Normal is overrated

How to Be a Normal Person (How to Be, #1)
by T.J. Klune (Goodreads Author) 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

This is the right story for you, if you are looking for a nice, uncomplicated romance with a dash of quirky characters and an unassuming plot. Plus hipsters and lesbian, polyamorous biker queens. And a ferret. I want one. And lots and lots of weed smoking. And not a lot of plot.

My first Klune was Tell Me It’s Real. It was ok-ish, but didn‘t do much for me and I didn‘t finish before my KU ran out. That made me a bit apprehensive about buddy reading this one. But I liked grumpy Gus and company.

The beginning of this book reminded me a little of Groundhog Day. By chapter four I was a little in love with Gus and wanted to adopt him.

It was fun to read about this quirky bunch of characters and how Gus attempts to become more normal, while wooing Casey the hipster. Turns out that being normal is overrated.

However, the amusing characters and sometimes snort-inducing writing carries the mostly plotless narrative only so far. By around two-thirds into the book I started to feel a little…. well, not bored exactly, but a little impatient and hoping for some drama or at least some plot progression towards a HEA. Or just more plot. Still, nice story, so despite a little skimming it was almost all good. I might read more by the author.

Can I assume that Casey is TJ Klune in disguise?

Quarantine Brain was underwhelmed

Tell Me It’s Real (At First Sight #1)
by T.J. Klune (Goodreads Author) 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Based on the blurb I wasn‘t sure if I wanted to read this, but Jilly‘s review sold it. 

Humorous, very gay, very shallow. Our MC thinks that he is very unattractive. He has the hots for a beautiful, but seemingly dumb jock-type, who actually wants to hook up with him. And he can‘t for the life of him understand why and fights off his amorous intentions.

I had about 6 days to read this before my Kindle Unlimited subscription ran out and it got sucked from my device. I only made it to Chapter 6 – Performing CPR Is Just One Tongue Away From Making Out in that time. Which shows that I was pretty underwhelmed by the story. Too little plot development to pique my interest, even for romance.

I might pick it up again to read a little more, if and when I renew my subscription. In the meantime I will buddy read How to Be a Normal Person, let‘s see if I like that more!

Monthly Wrap-up — May 2020

Thanks to a friend I discovered Kindle in Motion, aka kindle books with animated illustrations and small movies/gifs. Fascinating! I downloaded and paged through Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as a kindle in motion and it was really charming…

I am also in the process of listening to various actors etc. reading the book at https://www.wizardingworld.com/chapters

Buddy Reads with friends:
– 2020 Rhysling Anthology, SF poetry, ★★★★☆
– Das Joshua-Profil, thriller, ★★☆☆☆, kidnapping, conspiracy, DNF at 36%
– A Hidden Fire, PNR, ★★★☆☆, an almost sparkly vampire and a librarian…
– Network Effect, SF novel, ★★★☆☆, Murderbot fluffed up to novel length
– The Walking Dead, Vol. 9: Here We Remain, comic, ★★★½☆, the survivors gather and start into the unknown.
– The Walking Dead, Vol. 10: What We Become, comic, ★★★★☆, Abraham is a hard guy to like!
– Pandemic, popcorn horror, ★★★☆☆, zombies Down Under.

2020 Hugo Award Finalist / Best Short Story:
– “And Now His Lordship Is Laughing” (Strange Horizons, 9 September 2019) , ★★★☆☆, revenge story set in colonial India.
– As the Last I May Know (Tor.com, 23 October 2019), ★★★★½, decisions and consequences.
– Blood Is Another Word for Hunger (Tor.com, 24 July 2019), ★★☆☆☆, a slave girl and her revenge.
– “A Catalog of Storms” (Uncanny Magazine Issue 26: January/February 2019), ★★☆☆☆, climate fic, pretty abstract.
– “Do Not Look Back, My Lion” (Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #270), ★★★☆☆, war, loss, betrayal, hope.
– “Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island” (Nightmare Magazine, Issue 80), ★★½☆☆, reads like footnotes, about colonialism and feminist cannibals.

Solo reads / comics & manga:
– Paper Girls #1, comic, ★★★★★, Stranger Things meets War of The Worlds?
– Paper Girls, Vol. 1, comic, ★★★★☆
– Gon: Volume 1, manga, ★★★☆☆, cute little T-Rex, b&w, wordless story telling.
– Overwatch #1: Train Hopper, comic, ★★★☆☆, Wild West meets SF.
– The Walking Dead, Vol. 11: Fear the Hunters, comic, ★★★★☆, more shockers…
– The Walking Dead, Vol. 12: Life Among Them, ★★★★☆, Alexandria
– Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins II #1, ★★☆☆☆, very little plot.
– James Bond #1, ★★★☆☆
– What If? Planet Hulk (2007) #1, ★★★☆☆
– Divinity #1 (of 4): Digital Exclusives Edition, ★★☆☆☆

Other solo reads:
– Blast Off to the Moon!, picture book, ★★★★☆, explaining the moon phases…
– Sauerteig: Echtes Brot und mehr, cookbook, ★★★☆☆, complicated and high maintenance, but very pretty…
– Artisan Sourdough Made Simple: Practical Recipes & Techniques for the Home Baker with Almost No Kneading, ★★★★★, very please with this practical, unfussy baking book!
– Feast of Stephen, short story, ★★★★☆, snippet from a series I like.

Fanfiction:
– lots of Star Trek and Stargate Atlantis from http://keiramarcos.com/fan-fiction/

Blast Off to the Moon! (Dr. Wonderful and Her Dog) by Lauren Gunderson The Walking Dead, Vol. 9 Here We Remain by Robert Kirkman A Hidden Fire (Elemental Mysteries, #1) by Elizabeth Hunter Paper Girls #1 by Brian K. Vaughan Sauerteig Echtes Brot und mehr by Sarah Owens Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries, #5) by Martha Wells Paper Girls, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan Gon Volume 1 (Gon) by Masashi Tanaka The Walking Dead, Vol. 10 What We Become by Robert Kirkman Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter, #1) by J.K. Rowling 
As the Last I May Know by S.L. Huang Uncanny Magazine Issue 26 January/February 2019 by Lynne M. Thomas Overwatch #1 Train Hopper by Robert Brooks Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #270 by Scott H. Andrews Nightmare Magazine, Issue 80 (May 2019) by John Joseph Adams The Walking Dead, Vol. 11 Fear the Hunters by Robert Kirkman Critical Role Vox Machina Origins II #1 by Jody Houser Artisan Sourdough Made Simple Practical Recipes & Techniques for the Home Baker with Almost No Kneading by Emilie Raffa Feast of Stephen (A Charm of Magpies, #3.5) by K.J. Charles The Walking Dead, Vol. 12 Life Among Them by Robert Kirkman 
James Bond #1 by Warren Ellis What If? Planet Hulk (2007) #1 by Greg Pak Divinity #1 (of 4) Digital Exclusives Edition by Matt Kindt Das Joshua-Profil by Sebastian Fitzek Pandemic (Plague War #2) by Alister Hodge The 2020 Rhysling Anthology by David C. Kopaska-Merkel 

That was a lot more reading material than I had planned. The comics/manga consist of some shorter issues, so they were very quick reads.

No audiobook this month and I did not miss it. My audible subscription is suspended until July and I keep thinking of cancelling it all together.

I am quite pleased that I decided to read the Hugo nominated short stories, although I did not rate them all that well. Which reminds me to look up the comics finalists again and to check who won the Nebulas…

Blast from the past

The Far Pavilions
by M.M. Kaye

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Around thirtyfive years ago, give or take a few, I watched the TV miniseries with Ben Cross. I am pretty sure I loved it. I think I read the book afterwards and liked it as well, so I will give this 4 stars for now. 

Who knows, I might re-read it at some point…

Shōgun (Asian Saga, #1)
by James Clavell

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As a teenager and in my twenties I read this book three or four times. Loved it. The exotic culture, the adventure, the difficulties of the English captain to understand the alien society and language, his slow growth throughout the story… Great stuff. And I loved the TV adaptation with Richard Chamberlain and Toshiro Mifune. I can hear the soundtrack in the back of my head, as I type this…

What is your blast-from-the-past that you barely remember, but probably liked and are a little scared to pick up again?

Hidden sparkles…

A Hidden Fire (Elemental Mysteries, #1)
by Elizabeth Hunter

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Is he a vampire or maybe not? Does he sparkle? Is he truly the nice guy he presents? An immortal softie on a mission? 

I really liked the beginning of the book, the characters and the set-up. The backdrop story of Renaissance Florence offered great opportunities. 

Sadly, the middle part was entirely bland and lacked any kind of suspense. The interesting beginning flattened out, the romance was lackluster, the mystery did not really evolve. Everything just trickled along at a snail‘s pace. By the time the bad guy finally showed up, I had almost given up hope.

The book mostly takes place in Houston, Texas. Another missed opportunity to create atmosphere, as this setting was not explored and could have been anywhere. 

The relationship between Giovanni and Casper was also pretty superficial, considering their circumstances.

The last part of the book was more interesting again, but did not rock my boat. Not sure why this is tagged as romance and PNR. It reminded me a little of Anne Rice, strangely enough.

Bottomline, not much of a romance, not much of an entertaining UF romp. It was ok, the vampires were a little different to the usual fare. I doubt I will continue with the series.


Playlist:
– Johann Sebastian Bach, Preludes and Fugues
– Eric Satie, Gymnopédie No. 1

Alternative reading list:
– Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet
– Tom Wolfe, Bonfire of the Vanities
– Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy
– https://www.graywolfpress.org

Art to appreciate:
– Mark Rothko‘s black canvases, http://www.rothkochapel.org
– Fernand Léger‘s paintings
– https://www.widewalls.ch/surrealist-p…
– https://www.menil.org/collection

April 2020 Wrap-up

I had few plans. Which was good, as I dropped out of two BRs in March and read not a single thing for my TBR challenge… My reading experience was very colourful in April—a bit of everything, from ★☆☆☆☆ to ★★★★★…

BR novels read:
– Star Trek: Picard: The Last Best Hope, Featured BR #stayhome edition, audio, ★★☆☆☆, I was very bored!
– Behemoth, Hard SF novel, ★★☆☆☆, last of the Rifters series. 

BR novels started and ongoing:
– 2020 Rhysling Anthology – read the short poems, long poems ongoing into May.

TBR Challenge / Solo reads:
– The Chronicles Of Pern: First Fall, fantasy, ★★★¼☆, early days on the planet of Pern.
– Zero Day, creature feature, ★★★¾☆, it‘s the spiderpocalypse…
– Justice Calling, UF novel, ★★★★☆, shifters and magic.
– Deep Storm, thriller, ★★★★☆, danger at the bottom of the Atlantic.
– The Massacre of Mankind, netgalley, ★½ ☆☆☆, boring sequel to War of the Worlds, DNF at 21%
– The New Avengers, Volume 2: Sentry, comic, ★★★★★, great fun!

Other solo reads:
– The Walking Dead Vol. 7: The Calm Before, comic, ★★★★☆, some quieter moments in the calm before that storm. Some shockers. Good.
– The Walking Dead, Vol. 8: Made to Suffer, comic, ★★★★★, the final battle at the prison. 
– To The Center Of The Earth, horror, ★★★★★, adventure yarn, horror in a cave / creature feature
– The Beast of Devil’s Rock, horror, ★★☆☆☆, horror in the woods, creature feature
– Truth or Beard, contemporary romance, ★★☆☆☆, frenemies to lovers.
– Monster 1983: Die komplette 1. Staffel, supernatural mystery, ★★★☆☆, murders in a small town.
– New Avengers Vol. 1: Breakout, comic, ★★★★☆, quick re-read (more of a skim) in preparation for vol. 2.
– Sub Zero, horror, ★☆☆☆☆, antarctic octopi infected by aliens. Blue gunk. Horrible writing. DNF at 21%. O.o

How was your April?


Plans for May 2020:

BR novels/poetry:
– 2020 Rhysling Anthology, SF poetry, started in April & ongoing
– A Hidden Fire, romance readers & TBR challenge, started
– Network Effect, Murderbot! Ordered, pub date May 5th

BR comics:
– The Walking Dead, Vol. 9: Here We Remain
– The Walking Dead, Vol. 10: What We Become

Boring beard

Truth or Beard (Winston Brothers, #1)
by Penny Reid

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I had expected to enjoy this more. Perhaps my expectations were to high going into this, because it‘s so well liked by several of my romance-loving GR friends. 

The story itself is not bad. Young woman comes back home tp pay off her college debt, wanting to leave afterwards to travel the world. Bumps into the wrong guy without realizing and frenemies become lovers after much dry humping, denial and repetitive internal monologue. Well, I assume they do, because I am at the halfway point after much skimming and they still haven‘t done the deed. Or did I skim too fast and miss it?

Thrown into the mix was a little Sons of Anarchy, presumably to add some suspense. The main drama is of Jess not wanting a committed relationship, as she wants to leave town again and of falling for a guy she doesn‘t want in the first place. He then plays hard to get and comes up with some contrived scheme that you can see blowing up in his face from a mile away.

I am willing to put up with quite a lot of silliness and unnecessary drama in my romance, if the dynamic between the characters is good and there is some humour. But this wasn‘t working for me. I didn‘t emphasize with Jess or Duane. She was a silly, immature girl with the aforementioned internal dialogue full of repetetive fluff, soft porn and juvenile humour. Duane was just flat and not very likable in a chest-thumping sort of way. Someone should show him what it means to go for a nice dinner. 

I am struggling to put a finger on it. The characters were not believable enough, I guess. I just did not buy them, their motivators or their emotions. They lacked depth and were not developed enough to make me care. Everybody sounded the same. 

Pretty much the only detail I did like was the POV switching between Jessica and Duane.

Bummer, I had really hoped to like this series. Oh well. DNF at 48%, with skimming. I read (most of) the last two chapters for some closure. The sneak peak of the next book was identical in tone, so I guess I will give the rest of this series a pass.


Playlist:

Eternal Flame by the Bangles

Dreamweaver by Gary Wright

Creep by Radiohead

Touch Me by The Doors

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack

Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones (I wish!)

Cross-Atlantic relations

Red, White & Royal BlueRed, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“‘Archnemesis’ implies he’s actually a rival to me on any level and not, you know, a stuck-up product of inbreeding who probably jerks off to photos of himself.”

Soooo, we don‘t like each other. I can see where this is going…

Unfortunately we are going in the third person present tense. Not my favourite in a novel. It‘s weird. But I got over it. Because this is a very good romance novel. It has a thinking hat on, with a pigeon on top…

“The woman in front of him is wearing a hat with an entire taxidermied pigeon on it. High school lacrosse did not prepare him for this kind of sporting event.“

Pretty entertaining! I read into the wee hours of the morning twice. Just a shame that the sex scenes are so PG-rated…

Good sense of humour, believable and not cringe-worthy amounts of drama and angst, blessed lack of the most stupid romance tropes.

Wow, I am actually impressed and will definitely look up more books by the author. Recommended.

PS: Just for the record, old German dudes don‘t regularly wear lederhosen… 😉

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Birds of New Zealand

Made for You (Love and Family, #2)Made for You by Anyta Sunday
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First person present tense, alternating between two POVs. Not my favourite.

Weird Fanta fixation (the bubbly yellow stuff).

Ben comes across as very immature. On purpose, I am sure. But how much can you really fail at life at that age, with a job and a child to look after? He gets a little better eventually, thanks to Jack…

Friends to lovers, family. Very, very slow burn. No drama, minimal angst, mostly fluff.

Easy to read, although the alternating POV was a little distracting and I had trouble at times to tell the boys apart. I learned a lot about the birdlife of New Zealand!

Low brain power, simple plot, nothing taxing. Comfortable. I would read more by the author.

3.5 stars, rounded up.

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Hidden flames

Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy, #4)Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

New trilogy in the Hidden Legacy universe. Set three years after the first trilogy, told from the POV of Nevada‘s sister Catalina.

While it is probably intended as a stand-alone, there is very little explanation of what has happened so far or in terms of world building. For newcomers I think it would be best to start with the first trilogy, for a better grasp of this world.

Catalina sounds very much like Nevada, almost interchangeable besides their differing kinds of magic. Alessandro is pretty one-dimensional at first, but gets a bit more interesting in the course of the book. The romance is barely there though. I guess that part will get more intense in the next two books.

Nevada only appears in a few brief phone calls, Rogan is absent and the rest of the family is pretty much in the sidelines.

As always, good action sequences. Good tension, entertaining, rarely a dull moment. A must-read for fans. Made me think of the Edge series.

5 stars? Or just 4 stars? Can‘t make up my mind… the story in the first book of the series was more interesting…

And now the long wait for the next book.

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