Clockwork Cairo

The Angel of Khan el-Khalili (Dead Djinn, #0.6)
by P. Djèlí Clark

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Taking place in Khan el-Khalili, the big bazaar in the heart of Cairo. Our main character is looking for an angel and a miracle… Forgiveness and retribution are the theme in this one. 

The story is narrated in second-person, which I find really hard to like as a reader. 

Straight forward story, not much in terms of plot, more of a small character study. It was ok.

If you want to find the Angel of Khan el-Khalili, you have to make your way to the market at night. 

https://www.tor.com/2021/04/28/the-angel-of-khan-el-khalili-p-djeli-clark/

Magical Egypt

A Dead Djinn in Cairo (Dead Djinn, #0.5)
by P. Djèlí Clark

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Egypt, Cairo, Djinn, ghuls, sorcerers, magic, airships, gas light, aerial trams… steampunk plus electricity. An investigator looks into the suspicious death of a djinn and follows traces through a magical Cairo.

“Fatma was born into the world al-Jahiz left behind: a world transformed by magic and the supernatural. […] Egypt now sat as one of the great powers, and Cairo was its beating heart.“

https://www.tor.com/2016/05/18/a-dead-djinn-in-cairo/

The setting of this story made me home-sick for Cairo! Or whatever you call it for a city I lived in for six years… 

This was fun! Plot driven, not much character development — not an easy task anyway for such a short novelette — although I did like Fatma. Good action scenes and sleuthing, interesting setting. Potential for a lot more. Onwards to the next two stories/novelettes, in preparation for reading Clark’s first full-length novel next month.

Top Ten Tuesday and the animal kingdom…

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: Animals (Real and Fantasy) in the books, on the cover or in the title…

Ok, animals in books, no problem…. there are plenty of werewolves and dragons in my reading past… the tricky part will be to find books that I haven‘t mentioned here before. Let‘s see…

Animal Farm — read in the 80s or 90s…?
by George Orwell

I read this a long time ago. It was good, I don‘t remember all that much. Maybe time for a re-read of this classic fable about communism.

Animal Dreams — read in 2006
by Barbara Kingsolver

I liked “Poisonwood Bibel” and loved “Prodigal Summer”. But this one wasn‘t for me. It bored me at the time and I didn‘t like the main character. It has an animal in the title though!

His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire, #1)
by Naomi Novik

This was fun. Set in an alternate universe during the Napoleonic wars, the British and the French not only fight each other with their powerful Navies, but also with aerial combat — the captains not flying in planes, but riding on dragons. Well written, it reads a bit like a mix of Patrick O’Brien and Anne McCaffrey.

Still Life With Crows (Pendergast, #4) — read in 2004
by Douglas Preston,  Lincoln Child

A serial killer starts killing in a small Kansas town. The corn is high, the heat is hot and the agent, that appears out of nowhere, dressed all black, is really weird….

If you are into graphic violence, this is for you. Really nasty murders, with a lot of detail! Ewwww. I sort of made my way through that book in small doses. Pretty gruesome. And that agent was really very weird. 

Red Rabbit (Jack Ryan, #2) — read in 2005
by Tom Clancy

I like Clancy and Jack Ryan is one of my favourite characters. With only slightly over 600 pages this is one of Clancy’s shorter efforts. It was ok at the time. But I do not recall any of the storyline, which usually means that it was nothing special.

A Falcon Flies
by Wilbur Smith

At the end of the 19th century our main characters travel to Africa to make their fortune and search for their father, who disappeared into South-East Africa several years previously. They encounter the British Navy, slave traders, African kings, elephants, treasures, witches, buffalo, malaria, love, betrayal, loss and their destiny… To be continued in the next book… 😉

My next and last two offerings are colouring books! I have the German versions, but both have originally been published in English.

Animorphia – Phantastische Tiermotive: Eine atemberaubende Welt zum Ausmalen
by Kerby Rosanes

I couloured in this last time in 2018. I should probably get out my art supplies again….

A quick and messy watercolor…

The whale was fun…

The elephant was a bit simpler…

[

And my favourites, the owls!

Nordische Wildnis: Ausmalen und entspannen
by Claire Scully

Here I stayed in one colour…

And here it is black and white with some highlights…

And the snake was a lot of fun:

Ok, that‘s only eight books, but I am done for today! 😏

2020 Hugo Finalists, the short stories

Here is what I thought of the Best Short Story finalists…


Rating: 3 out of 5.

Set in colonial India, during the Bengal famine of 1943. A revenge story with a magical twist. The story is harrowing and shows the brutality of colonial rule. However, the telling of it didn‘t really do much for me.


Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

“An alternate history short story looking at decisions and consequences, and what it takes to pull the trigger.“

I really liked this. What a barbaric idea, although I can see where they are coming from. Not a decision that should be taken lightly and that can be debated hotly.

Knocking off half a star, because I am somewhat unsatisfied with the abrupt and open ending. Still debating with myself, if I consider this special enough for an award? Does it really bring anything new to the table?

Pretty cover art.


Rating: 2 out of 5.

 A young girl, a slave in the South, is presented with a moment where she can grasp for freedom, for change, for life. She grabs it with both hands, fiercely and intensely, and the spirit world is shaken.

Odd. Very wordy, very bloody, with a faint touch of romance and hope at the end. The tale was unsettling and had no rewarding features for me. 


Rating: 2 out of 5.

Climate fic. About storms, wind, sisters and mothers. It went right over my head, couldn‘t get into it.


Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #270
(Beneath Ceaseless Skies #270)
by Scott H. Andrews (Editor)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

High fantasy, war, genderfluid characters. Death and blood and endless war. Loss, betrayal, hope.

Betrayal is a fearsome armor against love.

The world building was pretty good, but I did not connect with the characters. I liked the ending, although I did not really agree with the choices everyone made. It got me thinking though, so I can see why this is nominated for a Hugo.


Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I listened to the podcast on the Nightmare Magazine website. Very odd story. I am using the word story loosely here. To have a male narrator was an interesting choice. A story about colonialism.

From the author‘s website

Possibly the structurally weirdest thing I’ve ever written; it’s in the form of an MLA bibliography and it’s about colonialism in academia, monstrous appetites, and oh yes, lesbian cannibals.

Another one that went mostly over my head. While the structure of the narrative was clever and somewhat intriguing, it didn‘t really work for me. But that‘s on me.


So, that was all of the short story finalists for this year‘s Hugo Award. Not a great average for me this time around. Leaning strongly towards Fantasy—maybe that is the reason. I am more of SF and UF fan.

Which of these stories was your favourite?

What if?

Unholy LandUnholy Land by Lavie Tidhar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tirosh goes back to his home in Africa, an alternative Palestine bordering Uganda. Which could have happened. Alternative history, what-might-have-beens, detective novel, hints of an autobiography and choices we make or that are taken from us.

I am really struggling with writing a review. I am not even sure if I liked this or how much. It certainly is ambitious and has lots of potential and plot bunnies that ran off into the great beyond. And the author has won awards and gets many excellent reviews.

It‘s just that this indeed very interesting story does not really go anywhere meaningful for me. Perhaps I just like plot-driven stories too much. Or this just went over my head. I don‘t know. I finished the book two nights ago and still haven‘t made up my mind.

I wish the alternate timelines would have been explored more. All these hints and then we are left dangling. Nur‘s story was a bit of a non-event. Tirosh‘s story took off in an interesting direction, developed little over the middle of the book and was sort of meh at the end. Really disliked Bloom as a person, although he was the most complex character.

I think it‘s going to be 4 stars just to honor the inventiveness and intended scope of the plot.

I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

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Not so Hidden Figures

The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1)The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At first glance a story about the apocalypse—a meteor strikes Earth in the 1950s with devastating longterm effects. At second glance this is more an exploration of discrimination against women and persons of colour in that time in the US. And an exploration of the Space Race, this time not against the Russians, but against the end of the world.

A quarter into the book I wasn’t sure, if I liked the book or the main protagonist. Well written, a bit too linear and straight forward for me in this instance and maybe a little bit boring. Good beginning, but seemingly fairly flat story telling. And I just wanted to smack Elma around the head on many occasions. But I guess she is a product of her time, although she wants more. I couldn‘t really see the Elma of the short story in this.

Surprisingly, not a lot of tension at first. Yes, the Earth is about to end, eventually. But that didn‘t really drive the plot forward a lot. Character driven stories are not really my favourite books, and if they are, I want more character development than this. The plot sort of ambled along in a more or less predictable fashion. I had expected something different, after reading the Hugo Award winning novelette Lady Astronaut of Mars.

Nonetheless, it is a well told story with a lot of food for thought and the last chapter was just fabulous. I almost cried. Elma‘s love for flying and space shines through and the writing is very imaginative and poetic at times.

So a well-deserved 4 stars, despite what I wrote above. I didn‘t love it enough for the five star treatment. I will maybe read the next book, because Space! Right? perhaps I‘ll have talked myself into 5 stars soon, if I keep thinking about the book some more.

I recommend reading this article for further inspiration:
https://www.tor.com/2018/07/06/17-boo…

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Lost in time

The City of Shifting Waters (Valérian, #1)The City of Shifting Waters by Pierre Christin

My first time with Valerian and Laureline. 3D chess, holy Star Trek! Originally published in 1976. Has a pretty old-fashioned and, dare I say it, cartoonish look to it. But then it is about 40 years old. Laureline is mostly in the sidelines, with a supporting role and the whole shebang is a little sexist, but considering the comic’s age I can live with that.

My free Kindle edition (kindle unlimited/amazon prime reading) from 2010 does not have the best resolution, the speech bubbles are a little out of focus.

The artwork grew on me pretty quickly. Guys in 70s hippy clothing, what’s not to like. Good story, too. Pretty chatty for a comic, though, with a lot of text. Sometimes overly crowded with speech bubbles.

I liked the artwork, colouring and plot. Aged fairly well, although it doesn’t have any of the flashiness and visual depth of modern comics. I would recommend this to friends and maybe even get another volume. I have not watched the movie yet, but I might do so now.

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On the backs of hippos…

River of Teeth (River of Teeth #1)River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Feral hippos in Louisiana, mercenaries and an almost-recommendation by Ilona Andrews, what’s not to like?

Classic caper. Ocean’s Eleven comes to mind. Gather your fellow gender fluid characters and go against the bad guy, Western-style and on the back of hippos…

Other than that pretty flat and predictable, no great surprises. If you are looking for a light in-between read, this is entertaining enough. I might even pick up the sequel at some point.

2017 MacHalo Challenge: Western

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