Tag: books


DNF Review – A Little History of Science

Posted 21 January, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 3 Comments

Cover of A Little History of Science by William F BynumA Little History of Science, W.F. Bynum

If you don’t actually know much about the history of science, this book might well be for you; for me, it was painfully obvious, hitting exactly the topics I expected, skimming over what I expected it to skim. A worse crime, however, is that the author simply wasn’t accurate: if you’re going to write a non-fiction book, it’s important to make sure you don’t speak beyond your research.

It does not take much research to find out that Egyptian hieroglyphs and Chinese characters are not pictographic representations of language. (To be perfectly accurate, some of the characters echo in form the thing they name; a cow head shape might mean the word cow, for instance. However, the languages also contain phonetic characters.)

I didn’t read beyond that. On that point, I knew the author was wrong — on a subject that isn’t even a particular area of expertise for me; how, therefore, could I trust him to have done his research about anything else? If we’re talking deeply technical details, that’s different, but it is widely understood that Egyptian hieroglyphs and Chinese characters are not solely logographic. There’s too little time for something where I distrust the research and editing and I’m bored.

Rating: 1/5

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Review – Greenwitch

Posted 20 January, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Greenwitch by Susan CooperGreenwitch, Susan Cooper

Greenwitch is the shortest book in the sequence — in my collected edition it is, anyway — but I find that there’s a lot more to chew on than in the first book, Over Sea, Under Stone. Here the world of the first book and the world of Will Stanton collide, and we glimpse both the high purpose and the kids at play. There’s more moral complexity here, a little more maturity… and then there’s also those very human kids getting jealous because Will’s friends with their Great-Uncle Merry.

I think the most appealing thing about this book for me is firstly the focus on Jane, on her actions, on her decency and insight as a human being actually being the key that unlocks victory for the Light… and secondly all the weird and wonderful hauntings of Cornwall that Cooper invokes. I want to know all the background of the weird night of horrors Jane glimpses relived due to the Greenwitch; I want to know who captains the black ship… It’s all fascinating and tantalising, and Cooper never explains too much. She leaves us wondering.

It’s not my favourite book of the sequence by far, but it has its own wild magic, for sure.

Rating: 4/5

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 19 January, 2019 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Good morning, folks! It’s late as I type this (the night before, as is traditional) and my wife would really like some sleep before my fancy-ass snobby hairdresser appointment. (It’s not bleach! It’s “toner”! Well let me tell you: I have dark brown hair, naturally. You’re not going to ‘gently tone’ it into accepting bright turquoise dye, my friends.) So I do this in a rush, so please excuse anything I miss…

Books acquired:

Cover of Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Books read this week:

Cover of What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape by S Cover of Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Number of books in: 1
Number of books read: 2
Number of books from the backlog read: 0
Rereads: 1
Library books: 0
Bought in 2019: 1

Reviews posted this week:

Dead in the Water, by Carola Dunn. Not exactly surprising or revolutionary — though nor have any of the Daisy books been — but comfortably entertaining. 4/5 stars
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge. If people could put aside the kneejerking about the title (which half the time just proves it’s point), this is an informative and civil attempt to, well, talk to white people about race. The anger is there, but muted; Eddo-Lodge tries to communicate facts as much as anything. 4/5 stars
Murder Must Advertise, by Dorothy L. Sayers. Always a fun entry in this series, from my point of view; I was surprised to learn from the introduction (or was it the introduction to The Nine Tailors?) that this was more or less filler. I can see it, though, on reflection. 4/5 stars
The Crucible of Creation, by Simon Conway Morris. A response to and a rebuttal of some of Stephen Jay Gould’s work, particularly Wonderful Life, from a scientist who has made a career from working on the creatures of the Burgess Shale. Unfortunately, I didn’t find his style very engaging… 3/5 stars
A Most Novel Revenge, by Ashley Weaver. Meh. This series feels samey, though thank goodness this book put aside much of the drama about Milo being a playboy. Not continuing this series. 2/5 stars

Discussions:

Discussion: Book Blanket. Wanna see my colour palette and the motif design? Here!
WWW Wednesday. The weekly update!

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Review – A Most Novel Revenge

Posted 18 January, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of A Most Novel Revenge by Ashley WeaverA Most Novel Revenge, Ashley Weaver

In this book, Amory and her husband Milo go — together, as a couple! with no drama about who is sleeping where! – to a country house at the request of her cousin, a dear friend, who was once on the periphery of a murder and has been called back to the site, along with other people, for some new revelation. Feeling uncomfortable, and knowing Amory’s stuck her nose in a few police investigations, she asks Amory to come — and though she’s no detective and not qualified, etc, etc, she goes, to support her cousin. So far, so very typical of the genre, honestly, and the rest of the book more or less continues that.

I don’t think I’ll continue with this series; it’s nice mindless stuff, and at least she’s stopped (for now at least) playing with the drama about Milo being a playboy. But it’s just a bit too much like everything else, and Amory hasn’t caught my attention in the way Daisy has. I might pick up the next book if I’m bored sometime, but the library wanted it back, and I didn’t care enough to reserve it again, so… there you go.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – The Crucible of Creation

Posted 17 January, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Crucible of Creation by Simon Conway MorrisThe Crucible of Creation, Simon Conway Morris

Part discussion of the Burgess Shale, part rebuttal of Stephen Jay Gould’s premises in Wonderful Life, this book was a bit of a slog to get through for me. It’s a topic I find fascinating, but something about the style mostly had me snoozing, even when he entertainingly decided to take a turn for the science fictional and imagine a whole dive into the seas at the time of the Cambrian explosion. (That bit was mostly entertaining through being surprising, though also through trying to bring to life the animals that could’ve been seen if that could happen, and how they would have behaved — the most speculative bit of the book, basically.)

I feel like Wonderful Life is probably the more fun to read and the more comprehensive, but it’s still fascinating to read about the point of view of a scientist who has actually worked with the Burgess Shale. Whatever you think of Conway Morris’ style, he’s a scientist Gould respected and an expert in his field.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Murder Must Advertise

Posted 16 January, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. SayersMurder Must Advertise, Dorothy L. Sayers

After rereading the Lord Peter Wimsey books at a fairly leisurely pace for a while, I more or less sat down and devoured the ones I had left, in December. Murder Must Advertise has long been a favourite for the fun of seeing both somewhat of how an advertising agency works, and how Dorothy Sayers herself worked in such an environment. (One feels one’s glimpsed her particularly in the figure of Miss Meteyard, I think — though Sayers herself was writing copy, more in Wimsey’s job than Miss Meteyard’s.) The book features Peter’s one real sustained undercover op: he embeds himself into an advertising agency under the name of Bredon, sniffing out a murder and a dope gang, all at once.

It’s also one of those books with a sincere sense of danger, and a bittersweet ending in which Peter allows a man the dignity of choosing the manner of his own death rather than immediately telling the police what he’s worked out. That tendency is one of the things that irritates me about Peter as a sleuth; his code of honour means he feels he has to allow people an out, even if that out is an honourable suicide. Of course we know that it never does go wrong, for Peter, but it could and it’s a flaw in him for me that he’s always so tempted to put the decision in a murderer’s hands. In this case, he suggests a method of suicide to someone that means their family won’t be overshadowed by the trial — but leaves him no chance of a fair trial. Peter is judge and jury, and the murderer themselves becomes their own executioner. It might not feel like cricket to turn people in to the police, but darn it, the legal system is there for a reason. Peter’s meant to be too decent to back someone against a wall and make them think all is lost, but still. Real people aren’t always right, or always decent.

All the same, for the most part it’s a bit of a romp, with Peter coming up with advertising slogans, and leading a double life to provide himself with alibis (of sorts). Harriet’s not really mentioned, and Bunter and even Parker are often in the background, with the setting and characters of the advertising agency taking centre stage. It makes a nice change.

I was surprised to read that this was something of a filler book, while Sayers was actually working on The Nine Tailors to get all the details right, but it makes sense in a way. It doesn’t advance Peter’s character arc much, or really do anything profound — apart from the last act of bravery on the part of a particular character.

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 16 January, 2019 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.

Cover of The Dark Days Club by Alison GoodmanWhat are you currently reading?

The Dark Days Club, by Alison Goodman. I’ve been surprised by how long it took for any (credible) supernatural elements to creep in. I did enjoy the opening very much establishing Helen’s place in society, the importance of propriety for her, etc. I’m hoping that won’t fall by the wayside as she starts to take on the ‘sacred duty to protect humanity’ mentioned by the back cover!

Cover of The Story of Pain by Joanna BourkeWhat have you recently finished reading?

Apart from Stitches in Time by Lucy Adlington, which is the last book I read cover-to-cover, I recently DNF’ed and probably won’t fully review The Story of Pain, by Joanna Bourke. Although I might, I don’t know; it could be useful to people to know that it’s a rather literature-based book rather than focusing on the science of pain, which is more what I was hoping for. It has a very dry and academic tone, too; it never uses a simple quick definition when five examples from literature and history will do.

Cover of Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette KowalWhat will you be reading next?

I don’t know. I really feel like rereading Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey; if I avoid the reread impulse, I might pick up the sequel to The Dark Days Club and read that, or delve into my backlog from last year. I haven’t read the final Murderbot novella yet, even! There’s plenty of options and as ever, I’m fickle and probably won’t get to any that I pick out.

What are you currently reading?

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Review – Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

Posted 15 January, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-LodgeWhy I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge

As so often with books that have enraged certain types, this isn’t the screed against white people that folks would have you believe. The essay of the title was written to explain that the author, Reni Eddo-Lodge, is tired of explaining prejudice to people not equipped to listen. She acknowledged in the original piece and in this book that that doesn’t mean all white people, and it certainly hasn’t meant that she’s stopped talking about race. But she’s given herself permission to avoid doing Racism 101 every five seconds, and more power to her — it’s easy enough to Google that shit, people. Whenever you have a minority identity, there’s questions you get asked and comments you have to hear that just recur like clockwork. I refuse to go back to my last hairdresser because I heard that tape starting with regards to my sexuality: “But have you ever tried going out with a man?” It’s tiring, and I can imagine it’s much more so when your difference is visible, when you can never choose whether it even has the chance of becoming a topic of conversation.

That said, this whole book is a way for Reni Eddo-Lodge to talk to white people about race — if we’re willing to listen. It’s UK focused, which I think was very much needed: a lot of the narrative online focuses on racism against African-Americans, and it’s different here in the UK… though, after reading this book, I have to admit it’s not as different as wishful thinking imagined. A lot of the problems with institutional racism are the same, and though we may have fewer shootings, that seems more likely to be because we have fewer armed police officers than because our attitudes are markedly different.

It’s very much worth reading this, even if you think you’re pretty up to date and in the know. There’s history I had no idea of, attitudes that are alive and well which I didn’t know were still considered acceptable, and overall, further to go than I thought. For that reason, this isn’t an easy read (though it was easy in the sense of being well-written and easy to follow) — and I sense that Eddo-Lodge was still pulling her punches for white people’s sake, even so.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Dead in the Water

Posted 14 January, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Dead in the Water by Carola DunnDead in the Water, Carola Dunn

Dead in the Water is the 6th in the Daisy Dalrymple series. In this book, Daisy and Alec are officially engaged, and he’s actually got to face her family — thankfully, her more likeable aunt, and not more time with her strict and old-fashioned mother! Of course, as usual, Daisy quickly falls over a fraught situation, expects murder, and eventually gets it. The same formula is in place here as usual: a crime is committed, and by the time Alec investigates, Daisy’s picked someone to champion. In this case, it’s actually someone she doesn’t even like, who she feels deserves better than he’s been getting all the same.

It’s little things like that (Daisy not liking the person she champions) that help bring some variety to the series; if it was always the exact same kind of person, it’d quickly get tedious, but there’s always just enough variation that it works. For me, and so far, at least. Daisy herself is a worthy sort of heroine: not totally unflappable, but practical and trying to keep her head; a girl who works for her living when she doesn’t have to (except of course, she considers that she does have to, valuing the work); someone with a sense of justice. Alec, too, is a basically decent guy, doing his best to find the culprits and put aside personal feelings. And their relationship is sweet, too.

It didn’t blow me out of the water (heh), but again it’s a fun entry in a series that’s working for me.

Rating: 4/5

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Discussion: Book Blanket

Posted 14 January, 2019 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Since last week, I’ve picked out my colour palette (such as it is — my wife was involved, and she loves a riot of colour) and ordered the yarn! So I thought I’d update on the chosen colour palette. Here’s an image with some colour swatches to give you a better idea:

Graphic showing the colours I've chosen for my blanket and what each one means

Graphic showing the colours I’ve chosen for my blanket and what each one means (click to embiggen)

In other words, looking at the table below, for each square I’m going to make the centres out of a colour chosen based on the genre of the book (table A) and then a round in a colour chosen based on the source of the book (table B). If the book covers two genres, I’ll do two rounds for the first genre and two rounds for the second genre.

Table A: Genres and Colours

GenreFantasySFMysteryScienceHistoryRomanceOther
ColourTurquoiseStorm BlueClaretLobeliaGoldBright PinkGrass Green

Table B: Genre and Colour

SourceBacklog 2011-2015Backlog 2016-2018Acquired this yearLibrary, ARC, borrowed, etc
ColourBottlePetrolBoysenberryEmperor
So a book that’s a Mystery/Romance, bought back in 2014, will get two rounds in Claret and two in Bright Pink, followed by a round or two (I haven’t decided yet, it will depend on the size when made) in Bottle. That will have a border in Cream, which will also attach it to the next square. I need to look up how to join with crochet in a blanket, but that shouldn’t take too much effort!

All the colours picked were Stylecraft Special DK; I also got a refer-a-friend link which will get you 15% off a first order from LoveKnitting, which will also give me 15% off my next order for anyone who signs up! Click here for 15% off yarn from LoveKnitting!

Finally, I also picked out the design: I’m going to keep it simple and go with an expanding geometric hexagon, with the pattern from CrochetSpot — circled in red on this photo from their pattern:

Okay, that’s all for this week! Hopefully next week I’ll have some progress on the actual blanket to show you.

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