China, the Golden Horn and Prussia on dragon‘s wings

Black Powder War (Temeraire, #3) by Naomi Novik

Rating: 3 out of 5.

New York Times bestselling Temeraire series that started with the beloved His Majesty’s Dragon which has won fans of Napoleonic-era military history, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels, and Patrick O’Brian’s seafaring adventures.

From the book blurb

The story picks up with Laurence, Temeraire and their crew still in China, after the events of book #2. They receive new orders and must make haste towards Istanbul, where they meet with unexpected problems. All the while Napoleon‘s war with Prussia is heating up.

I liked the plot very much. It was too much expositional writing for my taste though. I skimmed quite a bit of the denser text from the middle onwards. When there is action, it is very well written. I liked their trek to Istanbul and the last few chapters the most. 

The feral dragons were precious. The dragons go through a much more interesting development than any of the human characters in this book.

I know this is based on the Napoleonic period. I still wouldn’t have minded if the author had left out the institutionalized racism. 

Will I read the next book? Probably not. Books 2 & 3 were ok, not more.

From one-celled organisms to glass canyons

Life on Earth by David Attenborough (author and narrator) 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Attenborough recounts the history of the natural world, „from the emergence of tiny one-celled organisms in the primeval slime more than 3,000 million years ago to apelike but upright man, equally well adapted to life in the rain forest of New Guinea and the glass canyons of a modern metropolis.“

Not what I expected—which happens when you forgo reading the blurb. Not sure what I was thinking. But I didn‘t get this audiobook for the story, I got it to listen to him. David Attenborough can tell me anything and I would listen. The man is an international treasure. I love him, probably like many other people growing up on his TV documentaries about nature. In retrospect I would probably have enjoyed this more with moving pictures on a TV screen though. As in: a re-watch of his „Life“ series! 

I met some interesting critters, but the book could not completely captivate me. For me it lacked narrative tension. It felt a bit like ticking off a checklist. It needed more. Still, David Attenborough… 

Narrator: ★★★★★
Story: ★★★☆☆

Infectious

Fruiting Bodies by Kemi Ashing-Giwa

ebook, 16 pages, publication: January 26th 2022 by Tor Books

“An alien fungal infection has ravaged a faraway planet, turning all but six of the colonists into ravenous arinkiris. Inyama, a mycologist, is her species’ last hope. But it’s not expertise her fellow survivors want from her.“

Blurb from tor.com

SciFi-horror. When I read the title, I immediately had to think of fungi and of the zombie ant fungi. Maybe I am watching too many nature documentaries. Anyway, space ship crashing on foreign body, settlers not doing too well on the inhospitable planet and… fungi.

I liked it. Well written, tightly plotted. Very short, but with a nice plot bunny at the end. Can be read for free here.

And have a look at what probably inspired this short story. It‘s actually a lot creepier than the story…

The Top Ten — Most Recent Additions to My Book Collection 

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

http://www.thatartsyreadergirl.com/top-ten-tuesday/

This week‘s topic / January 11: Most Recent Additions to My Book Collection

We don‘t give a lot of Christmas presents in my family (aka my parents) and if I get any, it‘s not usually books. My family doesn‘t know what to give me, specfic is in a whole other universe for them. Plus I do not read in my mother tongue, which makes it even more puzzling for them. And gift cards or vouchers are a no-no. So, here are the last 10 books I gave myself!

Beginning Operations (Sector General 1-3) by James White — added January 9, 2022

We were talking comfort reading / easy reading in my favourite specfic group, aka my online home. And this was recommended. Emergency Room in Space with imaginative, non-humanoid aliens. Sounds like a win to me!

Taken (Alex Verus, #3) by Benedict Jacka — added January 8, 2022

Alex Verus is a mage in present day London. He is a pretty chilled guy, who runs his magic shop and just wants to be left alone. It’s not working.

I read and reviewed the previous book in the series a few days ago. I want to continue with the series, so… added!

Activation Degradation by Marina J. LostetterHayden Bishop (Narrator) — added January 6, 2022

A robot runs into trouble, trying to defend a mining platform orbiting Jupiter.

I just reviewed this one yesterday. It‘s the January Science Fiction group read of my favourite GR group (see above) and I want to try and read at least one group read per month. Done!

Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov — added January 5, 2022

I just finished watching this:

It was so good! I just had to get the books. Ok, ok, friends told me that this doesn‘t have much to do with the books. I guess I will find out for myself, once the book gets here. I wanted to support my local and ordered this English-language hardback edition from my tiny German bookstore around the corner. It’s going to take a while. But I‘m not in a hurry.

PS: Lee Pace takes off his shirt A LOT! But seriously, the photography / CGI of the TV adaptation is excellent. The acting is great as well. I hope there will be a second season!

PSS: Lee Pace is a scifi nerd, which makes this TV adaptation even cooler….

Roger Ascham and the King’s Lost Girl and Jack West Jr and the Hero’s Helmet (Jack West Jr, #3.5) by Matthew Reilly — added January 4, 2022

I used to read his books a lot, back when he hit the scene. I really liked his hyperative, high-octane and plot-driven military adventure yarns. Good fun for low brain power. These two shorts/novelettes were for free for Kindle, so I grabbed them to find out, if I still like his style.

Son of the Storm (The Nameless Republic #1) by Suyi Davies Okungbowa — added January 4, 2022

Son of the Storm is a sweeping tale of violent conquest and forgotten magic set in a world inspired by the pre-colonial empires of West Africa.

I really enjoyed reading his David Mogo Godhunter. His short story in the Dominion anthology was also very good. And the cover is very pretty.

Ogres by Adrian Tchaikovsky — requested from Netgalley on December 27, 2021 / received January 5, 2022

It‘s Adrian Tchaikovsky. I need no other reason.

Shiny Water (Michael Stone, #1) by by Anna Salter — added December 25, 2021

In the suspense-charged tradition of Patricia Cornwell, Anna Salter draws from her professional expertise to introduce forensic psychologist Michael Stone, a sharply witty, courageous heroine who champions the victims of the most devastating crimes.

I received a free epub (in German) from my local bookshop for Christmas via their online shop. No idea if I will ever read it. It does sound a bit like Patricia Cornwell, which is not a bad things. I used to like her series ages ago.

The Sight of the Stars by by Belva Plain — added December 25, 2021

Same as above, I received a free epub (in German) from my local bookshop for Christmas via their online shop. I am very dubious about this one.

Sweeping through the pivotal events of twentieth-century America, The Sight of the Stars chronicles four generations of one remarkable family as they journey through years of love, loss, sacrifice, and unimaginable betrayal.

Not really my thing. I am tempted to kick this off my shelf again right away. We‘ll see.


Wow, I got all of those books since Christmas Day. No wonder that my TBR pile isn‘t getting smaller. I checked, before this there were 20 days where I didn‘t get anything new to read… 🙄

Have you added anything good to your shelves recently?

Sometimes activation sucks.

Activation Degradation
by Marina J. LostetterHayden Bishop (Narrator) 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really hesitated to get this book because of the Murderbot comparison in the blurb. I love Murderbot and don‘t want to read a rip-off. I think they probably did this book a disservice by linking it to Murderbot.

Our robot is brought online on a platform orbiting Jupiter, to protect a mining platform that is under attack by aliens. It turns out that the situation is quite different to what Unit Four was lead to believe.

I liked the beginning very much and listened to the first half of the book almost in one sitting. There was a pretty good reveal towards the end. Good action sequences. The more reflective parts could have been a bit more elaborate. The plot lost a bit of steam in the second part and my interest flagged a little. 

I am still trying to decide if I like the rather convenient ending. I find it almost impossible to talk more about this book without spoilers, so I leave it at that. I largely enjoyed this book and might give it another go in printed form to pick up all of the nuances.

This is my first book by the author and I got the audiobook. The audiobook narration was good, but I didn‘t love it.

Would I pick up a sequel? Maybe. Probably.

How to deal with your curse 101

Cursed (Alex Verus, #2) by Benedict Jacka

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The second Alex Verus novel. I read the first one a few years ago and didn‘t like it, then tried again recently and changed my mind. 

So I am back in London, in a magic shop that reminds me of the Iron Druid‘s shop, with a mage that is definitely not Harry Potter. Alex gained a small amount of fame after the events of the first book. He went back to his old life, with Luna in tow as his sort-of-apprentice. Training her is not going terribly well and then something turns up dead, someone need his help and people start trying to kill Alex. He doesn‘t take that well.

The first two chapters rehash the set-up of this world, the magic system and the events of the first book. Especially the first chapter was pretty dry reading for me. But I guess you are not supposed to read these books back-to-back, so the reminder should work in most cases. The action started to pick up in the second chapter though and from then on it was quite a rollercoaster. If you like plot-driven books with a lot of action, that also have well developed characters, this is a winner.

At the end of my kindle edition is a preview to Hounded by Kevin Hearne, which is very fitting. They are both similar in tone. Alex Verus is the more mature one, with a world that feels more solid and well-developed. However, if you like Verus, you might have a lot of fun with the Iron Druid Chronicles as well. I did, at least for quite a few books.

If the first one-an-a-half chapters hadn‘t been so dry, this would have been 5 stars. The next books is on my shelf already.

After posting my review, I always look at other reviews, to see what my GR friends thought of the book. To my amazement one of my buddies really flamed this book as being very sexists, women just being helpmeets, etc.

Yes, Luna and Meredith only serve as facilitators. Well, at least Meredith does. And the book probably doesn‘t pass the Bechdel test, but it didn‘t bother me terribly much. And you?


Currently still reading:

Life on Earth by David Attenborough (audiobook)

Activation Degradation by Marina J. Lostetter (audiobook)

Reading next:

Black Powder War (Temeraire, #3) by Naomi Novik, buddy read, part of my TBR-pile, ebook

New year, new opportunities…

So, I spent most of today sorting my reading shelves and looking through possible challenges and whatnot. This is what I came up with…

Planned reading for January:
– Buddy Read Cursed, Alex Verus #2, ebook, started today and made it to chapter 2.
– Buddy Read Black Powder War, Temeraire #3, ebook. I will pick this up after the above. More dragons!
– Saga #55, eComic, pre-ordered, pub date Jan 26. I can‘t possibly wait for the collected volume, after waiting for this since they went into their extended hiatus in 2018!

Also reading / ongoing:
– Life on Earth, audio, narrated by David Attenborough. I made it to chapter 9, all about birds of paradise. Fun chapter, but even so I feel a bit bored by this book.


I settled on a TBR Challenge for 2022 for the 217 owned books currently on my physical and digital shelves:

This reading challenge is for folks who have an obnoxiously large TBR (over 100 books) and need a kick in the pants to get it whittled down. These prompts will help you randomly select 24 books (2 for each month) from your TBR in the hopes that you pick up books you keep forgetting about or putting off. 

RULES:
1. You must start AND finish each book in 2022.  
2. A DNF still counts! The purpose of the challenge is to get you to at least try reading some books you might not otherwise pick up.
3.  Audiobooks count!
4. You must use a random number generator for each prompt. Here is an example of one you can use, but you can use any random number generator of your choice. 
5. You must use the first number that is generated every time you select a book for a prompt. 

Here is what I got from that numbers generator and my owned-books-shelf over at Goodreads:

1. January: Book 1 
Using the default order of the books on your spreadsheet (or my sorted-by-numbers GR list…), generate a random number from 1 to the number of books on your TBR. Use this number to find the book on the corresponding row in your spreadsheet.

– January #1 The Sweet Rowan

2. January: Book 2 (126 books added)
Sort your TBR by date added in ASCENDING order. Generate a random number from 1 to 100 and choose the book on the corresponding row. 

– January #2 The Marrow Thieves

I just realized that I didn‘t just pick between 1 and 100, but between 1 and all of my owned books. Never mind, not doing it again. So, we‘ll see how long I can keep up with this challenge!


And then there is my Pern Re-read:
I am deleting, as I progress through my re-reads. I made a nice dent in my list in December. Here is what‘s left! I probably won‘t get to the next one until February though, looking at my above plans.

Publication Order
* 1983 – Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern — part of On Dragonwings
* 1984 – Nerilka’s Story
* 1989 – The Renegades of Pern
* 1991 – All The Weyrs of Pern
* 1994 – The Dolphins of Pern
* 1998 – The Masterharper of Pern
* 2001 – The Skies of Pern
* 2003 – Dragon’s Kin
* 2005 – Dragonsblood
* 2006 – Dragon’s Fire
* 2007 – Dragon Harper
* 2008 – Dragonheart
* 2010 – Dragongirl
* 2011 – Dragon’s Time
* 2012 – Sky Dragons

I should not run out of ideas of what to read next, what do you think?

December 2021 Wrap-Up

Here is my December 2021:

The Quantum Magician ★★★☆☆ ebook + audio, Ocean‘s 11 in space with post-humans. Not as fun as it sounds.
Leviathan Falls ★★★★★ Expanse #9, audiobook, a fitting ending!
Silent Blade ★★★★¼ Kinsmen #1, ebook, novelette, romantic SF, enhanced humans, precursor to Hidden Legacy
Silver Shark ★★★★★ Kinsmen #2, ebook, The Matrix as a PNR novelette.
A Mere Formality ★★★★☆ Kinsmen short
Fated Blades ★★½☆☆ Kinsmen #3, ebook
– Dragonsong ★★★★★ Dragonriders of Pern #3, Harperhall Trilogy #1, re-read, YA, fun!
– Dragonsinger: Harper Of Pern ★★★★★ Dragonriders of Pern #4, Harperhall Trilogy #2, re-read, YA, fun as well! Dragonsong and Dragonsinger should be read back-to-back.
– Dragondrums ★★★★☆ Dragonriders of Pern #6, Harperhall Trilogy #3, re-read, YA, the coming-of-age story of Piemur.
– Dragonsdawn ★★★★☆ Dragonriders of Pern #9, chronologically #1, the colony ships arrive on Pern, it all begins here.
– Dragonseye ★★★★☆ Dragonriders of Pern #14, chronologically #3, set just before the Second Pass, this was a new one for me and I enjoyed it!

I will eventually continue with Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern next year and then switch back to reading in publication order, I‘ll see. But first I will tackle my planned January buddy reads. Too many already! But I tried very hard not to plan too many other books and to leave space for mood reading and to catch up with my TBR and NetGalley piles.

Currently reading:
– Life on Earth, audio, TBR pile — I am about halfway, I think. I love listening to David Attenborough, although the narrative isn‘t terribly exciting. This probably works better as an illustrated book or a TV documentary.

Specfic Movies & TV watched:
– The Witcher, Season 2 finished ★★★★★ — Now the waiting! When will the 3rd season start? 
– The Expanse, S6, Ep. 1+2 ★★★★¾ — will catch up in January!
– Foundation, S1, Ep. 2+3 ★★★★¼ — ditto!
– Wheel of Time, Season 1 finished ★★★¾☆ — the episodes got progressively better. I am actually looking forward to season 2.
– Infiltration (Invasion), Season 1 finished ★★★☆☆ — pretty forgettable (aka I watched the last episode last week and already struggle to remember how it ended).

The Quantum Magician (The Quantum Evolution Book 1) by Derek Künsken Leviathan Falls (The Expanse, #9) by James S.A. Corey Silent Blade (Kinsmen, #1) by Ilona Andrews Silver Shark (Kinsmen, #2) by Ilona Andrews A Mere Formality by Ilona Andrews Fated Blades (Kinsmen, #3) by Ilona Andrews Dragonsong (Pern Harper Hall series) by Anne McCaffrey Dragonsinger Harper Of Pern (Pern Harper Hall series) by Anne McCaffrey Dragondrums (Pern Harper Hall series) by Anne McCaffrey Dragonsdawn (Pern Dragonriders of Pern, #6) by Anne McCaffrey Dragonseye (Pern, #14) by Anne McCaffrey 

Happy New Year to all of you!

Last review of 2021, on dragon wings…

Dragonseye by Anne McCaffrey

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pern (Publishing Order) #14Pern (Chronological Order) #3

“The First Pass of Thread lasted nearly fifty years, and what scientific information the colonists were able to gather indicated that Thread would be a cyclic problem, occurring every 250 years as the path of the wanderer once again approached Pern.

This is what happened 257 years later.“

From the prologue

Dragonsdawn is the first book of the series, if you read in chronological order, followed by The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall, a collection of short stories. Dragonseye follows as book #3 (chronologically), set after the longer period of 250 years with no Threadfall. 

I am not 100% certain, but I think I have not read this one before. I do like the characters and the more serious tone, although the political shenanigans are a bit too drawn out. The stories of the portrait artist and the green rider were especially nice, as well as the storyline with the gay couple. The writing felt noticeably more modern—the book was published nearly 30 years after the first book of the series, which also resulted in stronger female characters. I am happy that I finally read this.

“For two centuries they had waited for this moment: centuries of training and lives lived so that dragons—and riders—would be here, right now, waiting to defend Pern.“

And so the Second Pass commences!

Just as an aside, Anne McCaffrey recommended reading her series in publication order. I tend to agree, as you start with the main storyline that way and the journey of discovery.

My Reading Goals for 2022

I wanted to concentrate on my TBR shelf, specifically my owned books, in 2021. That failed spectacularly, as I committed to a lot of buddy reads. So I will try that one again in 2022.

Read one owned book per month from my physical bookshelf

I have 213 books on my owned-bookshelf. About a third of those are paperbooks, that I really would like to diminish to the point of being able to get rid of one of my bookshelves. Sounds odd, I know. Normally readers talk about getting more and nicer bookshelves. I have a small apartment with too much furniture and I desire a more minimalist and cleaner look. So, books… all the covers link to the goodreads pages of those books.

Clean up that NetGalley Shelf

I have some NetGalleys that are ridiculously old. I managed to read some of them in 2021, but not as many as I wanted. I really have to have a go at them and either read or abandon them in 2022. It would really be nice to actually catch up with the current ones.

Reading Writers of Colour / BIPOC

Whilst I do not plan to join the reading challenge again next year, I do want to keep reading the authors already on my owned shelf, for example…

Next in Series

Then there are those series that I started once upon a time, wanted to continue, but never did or never finished…

That should keep me busy next year… oh, yes, and I decided to finally attempt that re-read of The Dragonriders of Pern. I re-read the first trilogy in 2020, plus some shorter stories. Just now, in December, I re-read the Harperhall trilogy and continued with some books that are set earlier in the timeline. I stopped reading the series in the mid 90s, so there is also a neat pile of books that I have never read. And I am sure there will be a fair number of buddy reads in my future.