Tag: books


Review – Requiem for a Mezzo

Posted 4 December, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Requiem for a Mezzo by Carola DunnRequiem for a Mezzo, Carola Dunn

The Daisy Dalrymple books are definite cosies: mostly victims the reader will dislike, while the real culprit is never someone the reader is meant to like, or had a really good reason if they are; a ‘clean’ romance, with Alec and Daisy decorously falling in love with only hints here and there of physical lust; blood and guts minimised. Requiem for a Mezzo continues in that vein as expected, with the poisoning of a woman who rather made the lives of everyone around her miserable — a literal diva who has made a career for herself as a singer at the expense of her sister. The villain is not quite as expected, mind you — but I won’t spoil that part for you.

The investigation goes along as expected: various suspects, the weird complication of a Ukrainian terrorist group (an issue mostly skirted around and not used to full potential), plenty of red herrings. Daisy remains likeable, though not someone I’d ever invite round to my house (someone would be sure to die). She’s a little bit too perfect, despite her unfashionably rounded figure and her freckles (it all just makes her sound comfortable and cute to the modern reader), but she gets away with it. Alec isn’t too clever, but avoids ever relying hopelessly on Daisy’s help. It’s all within the bounds of tolerability — this makes it sound like I’m damning the books with faint praise, which is not my intention: I deeply enjoy them for the cosy mysteries they are.

I found the resolution of this one maybe a little too pat. I don’t believe in the motive, and feel like we ended the book without an answer as to who was the real culprit. But it’s still fun, and there were some lovely character moments: not just Daisy and Alec, but little glimpses of other people’s thoughts and feelings that make it feel a little more real.

Rating: 4/5

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Habitica Bookclub: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

Posted 3 December, 2018 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

This month’s randomish pick for the Legendary Book Club on Habitica is Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge. I’ve been seeing it around a fair bit, but haven’t read it — and then there it was, in a buy-one-get-one-half-price sale in Waterstones. It seemed like the ideal time, so I added it to the stack, and now it’s my pick for the book club run solely by my own caprice.

I’m particularly interested in the fact that it’s based on experiences of race from a British non-white perspective. So much of the discourse online is based around the experience of black people in the US, which I’ve always been convinced is a different kettle of fish — cue the protests of white Americans who think that I’m being racist to suggest that maybe race isn’t experienced in the same way universally. The idea that it might be different for a African-American person born in the South whose family has been in the US since the 1700s and a hijabi born in Bradford whose parents emigrated as children… is not really widely considered, at least in the circles I run in. The model of racism discussed online has always been rather US-based, ignoring those differences. (And of course the inevitable differences in the ingrained ways of thinking about race.)

I’m also interested because people have such a kneejerk reaction to it, but often when you actually read pieces like that, it turns out the title is really all a lot of other folks have read. (See also: Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit. So much kneejerk angsting from men over an essay that is plainly talking about the habits of a certain kind of man.)

So that’s the background! Assuming I actually get to reading this book within the month this time (alas for The Genius Plague), I’ll try and get a review up and maybe even a discussion post. For now, feel free to comment here if you’ve read the book/plan to read it/think it’s obvious rot from the title alone, and let’s chat!

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Review – Rogue Protocol

Posted 2 December, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 5 Comments

Cover of Rogue Protocol by Martha WellsRogue Protocol, Martha Wells

In this installment of the Murderbot series, our favourite SecUnit ends up protecting a new group of humans (at some risk to itself, as ever), finding out more conspiracies and hinky things going on, and making friends with a human-form robot who starts off too twee for words and yet somehow grows on both Murderbot and the reader. I do miss ART and dearly hope that all of Murderbot’s friends can come together somehow for Netflix and popcorn, but it’s another fun adventure all the same. The ending got to me, actually, more than I expected: Wells does a great job of making the companions of the week (so to speak!) relatable.

If you’re new to Murderbot, don’t start here. Despite the companion-of-the-week issue I slightly have with the series, the background information about SecUnits isn’t present in this book, which would make it unclear for a new reader, and Murderbot’s past is a big part of what drives it in the books too. Starting at the beginning and going through chronologically seems best to me.

I’m excited to see how the final novella wraps everything up: I have it open in my Kobo app. Here goes!

Rating: 4/5

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 1 December, 2018 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Good morning, folks! It’s been a quietish week, which was a nice feeling! But I got a couple of books I’ve been excited about, and my book subscription box (Illumicrate) arrived this week too, so there’s a couple of new books to get excited about. And then there was one review copy, so… maybe it wasn’t that quiet after all! Here goes…

Received to review:

Cover of Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok

New books:

Cover of Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce Cover of Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch Cover of Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean Cover of The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman

Books read this week:

Cover of Samurai by John Man Cover of Requiem for a Mezzo by Carola Dunn Cover of Murder on the Flying Scotsman by Carola Dunn Cover of Damsel in Distress by Carola Dunn

Reviews posted this week:

The Testament of Loki, by Joanne Harris. I thought the concept was kind of goofy, and that bothered me enough that I didn’t really enjoy the book, even though Harris writes Loki’s voice so convincingly. 2/5 stars
Unearthing the Dragon, by Mark Norell. Some interesting stuff about feathered dinosaurs, but a lot of weird exoticising stuff about China. Meh. 2/5 stars
Sandman Slim, by Richard Kadrey. Gritty urban fantasy with a tough male protagonist who has just got back after being dragged down to hell, and various angels, demons and monsters. No, I’m not intentionally describing Supernatural… It’s not a bad read, but it didn’t feel particularly fresh to me either. 3/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussions: ARCs. Do you get them? Do you hanker after them or just accept them when they come? Are bloggers getting too entitled about getting ARCs?
WWW Wednesday. The usual weekly update!

Out and about:

NEAT science: ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ If you feel like your family only ever tend to have daughters, then you might be right. Scientists have confirmed it really does happen, and how.

So how’s your week been? Getting any reading done?

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Review – Sandman Slim

Posted 30 November, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Sandman Slim by Richard KadreySandman Slim, Richard Kadrey

I’ve had this book for ages, so I felt it behooved me to finally pick it up! It turns out to be a fairly typical urban fantasy book: it feels very Supernatural, with the angels and demons and the humans stuck in between; the guns and blood and guts and gore (although of course I’m talking about later seasons when it comes to the apocalyptic stuff). The main character, Stark, always had a natural aptitude for magic, and let his arrogance about it suck him into a group that eventually sacrificed him to demons for power. Now he’s back, and he wants revenge. It’s all so familiar and a little tired, and Stark’s attitude is much the same.

I did enjoy his dedication to his murdered lover — he’s such a tough guy, but then he adores the very ground she used to walk on. However, that’s also a problem in terms of originality: a fridged girlfriend, really? Really?!

In the end, it’s fairly fast-paced (with one or two boggy parts) and amusing, but I’m not sold enough on the whole thing to actually pick up the rest of the series. Not enough room in one lifetime. It probably gets better later on in the series, but… the dark/gritty aspect is not really for me.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Unearthing the Dragon

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

Cover of Unearthing the Dragon by Mark NorrellUnearthing the Dragon, Mark Norell

Ostensibly about the discovery of feathered dinosaurs and the science surrounding them, this book also contains a fair amount of male-gazey exoticisation of China. It’s full of photographs — more photographs and images than text sometimes — and a large amount of both photos and text is about China. Modern China, that is: the culture Norell ran into when working there, his nights out, his visits to markets, his thoughts on the people, and the shapely feet of young Chinese women. Seriously!

There are some nuggets of useful information in here about feathered dinosaurs, and some gorgeous pictures both of modern China and of dinosaur fossils, but I would honestly skip it. There’s something very gross about the way he treats China and particularly Chinese women: like some kind of tourist attraction.

Rating: 2/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 28 November, 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 Requiem for a Mezzo by Carola DunnI think the only thing I’m actively reading is Requiem for a Mezzo, which I haven’t picked up in a couple of weeks! I need to get back to reading more, but work seems to have taken over my head — that and Stardew Valley multiplayer. Oh, and I do have Adam Rutherford’s A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived on the go, but I’m kind of meh about it. Almost nothing in it is new to me, so it’s boring me.

Cover of Samurai by John ManWhat have you recently finished reading?

Samurai, by John Man: it’s mostly about Saigō Takamori, but of course it talks about the samurai tradition that led to him. It’s amazing how wrong my mental calculations of Japanese chronology are: he only died in 1877, despite samurai still being armed with swords. And of course, the manga Rurouni Kenshin is set in the Meiji period, around the same time. Whaaaat.

Cover of The Mortal Word by Genevieve CogmanWhat will you be reading next?

Well, I just picked up a copy of Genevieve Cogman’s The Mortal Word… but I also just finally got my copy of Lies Sleeping, Ben Aaronovitch’s new book, so I guess those two are going to have to battle it out for which one I start next. Or I might be contrary and read something else altogether. It’s difficult to know; I’m far too driven by whim!

(Which is not a bad thing, to clarify; vive la whimsy.)

What are you currently reading?

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Discussion: ARCs

Posted 26 November, 2018 by Nikki in General / 10 Comments

For some book bloggers, life seems to revolve around ARCs (that’s advance reader’s copies, if you haven’t caught the bug). Getting them, reviewing them, swapping them, collecting them… Some people seem to forget that really they’re being put out there to encourage people to buy the book, especially when it first comes out.

I mean, bloggers end up practically swarming the American Library Association’s annual event, taking along a big suitcase so they can fit in as many review copies as possible — copies really intended for librarians, to help them decide what to order for their own libraries, what to recommend to readers, etc. Some bloggers then go online right after and start selling their ARCs (which if you didn’t know, that’s a big no-no: they’re specifically not legal to be sold).

I mean, I get the appeal, obviously! You get an awesome book before anyone else. I apply or ask for or just receive ARCs in the mail pretty often (mostly apply and ask for, not just get them — or when I do get them, sometimes they’re actually genres I wouldn’t read). Occasionally a publicist will even reach out to me and offer me one! That’s all great. But sometimes… sometimes, guys, I think that book bloggers have lost the plot. ARCs aren’t something we should receive as a right. They cost money to produce, and often a blogger won’t buy a copy of a book they got as an ARC, especially when it’s a print ARC. It can help with buzz, but buzz isn’t sales, and that first couple of weeks is really important for a book — you need readers to be fired up and desperate to get their hands on it!

Often, these days, I think part of it is the “next day delivery” phenomenon (I don’t know about you, but I used to wait a week or two for my book orders, but now I get irrationally annoyed if they take more than a day), the urge to have things right now. Isn’t it an awesome feeling to get it before everyone else?

I don’t know about you, but I’m planning to trying to live more in the moment. I don’t read half the ARCs I’m so grabby about before the book comes out anyway. Let’s get excited about pre-orders again, about reading the book all together the day it’s out instead of on our own months before.

I mean, not that I’m staying off Netgalley or anything. But I’m also not going to whine if I don’t get the book I want. Pinky promise.

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Review – The Testament of Loki

Posted 25 November, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of The Testament of Loki by Joanne HarrisThe Testament of Loki, Joanne Harris

Received to review

I’ve been enjoying Joanne Harris’ Norse myth based works for a while, but this one just seemed a bit too goofy for me, for all that I like the characters and the idea. In this book, after Ragnarok, Loki finds a way out of Chaos through… a mythology-based video game, and then the brain of a teenage girl. He quickly finds that Odin has also found the same way into the world, and of course, Odin also wants to bring his son Thor through, and he’s already found the perfect host for Freyja…

Honestly, the possession bit just freaked me out: Loki’s tendency to take over Jumps (his teenage host) when he feels like it is just squicky to me, while the Aesir in the bodies of teenagers is also a bit cringy. It’s a shame, because Harris’ take has been generally clever, funny and transformative in a good way; her Loki voice is great. But this specific story just really does not work for me.

Rating: 2/5

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 24 November, 2018 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

Hello, everyone! This week I’m away from my bunnies, visiting my grandmother. Here’s a pic of Biscuit back home — hiding out in my pocket while her cage was being cleaned last week!

Bought:

Cover of Life in a Medieval Castle by Francis Gies and Joseph Gies Cover of The Warrior Queen by Joanna Arman Cover of Queen Emma and the Vikings by Harriet O'Brien Cover of The Elements of Murder by John Emsley

Cover of Molecules at an Exhibition by John Emsley Cover of How Long Till Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin Cover of Murder by Matchlight by E.C.R. Lorac Cover of The Luck of the Vails by E.F. Benson

Books read this week:

Cover of Timekeepers by Simon Garfield Cover of Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey Cover of The Testament of Loki by Joanne Harris Cover of The Teamaster and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Reviews posted this week:

Angkor and the Khmer Civilisation, by Michael D. Coe. A scholarly but nonetheless fascinating discussion of the Khmer and particularly Angkor. 3/5 stars
The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle. A response to Lovecraft with some genuinely horrifying bits. 3/5 stars
The Magpie Lord, by K.J. Charles. I really enjoyed the characters, and the mystery is pretty fun too. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussion: Book Club. Are you a book club person? How do you pick a book for a group read?
WWW Wednesday. The weekly update!

Out and about:

NEAT science: ‘Concerning wombats.‘ Did you know that wombats have cube-shaped poop? Well, now you do — and scientists have figured out why, if that interests you.

So how’re you doing? Up to anything good this weekend?

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