The pursuit of meaning and comfort

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot, #1)
by Becky Chambers

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Sibling Dex, a monk, searches for a new vocation and finds it in becoming a tea monk, caring for others. One day, when this somehow isn‘t enough anymore for Dex, they take off into the wilderness, where they meet Mosscap, a robot. Mosscap wants to find out what people need and more importantly, what Dex needs. They both go on a road trip of self-discovery, looking for meaning in life and comfort. A little philosphical, inspiring, relaxing.

This is the perfect novella for a slow day on the sofa with a mug of tea. I definitely felt that hug: Sending a Hug Into the World: A Conversation with Becky Chambers (podcast, 6 minutes of ads first)

“You keep asking why your work is not enough, and I don’t know how to answer that, because it is enough to exist in the world and marvel at it. You don’t need to justify that, or earn it. You are allowed to just live.” 

Becky Chambers, A Psalm for the Wild-Built

Followed by A Prayer for the Crown-Shy (Monk & Robot, #2). I am pretty sure that I will read this at some point.

During the first chapter Sibling Dex reminded me very much of the Cleric Chih. I know, Dex came first. But I only met them now. Who is this Cleric Chih you ask?

Candy Canes and Pine Cones and Epic and Awesome

Wolfsong (Green Creek #1)
by T.J. Klune

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Oh, this was so pretty. Feel good story, some drama, some action, some love, a witch and some werewolves. Lots of dialogue and inner monologue that made me feel good. What a joy to read. What a great take on werewolves and found family. Ok, yes, also some violence, cruelty, blood, murder…. It is a story with werewolves after all. And some really bad guys.

“And it was true. I was not cursed with an overabundance of brains.“

The plot was almost irrelevant, it was the relationships and the development that Ox went through that made the book for me. Such a lovable character…

The book has a nice amount of my type of humour. Definitely for mature readers though, there is plenty of swearing and some graphic sex.

I was not a massive fan of adult Joe or the romance between Ox and adult Joe. It was not bad, but for me it was the only weak part of the book. Still 5 stars though, because I had a stupid grin on my face the whole time I read this. I had a hard time putting this down for any length of time.

“Mom! Mom. You have to smell him! It’s like… like… I don’t even know what it’s like! I was walking in the woods to scope out our territory so I could be like Dad and then it was like… whoa. And then he was all standing there and he didn’t see me at first because I’m getting so good at hunting. I was all like rawr and grr but then I smelled it again and it was him and it was all kaboom! I don’t even know! I don’t even know! You gotta smell him and then tell me why it’s all candy canes and pinecones and epic and awesome.” 

My two previous reads by the author are How to Be a Normal Person and Tell Me It‘s Real. I still have to get to his more recent and famous offerings.

Canadian chick-lit with a little extra

The Stand-In
by Lily Chu, Phillipa Soo (Narrator)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

“Gracie Reed is doing just fine. Sure, she was fired by her overly “friendly” boss, and yes she still hasn’t gotten her mother into the nursing home of their dreams, but she’s healthy, she’s (somewhat) happy, and she’s (mostly) holding it all together.

But when a mysterious SUV pulls up beside her, revealing Chinese cinema’s golden couple Wei Fangli and Sam Yao, Gracie’s world is turned on its head. The famous actress has a proposition: due to their uncanny resemblance, Fangli wants Gracie to be her stand-in. The catch? Gracie will have to be escorted by Sam, the most attractive—and infuriating—man Gracie’s ever met.“

It was ok. The story is fairly predictable. The chemistry between Gracie and Sam Yao is not exactly sizzling. It‘s a mellow enemies-to-lovers. Not exactly enemies and an eventually very vanilla kind of lovers.

I liked the perspective of a mixed-race character and how she is perceived and treated by others. And how hard it can be for celebrities to be objectified by their fans and having to live with a complete loss of privacy. This and some other themes added a little extra to the usual romance plot.

There is the required misunderstanding towards the end, etc etc. The characters are not too silly about it. If you are looking for an unchallenging romance without big surprises, this does the trick. Enough other topics are touched briefly to keep it interesting.

Would I pick up something else by the author? Maybe, if I came across it cheaply. Yes, this was an audible freebie (for subscribers).

October Wrap-up

Reading was a very mixed bag this month. End-of-the-year tiredness, maybe? At this point I am trying very hard not to commit to any buddy reads, to leave myself open for more mood reading next year. I only read about 50 pages of Ship of Destiny so far. Although I like it, I‘ve read so many pages of the Liveship Traders, that I need a little break. I will definitely read and finish the book, but it will take a little more time than planned.

This weekend was a holiday weekend for me, as All Hallows’ Day is an official holiday in the South of Germany. I took Monday off and a friend and I went to Hamburg for four days, for a little sight seeing and to visit the Elbphilharmonie for a concert. Oh my goodness, the acoustics in that concert hall are amazing! It was so much fun! And I am not even into classic music all that much. I would be, if I could listen to it at this level of excellence and sound! Here is a link: https://www.elbphilharmonie.de/en/

Books read:
Polaris Rising, ebook, DNF at 27%, after chapter 7. Not in the mood for this silliness right now.
– From Below ★★★¾☆, Spooktober read with Dennis, horror at the bottom of the ocean.
– Braking Day ★★★★¼ audiobook, coming-of-age space opera, mystery.
Memnoch the Devil, paper, dropped out of this BR, lost interest.
Redshirts ★★☆☆☆ ebook, too dialogue-heavy, too little of everything else.
– Impact Winter ★★★½☆ Audible Original with a full cast, dystopian vampire story.
– The 392 ★★★¼☆ audiobook, full cast, Londoners riding a bus and their stories.
– How to Date Your Dragon, audio, DNF at 40%, romance in shapeshifter town. Nothing interesting happened until this point, couldn‘t be bothered to continue.
Chosen (Alex Verus #4) ★★★★★ ebook, Alex finally confronts his past.
– Alien: Sea of Sorrows ★★★☆☆, audio, full cast, more Alien franchise. Forgettable, just ok.
– short story anthology The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six ★★★★☆ ebook, good anthology, recommended.
– Into the Riverlands (Singing Hills #3) ★★★★★ ebook, Netgalley, cleric Chih travels the riverlands and collects stories.

Comics:
– Midnight Sun (Moon Knight 2006, Vol. 2) by Charlie Huston ★½☆☆☆ eComic, very disappointing after a strong 1st volume.
– Sin City 1: Stadt ohne Gnade DNF after 70 pages, eComic, unlikable all around.

Currently reading:
Ship of Destiny, paper, started
– The Stand-In, audio, romance, started

Pages and minutes in October 2022
1,751 pages, 39.05 hours

Specfic Movies & TV watched:
– The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, S1, Eps 5-8, finished ★★★¾☆

Riverland stories

Into the Riverlands (The Singing Hills Cycle, #3)
by Nghi Vo 

The third novella in the Singing Hills Cycle. By now the cleric Chih has become a good friend. And Almost Brilliant, who had been missing in the 2nd novella, is back as well. They join an older couple and two young women on their treck through the riverlands. On the road they tell each other stories about the past, about emperors, fighters and bandits. Reaching their destination is a culmination of those stories.

This is probably my favourite of the Singing Hills Cycle novellas. Although I am pretty sure I missed some of the things the author was trying to tell me. I loved all of the major characters and the hinted-at relationships. I also appreciated the discourse into how stories are told, should be told and what points of view can turn them into.

I received an advanced copy of this novella from the publisher or author through NetGalley. All opinions are my own and I was not required to give a positive review.

The SF anthology that kept on giving…

… is finally finished! I started in February and read the final story last night.

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

Last, but not least:

– HOW QUINI THE SQUID MISPLACED HIS KLOBUČAR by Rich Larson

“A dark, fast-moving novelette about a high-tech heist in future Spain, planned by a professional thief interested in revenge more than money. The object in question is in the hands of a dangerous crime lord.“

I liked that this was set in Barcelona, it helped my relate to the story, as I‘ve been there several times. I liked the virtual reality aspect of the heist and the transgender part. ★★★★☆

Can be read for free here. There a several other stories by the author on Tor

This was a good anthology with very few unsatisfactory stories. But I am glad that I am finally done.

Aliens, rinse and repeat…

Alien: Sea of Sorrows (Canonical Alien trilogy, #2)
by James A. Moore (Author), Dirk MaggsJohn Chancer (Narrator), Stockard Channing (Narrator), Walles Hamonde (Narrator), Laurel Lefkow (Narrator)

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Very confusing intro and prelude. Had to check that I had picked up the correct book, aka the sequel to Alien: Out of the Shadows. Anyway, once the story starts with chapter one, we are in a plot very similar to that of the second Alien movie. The main character (barely) Decker is a descendant of Ellen Ripley.
He is sent to a planet to recover a Xenomorph. Settlers have been lost. The ship is staffed with marines/mercenaries and he is a consultant. They go down into a mine, some of them get snatched, the others try to recover them, there is a malfunctioning escalator… it‘s a bit like painting by colours… it‘s all very predictable, down to figuring out who the „synthetic“ is this time around. No big surprises and it doesn’t add anything new to this universe. It was ok, but you don‘t miss anything if you skip this.

The full-cast audiobook dramatization was well done, although the action with all the background noises was often unintelligible, aka you needed a lot of imagination to figure out what was going on.

My preview of the previous audiobook set in this franchise/series is here.

Battling kudzu…

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

I will update this anthology as I go along…

RHIZOME, BY STARLIGHT by Fran Wilde
Our MC lives on her own in an apocalyptic world, on a mountaintop surrounded by water and made of glas (a skyscraper?) where a presumably genetically enhanced and malicious kudzu is encroaching on her greenhouse. She is fighting for her life. Stay or leave? For more you have to read the story. ★★★★½

Interview with the author about her story:

„I was drawn to the idea of not just surviving but thriving post-event and how that might look for someone who had an inherited disability. My main character is part of a group that has been left behind because of their disabilities and asked to guard a seed warehouse. She’s descended from the original people who were left behind.“

This story was published as part of another anthology as well:

Rebuilding Tomorrow
by Tsana Dolichva (Editor), Fran Wilde (Contributor) and other authors

What if the apocalypse isn’t the end of the world? An anthology of apocalypse fiction featuring disabled and chronically ill protagonists, proving it’s not always the “fittest” who survive, it’s the most tenacious, stubborn, enduring and innovative characters who have the best chance of adapting when everything is lost. In this follow-up to Defying Doomsday, disabled and chronically ill protagonists build new worlds from the remains of the old…new perspectives on life after the apocalypse. (Book description)

Simulations, dark secrets, nanites, loss and hope

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

I will update this anthology as I go along…

– SALVAGE by Andy Dudak
Humans have spread across many planets. Their observation of the universe endangered its existence. I know too little of quantum physics to understand the logic behind this concept. Anyway, aliens appeared and turned humans into statues, to prevent them from destroying the universe. Inside of these statues humans still live their simulated lives. Our MC is one of the few humans that have survived this event. She goes around and interacts with these statues to give them a choice—continue the simulation, move to a different, more pleasing simulation or end their existence. This could have been the content of the story, but our MC is stopped by other humans, as what she does is apparently not quite legal and the story goes on another quite different tangent from there. I struggled. It took me unusually long to finish this story and it didn‘t really satisfy me. The MC has a dark secret herself, which is hinted at, but not resolved in a meaningful way. The main issue is probably that I didn‘t really get the point of this story.

– THE LONG TAIL by Aliette de Bodard
“A story about memory and war and transfers of memories between shifts (and statistics!).“
After a war involving nanites, salvaging a wreck and looking for a cure. Short, but able to engage me and to emphasize with the main character. ★★★★☆

Can be read for free here.

Thanks to NetGalley I have The Red Scholar’s Wake by Aliette de Bodard on my TBR pile.

Xích Si: bot maker, data analyst, mother, scavenger. But those days are over now-her ship has just been captured by the Red Banner pirate fleet, famous for their double-dealing and cruelty. Xích Si expects to be tortured to death-only for the pirates’ enigmatic leader, Rice Fish, to arrive with a different and shocking proposition: an arranged marriage between Xích Si and herself.

Blurb of The Red Scholar’s Wake

Arranged marriage, one of my favourite romance tropes… Looking forward to this one! I liked what I have read by Bodard until now.

Who is the chosen one? Not always the one you expected it to be!

Chosen (Alex Verus, #4)
by Benedict Jacka

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The 4th Alex Verus novel. I wasn‘t entirely sure if I still wanted to read this, but it was really good and I am glad I did. Although I only read #3 in May, I was struggling to remember who everybody was during the first few pages.

The tone of this novel is darker still than the previous ones. Alex has to finally deal with his past and the horrible things he was forced to do back then. He has to face someone wanting revenge for his past actions. The good times of the previous book are gone and he might even loose some of his friends, when they finally realize what he is willing to do to survive.

I really enjoyed the final confrontation and I was stunned how forceful Alex became. He is going through some really good developments as the main character of this series. Which I missed in the series he is compared to quite often, the Dresden Files.

There is a big cliffhanger at the end, obviously. Let‘s see when I will get to the next book in the series, I added Hidden to my shelf already. More about that here. One of these days I will have to crosspost my reviews of the Dresden Files book here in my blog as well…