September 2022 Wrap-up

My first two weeks of September I spent with hideous headaches and nausea. I finally went to see my doctor and she leaned towards what I has suspected already: my new night brace was too tight and made my bruxism worse. Not wearing the brace at night obviously didn‘t help. I had my brace redone, got pretty heavy pain medication for my headache and aching teeth and face. The right side of my face still hurts, but I‘m doing some exercises and I hope that I can stop with the pain killers soon. I am supposed to get manual therapy for my jaw muscles, neck and shoulders, but none of the local therapists have free slots until January. Oh well. We have a great manual therapist at work who did some work on my neck and stuck me under an infrared lamp. That helped a lot.

I was on a conference in Bremen for four days and my Corona App turned dark red for all of those days. Fabulous. So far I feel fine, disregarding my other pain…

Despite feeling pretty crap for most of September, I still managed to get some reading done…

Sword Dance ★★★¾☆ ebook, m/m romance and mystery in a greco-roman fantasy world.
– Eversion ★★★★¼ audio, Gothic steampunk time-travel space-exploration mystery.
– Ruby Fever (Hidden Legacy #6) ★★★★☆ ebook, another one with Catalina.
– The Mad Ship (Liveship Traders #2) ★★★★★ ebook, great continuation of Ship of Magic
– Defender (Foreigner #5) ★★★★½ audio, blast-off!
– The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes ★★★½☆ audio, finally finished this one. Some known stories, like The Speckled Band, some more obscure ones as well.
– The Cool Aunt (Hidden Legacy #5.1) ★★★★☆, short, online, set after Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy #5)
– The Tale of the Body Thief (Vampire Chronicles #4), DNF at 45% in August. Finally decided to dump it.
– The Girl Beneath the Sea (Underwater Investigation Unit #1) ★★★¼☆ audio, police diver with treasure-hunter dad chases down drug traffickers in South Florida.

Short story anthology The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six: (ongoing)
– TUNNELS by Eleanor Arnason. This was a pretty wacky story. Lydia is in a pickle and needs to rescue herself… I loved the alien and the world was definitely interesting. Hoot hoot hoot! ★★★★½ For free here: https://www.asimovs.com/assets/1/6/Tu…
– TEST 4 ECHO by Peter Watts. AI and illegal propagation? ★★★★☆ For free here: https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fi…
– UMA by Ken Liu. Our hero uses an avatar to save some people… This one was fun! ★★★★★ For free here: https://web.archive.org/web/202009251…

Comics:
– Lunatic (Moon Knight 2016-2017) by Jeff Lemire ★★★★★ eComic. Wacky! Loved it.
– The Bottom (Moon Knight 2006, Vol. 1) by Charlie Huston ★★★★★ eComic. Much darker and grimmer, a lot of blood and gore…

Currently reading:
– Midnight Sun (Moon Knight 2006, Vol. 2) by Charlie Huston, eComic

Carry-over:
– How the Earth Works, audio
– Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection, narrated by Stephen Fry

Specfic Movies & TV watched:
– She-Hulk, Attorney at Law, S1, Eps 3-5 ★★★☆☆ it‘s ok, I don‘t feel compelled to continue.
– The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, S1, Eps 3-4 ★★★½☆ nicely done, but leaving me untouched so far. Meh.
– Jurassic World Dominion ★★½☆☆ Oh my, what were they thinking? The plot was a mess and so much stuff was regurgitated.
– Day Shift ★★★☆☆ vampire action comedy with Jamie Foxx, entertaining enough.

The magic ships go a little mad…

The Mad Ship (Liveship Traders, #2)
by Robin Hobb 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Just as good as the first book. Paragon‘s story really takes off. There are some interesting things happening with Reyn and Malta as well. 

Malta evolves from spoilt girl to a more mature person. I did not really buy this change of personality or maturing, it was a bit abrupt. She was an annoying brat and then she was not, from one chapter to the next. It did work out in the end and I really liked her last chapter, where she really comes into herself. I still don‘t like her though.

Kennit is just too enamored with himself. At the end he seems to feel something for Wintrow, maybe because he sees something of himself in him. Other than that he is a nasty piece of work. 

Wintrow takes something of a backseat here, compared to Ship of Magic. Althea is still the best developed character. I am still not sure if I like Brashen. Anyway, many great characters, lots of great developments.

The serpents become very interesting here as well, compared to Ship of Magic, where they felt like superfluous interludes. And the ending was excellent. Great action sequence.

I liked the settings. Divvytown was memorable and I loved Treehaug and the Rain Wilds.

I am really tempted to continue to the last book of this trilogy right away, but I will take a break first… maybe. 5 stars!

PS: Goodness me, it took me two months, with lots of other books in between, to make it through these 900 pages.

Currently reading…

The Mad Ship (Liveship Traders, #2)
by Robin Hobb

I started this doorstopper beginning of August, but took a lot of breaks to read other things in between. I enjoyed the first book, Ship of Magic, and also posted about Mad Ship already towards the end of August. A lot of interesting things have happened since my last post, so I think I will attempt to finish this now without any more breaks.

Eversion
by Alastair Reynolds

This is my current audiobook, I am about halfway here as well.

In the 1800s, a sailing ship crashes off the coast of Norway. In the 1900s, a Zepellin explores an icy canyon in Antarctica. In the far future, a spaceship sets out for an alien artifact. Each excursion goes horribly wrong. And on every journey, Dr. Silas Coade is the physician, but only Silas seems to realize that these events keep repeating themselves. And it’s up to him to figure out why and how. And how to stop it all from happening again.

From the book blurb

What I have read so far by Reynolds, I liked. I am going about it quite haphazardly. Perhaps I should have a closer look at his back catalogue and make an attempt at a more coordinated reading experience. I am assuming this one here is a standalone, but I haven‘t really checked. Quite odd, actually. It feels a bit like those idle games for smart phones, where you have to destroy your current evolution of the game in order to progress to the next level. I am about to launch myself into space.

Read so far by Reynolds, both 5-star reads:

The Prefect (Prefect Dreyfus Emergency, #1)

Blue Remembered Earth (Poseidon’s Children, #1)

On my shelf, to be read:

Permafrost

Revenger (Revenger, #1) 

Unrest in the countryside

Sword Dance (Sword Dance, #1)
by A.J. Demas

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Interesting world. Names sound Greek, the architecture sounds a little more Roman. And the far away land of Zash reminds me a bit of Persia, maybe the hanging gardens of Babylon made an indirect appearance?

Damiskos, the main character, is a likeable fellow. Former soldier, not a terribly exciting job, gets sent to the countryside to make a deal about buying fish sauce for the troops. Fishy things start to happen, not just sauce-related. 

“Terza’s head, what a lot of ghastly people Nione seemed to have gathered around herself. Did he really have to stay out the week?“

Apparently he did. If Agatha Christie had ever written Fantasy, this is probably what it would have looked like. The requisite body might or might not have turned up. Damiskos gets support from unexpected quarters and has to pretend to be romantically inclined to towards the sword-dancing eunuch. Things do not go as planned. Do they ever?

Thrown in were some rather odd philosophers, some violence, a little not too graphic sex and various shenanigans. I liked the underhanded humour. Oh yes, and there were some serious topics woven into the narrative, about gender identity, equal rights, racism, power over and perception of others—nicely done.

This is not quick, the pace is rather sedate. Damiskos and the story take their time. It is well plotted though.

The world has potential for some more sweeping stories and there are two more books in this series. Recommended, if you are looking for a relaxed mystery with some action, light humour and a little m/m romance.

„… a dizzying week of intrigue, assassinations, and a fake love affair that—maybe—turned real.“

August Wrap-Up

August 2022: …stop it for a moment… August already, goodness me, wasn‘t it just January?

Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders #1) ★★★★★ paper, I unexpectedly really liked this. Took me 4 weeks to read it, but the characters and the world really came to life! Enjoying the sequel so far. Seamless continuation.
– Soul Taken (Mercy Thompson #13) ★★★★¾ ebook, entertaining brain candy with werewolves, vampires and fae. Maybe getting a little tired now, Ms Briggs?
– Inheritor (Foreigner #3) ★★★★☆ Audio, my second try and this time I had fun. Yay!
Precursor (Foreigner #4) ★★★★½ audio, Atevi in space! Even better!
When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain (Singing Hills #2) ★★★★☆ ebook, our cleric Chih has to narrate themself out of a prickly situation with three tigers.
– The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Engineer‘s Thumb / The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor ★★★☆☆

Ongoing short story anthology The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six: 
– TEXTBOOKS IN THE ATTIC by S.B. Divya — climate change has flooded towns, antibiotics are rare for those less privileged. A mother searches for a way to save her son. ★★★★★ More on tor.com: https://www.tor.com/author/s-b-divya/
– SEEDING THE MOUNTAIN by M. L. Clark — I am definitely not a fan of sentences running pages long, stuffed full of superfluous adverbs and adjectives. Hard pass. ★☆☆☆☆
– KNOCK, KNOCK SAID THE SHIP by Rati Mehrotra — Deenu works on a trading ship with a slightly disturbed AI. When the ship is attacked, she has to decide where her loyalties lie. ★★★★★
– STILL YOU LINGER, LIKE SOOT IN THE AIR by Matthew Kressel — Gil is a priest of Muu, a alien intelligence, who has „abilities that seem to defy known physical laws of nature.” In other words, Muu is a god. Gil lost his pupil and lover and struggles to come to terms with his loss and his entrapment by Muu. ★★★★☆ Can be read for free here: https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fi…

Comics:
– All Out War Part 2 ★★★★☆ The Walking Dead 21, eComic, StoryGraph #1 October
– The Walking Dead: All Out War AP Edition ★★★★☆ Done in raw pencils, without the ink. I like it a lot, it shows the artist‘s skill much better.
– Redlands Vol. 1, eComic, DNF after the first 2 issues (54 pages). Witches take over a town of misogynistic racists. Didn‘t like it.

Currently reading:
– The Mad Ship (Liveship Traders #2), ebook. Going slowly, as I keep reading shorter stuff in between. This will take me most of September for sure.

Ongoing:
The Tale of the Body Thief (Vampire Chronicles #4), paper, on hold, not enjoying it.
– How the Earth Works, audio, it‘s so-so. Sometimes very good, then again a bit slow and drawn out. It‘s lectures though, not a coherent book, which might be the problem.
– Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection, narrated by Stephen Fry: #3) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the rest. Long book is long.

Specfic Movies & TV watched:
– For All Mankind, S3, Eps. 4-10, completed ★★★★★ Mars!
– The Sea Beast, animation ★★★★★ Excellent swashbuckling adventure with sea monsters. So much fun!
– Prey (Predator) ★★★★☆ 
– The Sandman, S1, Eps 1-5 ★★★☆☆ I massively disliked episode 5, not sure I‘ll continue. Not really my cup of tea.
– Morbius ★★★☆☆ No big surprises, pretty predictable. Made me discover Leto’s band 30 Seconds to Mars though, which I love.
– Westworld, S1 ★★★★☆ Slow start, but developed nicely. Might continue, if I can get S2 at a reduced price.
– She-Hulk, Attorney at Law, S1, Eps 1+2, ongoing. Fun so far.

Scheherazade meets Rashomon

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain (The Singing Hills Cycle, #2)
by Nghi Vo

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Loved the mammoths immediately! And I was oddly happy to meet Chih again, despite complaining about a lack of an emotional connection to the characters in the first book of this series, The Empress of Salt and Fortune.

We meet demons/shapeshifters in the form of tigers. And they want to eat Chih and their travel companions. Chih has to tell a story to hopefully save them, but doesn‘t get it quite right. It felt a bit like Scheherazade of One Thousand and One Nights meets Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa. In my head I pictured an animated movie, perhaps inspired by the pretty book cover.

I am finally hooked and already requested The Singing Hills #3, Into the Riverlands, on Netgalley. Fingers crossed.

PS: These novellas are standalone, you do not need to read them in order.

More ships crossing my seas…

As I enjoyed Ship of Magic quite a bit, I decided to continue the series with The Mad Ship (Liveship Traders, #2) by Robin Hobb. I am about a quarter into this 915 pages long chunkster. It seamlessly continues with the storyline of the first book, I am happy so far.

We are still following Althea on her quest to regain her liveship, making unusual choices.

‘How do you move so easily in both worlds? Where do you really belong?’
‘Why must it be one or the other?’ she countered. ‘You are both a capable seaman and the son of a Bingtown Trader. Why should not I have both sets of skills?’

As opposed to her niece Malta, who is her annoying and horrific counterpart of the females of the Vestrit family…

‘Please don’t fill her head with nonsense like that,’ Ronica said irritably. ‘The last thing we need is her going about the house feeling martyred simply because she is a female.’

Wintrow is still struggling with where his life has led him…

Accept your life, and you might survive it. If you hold back from it, insisting this is not your life, not where you are meant to be, life will pass you by.

It‘s all about choices. I am looking forward to where they will all end up in the course of this book!

Sentient ships, pirates and serpents…

Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders, #1)
by Robin Hobb

“Far down the rugged coast from Fitz’s home in Buckkeep is the city of Bingtown, home to the Liveship Traders. Liveships are literally named: after three generations of sailors die on their decks, they “quicken,” becoming sentient beings with all the memories of their deceased family. Althea Vestrit was certain that her father would leave their ship, Vivacia, to her—but he doesn’t, passing it on to his elder daughter, Keffria, for her Chalcedean husband Kyle to command.“

https://www.tor.com/2019/06/07/assassins-pirates-or-dragons-where-to-start-with-the-work-of-robin-hobb/

And that is where the trouble starts. Kyle does not understand what a liveship truly is and has antiquated ideas about the role of women.

I approached this book with a lot of trepidation, as I didn‘t finish The Farseer Trilogy. Assassin’s Apprentice was too much of a coming-of-age story, focused on one person. And it was depressing. I finished, but never picked up the sequel. Which is a bummer, as it seems to be Hobb‘s most beloved character. My review

This one here is very much a coming of age story as well, at least for Althea, Wintrow and Vivacia. But I liked the world much better, with its sailors, pirates, conscious ships and the mysterious Rain Wild Traders (already looking forward to the Rain Wild Chronicles). The various port cities were fun to read about. The „whaling“ ship and it‘s trip to its hunting destination was really well drawn. And the descriptions of the slave trade and the slaver ships were fascinating as well. Having the different characters on different paths and plots really gave Hobb ann excellent opportunity to show off the Cursed Shores. 

Althea really is a spoilt brat at first. Things happen. Wintrow was not love at first side either, but he started to grow on me. Those two are probably my favourite characters. Although Kennit, Amber and Paragon developed nicely as well along the course of this doorstopper. I am really looking forward to all of their continued adventures in The Mad Ship. I feel really invested in the liveship Vivacia as well and so hope that she will have a HEA at the end of the third book…

The plot developed slowly, but that is to be expected in a book of nearly 900 pages, followed by two equally hefty tomes… Patience was needed—something in short supply for me when reading books. I want a speedy plot and action. But here it didn‘t really bother me all that much. I knew I was in for the long haul, with 2689 pages across 3 books. And I really became invested in the lives of the characters—as opposed to the Farseer Triolgy, where I didn‘t really care all that much. 

Not so fun:
The questing serpents were really odd parts of the narrative from the start, I enjoyed their chapters the least. But I guess they really are serving some greater purpose.
And Malta really annoyed me. I think I know what is in store for her, including a very rude awakening. I hope it will make her a better person.

The secret of how liveships are made and where their wizardwood comes from will hopefully be revealed eventually. I also hope that something will come of that wooden pendant that Althea received from Amber!

Well done, Ms. Hobb. I can‘t promise to read everything—I might make a wide turn around Fitz—but for now I am at least partially sold… 

Here’s an interesting article by Molly Templeton, on Tor.com, about the different series and where to start (yes, I stole that sentence and link from Hobb‘s homepage). But careful, the article is full of spoilers! I stopped reading it after the first paragraph about the Rain Wild series, as I want to read that after this trilogy. Dragons!?

July 2022 Wrap-up

My July 2022:

Severance by Ling Ma ★★★½☆ audio, a millennial‘s coming of age, literary fiction with a touch of zombies.

Black Tide ★★★★¼ audiobook, horror. End of the world, alien invasion meets creature feature. I had fun, couldn‘t put it down. Looking forward to everybody else‘s comments.

The Empress of Salt and Fortune ★★★☆☆ ebook, novella, magical China, the life of an empress in very broad strokes, didn‘t do much for me.

– The Iron Duke ★★★★★ paper, StoryGraph #1 August, officially marketed as PNR, but much more steampunk-pirates-zombie-swashbuckling fun.

– Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection, narrated by Stephen Fry:

#1) A Study in Scarlet, Watson meets Holmes. And Mormons. ★★★½☆ 

#2) The Sign of Four, Watson meets Mary. And we take a trip to the Andaman Islands. ★★★★☆

#3) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, A Scandal in Bohemia, Holmes & Watson meet The Woman / The Adventure of the Re-Headed League / A Case of Identity / The Boscombe Valley Mystery / The Five Orange Pips / The Man with the Twisted Lip / The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle / The Adventure of the Speckled Band ★★★★☆


Short story anthology The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six: (ongoing)

– YELLOW AND THE PERCEPTION OF REALITY by Maureen F. McHugh ★★★★★ how do we perceive reality? For free here: https://www.tor.com/2020/07/22/yellow…

– EXILE’S END by Carolyn Ives Gilman ★★★★☆ The painful process of repatriation of stolen art. For free here: https://www.tor.com/2020/08/12/exiles…

– INVISIBLE PEOPLE by Nancy Kress — parents find out that their adopted daughter has been genetically altered as an embryo. Besides the ethical questions this throws up, it‘s a well-written thriller. Great character development for a short story, I was with them every step of the way. ★★★★★

– RED_BATI by Dilman Dila — a conscious pet robot fighting for its life and meaning on a mining ship. Read this before in Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora and found it a bit blander this time around. ★★★☆☆


Comics:

– Copra: Round One, DNF at 42 pages, eComic, StoryGraph #1 July, rip-off/homage of Suicide Squad, messy art, no plot.

– We Stand On Guard ★★★★★ eComic, StoryGraph #1 September, Canada is invaded by the US in a war for water.

– Saga #60 ★★★★★ eComic, the end of this arc. I cried.

– They’re Not Like Us, Vol. 1: Black Holes for the Young, DNF at 47 pages, eComic, StoryGraph #2 September, teens with psychic powers, took too long to get going, didn‘t like the artwork.


Currently reading:

Ship of Magic, paper, I am about halfway and like it. Doorstopper of almost 900 pages, very dense, so this will take a few more weeks.

– How the Earth Works, audio, Great courses lectures.

– Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection, narrated by Stephen Fry: #3) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, all the other stories…


Specfic Movies & TV watched:

– Dune, new movie ★★★★★ re-watch. Part II end of 2023, why???

– Obi-Wan Kenobi, S1, Ep 6, season completed ★★★★☆ hard to come to a satisfying ending, when you know that they all live to fight another day.

– Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ★★★★☆ Entertaining, a little silly, a little absurd. I think I like my entertainment to be a little less wacky. Pretty forgettable, actually.

– A Discovery of Witches, S1 completed ★★★½☆ Meh. Read the blurb of books 2 + 3, most likely a pass.

– Resident Evil, S1 completed, Netflix series ★★★★☆

(- Night Sky, S1, Eps 3… not sure if I am all that interested in continuing….

– For All Mankind, S3, Eps. 1-3 ★★★★★ OMG, I wish this was real. So cool.


And last, but not least — I finally finished my Lego tree house…

Some statistics:

Just noticed—the format page only seems to be counting the finished books. Oh well…

Fierce enough to fight wolves 

The Empress of Salt and Fortune (The Singing Hills Cycle, #1)
by Nghi Vo 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A servant tells the story of her empress to a non-binary cleric. Two linear timelines, novella. Much is hinted at, little is spelled out. Fantasy novella with hints of China and further north. 

“The abbey at Singing Hills would say that if a record cannot be perfect, it should at least be present. Better for it to exist than for it to be perfect and only in your mind.”

It‘s well written, but I never connected to any of the characters. Lyrical writing and good worldbuilding are important—I am a very plot-driven person. However, I need relatable characters. We never got much insight into their thoughts. On an emotional level I did not care what happened to any of them.

There was a lot of telling and very little showing, it was a pretty dry affair. By the end of the story I just shrugged and moved on. Pretty cover though.

I am the odd one out here in my usual reading circle, they all seem to have loved it.