A little knowledge about Sharks

The Little Book of Knowledge: Sharks
by Bernard Seret,  Julien Solé (Illustrator) 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Very informative graphic novel about sharks. Not sure what age range this is aimed at, my guess is middle-grade, although some of the vocabulary might be a little challenging for kids. The art is good and all salient points are covered.

According to the Internet Bernard Séret is a retired French marine biologist, more specifically an ichthyologist specializing in sharks and rays, of which he has discovered several species. I am pretty sure that he is the grey haired narrator of this.

It‘s getting weird in the woods

The Woods Vol. 5
by James Tynion IV,  Michael Dialynas

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Over a year has passed since Bay Point Preparatory High School found themselves countless light years away in the middle of an ancient, primordial wilderness. Now the crew finds themselves divided, choosing sides in a war that has been raging for hundreds of years.

More backstories. The plot becomes more complex and weirder. Several revelations, some expected and others not so much. Monsters, drugs, bodily harm and death. After reading five volumes more or less back to back, I ran out of steam a little though. I need a break. I might continue at a later point.

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Danger in the woods

The Woods Vol. 4
by James Tynion IV,  Michael Dialynas (Illustrator)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

One year later. After the climax of the last issue, we jump ahead and see how everybody fared in the year since. Somehow I had thought that the events in the last volume would lead up to a climax in this one here, but apparently I blinked and the climax has happened already… Anyway… I like how this story is developing and the artwork stepped up in quality as well.

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Still lost in the woods

The Woods, Vol. 2: The Swarm
by James Tynion IV,  Michael Dialynas (Illustrator) 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

We get backstories for several of the main characters, right up to the moment the main storyline starts at the beginning of volume one. Nicely done. I am fond of Calder‘s story, although the other parts are well done as well.

Friend drama, love, coming out, alien possession, Shakespeare, kissing in dire circumstances, ravenous monsters, feelings, vikings… I like the monsters and the artwork is starting to grow on me.

Lost in Space, Highschool Edition

The Woods, Vol. 1: The Arrow
by James Tynion IV,  Michael Dialynas

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ok, here is another of those Kindle Unlimited comics, that have been dwelling on my TBR pile for a while. 

A school of 500 pupils and teachers is snatched and deposited on an alien planet, in the middle of some woods. The fauna is not friendly. Surprisingly gory for something that has been shelved as YA on Goodreads. 

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So, what to do? The grown-ups are English teachers and librarians and just as clueless as the kids. But then someone gets a clue and some of the kids make up their own minds. Things go sideways. Teen angst, aliens, a touch of Lord of the Flies, a bit of Lost.

The artwork isn‘t horrible, but it isn‘t great either. None of the characters are really very likable. But the story is different and I am interested to see where this goes next.

Top Ten Tuesday – Book Titles that sound like Crayola Colors

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.

This week’s topic is all about color. Crayola has come out with special ones, like fluorescents, magic scents, metallic, pearlescent, colors of the world, and even ones with glitter in them. Just imagine your titles as colors and see what you come up with.

http://www.thatartsyreadergirl.com

Burnt Offerings (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #7) — read in 2019
by Laurell K. Hamilton

A burnt, reddish-orangey colour.

Number 7 of the series was still pretty good, but started to go off the trodden path and started off into that weird direction that eventually turned me off the series — after another dozen or so books… I was pretty stubborn. What I wrote in 2010:

Anita’s powers grow and grow. Never mind raising the dead. Dating a vampire, being alpha-female to a pack of werewolves, acting queen and protector of wereleopards and friend to some two-legged rats, where can she go from here? She has crossed the line from fighting the monsters to snuggling with them. Very erotic, violent, funny, disgusting, suspenseful… Actually, this is the first Anita Blake novel where it took me more than a day to get past the first 100 pages. The main character is going through so many severe changes, that it affects the pace of the story. The series is changing from crime novels with a supernatural twist to not-quite-sure-what-yet. I can’t wait to see, how the Anita/Richard/Jean-Claude triangle will develop in the next book. And I hope we’ll get back to some real sleuthing and mystery solving…

The Black Incal — read as a teenager in the 1980s, then again in 2017 and 2019.
by Alejandro Jodorowsky,  Mœbius (Illustrator) 

This makes me thing of something black with glitter.

An absolute classic. If you are an SF fan and have seen classic SF movies, this comic will trigger so many memories of great SF movies! A pivotal comic with astounding graphics. First published in 1981. I probably read it shortly thereafter, as a teenager, branching out from Tintin, wanting something more artistic and with a deeper storyline. I could still kick myself that I didn’t keep those early editions. I like everything about it, the story, the humour, the line art, the colouring. A lot of running, shooting, blowing stuff up, sci fi geek madness, The Fifth Element absurdness and it is as good as I remember.

The Fiery Cross (Outlander, #5) — read in 2003
by Diana Gabaldon

A fiery, red colour, obviously!

The fifth installment of the saga of Claire and Jamie. My recommendation: Read them in order, otherwise you literally loose the plot. Previous things get mentioned frequently without much of an explanation. And although I read all of them except for no. 2, I kept asking my mum (huge fan and proud owner of the compendium…) “What’s that, who’s this, what happened again there…?” No wonder with about 1000+ pages a pop. A must for fans, although my mum and I both found this one here not exactly thrilling. Number 5 is getting a bit tired.

Pale Horse Coming (Earl Swagger, #2) — read in 2003
by Stephen Hunter

A pale horse — a pretty light crayola, something beige or egg shell coloured…

An almost classic tale of vengeance. Our hero Earl Swagger goes down south to a penal farm, to find a friend that has disappeared while investigating the whereabouts of a client. He barely gets away with his life and sanity intact and swears to come back to give them hell. He gathers some tough and trigger happy gunmen around him and they go back. Sounds familiar? You can picture the rest!

Crimson City (Crimson City, #1) — read in 2006
by Liz Maverick

A dark, deep red crayola.

I am thinking Charlize Theron as Fleur and Colin Farell as Dain… There was quite a lot of action and not too much romance. The hero was good-looking, but grumpy and without a past, the heroine was a bit silly, but smartened up nicely. Well described and thought-out futuristic city setting. The revelation at the end was surprising, but led to the expected ending. A good, light read for low brain power.

Night Embrace (Dark-Hunter, #3) — read in 2006
by Sherrilyn Kenyon

A deep black crayola. With a velvety sheen…

I considered putting this book down and to not finish it. It took about half way into the book until something resembling a real storyline finally emerged. Nice sex, granted. But the constant descriptions of how gorgeous everybody looks on every second page started to go on my nerves eventually. Not much vampire hunting going on, despite that being the sole reason of being for the main characters. Still, the whole idea had some appeal.

Obsidian Butterfly (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #9) — read in 2006
by Laurell K. Hamilton

Another Anita and a jet-black crayola with bluish-grey mottling.

The story’s theme is quite a turn-around from the previous ones. A lot less of the supernatural, although it is still there. And a lot of whistling bullets. The previous book started to explored Anita’s fears of what she is becoming. I missed the lightness and the fun of the earlier books, but the darker look at the world in these later ones had appeal, too.

Northern Lights (His Dark Materials, #1) — read in 2010
by Philip Pullman

A multi-coloured crayola, with green blue and purple streaks.

I got the book, because I liked the movie a lot. My interest had been piqued after I had heard that people in the US had complained about the controversial religious undertones of the movie. The movie is a very close adaptation. Two events that happen at the end of the book have been moved further forward in the movie and the actual ending of the book is missing completely – I guess too much would have been left dangling. I did not like the book more or less than the movie. Lord Asriel in the movie was a more likeable character and the voice of Ian McKellen is hard to replace in writing.

The Blue Edge — read in 2008
by Carlos Eyles

A shimmering blue, full of bubbles and light streaking through…

This book gives a fascinating insight into freediving. When I started to scuba dive, I was amazed at the level of noise I produced with my breathing gear. I always felt very distracted by the ruckus I caused with all the gear I was hauling along. I wanted to be part of this amazing underwater world, without scaring the crap out of the animal life. This book reminded me of that. 

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers — read in 2014
by David Perlmutter,  Kristin Loberg

A wheat coloured crayola.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Dr. Perlmutter, the devastating truth about the effects of wheat, sugar, and carbs on the brain, and a 4-week plan to achieve optimum health.

from the book blurb

The first half of this book cited study after study and endless anecdotes, trying to convince the reader of the rightness of the book’s subject matter. Preaching to the choir, I already bought the book, I did not need further convincing. Made the book extremely boring for me and after a while I just skimmed. In contrast the practical part of the book, the how-to, was extremely short and almost felt like an afterthought. Very populistic, very one-sided.

Expanding universe

And while I am on a roll with re-read of The Expanse, I just read this:

The Expanse: Origins
by James S.A. Corey,  Hallie Lambert,  Georgia Lee,  Huang Danlan (Illustrator),  Triona Farrell (Illustrator),  Juan Useche (Illustrator),  Rahzzah (Illustrator) 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

As the title suggests, these are backstories of our favourite crew, set several years before the plot of the main storyline of the books.

Definitely a companion piece for fans of The Expanse. The characters are done in the image of the TV series. The artwork is pretty basic and not good. Why do media-tie ins always have such bad artwork? Is that an unwritten rule somewhere?

Jim Holden, Naomi Nagata, Alex Kamal, Amos Burton and Miller each get a chapter. 

Holden‘s chapter was the weakest for me. It shows the end of his military career and is the least believable. ★★½☆☆
I really liked Naomi‘s chapter — strong story, I connected emotionally and it had Amos in it…. I love Amos! ★★★★★
Alex Kamal‘s chapter was surprisingly good, considering that he is my least favourite member of the Roci‘s crew. ★★★★☆
Amos‘s chapter was a little too wacky, sad and a little upsetting. ★★★½☆
And Miller‘s chapter didn‘t do much for me. This is a media tie-in to the TV series and his likeness to TV Miller was the least well done. ★★☆☆☆

You don‘t miss much, if you don‘t read this. If you don‘t know the series, don‘t bother with this. Watch the series first or, even better, read the books. They are a lot of fun!

Top Ten Tuesday — Abandon Ship!

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: Books I‘d gladly throw into the ocean. You can want to throw a book into the ocean for a number of different reasons, both good and bad…

I used to never DNF a book and would force myself to read through those books that I truly did not enjoy. Not a great experience and it would keep me from reading more enjoyable books. So, eventually, I started to DNF those books, although it always felt tremendously unsatisfying. These days I have changed tactics again, I just skim like a fiend. That way I at least get some closure and find out how it all ends…

Here are some examples of the DNF category:

Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling, #1) — tossed in 2016
by Nalini Singh

I was excited at first at the prospect of characters with Vulcan traits meeting shapeshifters., I was skimming by chapter two and felt no compulsion to pick this up again. Made myself read another two chapter of nothing much. Boring. I don’t care about the MCs or their inner monologue. Bla. She’s constantly worrying about her own inadequacies, he’s disrespectful of her boundaries and personal space. If I was her, I would have punched him by the second time he touched me without invitation, especially after I had told him not to. Pulling her plait? Is he twelve?

I skimmed and picked at some bits of this novel and it all reads and feels like the first few chapters. Read a few pages in the last chapter and the epilogue. Really don’t care. Perhaps this is too much PNR for me. Add to that antiquated gender models and I am done.

DNF at 56 pages and some nilly-willy skimming through later bits of the book. It’s probably me. I think I have UF/PNR-burn-out. I am really not interested anymore in the same old tropes, clichées and tired, old plot devices.

The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty, #1) — abandoned in 2016
by Ken Liu

World building:
Imperial airships. Some gods appeared briefly every now and then, but other than that this was conflicts between houses, conspiracies and war. 

At times this felt like a historical novel set in another version of China. Reading other reviews, I realized that this is exactly what it was. Ken Liu took real events of China’s history and transplanted them into a fictional setting, tinted with light fantasy elements. 

All not bad things, but the narrative felt very dry to me. More an account of things that a captivating narrative.

Characters:
I found it difficult to relate to the characters. They felt very one-dimensional and simplistic, almost like paper cut-outs from children’s books. This is the hero, this is the bad guy, this is the supportive wife… There was not a lot of life or development to these characters.

Plus there was a huge cast with unusual names. Added on top were the many place names and I really struggled to keep everything straight.

The lack of strong female characters has been commented on quite a bit in other reviews. It’s not a topic I tend to get militant about, but I did take note of the lack of interesting females. There was one with a bit more time on the page early on, but she was barely more than a side character. Towards the middle another one popped up, but she was as flat as the other characters.

Plot:
Slow. Changing points of view and settings in every chapter made the plot progression even slower. They did not help with my struggle to remember names and who-was-who either.

There was a lot of talking and very little doing. I wish there would have been more “Show, don’t tell!” As mentioned above, this read like an account of events, as if the various plot points were simply ticked off. There was no suspense or meaningful build-up.

I found this book a curious mix of boredom and glimpses into a great storyline. Those were the rare moments, when the plot did take a step forward. The flowery and stilted prose added to my difficulties with relating to the characters or the story.

DNF at 46%. Too many books, too little time.

I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you! Sorry that my review has not been more favourable!

PS from present-day-me: I have read some short stories by Ken Liu that I liked and I plan to try one of his other books eventually…

The Unleashing (Call of Crows, #1) — abandoned in 2015
by Shelly Laurenston

The beginning of the book is a little confusing, as it isn’t very clear that the character is having flashbacks. The ebook formatting of my advanced reading copy is also pretty wonky, which made reading this not any easier.

Initially some nice world building, some interesting characters. But the book never gets off the ground. There is a lot of talking, the characters have the maturity of really shallow teenagers and the plot never develops at all. 

The main character is an ex-marine and has been on two tours to Afghanistan. She sounds like she’s still in high school. Her male counterpart starts off with a lot of potential, but also goes nowhere fast.

There are various clans, fighting each others in the name of some Norse gods. A quarter into the book I still hadn’t figured out why and it all felt pretty pointless.

One bonus point for a Tolkien reference, but other than that I was bored and did not care what happens next. I kept pushing myself from one chapter to the next, in the hopes of something interesting happening, but finally gave up at 35%. Even the main character finding her wings couldn’t convince me to try for a few more chapters. If there is a good story somewhere, it took too long to raise its head.

I received this ARC copy of The Unleashing from Kensington Publishing Corp./NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. Sorry that it didn’t turn out better than this.

The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories — ran out of steam in 2013
by Ian Watson,  Ian Whates

DNF at 63%, 373 of 582 pages. I am fed up with this cluttering up my currently reading shelf. The 15 stories that I did read, average out at three stars. It’s not a bad collection, but it’s not really interesting either. I doubt I will pick it up again, but you never know.


Excellent, can I have that as a novel, please. 5 stars:
Harry Harrison & Tom Shippey, A letter from the Pope (vikings invading British isles, Middle Ages)

Entertaining and enjoyable, 4 stars:
James Morrow, The raft of the Titanic
Eugene Byrne & Kim Newman, The Wandering Christian (time of Christ to Middle Ages)
Esther M. Friesner, Such a deal (Christoper Columbus)
Kim Stanley Robinson, The Lucky Strike (WWII, war against Japan) – excellent! If I didn’t know first-hand already that Robinson is a great writer, this would have convinced me.
Ian R. MacLeod, The English Mutiny (England did not conquer India) – liked it, good idea well excecuted. Can see myself picking up something else by this author.

Interesting idea, but I was not really sold, 3 stars:
Ken MacLeod, Sidewinders (SF, dystopian future)
Suzette Hayden Elgin, Hush my Mouth (American civil war and onwards)
Rudy Rucker, The Imitation Game (Alan Turing) – interesting idea, but I didn’t care much for the characterization of Alan Turing or the actual plot.
Keith Roberts, Weihnachtsabend (Nazi Gemany and The British Empire form a pact) – the spelling and grammar mistakes of the German sentences were annyoing. The story was a bit odd.

Not interested, mostly skimmed. 1 or 2 stars:
A. A. Attanasio, Ink from the new Moon (discovery of the New World, China rules the world)
Pat Cadigan, Dispatches from the Revolution (USA, Vienam war onwards, politics, civil rights)
Paul McAuley, A Very British History (history of the space race) – boring, I was skimming almost from the beginning.
Marc Laidlaw, His Powder’d Wig, His Crown of Thornes (The colonies did not win during the American revolution…) – the story creeped me out, did not like it, skimmed through half of it.
Judith Carr, Roncesvalles (Spain, Middle Ages) – felt old-fashioned, talkative, with an overload of details. Lost interest, before anything of consequence happened.
Chris Robertson, O One (China rules the world, computation)

Stopped before reading: Harry Turtledove, Islands in the Sea

Cold Burn of Magic (Black Blade, #1) — gave up in 2015
by Jennifer Estep

DNF at 37%. And I only got this far with some skimming. I think I have to stop reading YA, it mostly does not work for me.

I did not buy the main character. Orphaned at 13, living alone and hiding away in a basement for years. And despite that she has these kick-ass fighting skills, capable of offing grown men that fight for a living. Not working for me.

On top of that she is a mean spirited, unlikeable teenager. She was probably written to be like that on purpose and might go through a change later in the book, to become a more mature person. But meanwhile I disliked her so much that I developed no interest in her.

And who wears a trenchcoat to a robbery? And carries the loot in its pockets?

The main themes of the book rang too many bells. Magical, powerful families, as in the Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews. Soul sight, as in the Dresden series by Jim Butcher. Repetitive writing, in teenager lingo, like. Been there, read it, was done much better in those books. Felt worn and did not engage me at all.

And some of the writing was just so silly. Another girl gets injured during a fight and spouts arterial blood. Our heroine finally gets a closer look and is shocked that it is even worse than she thought. The girl was spouting arterial blood. Come on, how much worse can it get?

Bottom line, unlikeable and unrealistic main character. Don’t buy the action scenes. The pacing was just not right. Action scenes should be fast and action-filled, they shouldn’t be full of explanations and thinky thoughts. Sketchy world building, magical families and talents that might not be intentional copies of other books, but felt so done already. At a third into the book still no monster sighting, which could have been the only novel idea of the book thus far.

If you are a fan of Jennifer Estep and of YA, this is probably a great read for you. But for me, every new scene kept rubbing me the wrong way. Not interested enough to keep going.

Free ARC, provided by Netgalley. Sorry that the review wasn’t positive.

The Accidental Demon Slayer (Demon Slayer, #1) — gave up in 2015
by Angie Fox

Woman finds out that the supernatural exists and that she is an especially strong and gifted demon hunter, when her Harley-driving granny shows up to save her from evil. Demons chase them, they survive and meet tall, dark and handsome. Who is mysterious and a great kisser. And not entirely human. Potential love-interest. There is also a talking Jack Russel terrier, who doesn’t seem to serve any purpose. Maybe comic relief, but not.

They escape to some bar, meet all the other biker witches, drink lots of alcohol, have a magic ceremony, have some not-quite-road-kill food, and 30% of the book are over without much happening, despite all the action. 

Characters are supposed to be weird and quirky, I guess. The various witches were confusing, as they all come across alike. Not a lot of world building, no explanations about the main character and her powers. I felt like watching the Halloween episode of Golden Girls.

Bored and glad that I got this for free from Amazon. DNF at 32%

Priceless (Rylee Adamson, #1) — did not track in 2015
by Shannon Mayer

„My name is Rylee and I am a Tracker.” 

Nice idea. Unfortunately the heroine does not track a thing in the first 20% of the book. She just drives around, visits random people and keeps telling herself, what a kick-ass bitch she is. 

I am guessing the introduction of a bunch of people with various, amazing skill sets is intended as a set-up for the rest of the series. Those characters are mostly clichees. Enter the young, paranoid hacker, living in a wired dump, sourrounded by CCTV and swilling root beer. Et cetera. 

I am sorry, I am not feeling it. I don’t like the main character, I am not connecting with the story at all. I keep finding other, more interesting things to do, just to avoid reading another chapter of this book. I am out. DNF at 21%.

Star Wars: Darth Vader, Vol. 1: Vader — abandoned ship in 2017
by Kieron Gillen,  Salvador Larroca (Illustrator),  Adi Granov (Illustrator) 

I liked the artwork, the story didn’t do it for me. By issue #3 I was skimming. 

Vader is the ultimate bad guy and seeing him not being the top dog was strange. I did like the glimpses into the parallels of the original Star Wars movies, but the storyline as a whole did not interest me.

Kiss of Fire (Dragonfire, #1) — done with this in 2015
by Deborah Cooke

Marie Sue is rescued from a deadly situation by a mysterious, ruggedly handsome and well-muscled guy. Check.

Instalove. Check. 

Silly dialogue, barely-there plot, minimal world building.

Skimmed to the fabled shower sequence. Yep, badly written sex. Done.

DNF after 130 pages.

The Bride Wore Spurs (the Inconvenient Bride Series #1) — no to this in 2017
by Sharon Ihle

I read, skimmed to 35% and Had to DNF. I could not continue with this. 

The female main character is TSTL in such a monumental fashion that it was painful to read. I don’t care if it is on purpose and if she would have turned into Superwoman in the last three chapters. Nobody can be this ignorant. Squeeze eggs out of a chicken? Give me a break. 

And I can’t develop any sympathies for a character that willfully lies and deceives and is stupid enough to think that she will get away with it.

There is no world building to speak of. Few descriptions of people or settings, I did not really get a mental picture of anything. The plot had potential and could have been fun, but lacked… not sure what. There were inconsistencies in the POV and also things that just didn’t make sense. For example, he is a rancher, she walks away from him with jingling spurs and he wonders where that noise is coming from. Is he deaf and directionally challenged? She wears boots that the mysterious person gave her and that she isn’t supposed to know about. He sees her take off those boots and…. nothing? I don’t know, everything just aggravated me about this book, I had to put it down.

In these cases I usually give two it-was-me-not-you stars. But this books annoyed me so much, I had to downgrade it to 1 star.

Thanks to the publisher for this freebie! Sorry, didn’t work for me!

The Dark One rises…

Having another go at Branson Sanderson, thanks to Netgalley. So far he has not been a winner for me. The previous comic, White sands, was not bad though.

Previous post about this.

We have a portal fantasy of some sort here, jumping back and forth between New York and another world. There are good and evil champions and a narrative that drives them along. Our presumed hero is a teenager from New York, with a mum working as a lawyer.

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“Visions of a dark and fantastic world haunt Paul Tanasin, but when he discovers they are prophecies from Mirandus, a world in which he’s destined to become a fearsome destroyer, he’ll have to embrace the fear, rise up as the Dark One, and shatter everything. Dark One examines the dual roles we often take on in life―the ability to be a savior as well as a destroyer.“

So Paul, our main character, is destined to be a dark force and his opponents in that other world are the Light, the supposed force for good. Which makes it slightly unusual, because Paul feels like the good guy and the opposing force more like the bad guys in this narrative. We get to see a lot of grey shades. I am actually curious to see where Sanderson will take this next.

The artwork is not much to rave about. There were one or two moments where I really liked depictions of unusual animals in Mirandus. The rest was flat and pretty middle-of-the-road.

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