Tag: books

Review – Proust and the Squid

Posted 25 September, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Proust and the Squid by Maryanne WolfProust and the Squid, Maryanne Wolf

Despite the exciting-sounding title, this is actually a book about the science of how we read. Unfortunately, it’s been a while since I read it and the review I wrote then is one of the reviews that I seem to have lost in the ether, but I do remember finding it generally entertaining, though I wished at times there were more citations so I could go and read more about the things Wolf claims.

One thing I really want to look up is the results of the study into AAVE (African-American Vernacular English) and how it affects the acquisition of reading skills. It seems a little eyebrow-raising that there should be specific problems with AAVE and not with, say, the Yorkshire dialect in Britain — maybe that’s for lack of studying it, I don’t know. It just seems a little bit suspect when you consider the way people view users of AAVE as uneducated, and all those other racial stereotypes.

Some interesting stuff about dyslexia, though.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff

Posted 24 September, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff by Christopher MooreLamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christopher Moore

When I started reading this, I got really sucked in. I loved the idea, and I’m not opposed to making light of Jesus’ life — especially as despite Biff’s irreverence, Jesus (Joshua) comes across as a principled person doing his best to understand the world and what he’s here to do. I enjoyed Philip Pullman’s take on it, for example. I didn’t even mind the mild obsession with sex and bodies and all of that, because it makes sense that a young boy would wonder about those things and be caught up on those things and be a silly ass about those things.

But the longer it went on in that vein, the more tired of it I got. Yes, yes, women and sex, we get it; is that the best punchline you’ve got? Oh, you’ve got a fart joke too. That’s the entire basis of the humour, along with some anachronisms. It’d probably work as a short story, but at this length, I got very tired of it. I perked up a little when some female characters showed up who seemed intelligent, and then — oh. Sex again, plus making fun of Chinese names. Oh, she’s called “Tiny Feet of the Divine Dance of Joyous Orgasm”. And she’s called… “Pea Pods in Duck Sauce with Crispy Noodle”?

I hung on a little longer, but in the end, I didn’t finish this book. There are aspects about it I was curious about, but at 250 pages through, I sat back and thought about whether I wanted to invest more of my life in it.

No, I don’t.

Rating: 2/5

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Review – The Warrior Princess

Posted 23 September, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Warrior Princess by K.M. AshmanThe Warrior Princess, K.M. Ashman

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 22nd August 2017

I really appreciate that someone’s taken a bit of Welsh history and made a novel from it — there’s plenty of Welsh history to choose from, but apart from books based on the lives of some of the Tudors, I can’t think of many other books that really touch on it. While I knew about Nest ferch Rhys (Nesta, here; I believe that’s a popular version of her name which maybe sounds better to the English-speaking ear), I didn’t know anything about Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd, for whatever reason, so if nothing else I’m grateful to this book for drawing her to my attention!

The style is a little disappointing, though; I found it rather wooden at times, even with the author’s attempts to vary the vocabulary by varying the inquits (asked, sighed, etc). The pacing was quite slow, too, and I felt at times like I was having the information dumped on me, rather than introduced organically. If you enjoy the author’s writing style, it’s likely you’ll enjoy this as well; it’s probably a personal taste thing as much as anything.

I did appreciate the historical note at the end — always good to get a bit of the background, so you know where to research if you’re interested.

Rating: 2/5

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 23 September, 2017 by Nikki in General / 20 Comments

Good morning, folks! Here’s the second part of the great Calgary book haul, featuring all the fantasy books I got! Plus some more review copies, of course.


Cover of Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia Cover of A Season of Spells by Sylvia Izzo Hunter Cover of Everfair by Nisi Shawl Cover of The Tower of Beowulf by Parke Godwin

Cover of The Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish Cover of American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett Cover of The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky Cover of The Innamorati by Midori Snyder

Cover of Nobody's Son by Sean Stewart Cover of I Am Morgan Le Fay by Nancy Springer Cover of Warrior and Witch by Marie Brennan Cover of The Dragon Round by Stephen S. Power

Cover of The Painter Knight by Fiona Patton Cover of The Granite Shield by Fiona Patton Cover of Devil's Call by J. Danielle Dorn

Quite a few from my backlog of wishlist, there! Looks like it’s gonna be fun.

Received to review:

Cover of Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden Cover of Ironclads by Adrian Tchiakovsky Cover of Weaver's Lament by Emma Newman Cover of A Long Day In Lychford by Paul Cornell

Cover of A Matter of Oaths by Helen S. Wright Cover of Nanoshock by K.C. Alexander Cover of Damn Fine Story by Chuck Wendig

I’ve been meaning to read Annie On My Mind forever, so yay for getting that. Well, yay to all of them (and thank you to the publishers/publicists).

Read this week:

Cover of The Tiger's Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera Cover of Damn Fine Story by Chuck Wendig Cover of Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

It hasn’t been a reading week, really, as you can see — I’ve been focusing on replaying Final Fantasy VIII with my wife, which is a different sort of fun!

Reviews posted this week:

Harkworth Hall, by L.S. Johnson. I have a couple of minor quibbles, but I was pretty hooked all the same. 4/5 stars
The Deeper Genome, by John Parrington. It starts off simple, but it does start delving into stuff I wasn’t very familiar with. Definitely worth reading. 4/5 stars
The Ghoul King, by Guy Haley. Quinn intrigues me, even though he isn’t outwardly the best person. I need moooore. 4/5 stars
The Button Box, by Lynn Knight. A lovely survey of women’s fashion through the medium of the family button box. 4/5 stars
Defy, by Sara B. Larson. The main character is a girl disguised as a boy. Everyone seems to know her secret, though. Meh. 2/5 stars
The Emerald Planet, by David Beerling. I didn’t expect to love this, but I really did — it’s fascinating stuff. 5/5 stars
Assassin’s Apprentice, by Robin Hobb. This is a reread, and I’m relieved that I still loved it. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

WWW Wednesday. What I’m reading right now (or as of Wednesday, anyway).

How’s everyone?

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Review – Assassin’s Apprentice

Posted 22 September, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of Assassin's Apprentice by Robin HobbAssassin’s Apprentice, Robin Hobb

It was a little odd rereading this, because it’s been quite a while since I read these books, and yet they’re still so very familiar! I know every beat, and I think I could practically recite some of Fitz’s monologues. It’s still a great book, though the familiarity perhaps spoils things a little bit — I know exactly where things are going, and how stupid Fitz is being about x, y and z. I always had the urge to reach into the book and shake him, and I definitely had that now. Especially, perhaps, because last time I read it I was a teenager, like Fitz, and now I am an adult and oh my goodness, Fitz, don’t be an idiot.

I love the characters so much, particularly Verity. I can’t imagine why people would ever have preferred Chivalry, because from the sound of it, he was just too perfect. In contrast, Verity is blunt, sometimes unthinking, but he’s so dedicated to his people. He’d sacrifice anything, and he also cares for the small people — including Fitz, whom others consider a liability or a worthwhile thing to sacrifice.

I find Burrich frustrating, because his opposition to certain things is just based on superstition, as far as it appears to Fitz — he expects Fitz to obey him without ever explaining why. Of course, we’re meant to feel that way, ’cause he’s a stubborn ass, but I still find him frustrating.

I’m looking forward to rereading the rest of the trilogy. Except for that bit — Hobb is all too good at making her characters suffer.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Emerald Planet

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 20 September, 2017 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

The three ‘W’s are what are you reading now, what have you recently finished reading, and what are you going to read next, and you can find this week’s post at the host’s blog here if you want to check out other posts.

Cover of Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette NgWhat are you currently reading?

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

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

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

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

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

What are you reading?

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Review – Defy

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

Cover of Defy by Sara LarsonDefy, Sara B. Larson

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

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

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

Rating: 2/5

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Review – The Button Box

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Ghoul King

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5

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