Tag: books

Top Ten Tuesday

Posted July 8, 2014 by Nicky in General / 20 Comments

I was bad at participating in this one last week — I did my own post, but I don’t think I commented on any others. I meant to, but stuff kept happening. I feel like a bad book blogger! And on that note, this week’s Top Ten Tuesday is “top ten blogging confessions”.

  1. I’m starting to have trouble getting round to reading longer books/series because I feel like I should be reviewing more often. This was totally encouraged by GR’s reading challenge and stuff like that. I’m trying to be more sensible about it, but it’s strange; I used to rip right through even really long books, but now that I worry about not being able to do so, somehow I have a problem.
  2. Sometimes I equivocate far too much writing a review because people whose opinions I respect liked the book, and I just didn’t. Or an editor/publisher I normally think is great, or want to support, put out the book. Or I know the author a bit on twitter and I’m afraid they’ll find it. (N.B. In that case, I usually go with rating it with my gut feeling, but the review will probably talk about why it wasn’t my thing instead of me saying anything bad about the book itself.)
  3. I find it hard to be social with other book bloggers. I have a pretty broad range of interests, so that makes some meme posts and so on really weird — I might know some of the books they’re reading, but often they won’t know any of mine, or they don’t even venture into whatever genre I’m currently most into. Then I feel awkward and not sure if I’m really having fun interacting, or just doing it to get page views. (Given the number of books I’m finding through blogs, though, I’m pretty sure it’s the former.)
  4. My mother reads my blog. You see “alc3261” commenting? Yeah. Hi, Mum.
  5. I am way, way behind on reading/blogging about ARCs. I really need to have a ban on asking for any more, but as soon as I make that resolution, something awesome shows up.
  6. I don’t like anyone else trying to dictate the content of my blog. So if someone’s publicist sets up an interview with them or something on my blog, I get pretty twitchy when they start saying that I have to link to certain things, say certain things, not say others. Sometimes I’ll work around that (it’s natural to remind me to link to a pre-order page or something!); other times, it might end up making me not want to work with the company again.
  7. I keep starting new books before I’ve finished the old ones. And buying new books, too. Ahem. I’ve been trying to work on this, but honestly having the full list of books I technically have in progress might be putting me off. Time to weed it out?
  8. I have no idea what people will find interesting, most of the time. Like, memes, well, people are doing those, so maybe they’ll provide some relevant content. But when I write about the stuff that really matters to me (mental health, access to reading after sight loss, or my interview with Carrie Patel, just for example), I get fretful about whether it gets hits/comments, etc.
  9. I rarely have more than one post scheduled. I could get really organised and sort out some of my meme posts weeks in advance, but I’ve always been more one to play it by ear. Although I’m doing better at remembering to do this stuff than I ever did at remembering my homework.
  10. I go through phases. I tend to have a fairly cyclical approach to my hobbies. The main five, I guess, are reading, writing, gaming, running, and crochet. I’ve been on more of a reading phase for quite a while now, but writing and gaming are in the ascendent right now. This may mean fewer posts… It probably won’t, though, because reading is always my dominant hobby.

Don’t forget to link me to your TTT posts, people — or anything you’ve written in the last week that you think is interesting and would like some eyes/comments on!

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Review – Behind the Shock Machine

Posted July 7, 2014 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Behind the Shock Machine by Gina PerryBehind the Shock Machine, Gina Perry

I’ve been interested in the Stanley Milgram experiments for a long time — the “obedience to authority” ones, more than anything else, though as Gina Perry pointed out, he did other startling and original research. For example, that idea that you’re only six degrees of separation from someone else? That was his experiment. The one about good will, testing whether people would post letters just left out, and how many would respond based on the addresses on the envelope? Also Milgram.

Anyway, my interest was piqued again more recently by Dar Williams’ song, Buzzer (lyrics), which imagine being a participant in the experiment. It doesn’t matter about the details, how closely they fit what really happened. What matters is this line: “I get it now, I’m the face/I’m the cause of war/we don’t have to blame white-coated men anymore.”

Part of Gina Perry’s focus in this book is unpacking how people felt after they were the subject in the experiments. She met some of them for research, listened to the transcripts and the follow-up interviews, spent hours with the material. And some of them really were traumatised by what happened under the experimental conditions: some of them weren’t ‘dehoaxed’ until months after their participation in the study. They didn’t know that they hadn’t really come anywhere near killing a man. Some of the ethical problems with this study are astounding, and Perry unpacks them nicely.

One of the things I think people find harder with this book is her outlook on Milgram. She started out being an enormous fan of his work: it was only when she dug deeper into it that she began to feel ambivalent, even a little horrified. I wonder if people would feel the same unequivocal admiration for Milgram if they could listen to those transcripts, all of them, and experience the way he went on with the experiments despite the distress of his subjects.

It certainly sounds from this book like Milgram’s results were nowhere near as clear-cut as he presented them. For example, everyone knows that the outcome is that “most” people would obey an authority figure to the point of killing someone — but the fact is that 65% did. That’s still the majority, but that includes people who weren’t sure if the shocks were real or not as well as people who were sure they were real, and it also includes people who protested all the way. It does show the effect of pressure by an authority figure, but the picture is a little less clear than we tend to think.

And then there’s the cherry picking of his results. For example, condition 24 showed only 10% obedience: that was people paired with people they really knew. Authority can’t overcome personal relationships. Milgram never published about condition 24. Despite being a fan of his work, Perry didn’t know anything about it until she found the records, bundled in with those of condition 23.

Given that, it’s astonishing to me that anyone defending Milgram can then claim that Perry is cherry picking her data. At the very least, she provides details of all of the conditions. She ends up with strong personal feelings about the whole situation, but she quotes both from Milgram’s private notes and his published work, showing his doubts, showing that he worried about the welfare of the subjects more than comes through in his published work. After reading one of the first major critiques of his work, he drew a little doodle and wrote beside it, “I feel bad.”

It’s true that Perry has an ideological position on Milgram, but it’s fair to say that from her account, that arises from the depth of her research. I don’t think anyone going into the impact of the experiments could avoid it; she doesn’t claim to be writing a book about the scientific principles, but about the people involved. I think she does a fairly good job of presenting various sides of all of them.

Overall, I found this really fascinating, though I do always keep in mind that non-fiction is no less ideologically charged than any kind of writing. Of course Perry has opinions, and her exploration of these and how they developed during her research are a key part of the book. It’s not the last or only word on Milgram.

Rating: 5/5

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Review – The Moral Landscape

Posted July 6, 2014 by Nicky in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of The Moral Landscape by Sam HarrisThe Moral Landscape, Sam Harris

I’ve had a good go at reading this without any knee-jerk reactions, but generally I find Harris’ views instinctively abhorrent — despite his championing of reason and science, I don’t think he avoids knee-jerk reactions more than anyone else. Particularly when it comes to religion.

The basis thesis that there are optimal states of well-being for humans, I accept. That science will be able to improve our understanding of that, I don’t doubt. That Sam Harris could be the person that executes this moral calculus? That, I can’t countenance. It’s partly an instinctive dislike — I haven’t enjoyed any of his lectures and talks that I’ve watched either — and partly his intolerance of anything he doesn’t understand.

I mean, he claims to be talking about universal states of well-being, and states that there may be multiple ‘peaks’ on the ‘moral landscape’ where the greatest possible well-being can be achieved. In almost the same breath, he dismisses any thought system he can’t understand, particularly if it involves religion.

Perhaps the fact that I’m a Unitarian Universalist makes this so difficult to swallow. I believe that there are many different paths to follow, whether you’re looking for an afterlife, Enlightenment, reincarnation… There are different ways to be good, and it’s hard to measure that. For example, we would accept a person who works with abused children in Britain, who kept their good as their first priority, as a good person. We would also accept a person who teaches children who are living in poverty in another country as good. Which is better? Which more worthy?

I’m not sure I’m being very coherent about this. I’m sure there’s someone waiting to jump on me telling me that Harris is completely coherent, entirely reasonable, etc; most likely some of them will have some sexist comments to make, without being aware of their own hypocrisy. For me, though, I didn’t find Harris’ argument that coherent. He seemed to argue himself round and round a tiny point without ever looking up to see the wider world and put his work in context — every statement seemed to be a reiteration of his core thesis, rather than something which expanded it.

Rating: 1/5

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Review – The Invisible Orientation

Posted July 5, 2014 by Nicky in Reviews / 3 Comments

Cover of The Invisible Orientation by Julie Sondra DeckerThe Invisible Orientation, Julie Sondra Decker

Received to review.

Reviewing this book publicly feels kind of awkward, because I know the fact that I’ve read it is likely to make people ask questions right away. The temptation with something like this is pretty inevitably going to be asking me why I’m interested, to what extent it might align with my own experiences, etc.

To dispose of that in a single paragraph: I have no interest in sex for physical gratification. I do have a partner, and whatever we may do is between the two of us and no one else’s business. Certainly I’ve had some of the experiences mentioned in this book: wondering what is “wrong” with me that I’m not interested, being told that my disinterest can be “fixed” (sometimes quite forcefully), being told that it’s down to my medication/mental illness, etc.

So, to the extent that any single person can identify with a book about a broad issue, this book is “about me”. If you’re now feeling curious about all this, I would ask you first not to ask me questions but to read this book and the book I’m currently reviewing. Then, maybe, we can talk.

Speaking more generally, this is a pretty awesome book for acknowledging the sheer breadth of human experience. It acknowledges all sorts of levels of interest in sex and romance, all sorts of orientations on the spectrum of attraction. I know one of my friends who identifies as demisexual also found this a useful resource. It can be a means of finding information, whether you’re asexual or not; it can also be a means of finding validation, of finding a measured and sensible voice telling you that there’s nothing wrong with you, you’re not strange, there are people out there like you.

The problem is that people who are opposed to the idea right away probably won’t read this, or if they do won’t be convinced by it; that’s definitely not the book’s fault, just that issue that people much prefer things that confirm their pre-existing bias. It’s worth trying, though — you never know what’s going to get through and change someone’s mind, even your own mind.

Rating: 5/5

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted July 5, 2014 by Nicky in General / 28 Comments

A friend of mine recently said to me that having these book haul posts might make us all more inclined to buy books than we’d normally be. I’m not sure I disagree… but it’s fun anyway, so nyah. So here’s my usual Stacking the Shelves post. This week is brought to you by a spree in The Works — for non-Brits, that’s a store that sells a somewhat random selection of books for way under the recommended retail price. Sometimes they have nothing you want, sometimes a whole bunch. Right now they’re doing a “six books for £10” thing, so I bought a bunch of books this week and I have some ordered from them too…

The rest is courtesy of doing a job for my mother and being paid with a Kobo voucher, and my partner nursing me through the disappointment of being unable to give blood again with a little something on top of that.

Fiction (bought)

Cover of Hyperion by Dan Simmons Cover of Saturn's Children by Charles Stross Cover of Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross Cover of Katharine, the Virgin Queen, by Jean Plaidy Cover of The Shadow of the Pomegranate by Jean Plaidy Cover of Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck Wendig

Hyperion is in the SF Masterworks series, so it’ll go towards a goal I have of reading more of those. Jean Plaidy is partially interest in historical fiction, partly research for a dream thesis of mine about medieval queens and the way they’re portrayed in fiction. And Wendig’s book I got because I got the sequel for review…

Cover of Blightborn by Chuck Wendig

Non-fiction (bought)

Cover of Planets by Dava Sobel Cover of The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker Cover of Behind the Shock Machine by Gina Perry Cover of The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge

I’ve actually already read that last one, and wasn’t impressed. Steven Pinker, I’m reading one of his books on language and I’m enjoying it, and the book about the Milgram experiments… it’s a subject that’s always fascinated me — both the results of the experiments and the emotional brutality of them.

Non-fiction (for review)

Cover of Black and Brown Planets Cover of Death, Disability and the Superhero

Both of these are on ‘read now’ on Netgalley, if they sound interesting to you. I’m really looking forward to reading these; I think queer theory’s been comfortably extended in superhero fiction, but I hadn’t seen anything from the lens of disability studies, and with Vox Day waxing racist about N.K. Jemisin, and various other things like that going on, science fiction fandom deserves a look through a lens of race discussions.

I also got a bunch of audiobooks — some Iain M. Banks, some Ngaio Marsh, and one Trudi Canavan — also from The Works, in an amazing deal: three audiobooks for £10. It’s mostly crime and stuff, but it’s worth checking out if that might be interesting to you.

Recap of a couple of hopefully interesting posts on the blog this week from me:
Mental Health Awareness Month: GAD and me
Interview with Carrie Patel (plus giveaway)

What’s anyone else been up to? What’s anyone been buying?

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Review – The Righteous Mind

Posted July 4, 2014 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Righteous by Jonathan HaidtThe Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt

Haidt’s The Righteous Mind is a really fascinating book. I don’t know where you’d categorise it — I’ve read people saying moral psychology, political philosophy, sociology, anthropology… As far as I can gather, Haidt gathers up research and thought from different fields in setting out this book. And what does he seek to explore? Well, not so much “why good people are divided by politics and religion”, as the subtitle would have it, but the more fundamental question: why do people make different moral decisions with the same information?

He pulls in a lot of research as he goes through this. The fact that disgust makes people more conservative; if you can portray something as dirty (Jewish people, gay people, whatever kind of sex you disapprove of, people of colour, people with disabilities) then you’re halfway to calling it immoral already. Particularly for people who tend to be more conservative anyway. In fact, more easily disgusted people are usually more politically and socially conservative. (I’m an aberration; now I think about it, I wonder if that’s because I have obsessive-compulsive tendencies causing my fear of germs and disgust responses, rather than actually thinking that way naturally.)

A lot of this, I’ve come across before, but not synthesised into a full theory like this. (Paul Bloom uses a lot of the same ideas, for example. Particularly in his Coursera course on Moralities of Everyday Life). Mostly, it worked for me. Some of Haidt’s analogies and examples are a little clunky. The elephant (emotion)/rider (rationality) metaphor gets increasingly ridiculous the more he uses it, despite the aptness of the metaphor in some ways. Likewise the ‘taste receptor’ analogy for moral issues. I don’t know how much he tested this out on people outside his field, but I think he does need to look for feedback on his imagery.

I tried to watch myself for knee-jerk reactions while reading this. Reading other reviews made me smile wryly, as other people reacted immediately to what they perceived as the thrust of Haidt’s argument without reasoning it through. The fact that Haidt divides morality up into six regions which are more or less relevant to every culture really annoys people right off, particularly when he then shows that research has liberals focusing on three of these areas while conservatives focus on all six. As a matter of fact, Haidt seems to hold fairly liberal views himself. He’s not criticising the goals of the liberal movement so much as a short sightedness that’s preventing liberal politicians making the gains they could.

It’s basically a validation of the positive sides of conservative and libertarian ethics. It’s mostly an American Democrat writing about American Republicans, and trying to uncover the way they think and the reasonable basis for their beliefs and moral decisions.

What I don’t think he’s doing is saying that liberalism is bad, that conservatism is automatically the answer, or that the core values of liberalism are wrong. He’s looking at the positive aspects of both sides, seeing them as a yin and yang system, rather than diametrically opposed systems on their own.

I’m gonna confess that my politics probably fall fairly close to Haidt’s, so I’m not the best person to pick holes in his argument. To me, some of it felt clumsy due to the imagery he employed, but most of it made sense. I’m now reading Sam Harris, who advocates reason and scientifically proven morality, which doesn’t fit into Haidt’s system well at all. I’m looking forward to seeing how that goes.

I will just note that from this, Haidt is capable of considering other people’s views. He makes a good response to Dawkins’ atheism, for example, and does a good job of laying out Dawkins’ position. Harris, on the other hand… This may be me projecting, but he has a kind of arrogance in the way he writes (and in the way he speaks — I’ve watched both of them lecture) that turns me off. I’m having a very hard time not knee-jerking in response.

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday Thoughts

Posted July 3, 2014 by Nicky in General / 4 Comments

Today’s Thursday Thoughts (hosted by Ok, Let’s Read) are on “reading conditions”. Taking a tiny snippet of that post to start me off: Do you love rain when you’re reading? Are you able to listen to music while reading? If so, how?! I can’t for the life of me do that. Are you the kind of person who falls asleep while reading? What time of day do you read?

I like the sound of rain in general, but it does add a special cosiness to reading. It can cover up traffic noise, dogs barking, etc, and just surround you in a cocoon of noise that doesn’t demand your attention. For a morning in bed with a book, there’s nothing better. I like it in a car, too, when I’m a passenger, though then it makes me sleepy and makes it harder to focus on reading!

I only listen to music while reading when there’s something I need to block out. Like that dog barking. Generally I pick something unobtrusive by virtue of being very familiar but not too beloved: Sarah McLachlan works because I can let that just be soothing sound, but Dar Williams doesn’t because I want to sing along. Soundtrack music isn’t always helpful — the Captain America or Lord of the Rings soundtracks are too distinctive, somehow. The Mass Effect 2 soundtrack worked well, though.

I can’t fall asleep while reading. I sometimes get to the point where I can barely keep my eyes open, and I have fallen asleep with a book or my ereader on my chest, but there’s always a moment where I realise I’m too sleepy, and close the book before I close my eyes.

Otherwise, I read anytime, anywhere. I read while standing up at the eye clinic I volunteer at; I read in bed before I sleep; I read with my feet curled under me on my sofa; I read standing up by my shelves because a book hooked me in fast; I read while I’m chatting on my computer. Kobo actually has badges/awards for reading multiple times at various times of the day, and I have them all, even the late night/early morning ones.

When I was a kid, I always wanted to read, even when we were seeing family I hadn’t seen in ages. Guess I always had a very easily drained social battery. Anyway, there’d inevitably come a time when I’d go and seek out my quiet spot — and I was a creature of habit, it didn’t vary. At my nan’s house, it’d be the front room. That was often a little bit cold so there’d be huddling, and eventually I’d usually ask for the gas fire to be put on. Then I’d toast myself thoroughly. The good part of that — quite aside from eating up all the books I had with me — was that my nan’s dog would come on through looking for me after a while and often stay, putting his head on my feet to encourage me to stay put. (Mum says they could tell he was looking for me, because he’d push on the door to the passage between the rooms until someone let him through. He didn’t go to the front room if I wasn’t there.)

At Grandma and Grandad’s house, my place of refuge was the stairs. It was kinda close enough to hear people talking in a general buzz, but not so it was distracting. I got a lot read there. When I was being disturbed too often, I sometimes hid myself in their shower room. It was tiny, but so was I.

Actually, I quite liked stairs at home, too. There used to be a kind of magic in stacking up a bunch of Enid Blyton books and reading my way up and down the stairs. Read a chapter? Down a step. (Or up.)

I don’t really have any habits like that anymore. I just read whenever I can snatch a minute, which doesn’t always work well on the bus (I get travel sick easily). I used to read in school under the desk in maths, because that’s where I could get away with it (sorry, Mr Carter). I’d read while walking between classes if I could.

In short, reading conditions: preferably continuous and uninterrupted. Comfort optional.

(N.B. Due to the number of posts already today, I’m not going to do a Throwback Thursday post this week.)

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Blog tour: Carrie Patel’s The Buried Life

Posted July 3, 2014 by Nicky in Giveaways, Interviews / 4 Comments

People who already know my blog will know I’ve been excited about this book for a while, because I was involvedPhoto of author Carrie Patel, smiling (very tangentially) in acquiring it at Angry Robot (read all about it!). I’m amazed by how fast the actual release has come around: it doesn’t seem like that long since I met the team. Anyway, when the blog tour for The Buried Life was announced, of course I asked for a slot — I’ve championed the book since the start! (My review will arrive shortly. I intended it to be ready by yesterday, and then I somehow missed that it is now July. To prove that, I just typed “June”, the first time.)

So here’s Carrie Patel, graciously answering my chatty nosy questions!

Hi Carrie, it’s great to have you touring on my blog. I voted for The Buried Life in the acquisitions meeting I attended back in October, so it’s exciting to see it all ready to hit the shelves. It feels like it’s been no time at all, to me, but how’s it been for you?
Did you have to spend much time editing and tweaking it? Does it feel real yet?

Hi Nikki! Thanks so much for hosting me! The last several months have been busy and exciting—between getting ready for this release and working on the next book, the time has definitely flown. Fortunately, The Buried Life didn’t require too many edits, so I’ve been able to focus on writing the sequel. It’s still pretty surreal, though—I attended my first convention as a speaker last weekend, and sitting on the other side of the table felt unreal!

After my visit to Angry Robot, people were very keen to know things like how much input authors have into the cover designs of their books. I don’t actually know the answers, so what’s that whole process been like for you? Did you make any suggestions, or did it just appear like magic?

It’s funny that you ask, because it seems that the question of cover design comes up a lot. At the start of the process, Angry Robot asked me for any particular styles, images, Cover of The Buried Life by Carrie Pateland comparable book covers that would fit with the story and the atmosphere of The Buried Life. As I understand it, that’s unusually collaborative—many authors don’t get any input on cover design.

So, I sent Angry Robot a hodgepodge of images and reference covers that seemed to evoke a certain tone. My main request was not to feature the main characters on the cover. I don’t have an incredibly specific sense of visual aesthetics—I was more looking for something that hit the right mood or conveyed a certain atmosphere—but John Coulthart’s cover art was exactly what I was hoping for.

I know this is your first (published?) novel, so I just wondered how  long that process has been for you. Were you always gonna write, or did The Buried Life knock on your door and take you by surprise? How many hoops have you had to jump through?

I always wanted to write a novel, but The Buried Life took me by surprise. I’d played around with a few concepts before, but none of them had really stuck. Writing The Buried Life began as a kind of progressive experiment—the first draft was a challenge to see if I could finish a book, and each new revision was a test to see if I could fix it up for publication.

The revisions were probably the most important part of the process, and I learned a lot from having to analyse and edit my work like that. All in all, the process took a few years, but a lot of that was just time between revisions, which allowed me to come back to my drafts with fresh eyes and a new perspective. I wouldn’t want to take that long on future books, but the first time around, it was certainly useful.

Is there a character in it who you’d like to be more like? Or maybe even less like?

My husband (rightly) accuses me of being a little too type-A, which is a very “Malone” quality. I’m goal-oriented by nature, so I can sometimes lose sight of other things when I zero in on a goal. I’d love to be more like Sundar! He’s driven but kind, and he maintains a sense of humour in the face of adversity. He’s perceptive about people because he’s genuinely interested in them.

When I’m writing, I know that things sometimes come together in ways I wasn’t expecting. Did you have anything like that? What surprised you most while you were working on it?

The manner in which Jane’s and Malone’s stories came together and commented on one another surprised me. I always wanted to write them both as protagonists and perspective characters, but I don’t think I realized until I was well into the process how different the two characters really were and how much that affected their respective conclusions at the end of the story. I love perspective and the idea that two people recounting the same set of events can tell completely different stories, and that came through for these two characters in a surprising way.

What’s the most difficult part of writing, for you? Is it something in the process of writing (getting started, editing, letting other people see it) or is it on a narrative level (being mean to your characters, not letting them run away with the plot…)?

Getting a good plot foundation can be difficult, and yet I often have a hard time pushing forward with a book like The Buried Life (or its in-progress sequel) until I have that. I take lots of notes and make spreadsheets of characters, motivations, events, and themes, but there comes a point at which I’ve written just about all I can about the story without actually having written it. Figuring out what’s missing and how to plug a gap in the plot, or give a character a more solid motivation, can be difficult.

What media has influenced you in your writing? From just making you want to write to something that sparked some of the themes and ideas in The Buried Life — I’m interested in any kind of influence, and obviously I know you’re a narrative designer, so it certainly doesn’t have to be books.

Books were the biggest (and first) influence for me. When I was in school, I couldn’t go anywhere without one. I’d read on the school bus, in the car, and at restaurants if my parents let me get away with it. I did get in trouble (at least once) for reading under my desk during class. While I’ve enjoyed stories in many media, novels have been the most significant influence, and certainly the one that pushed me to write The Buried Life. There’s something uniquely personal about novels and the experience of reading them.

I don’t know how many people read the acknowledgements pages of novels, but I always like to. So who’s behind you, behind The Buried Life, who have you really got to thank for getting this far?

My husband, Hiren Patel, has been immensely supportive of my writing. His encouragement, and his focus in his own work, has pushed me to keep improving mine. Also, I might never have finished the first draft without Josh Sabio and Will Moser, two friends of mine who read it in college as I was working on it. Knowing that someone was waiting to read my draft was a huge motivation.

When I got more serious about revisions, my critique partners, Jacqui Talbot, Michael Robertson, and Bill Stiteler, were great about offering the feedback I needed to get The Buried Life the rest of the way there. I’d thank my agent, Jennie Goloboy, and the Angry Robot team, including Lee Harris, Mike Underwood, Marc Gascoigne, and Caroline Lambe, for taking a chance on a debut.

Finally, I thank my family—my parents, Richard and Jackie, and my sisters, Julie and Sydney—for their love and support.

Six word blurb of The Buried Life for newbies. Go!

Sinister conspiracy in an underground city.

Thank you for answering my questions, and I hope you have a whale of a time promoting The Buried Life. Congratulations!

Thank you so much! It’s been a delight to have you along from the beginning of this crazy ride!

So, everyone: don’t forget that The Buried Life is coming out in August. Preorders are a great push for any book, and you might want to consider doing that through an indie bookstore. Once it’s out, it’ll be available DRM free through Angry Robot, but also on major ebook sites for convenience.

One of the great things about Angry Robot (and Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A, when we still had them) is their willingness to take on debut authors. Let’s give them no cause to regret it!

In the meantime, I have my own copy already, so here’s another giveaway — comment here with a link to somewhere you’ve promoted this blog post (twitter, your own blog, facebook, tumblr, any mention counts) and you get an entry. On the day the book is released, I’ll draw a winner and buy them a copy via The Book Depository (or a retailer of your choosing that can take my order and deliver it to you). If there’s significant interest, I’ll pick two winners, so you increase your chances by spreading this to a wider pool of people.

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Review – The Brain That Changes Itself

Posted July 3, 2014 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman DoidgeThe Brain That Changes Itself, Norman Doidge

Content note: discusses some examples you may interpret as animal cruelty.

I have pretty mixed feelings about this book. My main response, I guess, is “read with caution”. There are some parts which are reasonable, well-founded, and which don’t seem to be driven by any bias. Talking about the ways to help people recover from strokes would fall under this category; I was actually a bit surprised that all of the information about brain maps, and the brain’s “use it or lose it” approach to neuronal real estate, was actually considered surprising or controversial. I thought that aspect of neurobiology was fairly clear to people in this day and age. Certainly, the idea that you can expand areas of your brain by using them, and lose abilities by not practicing them, seemed to me obvious. The book was written in 2007, so I expected an understanding of brain plasticity to be the norm, not the underdog.

Read More

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted July 2, 2014 by Nicky in General / 0 Comments

Responses to emails and posts and such still pending. Sorry. On the bright side, emails have gone out to all the winners of my Strange Chemistry/Exhibit A giveaway, and all the books are ordered apart from one, so at least I’m doing something.

What have you recently finished reading?
The Brain That Changes Itself (Norman Doidge), which was… very problematic for me. Full review will be on the blog tomorrow, but I found some of his attitudes repugnant, despite how interesting the actual topic is for me.

What are you currently reading?
Many things, as usual, but most notably The Righteous Mind (Jonathan Haidt), which is very interesting so far. It’s actually an expansion of concepts I came across in my moralities class on Coursera, with a lot of overlap with things the professor of that course, Paul Bloom, already mentioned. But it’s nice to read it laid out in such a detailed way, and from another perspective. I haven’t knee-jerked yet, but I can confirm I am definitely very WEIRD (White, educated, industrialised, rich, democratic) in my responses to this kind of thing: of the various moral “receptors” Haidt mentions, I am most pinged by care/harm, and least affected by sanctity/degradation — although I also lack some other interesting features (for example, people who are easily disgusted tend to be politically, socially, etc, conservative: I’m very much a liberal) which are more universal.

And second most actively, Evil Dark (Justin Gustainis). I wasn’t incredibly won over by the first book, despite finding it fun. It’s a bit tropey. I mean, there’s even a fridged wife. But the detective character is actually showing some ability to adapt to changing situations, even when it goes against his deeply held feelings, so I’m intrigued by that.

I’ve also started, if barely, Kameron Hurley’s new book, The Mirror Empire. So far, there’s too much to hold in my head to have made any like/dislike decision yet. I’m intrigued by the gender system and how that works grammatically and socially in this world.

What will you read next?
I’m planning to read The Moral Landscape (Sam Harris), as his views are often touted as the opposite of Haidt’s. (This is another thing that makes me somewhat odd: I have not decided based on the fact that I like Haidt so far that I will dislike Sam Harris; I know he’s considered intelligent and thus will give him a chance.)

Other than that, no plans. I would say I’m somewhat limited by the books I brought with me on my visit to my parents’, but I have my Kobo with me and that’s stocked up like you wouldn’t believe, so that’s not really true. Still, I’m trying to limit myself to the books I’ve brought here or left here before. Some Ngaio Marsh is likely on the horizon.

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