Ilona Andrews strikes again…

Fated Blades (Kinsmen, #3)
by Ilona Andrews

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I am glad that the first review I looked at gave this three stars only and it‘s not just me. I started skimming somewhere between 30 to 50% into this. And it took me 3 days to even get that far, which is shocking for 200 pages from Ilona Andrews. 

I didn’t care for the main characters and the plot did not interest me either. It’s all very much writing-by-numbers. The tried and tested IA formula. Smoldering, dark and scary hero, hard but hot. Short, busty and kick-ass heroine. Lots of fighting against the odds. I am not sure if it’s just this novella in particular or if I am getting tired of this in general. Maybe I have to be in the right mood for it. So, a re-read might be on the horizon at some point.

PS: Yes, ok, the epilogue was pretty funny.

A touch of smut in space

A Mere Formality by Ilona Andrews

26 pages | first published 2008

Finished this last night. It was funny and well plotted for such a short story. Tone and setting with aliens and ploitical intrigue and warfare reminded me of the later Innkeeper novels. The mature bits were entertaining. But, to be honest, this is not a memorable story. Just one day later I struggle to remember the ending…

Review from 2015:

How could I have missed this freebie on Ilona Andrews’ homepage?

“Things of a sexual nature…”, oh my, lol…. That was pretty funny. And a lot of excellent world-building for such a short snippet. Can I have that as a novel, please? With smut?

If The Matrix had been PNR…

Silver Shark (Kinsmen, #2) by Ilona Andrews

The Matrix meets something that comes along as SF on the surface, but feels more like UF with a dash of PNR and some steamy sex. Our female MC is the undercover caped crusader with insane skills, fighting for the desperate and powerless. Against a very steamy male hero with piercing looks. You get the picture. There is a grim start with a little darkness, good world building and a fascinating digital world. Reading this is a lot of fun. If you like Ilona Andrews and haven‘t read this, what are you waiting for?

Review from 2015:

Great story, the romance worked well for me, great characters, good snark, superb world-building in these few pages, with beautiful and vivid descriptions, definitely worth a full-length novel.

My only beef with this novella is the ending. WTF? That was such an infuriating place to finish the last chapter and with no sequel in sight. Argh.

I really, really like this on. Great fun.

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.

Six degrees of separation, lottery across the ages

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 mostly use 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. October begins with Shirley Jackson’s short story, The Lottery. If you haven‘t read this, please do—it‘s very short and only takes about 20 minutes.

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Probably a shocking read in 1948, when it came out. In the days of The Hunger Games barely worth a twitch, I guess. Which itself is probably considered a modern classic by now, starting a whole subgenre of likeminded YA books. I wonder, if Ursula LeGuin was inspired by Lottery, when she wrote The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas a few years later? That one had much more of an impact on me.

Anyway, we get a short story that seems to describe a regular, ordinary sounding event in a small town. People are nonchalant about it and want to get on with it, to get that interruption of their normal day out of the way. Suspicion sneaks up on you slowly, that not all is as it seems to be, all the way to the horrific ending.

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1) by Suzanne Collins, read in 2016

Well written, good world building, the prose flows along nicely. Well-paced suspense. Love the idea of the mockinjays. All the charactes come to life swiftly and are believable. I saw it all vividly in my mind’s eye. Katniss has the odd moment of stupid. But the action is great, excellent plot and suspense. Katniss Everdeen, where have you been all my life? I read half of the book in one sitting. Bonus points for a YA book, that doesn’t read as if the author thinks that teens are stupid. Obviously, if you read this, you need to read the rest of the trilogy.

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin, read in 2020

I picked this up, because I wanted to get to know Le Guin a little better. It looked like a good starting point, having won so many awards. I don‘t want to get into the plot, this needs to be read spoiler-free. If you liked The Lottery and are interested in speculative fiction, read this!

What are you willing to give up to do the right thing? Would you walk away? And would that be good enough? Obviously not, but it‘s not as easy as that. You‘ve dealt with your guilt by walking away, but that doesn‘t really help, does it? How do we deal with our privilege, what would be an acceptable response?

Omelas leads me to The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu, read in 2019.

“A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees.“

https://gizmodo.com/read-ken-lius-amazing-story-that-swept-the-hugo-nebula-5958919

Lovely, truly lovely. And terribly bittersweet and sad. Only 11 pages long, another quick read that packs a punch. It leads me to:

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, read in 2019.

Story of Your Life is the basis for the movie Arrival.

“Your father is about to ask me the question. This is the most important moment in our lives, and I want to pay attention, note every detail.“

I have seen the movie several times and like it a lot. The most interesting for me were the differences from the story to the film. Would I have liked the story more or less, if I hadn‘t seen the movie? Did I like it more, because I like the movie? Despite the differences? Probably. Would I have understood the story as well without knowing the movie? Maybe. 
Did the story add layers to the movie? Possibly. Either way, it was painful and a great piece of story telling.

Another book looking at family, children and a setting that fits the theme of all these stories, is:

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

The world is a dystopian one, where people can be genetically enhanced and those that choose not to enhance their offspring have started to be relegated to the fringes of society and the children are disadvantaged.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley comes to mind after reading Ishiguro.

I read this about 30 years ago, give or take. I struggled with understanding it and remember that I found it hard to get into it. But I liked the concept of the story and ultimately liked the book quite a bit. I think it should be recommended reading for anybody interested in SF that predicts how our society could develop in the not too far away future. Especially nowadays, with the advances being made in cloning, I think this book gains even more importance.

A horrific lottery in the past leads to impossible choices in the future.

Unlucky in any direction

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

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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

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

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

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

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

Six Degrees of Separation, you‘ve got mail…

Welcome to #6degrees. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book. I am using this meme to work on my backlog, aka reviews that I haven‘t yet posted to my blog here. How the meme works and how you can join is explained here. The initial blog post about this month‘s choice is here.

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

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

The Moon’s a Balloon by David Niven

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

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

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

The Power of the Sword by Wilbur Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catching up with the Reversereadathon

Good morning! So, I stayed up a little longer last night to catch the beginning of the readathon. Read a few pages in my ebook—not making much headway with it yet—and listened to one of my audiobooks for a bit. Woke up shorty after 9 a.m., lay in bed and listened to my audio for an hour. I felt really knackered, when I finally got up. Still feel knackered, actually.

Puttered around with my tomatoes—a friend thinks they have some kind of illness, so I cut off some of the uglier leafs. No idea. Then I got my sourdough loaf out of the fridge and carefully decanted it into the prepared baking tin. I am useless with the whole shaping thing. My dough is always so soft, if I try to do it, I always end up with a really big mess.

Anyway, books! While I was sleeping, this happened…

Hour 3 – exploring the online bookworld

What are some of your favorite bookish sites online? Do you have any book blogs or booktubers you like to follow for reading suggestions (or just for fun)? Do you have a book blog or other bookish social media site?

You are currently reading my bookblog, I am on Goodreads and I use Netgalley. Sometimes I add bookish photos to my Instagram. In the early days I used Livejournal for blogging. I also used Librarything for a few years and although I was quite active for a while, I eventually found it too chaotic and visually unappealing and moved to GR permanently. I tried some smaller sites, but was never really happy. My favourite buddy reading group is where I spend most of my time there and we did indeed start having the odd Zoom meeting during Covid!

I follow a few bookbloggers via WordPress, but I am crap at keeping up and I am not very persistent or regular. I apologize! I do have a look every now and then! I do not follow any booktubers. Idk, I just find it deeply odd somehow to watch people talking about books.

Hour 5 – the weirdest place you‘ve read

… tell us some of the weirdest places you’ve read! Have you ever gotten any looks or comments about it?

Where haven‘t I read? Brushing my teeth, in the cinema waiting for the film to start, boarding a plane… The oddest one is probably reading a physical book whilst walking. That was before the days of smartphones and audiobooks, obviously. Nowadays I just listen and walk. These days, whenever and whenever I have to wait for something, I read on my smartphone. Which is nothing unusual, half the world stares at a smartphone at any given time. Other places? Anywhere sitting down, really. Mainly with my kindle. I‘ve been know to read in hotel elevators on my way down to the restaurant, where I obviously continue reading. The elevator thing probably garners me odd looks.

Hour 7 – how do you read?

What books are on your TBR for this reverse readathon?

How do I read? Well, mostly on my kindle paperwhite. I always have one audiobook on the go. I read a lot of comics, mainly via kindle app or comixology app on my iPad, so I have a large screen and can zoom in.

Hour 9 – summer book recommendations

I don‘t get this whole summer / winter thing. I read what I read and the weather or season doesn‘t influence my decisions. Do you vary your reading based on the seasons and why?

Hour 11 – hobbies in books

I started sourdough baking during the first lockdown. And yes, I have read some cozy mysteries and romances involving sourdough. For example Sourdough by Robin Sloan. I am open for recommendations!

I recently came across knitting vampires, so there are all kinds of funny themes around… Tomato-growing werewolves? Not yet. Wasn’t there some fierce gardening in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1)?

Ok, I think I am caught up enough. I will now return to actually reading something… oh, and I should probably switch on my oven! 😏

Dewey‘s Reverse Readathon

I just signed up for Dewey‘s Reverse Readathon. Spontaneously and rather foolishly. It will start in a little less than 3 hours, at 2 a.m. my time. When I will most likely be in bed, I am really tired already! Well, maybe…. I just started a batch of sourdough bread and need to do another two stretch-and-folds. Anyway… I can read a bit in the morning. In the afternoon I am at a birthday party and I might be there quite a long time. Maybe more reading in the last hours of the readathon. I will definitely not be around a lot for this one. We‘ll see!

More about this readathon here: WHAT IS DEWEY’S 24-HOUR READ-A-THON? | Important Links

I feel a little lost, actually, as I haven‘t done any of the preppy things. Oh well, I will check in when I can. And I will set up my timer to keep at least some kind of track of my reading. There is a bingo card for updates to Instagram…

Current bookstack:

Paper: Tietjen auf Tour: Warum Camping mich glücklich macht by Bettina TietjenYes, we camp! Well, I don‘t actually. But I like the author, a German TV journalist and talk show host.

Audio #1: Babylon’s Ashes (The Expanse, #6) by James S.A. Corey — re-read of the Expanse series.

Audio #2: Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1) by Ann Leckie — re-read

eBook #1: Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora (ebook) by Zelda Knight

eBook #2: Widdershins (Whyborne & Griffin #1) by Jordan L. Hawk

Graphic novel: Gideon Falls, Vol. 1: The Black Barn (Kindle Edition) by Jeff Lemire

Top Ten Tuesday and what made me want to read those books…

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 / August 3: Titles or Covers That Made Want to Read/Buy the Book

Tricky. I mainly pick up books that are recommended to me by my reading buddies. Or books by favourite authors, never mind the cover or title. But I will have a look at my want-to-read list and see if I can recall what triggered my interest.

And What Can We Offer You Tonight by Premee Mohamed

I picked up this novella on Netgalley. I honestly can‘t remember why I chose it, but assume that the cover pulled me in and then the title. Because the blurb is not grabbing me right now.

In a far future city, where you can fall to a government cull for a single mistake, And What Can We Offer You Tonight tells the story of Jewel, established courtesan in a luxurious House. Jewel’s world is shaken when her friend is murdered by a client, but somehow comes back to life. To get revenge, they will both have to confront the limits of loyalty, guilt, and justice.

Sentient by Jeff Lemire

I went looking for comics written by Jeff Lemire, because I like him and want to work on his backlist. Here the title drew me in. I like SF about AI and this title suggest that something slightly unusual might have reached sentience and that offers unusual options…

When a separatist attack kills the adults on board a colony ship in deep space, the on-board A.I. VALARIE must help the ship’s children survive the perils of space.

Nemo Vol. 1: Heart of Ice by Alan Moore

Here I was looking for comics set underwater. I have a thing for anything underwater, from documentaries about the deep sea to cheesy creature features involving Megalodon. I definitely picked this one for the title. Captain Nemo is a classic. I don‘t expect this to follow Jules Verne, but who knows.

It’s 1925, fifteen years after the death of Captain Nemo, when his daughter Janni Dakkar launches a grand Antarctic expedition to lay the old man’s burdensome legacy to rest.

Oh yes, I have a thing for cheesy creature features set in Antarctica as well. Or adventure novels. That clinched the deal.

Goldilocks by Laura Lam

Definitely the title. A planet in the Goldilocks Zone is in a distance to the sun, where conditions are just right for human habitation. So, an SF about colonization? Or finding a new home for humanity… Instant winner.

This is The Martian by way of The Handmaid’s Tale – a bold and thought-provoking new high-concept thriller

Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Granted, I added this to my list, because it‘s Adrien Tchaikovsky. But isn‘t the cover pretty? And doesn‘t the title remind you of some awesome MMORPG?

In Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Elder Race, a junior anthropologist on a distant planet must help the locals he has sworn to study to save a planet from an unbeatable foe.

Below by Ryan Lockwood

Title again. I did mention my fascination with all things underwater and creature features, right?

Now, off the coast of California, something is rising from the deep–and multiplying. Voracious, unstoppable, and migrating north, an ungodly life form trailed by a gruesome wake of corpses. 

The Audacity of Sara Grayson by Joani Elliott

Title again. I seem to be a title person. How audacious of me!

What happens when the world’s greatest literary icon dies before she finishes the final book in her best-selling series?
 
And what happens when she leaves that book in the hands of her unstable, neurotic daughter, who swears she’s not a real writer?

Sounds like fun, right?

The Night Marchers and Other Oceanian Stories by Kel McDonald

Another comic. And… yes, there‘s an ocean in the title…

Ghostly warriors, angry gods, and monstrous tyrants? That’s just the start of this collection of folklore from the Pacific, retold in comics! 

We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen

This really was a recommendation by someone in my buddy reading group. The title piqued my interest and the cover sealed the deal. It‘s simple at fist glance, but very stylish. And then you notice those rock spires curving in, looking like claws. Hm…

This psychological sci-fi thriller from a debut author follows one doctor who must discover the source of her crew’s madness… or risk succumbing to it herself.

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

Not sure how I ended up with this one, but I imagine that the cover drew me in… plus it has a very lyrical title.

The cleric Chih finds themself and their companions at the mercy of a band of fierce tigers who ache with hunger. To stay alive until the mammoths can save them, Chih must unwind the intricate, layered story of the tiger and her scholar lover—a woman of courage, intelligence, and beauty—and discover how truth can survive becoming history.

So, that was more or less the last 10 books and comics that I added to my list and haven‘t actually read yet. Does anything here tempt you?