First Line Friday — Space, Egypt and New York…

First Line Friday is a meme created by Hoarding Books. Feel free to head over there, have a look around, grab your nearest book and post its first line in the comments there and in your blog.


I have three buddy reads planned for June.

The Left Hand of Darkness
by Ursula K. Le Guin

I’LL MAKE MY REPORT AS IF I TOLD A STORY, FOR I WAS taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination.

First line

I started this four days ago and have managed the first three chapters, which brought me to page 53. It’s not doing much for me so far. I spent yesterday reading fanfiction rather than continuing this.

The writing is good, but the style is not engaging me. It‘s probably also not quite what I was expecting. I read the blurb and thought „genderless society, lots of commentary and exploration about their personal interactions and divergence compared to our society“, but so far I only met guys talking politics. And the main character, who I thought was an ambassador, comes across as someone mostly not really interested in what is going on. Odd.

Ok, maybe I should have expected something slow and not obvious, considering that this was first published in 1969. So far this reminds me of Foreigner, which was also a book of only middling success for me. I will read something else and then return to this later this month.

Next up, I guess, is this:

One Last Stop (Kindle Edition)
by Casey McQuiston

SEEKING YOUNG SINGLE ROOMMATE FOR 3BR APARTMENT UPSTAIRS, 6TH FLOOR. $700/MO. MUST BE QUEER & TRANS FRIENDLY. MUST NOT BE AFRAID OF FIRE OR DOGS. NO LIBRAS, WE ALREADY HAVE ONE. CALL NIKO.

Header above chapter 1

I just read the first two pages and this sounds like a much better read for my long weekend, sitting on my balcony with a cold glass of white wine… it also fits well into this LGBTQ+ and Pride Month.

Last but not least I will read:

A Master of Djinn (Dead Djinn, #1)
by P. Djèlí Clark

Fatma blinked at the tirade. Of all the djinn these two had to go and wake up, it had to be a bigot.

From the teaser posted at the beginning

Oh, this will be fun! I just had a peek at the first page and then had to forcibly remove myself from the book a page or two later, to finish this post. Promising! And not looking good for Ursula Le Guin…

Top Ten Tuesday in quotes…

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: book quotes that fit a particular theme! I guess my theme will be amusing quotes! Here we go:

“Dogs make sense. They understand hierarchy and the need to cooperate. They come when you call them. A cat though—a cat will take your number and get back to you. Maybe. If he’s in a good mood.” 

Mortal Danger by Eileen Wilks

Read in 2012. The first book was only just interesting enough for me to want to get the next one. Nothing special. But this one grabbed me. I really liked it. Interesting plot, good world building, introduction of some new characters that I really liked and want to see more of. The varying points of view added a nice layer to the various existing characters as well. Very good.

“Some people are like Slinkies. They aren’t really good for anything, but they still bring a smile to my face when I push them down a flight of stairs.” 

Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs

Still one of my favourite UF series. Just re-read the lot last year.

“I can’t wait till I have grandchildren. When I was younger, I had to walk to the rim of a crater. Uphill! In an EVA suit! On Mars, ya little shit! Ya hear me? Mars!”

The Martian by Andy Weir

I could easily do this whole TTT with quotes from The Martian. I love this book. My cheeks are hurting just from reading over all of the quotes I marked…

“I gave him a smile. I was aiming for sweet, but he turned a shade paler and scooted a bit farther from me. Note to self: work more on sweet and less on psycho-killer.” 

Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Still my favourite UF series. And another series I could use easily as well to fill all the quotes for this TTT.

“I apologize for anything I might have done. I was not myself.”
“I apologize for shooting you in the leg.” said Lila. “I was myself entirely.” 

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

The story is a mystery, a conspiracy, an adventure and a fight against evil. There is smuggling, thievery, but sadly no pirates. And sadly, it wasn‘t a complete hit for me.

“So you killed him with what now?”
“I tried that Dr. Phil book at first”…”And I finished it off with the toilet seat. Just so you know, you left it up again. That drives me crazy.” 

Married with Zombies by Jesse Petersen

Great fun. If you liked the film Zombieland, this is for you.

“She was not a political creature. She felt that politics was the second most evil thing humanity had ever invented, just after lutefisk.” 

Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey

My favourite SF series…

“It’s not that I’m not upset; it’s just that I’m too tired to run up and down the corridor screaming.” 

Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold

Another good SF series, if you want to read something classic. My steam only lasted a few books in though. As a teenager I probably would have loved this to pieces.

“He was an American, so it seemed only fair to shoot him.” 

The Devil in Amber by Mark Gatiss

Mark Gatiss isn‘t only great as screenwriter or the occasional supporting actor…

“Once the telephone had been invented, it was only a matter of time before the police got in on the new technology and, first in Glasgow and then in London, the police box was born. Here a police officer in need of assistance could find a telephone link to Scotland Yard, a dry space to do “paperwork” and, in certain extreme cases, a life of adventure through space and time.”

The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

Another endless supply of funny quotes is the Rivers of London series. And excellent UF. I highly recommend the audiobooks, they elevate the series by a few more pegs.

I could keep going, but that‘s 10 quotes! That was very entertaining, actually….

Romcom with baked goods

Accidentally Engaged: deliciously romantic and feel-good – the perfect romcom for 2021
by Farah Hero

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The book blurb roughly sums up the first half of the book. Enjoyable, humorous, not too silly and not too much drama. Well, ok, there is some slightly unnecessary drama in the middle and a lot of drama towards the end, but that is par for the course in contemporary romance. The characters remain likable, including the family and friends and nobody is TSTL. I wanted to smack Reena‘s mum once or twice, but it all turned out well. 

Reena‘s actions at one point confused me, as they seemed to come out of the blue and didn‘t make much sense to me. Grown-ups in contemporary romance don‘t always behave as such and failure to communicate is often a given.

There is baking and sourdough starter and delicious Indian/East African food…

“I know you think I’m weird, but you’re the one who brought a sourdough starter for a weekend in the country.”

It made me feel slightly bad for keeping my sourdough starter in the fridge so much and for declining a friend’s offer to look after it during a short holiday. I am pretty sure I will try Reena‘s parathas at some point. I would buy the cookbook, too. 

I read some reviews by Muslim readers and can see why they are not happy about the book. If you are looking for a book that represents Islam and Muslim life, this is not it.

If you are looking for light romance and great food though, you are bang on with this. I almost cried twice towards the end and I am somewhere between 4 and 5 stars. I want samosas now…

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.

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!

Romance, mystery, court intrigue, space and then some

Winter’s Orbit
by Everina Maxwell

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A quarter into it the book it felt like this: potential m/m romance in an SF setting, marriage of convenience, potentially a murder mystery and court intrigue, hints of space opera.

As the mystery unfolded at a snail’s pace, the author didn‘t offer many details. Elaborate explanations were given to other characters in the off, without engaging the reader very much. Which made that part of the narrative pretty superficial.

The romance was mostly nonexistent in the first half of the book. Kiem and Jainan didn‘t have any meaningful conversations. I know this is pretty typical in many romances — bad communication, misunderstandings, etc. But there wasn’t a lot of internal dialogue either and little to no character development. Not very satisfying.

I can understand why people abandon this book in the first half of it. It felt a bit as if the author wasn‘t sure where she was going with it. Is it a mystery? Is it a court intrigue? A romance? Definitely not space opera in the typical sense. I decided to just go with the flow and wait out the glacial pace of it all. The writing was good, the story just took its sweet time.

Then something happened in the middle and the story became interesting. Suspense, romance, scenery, space station, the lot. I was enjoying myself. There was even something truly inventive towards the end. Good stuff. I was much happier with the character development in the second part of the book as well.

Besides Kiem and Jainan I liked Bel and Rakal the most. The humour was good throughout the book. I liked the rest so much, that I would even pick up a sequel.

So, if you don‘t expect elaborate SF, but like your brain candy with some suspense, this might be for you. Just be patient with the beginning.

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

First Line Friday: Romance in Space

First Line Friday is a meme created by Hoarding Books. Feel free to head over there, have a look around, grab your nearest book and post its first line in the comments there and in your blog.


I started reading Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell this week. I am a quarter into it now. Quick summary of what it feels like so far: m/m romance in an SF setting, marriage of convenience, potentially a murder mystery and court intrigue, hints of space opera. It‘s also one of my overdue NetGalleys.

Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue in Everina Maxwell’s exciting debut.

from the book blurb

Both of those are excellent books. I recommend the audioversion of Ancillary Justice. Adjoa Andoh does an excellent job. She seems to be Leckie‘s standard audiobook narrator. I also listened to her narration of The Raven Tower — or was that Provenance? — not sure which right now. And she plays a role in Bridgerton — one more reason to finally check that out.

Anyway, I am rambling, back to First Line Friday…

“Well, someone has to marry the man,“ the Emperor said.

First line of the book

As first lines go, that is a pretty good one! I also like the cover.


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

Top Ten Tuesday, the Mardi Gras edition

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: Purple, Yellow, and/or Green Book Covers (in honor of Mardi Gras)

Purple-ish backlog…

The Killing Dance (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #6)
by Laurell K. Hamilton

Finally there is a resolution to the dating drama. Werewolf or vampire? I think a threesome would have been a nice outcome! But no, instead we are having big relationship troubles and jealousy. We’ll see how that’ll work out. Very hot sex scene. I will never look at my bathtub the same way again.


Once Bitten, Twice Shy
by Christina Courtenay

Cute story, although one wonders how often one woman can be kidnapped over the course of two-hundred pages. Pretty silly plot twists and I agree with other reviewers that the story bordered on the ridiculous side. Most of the side characters were so over the top, they were more like caricatures than anything else, with the impulse control and common sense of five year olds. And the ending left me pretty unsatisfied.


Marry in Haste
by Christina Courtenay

Silly, shallow and entertaining. Nice, mindless brain candy. Marriage of convenience well done.


Yellow-ish backlog…

Monday Mourning (Temperance Brennan, #7)
by Kathy Reichs

Her 7th book. The first 4 were brilliant. By no. 7 the the excitement has gone. Perhaps I got too used to the character. Or the storylines are really not as suspenseful anymore. I am not sure. My interest lasted longer than with Patricia Cornwell though.


The Blessing Stone
by Barbara Wood

Several short stories, loosely connected by the wanderings of the Blessing Stone through the ages. I liked the earlier stories, but the further on we got in history, the more boring I found the stories. Towards the end I was skimming quite a bit. I did finish, but I was pretty under-whelmed.


The Walking Dead #1
by Robert Kirkman

At first I was a bit confused, because Rick doesn’t look like Rick. And then I wanted to smack myself, because the comic came before the TV series.

I really like the black-white-and-grey pencil work. Minimalistic, but great in telling the story. Very good artwork. By now I made it to volume 15…


The Leopard Prince (Princes Trilogy, #2)
by Elizabeth Hoyt

After the carriage wreck and a bit before the horses ran away, Lady Georgina Maitland noticed that her land steward was a man.

First sentence

Decent world-building, the first few pages had me giggling immediately. Good backstory, interwoven well with the main plot. The evil landowner is very evil indeed. The main characters are colourful and well drawn. Georgina and Harry are likeable and believable. For a historical romance the usual tropes are fairly mild and not too annoying. Sexy times are sexy. Surprisingly good plot. Not terribly suspenseful, although I had a few “Oh no!”-moments. 


Dead Witch Walking (The Hollows, #1)
by Kim Harrison

This book was boring and the main character was not interesting. Potential for great world building, but it was not happening. The narrative was flat, not funny and sloooooow and I have the sneaking suspicion that Rachel is really stupid, not just clumsy. Jenks was the only redeeming factor. The relationship with Ivy really ticked me off. It was a major struggle to finish this book and I doubt it very much that I will pick up another book of this series.


The Painter
by Will Davenport

The first paragraph made me smile. Unexpected opening. An interesting read. I thought the end was a bit rushed. Very funny in parts – I nearly peed myself when I read the passage with Rembrandt’s smelly shoe… Rembrandt’s character was really well developped and very plausible.


Green-ish backlog…

Throne of Jade (Temeraire, #2)
by Naomi Novik

Patrick O’Brien meets Anne McCaffrey. This picks up right where the first book ended. Old-fashioned feel to it, meshes well with other period-dramas I have read of that time. The naval jargon sounds true. Excellent world-building, great scenic descriptions. Good fight and battle scenes. Great travel narrative. However, there can be too much of a good thing. So much detail all the time got a bit boring and I did some skimming to get to the more action-packed bits faster. Those were always excellent.

The plot as such was good, but there were no great surprises. The characters were all pretty formulaic and stereotypical. None of them went through any noteworthy growing pains. I never managed to develop an emotional attachment to Laurence or Temeraire. And all other charaters were merely decorative anyway.

I read through the blurbs of all consecutive novels and quite a few of the reviews. Each book seems to be covering another continent and in at least every other book Laurence seems to be threatened with court-martial and an excecution. Sounds a bit tedious. 


A is for Alibi (Kinsey Millhone, #1)
by Sue Grafton

The first one of this very good crime series. Short and sweet. I keep picturing Holly Hunter in the title role. I even figured out who-dunnit for once, and why! Well, ok, only about half way through the book.

I eventually read 10 books of this series, mostly out of order. Not bad as a whole!


One For The Money (Stephanie Plum, #1)
by Janet Evanovich

Pretty entertaining, but it did not rock my boat. I never continued with the series.


Freya of the Seven Isles
by Joseph Conrad

I liked the prose, the characters were vivid and the setting was great. For someone whose first or second language was not English, Conrad wrote in it beautifully. I am not a big fan of using letters as a plot device to bring the narrative forward, but other than that I enjoyed this story very much, despite the tragic ending.


Mortal Sins (World of the Lupi, #5)
by Eileen Wilks

The story centered around Lily and Rule, it is set in the here and now, werewolves play a large part of it and the plot that developed in Blood Lines is picked up again. It’s a cop story with shapeshifters, ghosts and magic. I liked the new characters, especially the cops and FBI agents. A nice addition to Wilks’ world.


Immersed (The Clockwork Siren, #1)
by Katie Hayoz

Well written, vivid imagery, enticing main character, good backstory, well-paced, not too predictable. I haven’t read a lot of steampunk, so I can’t say if the setting worked for that. I liked it. The world building was great, I was transported there right away, down to the muck squelching in my boots. I would wish for more details on the automatons, to flesh out the imagery. Nice touch of explaining a little bit about Chicago before the start of the story.

Small set of characters, likeable, believable, nobody is silly or too stupid to live… I am not into mermaids as a rule, but here they were nicely evil and not the too sweet Disney version. Dark mermaids and Steampunk, I could do more of that!


Ok, Top Fifteen Wednesday — I got carried away! It was really hard to find purple covers on my shelf!

Top Ten Tuesday, the lovebirds edition

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: Valentine’s Day/Love Freebie

Valentine’s Day, a worldwide conspiracy by flower sellers everywhere… so not my holiday. Romance books in my backlist, let‘s see…

Maybe something historical, set in Egypt?

Reflections in the Nile (Time Travel, #1), read in 2004
by Suzanne Frank

Chloe visits her sister, an archeologist, in Luxor. She does the usual sight seeing and also goes to the Sound and Light show at Karnak temple. She decides that she wants to see the sunrise from inside the temple to take some photos and hides in a small side chamber. Then, suddenly, when she kneels down to pick something up from the ground, everything shifts and wavers and she finds herself in the body of someone else in the times of Pharao Hatchepsut.

A romantic novel with an archeological twist. Quite entertaining and nice reading for low brainpower. This is the first of four books. In the sequels Chloe will travel to Atlantis, Canaan and finally (I think) to Babylon.

Some contemporary romance…

Catch of the Day (Misty Harbor, #1), read in 2004
by Marcia Evanick

Nice brain candy. Likeable characters, decent storyline, well written. Everybody gets hitched in the end, so it makes for happy reading.

Maybe some time travel?

The Time Traveler’s Wife, read in 2006
by Audrey Niffenegger

I was very dubious about it, when I finally picked up this book. Very often, when I start reading a highly praised and bestselling book, I find it utterly indigestible and throw it in a corner after 70-odd pages. Plus my mum didn’t like it and thought the language was childish. So a book that I tackled with very low expectations. 

And lo and behold – What a great book, I loved it! My only complaint – I thought the ending was given away much too early in the book and that ruined my enjoyment a little. I knew what was coming and that is rarely good. But still, fantastic story. I thought the time travelling would be too weird and too interruptive of a smooth story flow. But not a all. It was well done, felt very natural and opened up the door to some great opportunities for the plot.

How about some werewolves?

Bitten (Otherworld, #1), read in 2007
by Kelley Armstrong

Very good and strong first book in a series. Believable characters and believable wolves (as far as humanised animals can go). And I did not mind the very conventional romance, it was a nice change to the supercharged shapeshifter version.

Tempting Danger (World of the Lupi, #1), read in 2012
by Eileen Wilks

Tough female homicide detective meets tall, dark and handsome stranger. He’s a werewolf and a murder suspect. And she has secrets of her own. Romance interferes with a murder investigation. The usual. 

The first half was not bad. The suspense part was fairly mild and not too exciting. The romance and sex were so-so. The book didn’t grab my attention much and it took me forever to get past the half-way point. The action picked up after that and it actually got interesting. Enough for me to want to pick up the next book in the series.

And I eventually read the whole series and it became one of my favourites! Sadly, the series was never finished.

Or rather historical fiction?

Passion, read in 2007
by Jude Morgan

An account of the women sharing their lives with Lord Byron, Shelley and Keats. A very good description of the middle/upper class of that time with emphasis on the women, their social surroundings, morals and ethics of that time, politics and major events of the period. You get a look at the literary and social scene, the Prince Regent, Beau Brummel, Napoleon, Waterloo and so on and so forth.

Although its central theme is romantic relationships, I would not class this as a romantic novel, but rather a historic one. There is not a strong narrative thread. Which is probably the reason, why I started loosing interest about half way through. So, I enjoyed the first 300 pages very much, but thought that the book got a bit scattered after that. I did not like the chapters that were told by Caro Lamb much – mostly because I did not like her talking directly at me. I did not think that worked very well.

The storyline of Keats and Fanny Brawne felt like an afterthought and the book could have done without it. I liked Augusta and Mary Shelley best. They were the most vivid and interesting characters in the book. And Byron – I wouldn’t mind having dinner with him, to see what all the fuss is about and if he was really this fascinating!

I expected their stay at lake Geneva – where Frankenstein was “born” – to be the pivotal point of the book and was a bit disappointed how briefly it appeared. It is a good story though and was worth reading.

Vampires with a shoe fetish!

Undead and Unwed (Undead, #1), read in 2011
by MaryJanice Davidson

Betsy wakes up in the morgue, undead and clearly unhappy. Shenanigans ensue, good-looking vampires appear, bad guys make trouble and expensive shoes make several appaerances as well. Low on content, but high on snark. I laughed a lot. Very entertaining for those low-brain-power days.

More werewolves!

Kitty and the Midnight Hour (Kitty Norville #1), read in 2008
by Carrie Vaughn

Very good start to a the series! Kitty gets herself into trouble, when she starts counselling fellow shapeshifters and assorted vampires on her midnight radio show. Shows you – stay out of things or you get into lots of trouble! Light mystery with werewolves, good fun!

A spot of literary fiction?

Cold Mountain, read in 1998
by Charles Frazier

A book that I remember fondly, without recalling many details of the writing. It was slow, I think. And the movie was a decent adaptation.

And rounding it off with more historical romance…

The Raven Prince (Princes Trilogy, #1), read in 2007
by Elizabeth Hoyt

Very enjoyable historical romance. The usual set-up. Nasty male hero. Cute and humble heroine does not like him, but eventually falls in love and….. The twist with the brothel is unusual. But it was fun, I had a good time reading it and really liked the characters.

Wild mix, I know. I just grabbed them as they popped up on my shelf.

Six degrees of separation — From a redhead to a girl with a tattoo…

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.

From “Redhead by the Side of the Road” by Anne Tyler to…?

We start with Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler, which — again! — I haven‘t read. The only book by the author I have ever read: The Accidental Tourist. However, this was before the time I tracked my reading or posted any reviews, aka in the previous millennium. 1989 or 1990, after seeing and liking the movie adaptation…? I think it might have been a DNF or something I did not enjoy particularly. Which is neither here nor there for the purpose of this meme. So, anyway, Redheads… none to be found on my list of read books. However…

Micah Mortimer is a creature of habit. 

Blurb of Redhead by the Side of the Road

First degree: There is a Micah in my reading past…

Micah (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #13)
by Laurell K. Hamilton (Goodreads Author) 

Read in 2007 What can I say, this is definitely not literary fiction. There is some very good Urban Fantasy out there, but at this time in the universe of Laurell K. Hamilton, this was already moving into the direction of too little plot and too much sex. Still entertaining. I lasted up to and including the 20th book of this series. This year #28 will be published. Oh well.

“RAISING THE DEAD IS EASY. LOVE IS HARD…”

From the blurb of Micah

Second degree: The first „Dead“ on my read-list is…

Dead Souls (Inspector Rebus, #10)
by Ian Rankin (Goodreads Author) 

I read this in 2007, completely out of order, aka it‘s the only book of the series I have actually read. My parents spent most of last year reading the whole thing and love the series. I enjoyed the book back then and liked Rebus. He is a very well-drawn character, if a little depressing. The story was believable, there was enough suspense to keep me going and the ending did not offer any idiotic and off-the-wall plot twists making me go “Yeah, right, whatever!” Did not keep me up at night, but was a very good read.

Another series that my mum loved fiercely is J.D. Robb‘s In Death. And because she asked me to, I read the first book of the series…

Third degree: Another series loved by my mother…

Naked in Death (In Death #1)
by J.D. Robb

Read in 2016. Fairly stereotypical police procedural, with some futuristic gadgets and a love interest who is, at first, a suspect, as well as tall, dark, mysterious and the common alpha male of romance novels. I think the correct label is romantic suspense. The first book in the very successful In Death series by The Nora.

I did not really like the relationship much at first between Eve and Roarke. He definitely had problems accepting her wishes, which bugged me. If you do not mind his consent issues, he’s fine as a romance MC. 

The world building could have been better. The gadgets and some futuristic concepts were not explained, so if they weren’t self-expalantory, you were left to guess. However, they only play a very small part in the story. If you want to read sci-fi with suspense, hands off this book.

This is mostly told from Eve’s view, third person. There is the odd change of POV, mostly to Roarke and sometimes to others. These changes are not well done and jarred me every time. It could be the formatting (or lack thereof), the various protagonists do all sound exactly the same as well, though.

The mystery wasn’t very gripping and, at least from the second half onwards, pretty predictable. The romance and sex were not graphic. It was ok.

Fourth degree: J.D. Robb is Nora Roberts…

Three Fates
by Nora Roberts

Read in 2004, it was great fun! Roberts gives us low-brain-power entertainment, but with wit and a lot of humour, without getting too sloppy on the romance side of things.

This is what the story is about: Three siblings embark on a quest to re-unite 3 parts of a mythical statue. They are not sure that it even exists, but they are determined to find out and try. From Ireland they travel to Eastern Europe, Helsinki, New York, to follow clues and find romance, adventure and a deadly enemy…

When the Lusitania sank, one survivor became a changed man, giving up his life as a petty thief—

From the blurb of Three Fates

Fifth degree: From a thief of statues to a smoke thief…

The Smoke Thief (Drakon, #1)
by Shana Abe

Read in 2007. Cute little romance with shapeshifting dragons and a jewel thief, set in a past London. The hero looks great, the heroine is all woman, beautiful and just independent enough not to be a dunce, opposition is feeble and success and a happy ending are guaranteed. Utterly predictable and no big surprises, but nice brain candy.

And finally, on the topic of dragons…

Sixth degree: From shapeshifting dragons to a dragon tattoo…

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)
by Stieg Larsson,  Reg Keeland (Translator)

Read in 2010. It was off to a slow, but not uninteresting start. Around page 200 I got a bit fed-up with the huge amount of details and the never ending repetition of all the facts and family connections. I skimmed for a while until the action picked up again and from that point onwards I could not put it down anymore. It was great, full of suspense and I loved it. I wish the first 200 pages could have been like the rest of the book.

There you are, a very arbitrary list this time around.