I got approved for them!

Crime/mystery bought

Cover of Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart Cover Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn Cover of The Winter Garden Mystery by Carola Dunn

I’ve been meaning to read these for a while. I have high hopes of the Daisy Dalrymple books being my new Phryne-like fix…

Sci-fi bought

Cover of Trouble and Her Friends by Melissa Scott Cover of Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine Cover of Too Like The Lightning

I’ve been meaning to read all three of these entirely different novels for ages, so… here goes?

Non-fiction bought

Cover of Moral Tribes by Joshua Greene Cover of The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson Cover of Words Are My Matter by Ursula Le Guin Cover of Imagining Head-Smashed-In by Jack Brink

Cover of Against Empathy by Paul Bloom Cover of The Great Influenza by John M. Barry Cover of The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes Cover of Gorgon by Peter D Ward

Cover of Bog Bodies Uncovered Cover of The Gods of Olympus by Barbara Graziosi

Bit of a mix, as per usual! I was glad to find something like Imagining Head-Smashed-In when I visited Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, because I would like to read more about First Nations people, and this was at least praised by modern First Nations people.

LGBT bought

Cover of The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles Cover of An Unseen Attraction by K.J. Charles Cover of Unnatural Vice by K.J. Charles

I read An Unsuitable Heir while I was away, and decided I really needed to read more by K.J. Charles. Here’s hoping they all match up in quality!

Read this week:

Cover of The Naming of the Shrew by John Wright Cover of Adventures in Human Being by Gavin Francis Cover of The Brain by David Eagleman Cover of Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

Cover of The Beautiful Ones by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia Cover of A Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey Cover of First Grave On the Right by Darynda Jones Cover of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Reviews posted this week:

Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris. I enjoy Harris’ work for light reading, but just don’t get along with Sookie. 1/5 stars
Outer Space, Inner Lands, by Ursula Le Guin. It’s Ursula Le Guin’s SF short fiction. ’nuff said. 5/5 stars
Camelot’s Honour, by Sarah Zettel. A beloved reread that winds together the Arthurian story and the non-Arthurian bits of the Mabinogion. 4/5 stars
One Renegade Cell, by Robert Weinberg. At one point, this was the state of the art in describing and understanding cancer. It’s still pretty helpful. 3/5 stars
Magic Shifts, by Ilona Andrews. As usual, a fun entry to the series. 4/5 stars
An Unsuitable Heir, by K.J. Charles. A lovely romance/mystery I enjoyed on a lot of levels. 4/5 stars
Fowl Language: The Struggle is Real, by Brian Gordon. Collection of a fun comic. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

WWW Wednesday: What I’m reading at the moment!

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Review – Fowl Language: The Struggle is Real

Posted 15 September, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Fowl Language by Brian GordonFowl Language: The Struggle is Real, Brian Gordon

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 10th October 2017

I’ve seen the Fowl Language cartoons around now and again, but I’ve never really sat down to read a bunch of them. I know I’m not a parent, but I have rabbits, so I totally related to a lot of these. I’m not even kidding. Rabbits are just as contrary as a small child, and even less capable of explaining what they actually want…

The art is cute, but pretty samey; the theme is basically “parenting is hard but worth it”. It’s not a big revelation or anything, but it’s still a fun little collection — especially for a parent, I imagine.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – An Unsuitable Heir

Posted 14 September, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of An Unsuitable Heir by K.J. CharlesAn Unsuitable Heir, K.J. Charles

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 3rd October 2017

I’m somewhat cautious when it comes to picking up LGBT fiction sometimes, because the quality often leaves something to be desired. Frankly, sometimes you wonder how some of it is published while some glorious writers stick to fanfiction. Still, I liked the sound of this book – and others by this author have been praised by friends – and I am, in fact, very glad I read it. It doesn’t feel like a book just written to get a pair of hot gay men together: it feels like plot and character come first, and the fact that these particular characters are attracted to each other and fall in love is second. Not secondary, because it is important to the story, but it feels natural.

Also, one of the couple has one hand due to a birth defect, and the other is non-binary, feeling that neither gender entirely suits him. Not that he has a word for it or a pronoun, given the setting, but the exploration of his gender identity is also integral to the story, explaining how he reacts and what he’s willing (and unwilling) to do.

The sex scenes, though not something I’m interested in per se, are tastefully written and avoid being just “insert tab A into slot B” – it’s not mechanical or forced, but feels natural to the story and characters and where they are in their relationship.

I imagine if you’ve read the previous books in the same series, you’ll enjoy the cameo appearances of a couple of other gay couples. For me, I’ve gone ahead and bought those books on the strength of this one, and I’m looking forward to it.

Rating: 4/5

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