Riding the bus through London

The 392
by Ashley Hickson-Lovence

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Set entirely on a London bus travelling from Hoxton to Highbury and taking place over just 36 minutes, the events of The 392 unfold through a cast of charismatic characters coming from very different worlds. On the 392 are all the familar faces you might expect to see on any bus ride through inner-city London in the grip of gentrification; delinquent school kids, the high-flyers, the weird, the wonderful and the homeless. These Londoners share two things: a bus journey and a threat. A threat which is ready to blow apart everything they know.

From the book blurb

Not my usual type of reading. The premise sounded interesting and it is included in my Audible subscriptions. So here we are. Narrated by a British cast, we are riding on a bus through London, listening to the bus passengers narrating their life, their past, their wishes for their future, their prejudices, fears and wants… Hipsters, racism, soccer, gentrification, low brow, high brow, drugs, a pregnant girl, a barrister, a blind man, an elderly lady, unknown buildings, weird smells, school children, a camera man, a politician…. A bomb?

Great narrators, great characters talking about their own experiences and perceptions. Very well written and the narration by different voice actors makes it very lively.

Barney makes me think of Boris Johnson. Is he supposed to be? 

Slightly gross at times, for a mature audience.

Bottom line, not bad, getting a glimpse at Londoners from various backgrounds. Ultimately not really my thing.

The author reading from his debut novel:

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.

Not Sophie‘s World

The Solitaire Mystery
by Jostein Gaarder

I added this to my shelf in 2016, because about 30 years ago I read Sofies Welt and thought it was an excellent book, conveying the core ideas of philosophy in an easily understandable way to younger and older readers alike. I hoped that this would be something similar. After 52 pages and 7 chapters I put it aside. 

Father and child on a trip, a fairytale narrative in a very simple style. Not badly written, if you don’t mind the simple tone. A story within a story. I had issues with the father and disliked him a lot, but that‘s on me. Not my kind of book.

Blast from the past, a comic series from the 70s…

Yoko Tsuno: TWO-IN-ONE: Unterirdische Begegnung / Die Orgel des Teufels
by Roger LeloupHarald Sachse (Translator)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Two issues collected in one softcover edition, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the German comics publisher Carlsen, translated into German from the original French.

Roger Leloup is a Belgian comic strip artist, novelist, and a former collaborator of Hergé, for whom he created drawings for The Adventures of Tintin. He is most famous for the Yoko Tsuno comic series, which was first published in 1970. (info transcribed from Wikipedia)

The first issue, Yoko tsuno le trio de l’etrange (CROSS OVER, was published in 1972. Yoko Tsuno and her colleagues get sucked into an underground world while scuba diving and meet aliens living in a subterranean colony. It‘s an SF adventure story with quite a lot of action and conflict. The story was not my cup of tea, I skimmed through the last few pages.

The second issue in this collection is L’Orgue du diable, first published in 1973. Katz Castle, a real castle towering above the river Rhine, and its surroundings are the place of action for this one. This part of the Rhine Gorge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I have come past this particular stretch by train many times, trying to catch a glimpse of the Lorelei from my train window. The first frame of this comic gives a realistic view of the setting…

(Photo at the top taken from Wikipedia)

Here is the text of Heinrich Heine‘s poem Die Lorelei with an English translation:
https://www.ogn.ox.ac.uk/sites/defaul…

Anyway, back to Yoko Tsuno! Another mystery, this time a less speculative story, about a massiv pipe organ. I liked the artwork depicting real settings. But generally, as mentioned above already, this type of comic is not really my thing. Not bad, but I won‘t pick up any other issues of this series.

Fairyland meets Art Nouveau

Enchanted Living, Summer 2019: #47 The Art Nouveau Issue

by Carolyn Turgeon (Editor), Mary Sharratt, Theodora Goss, Grace NuthKatharyn Howd Machan

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Photography of all things Art Nouveau—jewelry, present day portraits, interior shots of old buildings and new decorations, tarot decks, ceramics, fashion/costumes… There is also poetry, paintings—Klimt‘s The Kiss makes an appearance—, illustrations, interviews, articles on a variety of topics, recipes for homemade cosmetics and cocktails… A pretty eclectic mix. 

I flipped though this magazine twice. Some of the photographs I liked, most of the magazine’s content was not my cup of tea. Too much fairyland, not enough actual Art Nouveau.

I liked the abandoned Art Nouveau buildings…

… and the ceramics…

The centerfold is about Solarpunk Design with an interesting cityscape. That was pretty much it. Sorry.

France meets Peru

The Adoption: CE by ZidrouArno Monin (Artist)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is alternatively funny and sad. Grandpa is grumpy and gnarly. And Qinaya is too cute for words.

She is a little girl from Peru, that has been adopted into a French family. Mostly this first issue is about the developing relationship between her and her new grandfather. Nice artwork, good story, well-done character development. Very surprising ending of Issue #1. It threw me for a very unexpected loop.

So I went into Issue #2 with some apprehension… The story was a little scattered and rambly. Very situational and reflective. I didn‘t like it as much as Issue #1. It didn‘t really shed much light on the cliffhanger of Issue #1 for a long time either and only had a light connection to it. However, the art was still very good.

And the ending made me happy. A feel-good finale.

Six Degrees of Separation — Talking, Shouting, Whispering…

Welcome to #6degrees. I haven’t done one of these in a while. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book. I mostly use this meme to work on my backlog, aka reviews that I haven‘t yet posted to my blog here. Or to give myself a reminder of the books on my TBR pile or want-to-read-shelf.

So, as usual, this month starts the chain link with a book I haven‘t read or ever heard about.

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

„As this urgent, genre-defying book opens, a woman who has recently been elevated to prominence for her social media posts travels around the world to meet her adoring fans. […] Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray: “Something has gone wrong,” and “How soon can you get here?” […] Fragmentary and omniscient, incisive and sincere, No One Is Talking About This is at once a love letter to the endless scroll and a profound, modern meditation on love, language, and human connection from a singular voice in American literature.“ (from the book blurb)

Really not my kind of thing. I read the blurb three times and nothing came to mind. However, as we are on the subject of talking…

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

„A show runner and her assistant give the world something to talk about when they accidentally fuel a ridiculous rumour.“

Sounds like an entertaining romance. Just the kind of light escapism I enjoy at the moment. Just moved it to from my want-to-read to my TBR pile. So much for me not wanting to add to that pile. What can I say, could be fun and came relatively cheap.

And talking takes me to shouting…

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí ClarkChannie Waites (Narrator)

“Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns with Ring Shout, a dark fantasy historical novella that gives a supernatural twist to the Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror.“

I really like his Djinn stories and this keeps popping up on a lot of my kind of lists. On my want-to-read. I am leaning towards the audio, the narrator sounds good.

Not everybody who shouts can also whisper….

Under the Whispering Door by  T.J. Klune

“When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.“

Yes, alright, it is STILL on my want-to-read. I will read it at some point, I promise!

People that whisper often don‘t speak at all…

The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

„What if you knew how and when you will die? Csorwe does. She will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice. On the day of her foretold death, however, a powerful mage offers her a new fate.“

On my TBR pile. Not sure why this landed there. Traditional fantasy with a queer touch. Another one I will get to eventually.

Continuing with silence…

Circles Of Silence by Preeti Singh

Rating: 3 out of 5.

“A birth mark on the right shoulder! And one as big and as dark as that! Arre baap re! This is of some terrible significance…’ Despite his grandmother’s gloomy prophecy, Rattan grows up leading a charmed life – first in Delhi, then at Boston University. When he returns to Delhi, and the family business, Rattan is happy to fall in with his parents’ plans for an arranged marriage.“

I read this in 2007. It did not sweep me off my feet, but the characters were likeable. The story was sweet and interesting enough, although there were no great surprises.

And when you are done with silence, how about some wailing to break the tension?

The Wailing Wind (Navajo Mysteries, #15) by Tony Hillerman

Rating: 2 out of 5.

“Tony Hillerman’s novels are like no others. His insightful portrayal of the vast Navajo Reservation, the spirit-haunted people who inhabit it and the clash between ancient traditions and modern civilization that has shaped its present and will determine its future has produced a body of work unique in mystery fiction.”

I read this in 2008. Fairly run-of-the-mill murder mystery with a slightly unusual setting. Pretty forgettable.

Done with Camping

I gave it a serious try, reading this on and off for two years.

Tietjen auf Tour: Warum Camping mich glücklich macht (Why Camping Makes Me Happy)
by Bettina Tietjen

DNF at 150 pages (about 55%). Well, it was more like 84 pages of actual reading and then some skimming.

Travelogue for campers. Nice anecdotes, well written, but pretty repetitive. Each chapter felt the same after a while.

Reiseanekdoten für Wohnmobilfans. Nett, gut geschrieben, aber nach einer Weile fühlten sich alle Kapitel gleich an.


When do I DNF a book? I tend to give it at least 50 to 100 pages, depending on the size of book. 20 to 25% for ebooks. And in some cases I might decide to skim very hard to get an impression of the rest of the book.

How about you?

The Top Ten — 2021 Releases I Added to my Want-to-Read But Didn’t Get To  

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 18: 2021 Releases I Was Excited to Read But Didn’t Get To

I changed that “excited to read“ to „added to my want-to-read“. Excited is a strong word. Those that I was excited about I pre-ordered and read in 2021. As I am very, very stingy with adding books to my want-to-read-shelf, I ended up with just another 10 books. And here they are:

Black Magick, Vol. 3: Ascension by Greg Rucka,  Nicola Scott — I added this to my shelf in 2019 and it took its sweet time to get published. Greg Rucka does fantastic stuff and the artwork was really very pretty in the first two volumes. Plus it was a good story. But the break was just so long, by the time this one here came out I just wasn‘t as interested anymore. So it still lingers. I highly recommend Lazarus, Vol. 1: Family by Greg Rucka!

The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott — „A gripping novel of myth, environment, adventure, and an unlikely friendship, from an award-winning Australian author“ — I have no idea why this is on my shelf. Pretty cover. Deleted.

Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard — „Award-winning author Aliette de Bodard returns with a powerful romantic fantasy“ — I have read good things by her and this novella was recommended. I in turn recommend Lullaby for a Lost World.

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley — YA mystery. Not really my thing. But my reading buddies loved it and it sounds tempting enough. I guess this part of the blurb did it: “Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman)“. Because I quite liked a book by a different author from an Anishinaabe community, Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice. Does not really make sense, I know.

We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker — „about one family and the technology that divides them“ — contemporary setting, about a brain implant that helps to get ahead. Not sure about this one, deleted.

The Audacity of Sara Grayson by Joani Elliott — a nice sounding piece of chicklit. Mother dies, last wish is for her daughter to finish her final book in a bestselling series. Possible shenanigans. I might keep it for now.

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim — another YA. A retelling of The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen, one of my favourite fairytales. Or The Six Swans by the Brothers Grimm. I am actually not sure which one, they are almost the same thing. Anyway, it tempted me.

Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune — it seems that everybody on the planet has read this but me.

Glimmer by Marjorie B Kellogg — „This new cli-fi epic chronicles a future NYC wracked by climate change and follows the individuals who must make the most of what remains to survive.“ — or should I rather go for Kim Stanley Robinson? This one here sounds like more fun.

Noor by Nnedi Okorafor — „From Africanfuturist luminary Okorafor comes a new science fiction novel of intense action and thoughtful rumination on biotechnology, destiny, and humanity in a near-future Nigeria.“ — I still haven‘r read anything by Okorafor. Or should I rather start with Binti?