Reverse Readathon! July 2022

Well hello there! Welcome to the July 2022 Reverse Readathon! What’s a RR you ask? Well it’s a Readathon that starts at 8pm Eastern time on Friday, …

Reverse Readathon! August 2022 (no, I don‘t know why it says August…)

Opening Survey! 

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? — Germany, hence the nutty starting time!
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? — I will continue with my current read Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders, #1)
by Robin Hobb. I might mix it up with some comics, audio or a novella.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? — I don‘t usually snack and don‘t really stock up with snacks for readathons either.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! — I am so tempted right now to find my opening survey from last time for some copy-and-paste action…. I‘m German, I live close to Stuttgart, I predominantly read in English, mostly specfic with the odd mystery or romance thrown in. Non-fiction tends to be natural sciences.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? — sleep more, probably, due to the timing. I am not sure yet if I will use a timer at all. I will probably simply count my pages and minutes via StoryGraph. Here are my stats before the start of the readathon:

The Reverse Readathon starts in a little under an hour, at 2 AM CET, if I calculated that correctly. I wanted to stay up for the start at least, but I am tired. I won‘t last that long anymore. Also, I want to go to the farmer‘s market tomorrow morning or at least to the supermarket for some grocery shopping and don‘t want to get up so late.

I should get some reading done tomorrow evening—I‘ll be house- and dog-sitting all on my lonesome…

Bookhaul!

I started buying more paper books again. Second hand and only if they are cheaper than the kindle version, as I give them away again afterwards anyway. My favourite secondhand book dealer had a promotion, so I had a look at my want-to-read-list and came up with this…

Tad Williams was a recommendation by some of my reading buddies. Sansom and Hobb are the next books in ongoing series reads. And I‘ve been meaning to re-read Watership Down for a while now. It‘s been 30 years.

Another saga comes to an end… for now.

Saga #60
by Brian K. Vaughan (Author), Fiona Staples (Illustrator), Fonographiks (Letterer)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Our found family keeps on ticking…

Happy times, joy and fun, before…. You guessed it…. Everything goes to sh*t.

Wow, what a sucker-punch. I am ugly-crying here! And we‘ll have to wait till January 2023 for the next story arc, dang it.

P.S.: next year I‘ll wait until all 6 issues have been released. The waiting between issues is not good for my health.

Water wars

We Stand On Guard
by Brian K. Vaughan (Author), Steve Skroce (Illustrator)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Now this is fun, despite being a comic about war. Crazy idea, but these days anything seems possible, especially a war driven by the need for water.

“Set one hundred years in our future, WE STAND ON GUARD follows a heroic band of Canadian civilians turned freedom fighters who must defend their homeland from invasion by a technologically superior opponent… the United States of America.“

The art is pretty clean, but detailed. I like it.

Characters are believable. The usual clichées are covered, but it’s not too over the top.

There is graphic violence, people die in unpleasant ways. During the first few pages the father of the main character Amber is blown to pieces and we get to see the result.

2112 it all starts for our MC, at 5 years old, then we jump to 2124, when she meets that band of misfits fighting the attackers. In issue #2 we jump back to 2113, to a flashback, and so on… we are jumping back and forth, following two timelines. The past and beginning of this war and the present, with Amber fighting back. Well done. The following issues have the same structure, with both timelines slowly progressing forwards.

The past…

The present…

The action…

Excellent pencil sketches at the end. I really liked this, story as well. Shows me again, how much I like Vaughn‘s work.

Reading the real deal

Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection
by Arthur Conan DoyleStephen Fry (Narrator)

A Study in Scarlet 
The very first Sherlock Holmes story. John Watson meets Sherlock Holmes. The mystery wasn‘t terribly exciting. Two Americans turn up dead. Obviously there is a back story. Utah, Mormons, romance… ★★★½☆

The Sign of the Four 
The sequel. Holmes & Watson meet Mary Morstan. And Toby, the dog with the supernose. The backstory takes us to the Andaman islands. I have read this one several times and so far it is my favourite.

I still astonishes me how (relatively) human and social Holmes comes across in the original. TV has a lot to be answered for.

This audiobook monster is narrated by the adorable Stephen Fry, who did his usual stellar job. Some interesting forewords are included.

More reviews to come, as I slowly progress through this audio.


The last time I read The Sign of the Four was in 2016. Here is what I had to say about it back then:

Re-reading a classic.

This is my favourite Holmes story. I was fascinated about the description of his drug use, when I read this first as a teenager.

With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle, and rolled back his left shirt-cuff. For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks.

The plot is (mostly) fun. We meet Mary, Toby, Wiggins and get to read many immortal sentences from the Sherlock Holmes universe.

I know the plot so well that I find it hard to be critical about it. The only part I truly do not like, is Jonathan Small’s story. It drags and I find it a little boring. It’s too long and feels like an afterthought, that got stuck on to inflate the page count. 

And from today’s point of view Doyle’s description of Tonga comes across as pretty offensive. But this was published in 1890, so I can acknowledge that and live with it.

And even back then they wrote bad insta-love! It also struck me as strange during this re-read, how jovial Holmes is and how often he laughs. Should I blame the BBC for that?

Too negative for me

Copra: Round One 
by Michel Fiffe

Rating: 1 out of 5.

A superhero comic. According to some reviews this is a hommage/rip-off of some Suicide Squad characters.

My thoughts after reading issue #1:

The art was not my thing, it was messy and flat. The colouring was not bad. I couldn’t really figure out the plot, as little as there was. Superheroes sitting around, chatting and generally not being very nice to each other. 

Then someone drops in and a lot of fighting happens. So much for the first 25 pages of this thing. 

I am not a big fan of characters that are just mean for no obvious reason and don‘t seem to have any redeeming features. If I don‘t like the characters or they don‘t interest me in another way, why bother?

Issue #2:

I read another 10 pages. Still no idea what is going on. Ugly art. Too much text that is not easy on the eye. Sorry, not for me. DNF at 42 pages (26%).

Millennial banality with zombies

Severance
by Ling Ma (Author), Nancy Wu (Narrator)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

“The end begins before you are ever aware of it.“

Odd book. The beginning feels like Covid-19 reimagined, bacterial instead of viral. Or rather it’s prophetic, as it was written in 2018. Apocalyptic/dystopian on the surface, it reads more like literary fiction. Commentary on capitalism, consumerism, the life of millennials, hopes and aspirations and the reality of making ends meet, the occasional boredom and banality of everyday life and work.

A long look back at the depressing/monotonous life of the MC. Average millenial with average job, living an average-sounding life of the relatively well-off. Illness strikes, an outbreak at first and then a pandemic. People seem to wind up as harmless zombies, wandering about and repeating tasks of their living past. Society as we know it ends. Our MC eventually leaves New York and joins up with a group of other survivors.

The backstories of the MC and her parents, Chinese immigrants to the US, take centre stage for most of the book. Which made me question if the apocalyptic setting was just a gimmick, to draw more readers. There is an odd amount of narrative about the MCs book production job. This had me wondering even more, what the whole point of this book was supposed to be. The dystopian elements only play a small part.

One of my GR friends described this as a „a slightly disguised New Adult Contemporary coming of age“. It’s a bit deeper than that, but nails it pretty well.

The audiobook narrator sounded pretty bored and laconic for most of the book. Or depressed? Pretty similar to how the MC felt about her life before the apocalypse.

The last few chapters made up for the indifference I mostly felt towards this story. The ending is pretty open, which I usually hate, but it gave a nice sense of purpose and possibility here.

Is it really yellow that I see?

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six 

I will update this anthology as I go along…

– YELLOW AND THE PERCEPTION OF REALITY by Maureen McHugh

“Yellow and the Perception of Reality” by Maureen McHugh is a science fiction story about a woman who delves into the mystery of why and how her twin sister, a physicist, has been brain damaged in a lab accident in which two of her colleagues died.“

Do we perceive reality as it is or is reality created by our own perception? When I took philosophy in school, this was a concept that I struggled with. Nice take on it. I enjoyed the writing as well and will have a look at what else the author has written. Looking good: Mission Child and China Mountain Zhang

Bonus points for Claude, the octopus. ★★★★★

Can be read for free here.

Spell The Month in Books — July

I came across this meme this morning and thought why not use it to look at some of my owned, unread books as a reminder that I still have them?

The goal is to spell the current month with the first letter of book titles, excluding articles such as ‘the’ and ‘a’ as needed. That’s all there is to it! Some months there are theme challenges, such as “books with an orange cover” or books of a particular genre, but for the most part, any book you want to use is fair game!

There is a “Summer Adventures“ theme to July, which I will simply ignore (sorry!), as I don‘t do seasonal reading or challenges anyway. Ok, mostly, I confess to some Halloween themed reading… Anyway, here we go.

Jade City (The Green Bone Saga, #1)
by Fonda Lee

In this epic saga of magic and kungfu, four siblings battle rival clans for honor and power in an Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis.

Oh yes, this has been on my shelf since 2020 and I wanted to read it last year for that BIPOC challenge I had signed up for. And here we are, still…

Unshapely Things (Connor Grey, #1)
by Mark Del Franco 

In the alleys of the decrepit Boston neighborhood known as the Weird, fairy prostitutes are turning up dead. The crime scenes show signs of residual magic, but the Guild, which polices the fey, has more “important” crimes to investigate and dumps the case on human law enforcement. 

Oh boy, this has been on my shelf since 2015. Which was probably around the time when my obsession with UF started to fizzle out. Well, my recent revisiting of that genre was pretty entertaining, so who knows… perhaps my StoryGraph Reading Randomizer will pick it for me…

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion (Danielle Cain, #1)
by Margaret Killjoy

Danielle Cain is a queer punk rock traveller, jaded from a decade on the road. Searching for clues about her best friend’s mysterious and sudden suicide, she ventures to the squatter, utopian town of Freedom, Iowa. All is not well in Freedom, however: things went awry after the town’s residents summoned a protector spirit to serve as their judge and executioner.

No idea why I have this one. Maybe a freebie from Tor? Trans author, the blurb sounds vaguely interesting. Books on my kindle tend to vanish from view, so this is a useful reminder.

Y: The Last Man, Book One
by Brian K. VaughanPia Guerra (Illustrator), José Marzán Jr. (Illustrator)

No unread books starting with Y on my shelves, so let‘s have a look at the past. I read this in 2018 and ended up giving it only 3 stars. I‘ve been thinking about giving it another chance, to see if I changed my mind about it. Here is my review from 2018.

Swashbuckling fun

Sorry for the long break in posts. I am back from my holiday and the first week back at work was busy. I mostly watched TV in the evenings. I also finished another of my books for the StoryGraph Reading Randomizer challenge. It‘s been a really useful challenge so far, helping me to regularly and easily pick from my TBR pile of owned books.

The Iron Duke (Iron Seas, #1)
by Meljean Brook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Officially marketed as PNR, but much more steampunk-pirates-zombie-swashbuckling fun. 

Alternate history, where the mongol hordes continued their advance through Europe and had something extra to help them along. England was conquered and subdued, until the Iron Duke freed it. Our MC, Mina, is a police inspector at Scotland Yard, dealing with a murder. She crosses his path and together they have to solve a conspiracy and save England again.

When picking this up, I feared that there would be a huge amount of silly PNR, but luckily this was more adventure yarn than silly romance. Don‘t get me wrong, romance can be a lot of fun. But PNR has this tendency of being peopled with especially stupid characters. Anyhow, this was not it. There was some of the required drama at the end and some over-the-top sex with that big member and with slightly dubious-consent issues. I just blinked and kept going. 

Good plot, a speedily told adventure story, good world building, believable characters, a slightly different take on Steampunk keeping it interesting — the nanotech is a nice addition. Loved the parts on the air and sea ships, although this London was well rendered as well.

Excellent brain candy! I had fun.

Normally I would say that I will continue with the next book in the series, Heart of Steel, but it centers around Yasmeen, a character of this book that I didn‘t particularly like and that I am not all that interested in. I would definitely try something else by the author though.

Other books read, containing stories by Meljean Brook

Must Love Hellhounds (Sookie Stackhouse, #9.2; Guild Hunter, #0.5; Kate Daniels, #3.5; The Guardians, #5.5)
by Charlaine HarrisNalini SinghIlona AndrewsMeljean Brook

Read in 2011. I don‘t remember anything of this story, but must have liked this at the time. It‘s part of The Guardian series. Angels were never my thing, even back in the day when I still regularly and obsessively read UF and PNR. Hence I picked another series by the author to explore her writing further.

The job was simple: find her boss’s niece, bring her home safely, and hand out a whole lot of pain to whoever had abducted her. But Maggie hadn’t counted on her boss’s nephew, the hellhound who loved to make her life difficult, or her own past rearing its complicated and ugly head.“ — https://meljeanbrook.com/books/the-guardian-series/must-love-hellhounds/

The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance
by Trisha Telep

Read in 2015. This is what I noted down back then:

Very good, 5 stars:
Paranormal Romance Blues, Kelley Armstrong (vampires, demons) – FUN!
John Doe, Anna Windsor (angels) – I don’t like angels, but this was a positive surprise.
The Tuesday Enchantress, Mary Jo Putney (guardians) – very entertaining, good sense of humour, I might get something longer by this author.
Trinity Blue, Eve Silver (demons, sorceres) – fun! I want to read more of this.
Night Vision, Maria V. Snyder (light bender): fun as well. The heroine is blind in daylight and has absolute vision at night. Refreshing idea.
Pack, Jeaniene Frost (werewolves): excellent werewolve story. Likeable characters. Reads like the first chapter of a book I want to finish reading.
Blue Crush, A Weather Warden story, Rachel Caine (djinn, mermen) – fabulous, loved it. Snark, humour, great characters from the get-go. I was fully immersed in the story right from the start. Taking a break right now to finally read that first book of the Weather Warden series.

Good, 4 stars:
Grace of small magics, Ilona Andrews (revenants, magic battle) – slow build-up, too fast ending, but entertaining.
Temptation of Robin Green, Carrie Vaughn (selkies, vampires, the lot…) – nice, nothing earth shattering
Daniel, C. T. Adams and Cathy Clamp (vampires) – Generally not a bad plot, but the story had a very abrupt ending.
Pele’s tears, Catherine Mulvaney (gods, alternate reality): Instalove, nicely written, characters I could easily relate to, story not terribly exciting, but a nice idea.
Blood Song, Lynda Hilburn (vampires, magical healing powers) – Fun, neat plot idea, a little simplistic, but might be tempted to try more by the author.
The Princess and the Peas, Alyssa Day (fae, fairytales) – complete and utter fluff, with a princess, some fae and a little humour.
In Sheep’s Clothing, Meljean Brook (werewolves) – pretty decent werewolf story. Nothing earth shattering, but I already have one of her books on my shelf to check her out further.

Ok, 3 stars:
Taking Hold, Anya Bast (werewolves) – good plot idea, sounds like it could be an interesting series. Reminds me a bit of Patrica Briggs. But I did not like the tone of the writing very much.
Light through Fog, Holly Lisle (alternate universes) – a little too sweet for my taste.
Once A Demon, Dina James (demons, vampires): nice plot idea, but the characters were a little wooden. Nothing earth shattering.
When Gargoyles fly, Lori Devoti (gargoyles) – the initial idea, a woman waking up a gargoyle, is not bad. But the plot has a twist that feels rushed and not believable. And Instalove is not my thing.
The Lighthouse Keeper and His Wife, Sara Mackenzie (gods, alternate timeline) – the lighthouse keeper gets a second chance.
The Dream Catcher, Allyson James (mind reading, wish fulfillment) – unusual idea, not badly written. But a bit too shallow for my taste, too sweet and characters that are too black and white. Plus Instalove.

Not for me, skimmed, 1-2 stars:
Succubus Seduction, Cheyenne McCray (succubi, faeries) – the plot was daft, the characters were silly, too much saccharine.
How to Date a Superhero, Jean Johnson (superheros) – a lot of talking, not much happening, not interested in those superheroes.
At Second Bite, Michelle Rowen (vampires) – not badly written, but it rubbed me the wrong way. Very cliched. And a man that does not like women has to be gay… Really?
The Wager, A Lords of Avalon story, Sherrilyn Kenyon writing as Kinley MacGregor (Merlin) – ramble, ramble, ramble, nothing happening, DNF. Must remember to never again buy anything by this author. Was underwhelmed by her novels, too.

Last, but not least, have a holiday photo!