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.

Top Ten Tuesday — Adjective In the Title

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 / March 22: Books With an Adjective In the Title

Tricky topic. Lets see what I can did up on my shelf. For variety‘s sake I‘ll start with the books I added to my shelves last and work backwards…

Under Fortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings — my latest NetGalley addition: Two Ships. One Chance To Save The Future. Fleeing the final days of the generations-long war with the alien Felen, smuggler Jereth Keeven’s freighter the Jonah breaks down in a strange rift in deep space

The Art of Cursive Penmanship: A Personal Handwriting Program for Adults by Michael R. Sull — A practice guide to improve one‘s handwriting. We start with a discourse on the history and technicalities of handwriting. There is instructions on the correct sitting posture, how to place the paper, how to use your writing implement, on fountain pens and so on. Chapter 5 is the beginning of the practical part. That‘s roughly where I am right now. Haven‘t started with the exercises yet…

Ancestral Night (White Space, #1) by Elizabeth Bear — not quite sure why I added this one to my stack: A space salvager and her partner make the discovery of a lifetime that just might change the universe in this wild, big-ideas space opera from multi award-winning author Elizabeth Bear.

Dying Earths: Sixteen Stories from the Ends of Times by Sue Burke and others — sounds depressing, but I want to read Sue Burke‘s story: The writers and contributors to the little corner of the web called SFFWorld.com have brought together a collection of stories about a dying Earth. 

Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes — this was a buddy read that I skipped. Everybody really liked it, so I got it after all: Titanic meets The Shining in S.A. Barnes’ Dead Silence, a SF horror novel in which a woman and her crew board a decades-lost luxury cruiser and find the wreckage of a nightmare that hasn’t yet ended.

An Easy Job by Carrie Vaughn — short story, read it already… Carrie Vaughn is worth mentioning again.

The Black Coast (The God-King Chronicles, #1) by Mike Brooks — another buddy read that I skipped and my reading buddies all loved it: When the citizens of Black Keep see ships on the horizon, terror takes them because they know who is coming: for generations, the keep has been raided by the fearsome clanspeople of Tjakorsha. Saddling their war dragons, Black Keep’s warriors rush to defend their home only to discover that the clanspeople have not come to pillage at all. Driven from their own land by a daemonic despot who prophesises the end of the world, the raiders come in search of a new home . . .

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim — I like the original fairytale and the cover is pretty, so I couldn‘t resist: Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control.

Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days by Alastair Reynolds — two novelettes set in Revelation Space. And the blurb of one of them is something aquatic. I had to get it: In the seas of Turquoise live the Pattern Jugglers, the amorphous, aquatic organisms capable of preserving the memories of any human swimmer who joins their collective consciousness. Naqi Okpik devoted her life to studying these creatures—and paid a high price for swimming among them. 

Digital Divide (Rachel Peng, #1) by K.B. Spangler — not quite sure why I picked this one. Genre bender with cyborgs: Rachel Peng misses the Army. Her old life in Criminal Investigation Command hadn’t been easy, but she had enjoyed it. Now, as the first cyborg liaison to the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police, Rachel is usually either bored senseless or is fighting off harassment from her coworkers.

Yes, not 100% certain that those are all adjectives… *shrugs*

What interesting reads have you added to your shelves recently?

They only eat people sometimes

Ogres by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s always idyllic in the village until the landlord comes to call. Because the landlord is an Ogre. And Ogres rule the world, with their size and strength and appetites. It’s always been that way. It’s the natural order of the world. And they only eat people sometimes.

From the book blurb

The POV of this novella is very smartly done. We experience everything from the eyes of a main character that has a very narrow field of vision and knowledge of the world he lives in. So we also know very little at first of this seemingly pastoral and feudal world of humans in a society governed by ogres. We take every step of discovery with him. And it’s quite a stunning list of discoveries for him. Very little of what he believes to be true turns out to be real. 

I missed emotional expressions. The inner landscape of our main character was laid out in a pretty sterile fashion. I made no real connection to him and found it hard to like or emphasize with him, even during the truly horrible events of his life. Nothing seemed to have a real impact on him. However, the story as such was a very smart one.

The final head twister is a real bummer. Nicely done, Mr. Tchaikovsky!

PS: 2nd person narrative, ugh. I am not a fan of that. But I got over it.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher or author through NetGalley. All opinions are my own and I was not required to give a positive review.

You see, the hate they give is senseless…

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark (Author), Channie Waites (Narrator)

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Let‘s call it alternate history with a strong horror element. Three African-American women hunt Klu Kluxes, aka monsters disguised as Klu Klux Klan members. The story is set in Georgia in 1922. 

I liked the beginning quite a bit. Nice set-up, speedy beginning, interesting monsters. However, when the more supernatural elements entered and the focus shifted towards the characters, I started to drift off. The plot seemed to disappear into almost nothing and I lost interest in what went on. I never really connected with the main characters or the story.

The audio was ok at first. I struggle a bit with the Gullah accent of one of the characters. The narrator was too over the top with her vocalisations and her high tones eventually really grated on me.

I finished, but it was a close call and I barely paid attention at the end. Yes, the social commentary is very, very relevant, but if you‘re not telling me a gripping story, I find it hard to care.

I did like the aunties. Could they have been a version of the Three Fates? I looked up the Night Doctors, the Klu Klux Klan, Stone Mountain, D.W. Griffith and his movie, what a ring shout is and I wondered about Rhode Island. H.P. Lovecraft, maybe? So, this novella was not a complete loss for me.

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?

Kinsmen and Hidden Legacy

Silent Blade (Kinsmen, #1) by Ilona Andrews

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Re-read. This novelette feels very much like a precursor to Hidden Legacy. It feels as if here the ideas are developed and put to paper for the first time, that will fully manifest into a fleshed out novel with Burn for Me five years later. Not quite as fun yet and due to length with a fairly simple plot. A devious little revenge story with a strong dose of romance. 


Review from 2015:

A little long for a short story, let’s call it a novella. Romance with a licking of sci-fi. Nice characters, one very good fight scene, some nice sex. Harlequinesce, silly, tacky, kitschy, feel-good ending with very high awww-factor. Satisfying. To be read on a rainy day on the sofa with a hot cup of cocoa.

Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy, #1) by Ilona Andrews

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Re-read 2016, before book #2 came out:

“The name is Mad Rogan. They also call me the Butcher and the Scourge, but Mad is the most frequently used moniker.”

Nevada Baylor sounds like Kate Daniels. Or perhaps they both sound like Ilona Andrews. The setting might be different and their magic, too. But other than that they feel the same.

I find Mad Rogan more interesting than Curran Lennart, though.

This time around I had no problems to get hooked by the story. Once I started, it was hard to put this down and only my own, feeble body prevented me from reading through the night to finish this.

The cover is still hideous, but I am willing to agree that it is a little bit PNR…


Read first in April 2015, original review:

I once read an adventure novel set on the ocean. The book cover featured waves with a drifting oil drum. The book was a 1000-page hummer of a book, but nowhere in there was an oil drum mentioned, drifting or otherwise. On my list of most-idiotic-book-covers-of-all-time Burn For Me has beaten this book and taken top spot on the list.

If you are a fan of PNR and don’t know Ilona Andrews, fair warning: this book is great fun, I loved it and can’t wait for the sequel, but this is NOT paranormal romance in any shape or form. The designers at Avon must have smoked something really strong, when they came up with this cover. As strange as it sounds, guys ripping of their shirts every five minutes do not make a romance novel.

Ok, now, book… 

I read a review that called the world building shoddy. Perhaps I am not critical enough and too fangirly, when Ilona Andrews is concerned, but I liked the world building. It told me everything I needed to know to get a good picture, there were no needlessly long info dumps and it fitted neatly into the plot.

The plot got going a tad slowly. Meaning not everything went BAM! on page two already. But it’s a new series, so a little setting-the-scene is to be expected. Also I didn’t read the beginning in one sitting, but with some stops. It might have influenced my perception of it.

I like the idea of Houses with different talents. It reminded me a little of the second book of the Kinship stories, as it toys with a similar set-up. The Pit reminded me of Bayou Moon.

Nevada’s family is to die for, the lot of them. Grandma is fabulous and I love the warehouse with its beehive of rooms stacked on each other and grandmother’s lair of tanks and assault vehicles.

All the characters work well and get enough of a backstory to be colourful and interesting. The two main male characters are idiotically handsome and, as mentioned, keep ripping their shirts off at every opportunity. I am thinking Hugh Jackman as Mad Rogan? By the way, does anybody else keep thinking of Indian food, every time his name is mentioned?

You never really get to see the bad guys that hold the strings, I am guessing they will either pop up in the sequel or we will have to suffer through one of those dragged out story archs that take several books to resolve. I hope not, because those tend to annoy and bore the crap out of me by the third installment.

The book has a proper high-stakes ending with a lot of suspense, but the story is not really resolved. It’s the first book in a series and the somewhat open ending and some other loose, dangling ends scream for the sequel. Half a year of waiting, argh! I almost took off a rating star just for that, but ultimately I had too much fun for that.

Specfic mash-up, Tchaikovsky style…

Elder Race
by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Tchaikovsky, the writing machine. And you never know what comes next. This time it‘s a story told from two very different POVs in a sword-and-sorcery-setting, with a touch of SF and creepy (for me) horror elements. Slightly spoilerish review.

The fantasy is a post-colonial society that devolved and lost all technology and the SF part is the view of a technologically advanced observer, who ends up in the position of a sorcerer, because he can‘t stick to that Prime Directive and keeps getting involved..

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

– Arthur C. Clarke.

Very nicely illustrated in this novella! I really enjoyed the differences in understanding of the opposing characters or rather their misunderstandings. 

This entered horror territory about 70% into the story. And nobody tagged it as such, so I was pretty unprepared and it was creepy. Tchaikovsky gave me some very vivid imagery of „wrongness“. Reminds me of a recent horror discussion I had with some reading buddies, about what makes a tale horror for some and not for others. This here reminded me of something, maybe Dreamcatcher

On top of all that our observer/magician is on a journey of self-discovery, where he ultimately has to decide, where he belongs and in what capacity.

“How much worse to think yourself wise, and still be as ignorant as one who knew themselves a fool?“

From the novella

Too much horribleness

The Resurrectionists (Salem Hawley, #1)
by Michael Patrick Hicks

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

This novella is set a few years after the American Revolutionary War. The titular main character, Salem Hawley, won his emancipation after fighting on the side of the colonies and seems to be a teacher in New York. His opposites, including the other main character Hereford, are white doctors in pursuit of monsters.

Gore, graphic torture and body horror, body snatchers, peripheral racial tension, lack of decent female characters (mainly dead whores), hints of Lovecraft and some really twisted characters. Not the crime story with a supernatural twist and a strong black character I was looking for. Hawley was pretty lame and did not come across as a title character.

The first chapter started this off with a human vivisection in quite some detail, including sexual tension I could have done without (repeatedly). Generally the torture scenes made me uncomfortable and the violence just felt gratuitous. By chapter six I was pretty much done with this disturbing narrative, but curiosity kept me going. Chapter seven was so over the top and frankly disgusting that it veered into the absurd and by the time I was done with that gore fest, I just kept going out of stubbornness. 

The ending really requires to continue with the sequel Borne of the Deep to get some closure, which I will most likely not do. This was definitely too much gore, graphic violence and nasty characters for my taste. Alas, if you are a fan of hardcore horror with a hefty helping of blood splatter and crunching bones, this might be for you.

Somewhere between 2 and 3 stars for me, with a beautiful cover and a story that doesn‘t do it for me.

Apparently inspired by Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and the New York Doctors‘ Riot of 1788.

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

Monthly wrap-up

My October 2021:

– Ancillary Mercy ★★★★★ audio, Imperial Radch #3, re-read. I really liked this. Not sure what I did during the first read, but I definitely did not pay attention, because I barely remembered any of this. Great fun, I loved all the AIs and their dynamics. And Translator Zaiat was precious.
We Have Always Been Here ★★★★☆ ebook, colony ship (is it?), AI, a litte horror, mystery, dystopia.
– Was weiße Menschen nicht über Rassismus hören wollen ★★★★☆ audio, about institutionalized racism in Germany and the experiences of a black woman growing up in Cologne. Not bad, a bit on the shallow side. Very readable.
– Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora★★★★☆ ebook, #ReadBIPOC2021, TBR pile, Netgalley. This is a very strong anthology. Even the stories that didn‘t fully grab me gave me plenty to think about. Recommended! 
– Dark Path ★★★☆☆ ebook, TBR pile, mystery fluff. Buddhist forensic pathologist solves a case in Florida.

Short stories:
– The Lottery ★★★★☆ online. Famous story by Shirley Jackson from 1948.
– You Can Make a Dinosaur, but You Can’t Help Me, Uncanny Magazine Issue 23: July/August 2018 ★★★★☆ online. About a trans man and his Jurassic Park-inventing dad.
– You Perfect, Broken Thing, Uncanny Magazine Issue 32: January/February 2020★★★★☆ online. Dystopia? Winning a race to stay alive…

Poetry:
– Uncanny Magazine Issue 41: July/August 2021 ★★★★☆ online, I read three of the four poems, about Japan and sacrifice, Beowulf and Madame Curie, here: https://uncannymagazine.com/issues/un…
– What to expect from the Hadron Collider as a college roommate, Uncanny Magazine Issue 16: May/June 2017 ★★★★☆ online, pretty amusing poem.
– A tenjō kudari (“ceiling hanger” yōkai) defends her theft, Uncanny Magazine Issue 32: January/February 2020 ★★★★☆ online, a spectre gets her revenge.

Currently reading:
– Tietjen auf Tour: Warum Camping mich glücklich macht, paperback, TBR pile
– The Resurrectionists, ebook, Netgalley, TBR pile

Abandoned reread:
– BR zombie Persepolis Rising, audio, Expanse #7, re-read
– BR zombie Tiamat’s Wrath, audio, Expanse #8, re-read

Movies & TV watched:
– No Time to Die ★★★★★, last 007 with Craig, cinema.
– Smoking Aces ★★¾☆☆, action thriller comedy with lots of blood, pretty pointless.