Tag: books

Stacking the Shelves

Posted September 6, 2014 by in General / 34 Comments

Stacking the Shelves time! I know I keep saying each week is going to be more conservative, etc, etc, and I guess I’m not doing too badly on that. I only bought three books…

Cover of My Soul To Keep by Tananarive Due Cover of The Servants, by Michael Marshall Smith Cover of Maplecroft by Cherie Priest

Yessss finally got Maplecroft. And then a book linked to one of my Coursera courses arrived too — I pre-ordered it somewhere back in August…

Cover of A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Harari

…Which should be very interesting. And then I happened to drop by the charity shop to see if they’re looking for anything in particular to sell at the moment. They’re not, but they were looking to unload some of their books that people weren’t buying…

Cover of A Game of Thrones by G.R.R. Martin Cover of The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan Cover of House of Suns

Cover of Virolution by Frank Ryan Cover of Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

Yep, those first three are ones people have been nagging me to read for ages. Technically I already had The Eye of the World in my Hugo Voters’ Packet, but this was free, so, eh.

And finally, of course, I got some review copies.

Cover of Rewire Your Anxious Brain Cover of Shadow Memories by Nicholas Erik Cover of The Crochet Answer Book

Cover of Ancestors in Our Genome Cover of Willful Child by Steven Erikson

Non-fiction, mostly! Or it was until I got approved for Willful Child. I’m gonna probably flick through Rewire Your Anxious Brain and review it briefly: I want to know if it’s something genuinely useful or something fluffy and unscientific. I’m guessing it will be pretty scientific given the authors’ qualifications, but you can have a PhD in a lot of things, so it’s not sure and certain.

What’s everyone else been getting? And here’s a goal for next week: no more than three books in my post. That might get spoilt if people suddenly decide to grant old Netgalley requests, but we’ll see!

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Review – The Sorcerer's House

Posted September 5, 2014 by in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Sorcerer's House by Gene WolfeThe Sorcerer’s House,Gene Wolfe

I picked this up to read a couple of chapters, and ended up staying up to finish it. It’s deceptively simple to read, to just race through: epistolary novel, check; unreliable narrator, check; creepy twins and doors to Faerie, check. It’s Gene Wolfe, though, so you can bet it’s not as simple as that, and reading other reviews — particularly Neil Gaiman’s, to whom the book is dedicated — showed me I missed a few tricks. Which is fine: I like books with rereadability, even if I’m not really inclined to reread this one in particular. If you can craft a book so it reveals more of itself over time, that’s good going, in my books.

Obviously, everything I said about the narration is true. It is an epistolary novel, with a central character who has a very distinct character-set. He can turn his life story around so that you pity him or hate him, cast him as the villain or pity him as one who has been cast in that role, and I think that’s entirely intentional. It’s not that he’s unintentionally creepy. I actually found the character to be more so than the supernatural events around him — a certain lack of affect, the feeling that something’s come loose inside this guy.

I’m not overwhelmed with the treatment of women in this book — every woman wants to sleep with Our Hero, for example, and quickly opens up to him, and I don’t see why. He’s not charming, he’s unsettling. But maybe that’s because we see him through his own report of himself to his brother… I don’t know. I’m not a fan, anyway. Even if it works for the character, I could have done with a female character who really stood out.

I do think the narration is very clever, the way Wolfe makes the epistolary novel work for him, and works around situations where there might be some difficulty with the form in a way that… well, it seems contrived, but it also fits the world and characters.

Worth a try, I think, though I probably agree with other reviewers that it’s not Gene Wolfe’s best.

Rating: 3/5

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Thursday Thoughts: Audiobooks

Posted September 4, 2014 by in General / 15 Comments

Aaaaand this week’s theme from Ok, Let’s Read:

Do you listen to audiobooks/Have you listened to an audiobook in the past? What books? Do you enjoy audiobooks? Why or why not? Are there certain genres that you feel might lend themselves better to being read in audiobook form?

Audiobooks! I love listening to audiobooks, particularly while I’m crocheting or doing something else that similarly occupies my hands but not (too much of) my mind. For a long time I was just listening to the BBC adaptations of Dorothy L. Sayers’ work, and the mammoth set that is The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: I’m now supplementing that with a bit of Ngaio Marsh read by Benedict Cumberbatch, and I have some other books on the queue: some Iain (M.) Banks, one of Chris Holm’s, Trudi Canavan… I love the BBC audioplays of most things best: they do great casting, and they have a great range of stuff. My favourite was probably the adaptation of The Dark is Rising. It’s different, but I can accept that, because that’s what adaptations have to do. (Same reason as I reluctantly accept Faramir being less noble in The Lord of the Rings movie, because the reasoning makes sense. Also why I accept that some people will enjoy The Hobbit film, but I don’t: it’s an adaptation, and I can accept why they’ve done it that way, it just doesn’t work for me.)

So yeah, right now I’m listening to Artists in Crime (Ngaio Marsh) and Dead Harvest (Chris F. Holm). I’m struggling a little bit with Dead Harvest, even though I love the novel itself: it’s not abridged, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about the narrator at first, though by now I’ve decided he sounds perfect. Just a pity he doesn’t change his voice a little when Sam changes bodies…

The downsides to audiobooks for me, really, are when I disagree with the adaptation, the choice of narrator, the abridgement, etc. Also the pace: I’m a fast reader, and in the time it took the narrator to get to chapter three in Dead Harvest, I could’ve been on chapter ten by myself. Still, it’s a different medium and I try to enjoy it for what it is.

In terms of genres, no, I don’t think there’s a particular genre that lends itself to the form. I do think there’re styles that do, though: something with a lot of dialogue, and less by way of visual description, or with a good first person narrator, for example. So much depends on how the adaptation is done.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted September 3, 2014 by in General / 0 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?
The Hidden Landscape (Richard Fortey), which is gorgeous even though it’s about geology, a subject I care very little about. I think he could actually make me interested in gardening, a subject which I often point out to Grandma I know less than nothing about except I guess I know plant biology.

What are you currently reading?
I’m in a bit of a slump, actually, which makes all my ARCs and review copies a little awkward. Still, I’ve got Dead Harvest (Chris F. Holm) on the go as an audiobook, and Manon Lescaut (Abbé Prévost) has been loaded onto my ereader ready for a class. I think I’m 10% of the way through that? So yeah, not too bad, though I know the plot basically because of the reference in Clouds of Witness (Dorothy L. Sayers).

Oh, there is also We Are Here (Michael Marshall), which I’m enjoying in a slowly-unravelling sort of way. I like Michael Marshall (Smith)’s writing in general, so. There’s also Black Unicorn and Book of Skulls, still, which I probably mentioned last week, and The Toll-Gate (Georgette Heyer). As you can see, I’m not taking the reading slump lying down…

What will you read next?
For one of my Coursera classes, I need to reread Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), so that’s most likely what I’ll do. I also have a biography of the Brontes out of the library, so maybe I’ll read that too.

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Review – The Hidden Landscape

Posted September 3, 2014 by in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Hidden Landscape by Richard ForteyThe Hidden Landscape, Richard Fortey

Geology is not my thing, generally — in fact, aside from one other book, which was by Richard Fortey as well, I’ve generally found it quite boring. The attraction here is Fortey’s writing, which is clear and passionate. Beautiful, even. Most of that is the sheer enthusiasm and inventiveness with which he treats his subject: metaphors and vivid descriptions abound, even as he’s being very clear about the geological forces at work and what the features of the landscape mean.

Unlike Earth: An Intimate History, this book discusses solely the geology of the British Isles. It touches on most areas as it does so, going through Scotland and Wales, Cornwall, East Anglia, some of the small islands offshore… It’s not an exhaustive list, of course, but it goes from the oldest rocks of our islands to the newest, discussing their formation and weathering, and what that means for the landscape and the future. It might be surprising that even in a book originally published twenty years ago, there’s a lot of discussion of the potential of climate change to completely alter our landscape, but I think that’s because it takes a long view (necessarily so!). Whether climate change is man-made or not isn’t important: it happens, either way, and part of the story of geology is climate change.

Honestly, I take away as little understanding of schists, gneisses and nappes as I started with; it’s the kind of information that won’t stick in my head. But I enjoy the way Fortey presents it, and so thoroughly enjoyed it even knowing I’m not going to retain the information.

Rating: 4/5

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted September 2, 2014 by in General / 4 Comments

This week’s theme from The Broke and the Bookish is apparently the back to school edition: top ten characters I’d have sitting at my lunch table. Given I was the deeply unpopular kid in a tiny school, I rarely ended up sitting with anybody except the other deeply unpopular kid, so I’ll choose to believe that I get to pick who is at my table and they can’t say no, even if they’re way cooler than me.

  1. Mori, from Among Others. Because she actually is one of the less popular ones, and we have a lot in common.
  2. Bran, from The Dark is Rising. Because being Welsh and an outcast, he has plenty in common with me and Mori.
  3. Cath, from Fangirl. I haven’t actually read all of this yet, but Cath’s anxiety issues and fangirlishness mean we have plenty in common too.
  4. Harriet Vane, from Dorothy L. Sayers’ Peter Wimsey Mysteries. Because omg, Harriet.
  5. Peter Wimsey, from Dorothy L. Sayers’ Peter Wimsey Mysteries. Because he’d be hilarious and wouldn’t give a fig about me being unpopular.
  6. Steve Rogers, from Captain America. In skinny!Steve mode, he fits in with this group pretty well. Post-serum, he’d sit with us anyway because arbitrary stuff about cool/uncool people is not fun.
  7. Bucky Barnes, from Captain America. Because how exactly you’d have Steve without Bucky following somewhere behind, I don’t know.
  8. Peeta Mellark, from The Hunger Games. Because he seems pretty nice.
  9. Katniss Everdeen, from The Hunger Games. Silent, glaring, and sticking close to Peeta.
  10. Susan Pevensie, from The Chronicles of Narnia. Because she gets a raw deal from her family in the end, who dismiss her for not fitting in with the rest of them. God knows I don’t have much in common with Susan, but she went to Narnia once. She must be a good person.

Okay, what’s everyone else thought of that will undoubtedly make my list look uncool?

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted August 30, 2014 by in General / 44 Comments

I’m trying not to buy too many books, still, despite my book ban being over. That did not stop me from going to the library and picking up a new book/one with a voucher… Time for Stacking the Shelves a la Tynga’s Reviews!

Fiction (bought)

Cover of Lock In by John Scalzi Cover of Dreamwalker by J D Oswald

I didn’t intend to pounce on Lock In when it came out, but I spotted it in the shop today, so I thought I might as well pick it up. As for Dreamwalker, it involves dragons, so, hey! Plus, free voucher because I filled my stamp card, so.

Fiction (library)

Cover of Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock Cover of We Are Here by Michael Marshall Cover of The Sorcerer's House by Gene Wolfe

Cover of Homer's Odyssey by Simon Armitage Cover of Radio Free Albemuth by Philip K Dick Cover of Timescape by Gregory Benford

Cover of Black Unicorn by Tanith Lee Cover of Book of Skulls by Robert Silverberg

Various things for various challenges, here, plus some I’ve been meaning to read for a while — I like Michael Marshall’s SF, and I love Gene Wolfe in general. Simon Armitage’s work is generally awesome, too. All in all, pleased with this library haul.

Library (non-fiction)

Cover of the Selfish Genius by Fern Elsdon-Baker Cover of The Hidden Landscape by Richard Fortey Cover of Eating the Sun, by Oliver Morton

Cover of On My Way to Jorvik by John Sunderland

While Dawkins has more business commenting about biology and genetics than he does about babies with Down’s syndrome or religion, it’s interesting to see someone challenge some of his ideas. I already reviewed that one here. And of course, I just really enjoy the way Fortey writes.

Review copies

Cover of Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton Cover of Poisoned Pearls by Leah Cutter

I’ve been hoping for Unspeakable for a while, so thanks to Little, Brown for that! Poisoned Pearls came via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program, which is always awesome. Thank you to them and to Book View Cafe! I think I’ve read something else by Leah Cutter and quite enjoyed it…

What’s anyone else been getting their hands on?

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Review – The Selfish Genius

Posted August 29, 2014 by in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of the Selfish Genius by Fern Elsdon-BakerThe Selfish Genius, Fern Elsdon-Baker

If you’re looking for pure drama, sorry, the title is just intended to be flippant. If you’re looking for a genuine, in depth critique of Dawkins’ work and public persona — everything from his published research to his way of communicating with the public to his attitude in The God Delusion — then you might well enjoy this. Fern Elsdon-Baker has a scientific background and is an atheist, and has some fairly large bones to pick with Dawkins, while acknowledging at the same time his work in the field, his intelligence, and the accessibility of his popular science books.

Mostly, Elsdon-Baker respects Dawkins, and just disagrees with the way he chooses to express himself, pointing out that he often acts as though science is right now, rather than a subject which is always growing and making new discoveries. There’s some critique of his actual ideas as well, though, and this isn’t some kind of tone argument — Elsdon-Baker firmly believes that there is a correct way to communicate science to the public, and Dawkins isn’t doing it.

The writing is clear, and Elsdon-Baker makes it constantly clear on what grounds she criticises Dawkins, on the background to the various issues discussed, and the fact that this is an opinion, and most of it is not factual. I enjoyed reading it, and not just because I think it’s high time someone criticised Dawkins professionally and thoroughly.

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday Thoughts: Social Media

Posted August 28, 2014 by in General / 9 Comments

Today’s Thursday Thoughts from Ok, Let’s Read is about social media:

Have you ever connected with an author through social media? Do you think it’s important to have things like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as a blogger, reviewer or author? Why or why not? How do you think social media has progressed and changed the bookish world in recent years? And, now for a fun question: Are there any authors who’s Twitter feed you just can’t get enough of?

I have connected with authors through social media, quite a lot. I tend to follow authors I like or who say interesting things on Twitter, so I do actually discover new books through Twitter sometimes. I met Jo Walton through LiveJournal, and after a couple of years chatting on there, I met her in person a couple of weeks ago and spent the day with her and a lot of other people. So that was pretty cool. I’ve also got some authors on Facebook and stuff like that — Chris F. Holm is on my FB list after he linked to a post here and kindly added me so I can read the discussion, and I follow him on Twitter, etc. It can be a really good tool for just getting brief but meaningful and non-stressful interactions with authors: I’ve had back and forths with Saladin Ahmed, Kameron Hurley, Joanne Harris, Nnedi Okorafor, N.K. Jemisin… It’s great. Some interactions have been more positive than others (Nnedi Okorafor and I didn’t completely get on), but it’s always interesting.

I think it helps to have at least one social media account, to boost your profile a bit and give you another medium to talk, maybe less formally than in a blog post. Instagram seems less important to me, and I’m not a big fan of Facebook, but Twitter and the ability for people to RT my reviews is great, plus there’s plenty of competitions for ARCs and so on that go on via social media. Goodreads and LibraryThing are also good ways to connect with other book reviewers, and a lot of the reviewers I follow are still on those platforms — I transitioned to my own blog because I disagree with some GR policies, and didn’t want them to have my content exclusively, plus it wasn’t a good place for posts like this. It’s also better to have your own blog for getting ARCs, and you can’t really do blog tours on GR or LT, so there’s that as well.

It does change the way the book world works in some ways, for those who do interact with authors on social media, and for authors who interact on social media. Sometimes I think authors do themselves a disservice by airing their opinions hastily (or sometimes at all) on Twitter. Sometimes authors really promote their work that way, though.

As for authors whose Twitter feeds I can’t get enough of, there’s obviously John Scalzi, who is usually smart and pretty much always hilarious, and Kameron Hurley, because I enjoy her blog posts and her thoughts on pretty much everything. N.K. Jemisin often has smart things to say and interesting links, too.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted August 28, 2014 by in General / 0 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?
The Selfish Genius (Fern Elsdon-Baker). It critiques Richard Dawkins from the point of view of another scientist who is also an atheist, which makes it quite interesting — the title is meant to be just a glib reference rather than a particularly accusation. I need to write a review of this, but I’m going to mull it over a bit longer first.

What are you currently reading?
As usual, way too much. I most recently picked up We Are Here, a thriller by Michael Marshall; I’ve read some of his SF before, but not his thrillers. So far, I’m enjoying the writing style, but I don’t know how much I’m going to like the thing as a whole.

There’s also Black Unicorn (Tanith Lee), which is, shockingly, my first Tanith Lee read. I’m intrigued so far. It’s quite short, so no doubt I’ll finish it soon.

What will you read next?
Well, I got a book on photosynthesis and its importance for/impact on our world today — Eating the Sun (Oliver Morton) — which, along with my books on genetics, prompted my dad to suggest I must be planning to create Groot and Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy. So just for that, I think that might be up next.

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