Top Ten Tuesday, counting to 10…

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 / September 13: Books with numbers in the titles

Let‘s see if I manage from one to ten on my shelf of read books…

One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles, #3)
by Ilona Andrews

I first read this as an online serial on Ilona Andrews’ website, which took most of 2016. I had fun reading the weekly bits and agonizing over them with my reading buddies. However, reading a finished book in one go is a more cohesive affair. It runs smoother, you can read as long as you want, no waiting for the next gripping bit. Also more editing and small improvements on various details. Plus a maturer rating.

“Look, it can be fast, good, or cheap. You can have any two but never all three.”

― Ilona Andrews, One Fell Sweep

Two Ravens and One Crow (The Iron Druid Chronicles #4.3)
by Kevin Hearne

You read that right. I purposefully did not pick The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2) by J.R.R. Tolkien… 😜 Instead I picked a short story from The Iron Druid Chronicles. A fun series, if you manage to ignore that a 2000-year-old druid is this dumb and juvenile.

Three Days to Dead (Dreg City, #1)
by Kelly Meding

Great fun! I almost read it in a day. Our heroine is a bounty hunter for all things that go bump in the night. There are shapeshifters, vampires, bridge trolls, the fey… Nothing really unusual or terribly new, but an entertaining read nonetheless, if you like Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs or Carrie Vaughn.

The Eye of the World: The Graphic Novel, Volume Four
by Chuck Dixon, Robert Jordan

Another attempt to make headway with this series. I got a very nice hardback edition. Starts with chapter 27 of the book, Shelter From the Storm, and ends with chapter 34 of the book, The Last Village.

Very close to the book. The artwork is nothing breath taking, but well done. Especially the cover gallery in the back has some very nice images.

This takes place roughly in the middle of The Eye of The World, which dragged for me. The pacing of the comic is not much different. I liked it, but it didn‘t tempt me to get another volume right away. If I saw some WoT comics in a second hand store at a reduced price, maybe…

Five Quarters of the Orange
by Joanne Harris

Framboise is running a creperie in a small village in rural France. She spent her childhood years during WWII in this village, but nobody knows that. She now lives under another name, to protect a dark secret in her past. One day her nephew and his wife appear at her doorstep, to ask for the use of her name and recipes. When she refuses – to protect her true identity – she quickly realises that they will stop at nothing to get those recipes. But she is not easily defeated. And while she struggles against her nephew, she tells us her story….. Very good book, recommended! Great storytelling.

Rainbow Six (Jack Ryan Universe, #10)
by Tom Clancy

Unusual, as it is one of the rare books where Jack Ryan is not the main character. John Clark is not as black and white and makes for an interesting character. There is the usual body count and a lot of gadgets, all in all a solid thriller.

Sherlock Holmes: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
by David Tipton,  Scott Tipton,  Ron Joseph (Illustrations) 

I have the seen the movie several times, it is one of my favourite Sherlock Holmes movies. 

This is a very close retelling of the story. The dramtic chase and the big reveal of Holmes’ secret at the end are well done, as well as the artwork. An enjoyable read and a surprising take on the life of the great detective. Sherlock Holmes fans should not miss this.

Eight Feet in the Andes: Travels with a Mule from Ecuador to Cuzco
by Dervla Murphy

I really wanted to like this, but after spending ages getting past the first 50 pages I decided to give up. The great thing about travel literature is the things that happen on the way. But as far as I got, the main thing was going up the mountain, over the mountain, down the mountain…. And I did not think the descriptions of the most likely stunning scenery were very good either. Very disappointing.

Nine Last Days on Planet Earth
by Daryl Gregory

Free short story on Tor.com.

“When the seeds rained down from deep space, it may have been the first stage of an alien invasion—or something else entirely.“

https://www.tor.com/2018/09/19/nine-last-days-on-planet-earth-daryl-gregory/

I‘m Groot! Interesting. I liked it, fascinating take on evolution and alien invasion, great character development. I felt with LT and almost cried with him at the end. Not sure if I am a fan of that quasi open ending. 

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That Will Improve and/or Ruin Everything
by Kelly Weinersmith,  Zach Weinersmith

My NetGalley version only consisted of the introduction and the first two chapters: How to get into space cheaply and asteroid mining. Once I realized that, I mostly skimmed and just perused a bit here and there.

Entertaining, amusing style, that borders on slightly silly. Amusing, very simple comic strips—I recommend reading the ebook version on something that allows colour. Easy to understand explanations of complex topics. Space elevators, reusable rockets, Elon Musk and the odd Star Trek joke make an appearance.

It‘s ok, if you are looking for something light to flick through, when you have a few minutes to spare. Coffee table reading, mostly decorative.

Where IS Shakespeare?

Kill Shakespeare Volume 1 by Conor McCreery,  Anthony Del ColAndy Belanger

Rating: 2 out of 5.

What Fables does for fairy tales, Kill Shakespeare does with the greatest writer of all time. This dark take on the Bard pits his greatest heroes (Hamlet, Juliet, Othello Falstaff) against his most menacing villains (Richard III, Lady Macbeth, Iago) in an epic adventure to find and kill a reclusive wizard named William Shakespeare.

Book blurb

I have been eyeing Fables for a while. This blurb has me worried about it.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are not quite dead yet… I expected this to be a ploy about killing Shakespeare. Instead, we delve into Hamlet…

And then—surprise!—we switch to a different play. And several others after that. 

And that ploy materialized after all. However, at the end of Chapter One I was not terribly interested in the story. I put it aside and felt no urge to pick it up again, then read a bit more and skimmed myself through most of Chapter Two. Nope. Not for me. Boring. DNF at 40%.

The artwork is nothing special, just ok. I was not enamored with the way many of the female characters were drawn.

Brain candy done right…

I mentioned K.J. Charles in my previous review. Here is what I read…

The Magpie Lord (A Charm of Magpies, #1) by K.J. Charles

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Very entertaining and well written brain candy with likeable characters, a nice mystery, some sorcery and the requisite hot sex toward the end. Couldn’t put it down! Well, I had to sleep at some point…

Interlude with Tattoos (A Charm of Magpies, #1.5) by K.J. Charles

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Interlude with Tattoo (A Charm of Magpies #1.5) is a short story set just after the end of The Magpie Lord and is included at the end of that eBook. Nice little follow-up.

The Smuggler and the Warlord (A Charm of Magpies, #0.5) by K.J. Charles (Goodreads Author) 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

And this is set before the first full-length novel. Flash fiction, just a tiny snippet to set the mood, I guess. I liked the humour and sarcasm in it.

A Case of Possession (A Charm of Magpies, #2) by K.J. Charles

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Main story again. Brain candy with magic, mentions of exotic locations, some fairly graphic m/m sex and a simple murder/revenge plot with shamans and scary rats, historical setting. Has a Regency Victorian feel to it (timing, not tone), I am not sure when exactly it takes place. 

The plot is nothing too twisty or deep, this is a quick and entertaining read. The ending was a bit rushed. I was pretty surprised to stumble into the dramatic climax all of a sudden, also because I wasn’t aware that there was another story at the end. Best read in chronological order of the series, including the short stories.

A Case of Spirits (A Charm of Magpies, #2.5) by K.J. Charles

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Quick read, Victorian setting, nobility, gay lovers, magic and a little suspense. Well written, entertaining.

Flight of Magpies (A Charm of Magpies, #3) by K.J. Charles

The third, full-length novel. I haven‘t read this one yet, it‘s part of my TBR pile, review to come…

Feast of Stephen (A Charm of Magpies, #3.5) by K.J. Charles

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read this out of order, before novel #3, and enjoyed it quite a bit. Very short, but for fans of the series worthwhile. Stephen seems to have gone through some interesting changes in the previous book. 

Spectred Isle (Green Men #1) by K.J. Charles

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This is the start of another series. Very similar set-up to The Magpie Lord, but in earlier times. Tall dark stranger, magic, mystery, the other character is generally more of a Dr. Watson type…

A saturnine, sardonic sort of face, clean-shaven; a mouth that seemed made to sneer. He looked like the kind of man Saul had met a great deal in the war in the officer ranks: a thoroughbred aristocrat, effortlessly superior, endlessly disdainful.

I like her writing. It rolls along nicely, good tension, she has humour. I don‘t know how much sense these stories make in their historical setting, but so far they have been fun. And I learned something about London‘s suburbs, parks and medieval, Norman sherifs.

Several refences in the book made me think that I missed reading an important prequel. Perhaps reading the stand-alone The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal would provide back-up to some of the stories hinted at in Spectred Isles?

I like the humour and the slow build-up between Randolph and Saul.

The stories about the war remind me a little of Nightingale’s backstory at Ettersberg in the Peter Grant series—opposing magical forces, misused by their respective governments, the destruction of all the wizards/occultists…

Very readable, creepier than expected, not too many horrid romance clichees, a not too predictable plot. I am very tempted to pick up the next book in the series. 

2018 RITA® finalist for Paranormal Romance

And last but not least I have this on my TBR pile: Think of England (Think of England #1). Review to come!

Unlucky in any direction

Widdershins (Whyborne & Griffin #1)
by Jordan L. Hawk

Rating: 2 out of 5.

A reclusive scholar. A private detective. And a book of spells that could destroy the world.

Historical fantasy novel, set in the Victorian (?) era, me thinks. Horror with monsters made from resurrected corpses. Lovecraftian influences. Potential theft of an Egyptian mummy. Magic.

Several times I stumbled over the fact that this is set in New England. I kept waiting for London fog to creep up or for the characters visiting the British Museum.

Potential romance between the two male main characters — after 80 pages nothing much had happened in that direction, besides some angsty musings of the narrator, having to will down his misbehaving member.

I was bored, this story didn‘t work for me. I skimmed through the last two chapter and called it a day. I had hoped for another K. J. Charles. Sadly not.

Six Degrees of Separation, you‘ve got mail…

Welcome to #6degrees. 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 am using this meme to work on my backlog, aka reviews that I haven‘t yet posted to my blog here. How the meme works and how you can join is explained here. The initial blog post about this month‘s choice is here.

This month starts with autobiographical fiction, Postcards From the Edge by Carrie Fisher. 

Which, yet again, I haven‘t read. I know Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, as probably most people do. I don‘t know, how much of an autobiography this book is, but nonetheless I will mention another book by an author…

The Moon’s a Balloon by David Niven

I read this at some point in the ’90s. I don’t recall any details, just a general sense of having read something pleasant and somewhat entertaining, befitting of the biography of a true, English gentleman. I would have loved to mention an autobiographical book by Dirk Bogarde next. It was about his time in the Royal Airforce (I think?) during WWII, but sadly I don‘t remember the name and couldn‘t find it, when I looked now. I don‘t want to mention Michael Caine again, although it is a very funny book. However, I posted about it already in another meme. So… Moon? Moon!

Bayou Moon (The Edge, #2) by Ilona Andrews

My favourite book of Ilona Andrews‘ Edge books. I loved the crazy family, the rathole and the Mire. In my mind I kept punting through a darker and pissed-off version of the Everglades. Great setting, good plot, suspenseful, good snark. The sword on the cover of this book leads me to…

The Power of the Sword by Wilbur Smith

For a few years Wilbur Smith was my guilty pleasure and I enjoyed his books tremendously. This one here is the second book in the family saga of the Courtneys of South Africa. I liked the first one a lot. When I picked up Power of the Sword, I possibly had outgrown my interest in Wilbur Smith. One Smith leads me to another Smith…

Wynonna Earp Volume 1: Homecoming (Wynonna Earp #1-6) by Beau Smith (Writer),  Lora Innes (Illustrator)

None of my lists would be complete without a comic / graphic novel. The story did not do much for me. The heroine ran around shooting and otherwise killing a lot of baddies and in the process got the good guys killed as well. She got told off for it, ignores that completely and killed some more. Rinse and repeat. Gore, blood, not much plot. Not much character development either. I tried the TV adaptation and didn‘t like it much either. Homecoming is the title of another tie-in comic…

Homecoming (Mercy Thompson Graphic Novel) by Patricia Briggs,  David Lawrence,  Francis Tsai (Illustrator),  Amelia Woo (Illustrator) 

I am a huge fan of the series, so I had to give this a try. Not a lot of world building. I doubt I would have understood what was going on or who they all were and related to each other, if I hadn‘t know the books. Mercy looks different in every chapter. Her face changes, her body shape changes. Sometimes she is muscular, sometimes she looks like Barbie with runner‘s legs. Big boobs, small boobs, pointy chin, square chin, malnourished looking, at times badly proportioned. Very odd. The other humans or werewolves weren‘t terribly well done either. I suppose it‘s silly to expect them all to be anatomically correct, but sometimes the drawings looked a bit too amateurish for my taste. Bottom line, don‘t bother. I will certainly not get another of these comics. Apparently they have also done comics for Laurell K Hamilton, so those are out as well. Talking about Hamilton, I posted about a fair few Anita Blake books, but never about…

A Kiss of Shadows (Merry Gentry, #1) by Laurell K. Hamilton

The usual humour and an interesting storyline (this is early-ish Hamilton!), although not quite a gritty as Anita Blake. Up until the point, until the heroine goes home. From the onwards it just seemed to be Merry Gentry considering who looks the most stunning, what their clothes look like and how good they might be in bed. Probably sounds familiar for readers of Laurell K. Hamilton.

So, from the edge into the shadows in this round…

Wrap-up July

My July was of middling success. I really enjoyed Shards of Earth, it‘s one of my favourite reads of the year so far. I decided to DNF One Last Stop and Left Hand of Darkness for now, as I really couldn‘t work up any motivation to continue with either of them. Reading Volumes 2 and 3 of Ascender by Jeff Lemire was a lot of fun. The artwork is still stellar and the plot was enjoyable. And I watched some good movies in July.

Novels read in July:

Shards of Earth (facilitator), ebook, ★★★★★ Great fun!
Questland, ebook, Netgalley, ★★★¼☆ LitRPG, Tolkien meets Jurassic Park, not terribly exciting.
– The Voyage Of The Beagle, ebook, ★★¾☆☆, mostly skimmed through this.
One Last Stop (author of Red, White & Royal Blue), ebook, DNF at 19%, ★★¾☆☆, not interested enough to finish…
– Nightstalkers, ebook, ★★☆☆☆ Sharkweek. Bring on the crazy!
The Left Hand of Darkness, ebook, TBR pile, DNF at 20%, ★¾☆☆☆

Comics: (Mostly single issues of 25-30 pages each)
– Snow Angels #1Snow Angels #2Snow Angels #3Snow Angels #4Snow Angels Season Two #1, KU, ★★★☆☆, family in an ice trench. Dystopia. Hunting, blood, fighting and feeling…
– Ascender #8Ascender #9Ascender #10 ★★★★★+, TBR pile, fabulous conclusion to Vol. 2! 
– Ascender #11Ascender #12Ascender #13Ascender #14 ★★★★☆, fairly predictable ending.
– Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Vol. 2: Avengers of the New World, TBR pile, #ReadBIPOC2021, ★½ ☆☆☆ DNF at 68 pages, 23%. Missing a read thread and homogenous narrative.

Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Vol. 2 Avengers of the New World by Ta-Nehisi Coates Shards of Earth (The Final Architects Trilogy, #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky Snow Angels #1 (comiXology Originals) by Jeff Lemire Snow Angels #2 (comiXology Originals) by Jeff Lemire Snow Angels #3 (comiXology Originals) by Jeff Lemire Snow Angels #4 (comiXology Originals) by Jeff Lemire Snow Angels Season Two #1 (comiXology Originals) by Jeff Lemire Ascender #8 by Jeff Lemire Ascender #9 by Jeff Lemire Ascender #10 by Jeff Lemire 
Ascender #11 by Jeff Lemire Nightstalkers (Meg #5) by Steve Alten The Voyage Of The Beagle (Illustrated) by Charles Darwin Ascender #12 by Jeff Lemire Ascender #13 by Jeff Lemire Questland by Carrie Vaughn Ascender #14 by Jeff Lemire One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin 

Movies watched:
– A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood ★★★★★ Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers.
– Once Upon a Time in Hollywood ★★★★★ Quentin Tarantino is a god.
– The Homesman ★★★★¾ Hilary Swank / Tommy Lee Jones, Western
– Blood Red Sky ★★★★☆ Unusual horror movie, vampires on a plane.
– Playing with Sharks ★★★★☆ National Geographic documentary
– The Tomorrow War ★★★½☆ Military SF, aliens conquering Earth, Chris Pratt does a good job in a CGI slosh-fest. Not brilliant, but entertaining.

Have you heard?

I just came across a post mentioning Tom Hanks as an audiobook narrator. Colour me intrigued. I immediatley sought out the book and listened to the sample.

The Dutch House (Audible Audio) by Ann Patchett,  Tom Hanks (Narrator)

The sample sounds great, Hanks goes along at a nice clip, enunciates beautifully and is just his usual awesome self. However, the story is really not my kind of thing. Usually I run the other way, when I see a book tagged as literary fiction.

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.

From the Goodreads blurb

Will have to think about it! I also feel tempted by his short story collection, Uncommon Type: Some Stories. Somewhere I came across a story talking about his hobby of collecting manual typewriters. It immediately made me long for having one again myself. They are so expensive! And not easy to come by…

I love Tom Hanks. I hope there will never, ever be any stories in the news declaring him to be a horrible human for some reason. It would break my heart.

Around the world…

The Voyage Of The Beagle (Illustrated)
by Charles Darwin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I am pretty sure I read this as a teenager, about 40 years ago, and liked it, mainly for the illustrations. I decided to have another look… 

Places Darwin visits with the HMS Beagle:

  1. Chapter I: St. JagoCape de Verde Islands (St. Paul’s RocksFernando Noronha, 20 Feb.., Bahia, or San Salvador, Brazil, 29 Feb..)
  2. Chapter II: Rio de Janeiro
  3. Chapter III: Maldonado
  4. Chapter IV: Río Negro to Bahia Blanca
  5. Chapter V: Bahía Blanca
  6. Chapter VI: Bahia Blanca to Buenos Aires
  7. Chapter VII: Buenos Aires to St. Fe
  8. Chapter VIII: Banda Oriental
  9. Chapter IX: Patagonia
  10. Chapter X: Santa Cruz–Patagonia
  11. Chapter XI: Tierra del Fuego
  12. Chapter XII: The Falkland Islands
  13. Chapter XIII: Strait of Magellan
  14. Chapter XIV: Central Chile
  15. Chapter XV: Chiloe and Chonos Islands
  16. Chapter XVI: Chiloe and Concepcion
  17. Chapter XVII: Passage of Cordillera
  18. Chapter XVIII: Northern Chile and Peru
  19. Chapter XIX: Galapagos Archipelago
  20. Chapter XX: Tahiti and New Zealand
  21. Chapter XXI: Australia (Van Diemen’s Land)
  22. Chapter XXII: Coral Formations (Keeling or Cocos Islands)
  23. Chapter XXIII: Mauritius to England

I read the first few chapters, then skimmed my way roughly to the middle of the book, looking at the illustrations and reading a bit here and there. The writing doesn‘t feel as dry and dated as I feared, but all together this didn‘t grab me enough to properly read it in full. That‘s just me though. I recommend reading the Goodreads review of my buddy Trish…

P.S.: I found a fun website detailing the voyage, with an interactive map.