Farming for parts

Farmhand, Vol. 1
by Rob Guillory,  Taylor Wells (Illustrator) 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Zeke Jenkins had a falling out with his dad a few years ago. Now he‘s taking the family back to the farm and his old hometown to make up and find a new/old place to live.

Which is a bit odd, because his father is growing body parts on that farm…

Can you hear the zombies shuffling along in the background? This has to turn into something really weird, right? Well, not just yet… The body parts are grown for a good purpose: to heal people and replace those lost body parts…

Issue/Chapter #1 was mostly introductions and a little set-up and Issue #2 started with a little backstory on Zeke‘s youth. Things started to become interesting and moved in unexpected directions. No zombies in sight…. but other strange things made an appearance. Mutations, anyone? And not just plants… However, towards the end of Issue #5 this was seriously lacking in narrative tension and my mind kept wandering off. Nice ominous ending though, that might tempt me into picking up the next book.

I liked the artwork.

This read is part of my attempt to clear my TBR pile of owned books and my #ReadBIPOC2021 challenge (entry for June).

Dystopia, gender and some genius

Sorry for the long break since the last post! Busy at work, tired and lazy in the evenings. TV ruled my week, mostly with watching all available episodes of Genius on Disney+.

Both Einstein and Picasso were ok. Einstein had some historical inaccuracies. Banderas as Picasso was surprising. I enjoyed the two available episodes of Aretha. The third one should be available now and I‘m pretty sure I‘ll watch it tonight.

I am reading, but very little—I seem to be in a bit of a slump after reading a lot during my recent holiday. I am making slow progress with my current choices, although I don‘t really feel engaged. For now I am giving you a blast from the past, prompted by the blog post of someone else

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere #1) — audiobook, listened to it in 2017
by Meg Elison (Goodreads Author),  Angela Dawe (Narrator) 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Philip K. Dick Award (2015)James Tiptree Jr. Award Nominee for Longlist (2014)

In the days when the world had not yet fallen, the screaming of sirens was constant. The structures that still held were the ones designed to cope with emergency and disaster, but none of them could work indefinitely. Desperation moved block by block, and people fought and fled.

Beginning of first chapter

Excellent. Loved the stroy, although it depressed the hell out of me at times. The audiobook was extremely well done as well. 

The main character waking up in a hospital and figuring out that the world has ended is a pretty tired idea by now. Nonetheless, the book started on full throttle and was great from the get-go. And horrific. By chapter three I had goosebumps allover and was close to crying. The story has an episodic feel to it, as it follows the midwife on her trip across the country, chronicling her encounters with various other survivors. Very graphic, with a realistic feel to it. 

From chapter eight onwards there are other POVs strewn in, which I found a little jarring at first. But they give a good overview of the fates of some of the people she meets on her way and of the world in general.

This was one of the best books I read (listend) to in 2017.

The narrator did a smashing job. The various characters have very distinct voices and she brings a lot of emotions into it. I would definitely get other books narrated by her.

The Book of Etta (The Road to Nowhere, #2) — read in 2018
by Meg Elison

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Make me. I was made. I made me.

What a great book. Deliverance meets Priscilla, Queen of the Desert meets Mad Max meets the end of the world. This deserves every price and award it was nominated for (Philip K. Dick Award Nominee (2018)). I was unsure if I even wanted to read this, after liking Unnamed Midwife so much. But this is probably even better.

The different towns with their varied societies—how fascinating. Awesome world building. There are so many plot bunnies for so many books here. So imaginative.

And horrible. At some points of the story I did not want to continue reading, because I dreaded what was coming next. The plot is like a train crash.

Loved the genderqueerness. Nonjudgmental exploration of what is or can be. The interactions between Flora and Eddy were great. But apparently we never learn. We just find new and different ways of screwing it up.

Not sure what to make of the seemingly supernatural character towards the end. A little too surreal. The only part of the novel that I did not like and that probably has the potential to ruin the book for some people. Besides that, I thought this book was bloody brilliant. Loved it.

“I give birth to guns. I bleed bullets. I was born to destroy men. Like you.”

The Book of Flora (The Road to Nowhere, #3) — read in 2019
by Meg Elison

Rating: 2 out of 5.

„Let’s see what I can grow into, see how long it takes me to reach the light.“

The first three chapters were not an easy read. First Flora‘s pretty horrible childhood and then Ommun and Alma—I am not a fan of her. This book was fighting an uphill battle to make me like it from the start.

Reading this back to back with Book of Etta would probably have work well. I struggled to place everybody, as it was a while since I had read Etta and the author made no effort to explain things.

After picking this up and putting it down for 3 weeks and not even making it halfway, I declared defeat. I did not like any of the characters. I didn‘t care what happened next. I didn‘t like the plot. I can‘t put my finger on why it didn‘t. Maybe it was me. Perhaps I expected too much. I don‘t know, was the plot too aimless? The characters all remained very one-dimensional as well. How can the two books be so great and this one…. not.

Six degrees of Separation with Australian wildlife

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 we yet again begin with a book I haven‘t read and have never heard, of The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld. This won the 2021 Stella Prize, something I have never heard of either. Very educational for me today!

The Bass Rock is about family and love, and the ways that both can undo a person – as both storm and haven. It’s about the legacy of male violence and the ways in which these traumas ripple and reverberate across time and place.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/the-bass-rock/

Doesn‘t sound bad, but isn‘t really my cup of tea.

About the prize:

Stella began in 2012 with the Stella Prize, a major literary award celebrating Australian women’s writing. The aim was to counter the gender bias rife in the Australian literary landscape at the time and promote cultural change through the recognition of women’s perspectives.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/about/

On the longlist of that prize are some books that sound more interesting. Song of the Crocodile by Nardi Simpson sounds a bit more down my alley, as it seems to have some magical realism in it.

Exploring the experiences of a First Nations community living on the outskirts of a rural town, Song of the Crocodile focuses on four generations of one family as a vessel to explore the insidious and generational impacts of racism, colonialism and violence. 

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/song-of-the-crocodile/

Revenge, Murder in Three Parts by S.L. Lim sounds like an unusual story of revenge:

A family favour their son over their daughter. Shan attends university before making his fortune in Australia while Yannie must find menial employment and care for her ageing parents. After her mother’s death, Yannie travels to Sydney to become enmeshed in her psychopathic brother’s new life, which she seeks to undermine from within.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/revenge/

Fairly odd sounding and intriguing is The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay:

As disturbing news arrives of a pandemic sweeping the country, Jean realises this is no ordinary flu: its chief symptom is that its victims begin to understand the language of animals — first mammals, then birds and insects, too. As the flu progresses, the unstoppable voices become overwhelming, and many people begin to lose their minds, including Jean’s infected son, Lee. When he takes off with Kimberly, heading south, Jean feels the pull to follow her kin.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/the-animals-in-that-country/

The other three books that stood out for me where Metal Fish, Falling Snow by Cath Moore

…a warm, funny and highly original portrait of a young girl’s search for identity and her struggle to deal with grief. Through families lost and found, this own-voices story celebrates the resilience of the human heart and our need to know who we truly are.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/metal-fish-falling-snow/

Stone Sky Gold Mountain by Mirandi Riwoe

Evoking the rich, unfolding tapestry of Australian life in the late nineteenth century, Stone Sky Gold Mountain is a heartbreaking and universal story about the exiled and displaced, about those who encounter discrimination yet yearn for acceptance.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/stone-sky-gold-mountain/

…and finally Smart Ovens for Lonely People by Elizabeth Tan

…a story collection that is astonishingly clever and witty, while also full of piercing insights into contemporary society. As she plays with structure and voice, Tan also explores popular culture and modern technology to great effect, and her futuristic scenarios are well thought out and all too plausible. Food scarcity, environmental destruction, capitalist bureaucracy and misogyny are just some of the ideas explored in the collection – in tales that feature mermaids, devious cats, and mangled ‘90s ballads.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/smart-ovens-for-lonely-people/

Strangely enough, these books are not only connected through nominations for the Stella Prize, they also all have either animals in their titles or on their covers. There you go. Tempted to read any of them?

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…

Too strange, world and writing need work

Of a Strange World Made (Colony of Edge #1)
by Anthony W. Eichenlaub

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Off to a rocky start with not very smooth writing. Set on a colony world, we meet Ash, busy getting drunk in a bar/cantina of some sort, talking to friends about a wager. She is some sort of lab technician/scientist, working on the terraforming effort for their planet. Sorry for being vague, the story is vague…

The colony has strict laws concerning birth control and she is pulled into helping a woman giving birth to an unsanctioned baby. The baby appears strange. That is how far I got, before I put the novella down for the first time—about a third into the story. The idea is not a bad one, but the writing is not convincing. Scenes are not properly thought out, it‘s very sketchy.

For example: what is strange about the baby, why does it look wrong? Right after the birth, she has to leave mother and child to keep them safe. She does not come back to check on them, after the situation prompting her to leave has passed. Wouldn‘t it be normal to return as soon as possible to ensure the safety and health of mother and child? And if she can‘t return for some reason, why not? 

When she does return the next day, the baby lies apart from the mother, alive and breathing in an atmosphere, that requires adults to wear rebreathers. She doesn’t question that and doesn’t check on the child, just briefly talks to the mother. Again, no indication is given, why the baby is a „wretched thing“. She asks the mother, if she is ok and leaves again. BTW, her mother is a midwife. Even without that, I would check on the baby. Wouldn‘t you?

I read on a little further. The mother tells the story of how the baby came to be, in a style that doesn‘t mesh with the first third of the story. And then there are details that are factually wrong.

“Predators were born into action, Ash realized. Old movies of wildlife showed the creatures up and moving almost as soon as they were born.“

Wolves are born deaf and blind. It‘s the other way around actually. The hunted are up and running right away, to avoid getting eaten.

On top of all that Ash sounds like a teenager. I assume she is supposed to be a grown woman, but I can‘t tell, as it‘s not mentioned. I gave up in the middle and heavily skimmed through the rest. The ending was not bad and offers a promising opening for the sequel. Which I will not read.

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

If at first you don‘t succeed, try again…

The Murders of Molly Southbourne (Molly Southbourne, #1)
by Tade Thompson

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Weird. Disturbing. Creepy. Off-putting. Slightly disgusting in parts. It‘s like a train wreck—pretty horrible, but I couldn‘t look away. This novella made me feel uncomfortable. I am still trying to put my fingers on the reason why. The blood? The constant murders? The horribleness of the mollys? Strangely enough, I am tempted to read the sequel. 

If you read the blurb, you already know that every time Molly bleeds, a „molly“ is created. And the mollys are always off somehow, eventually intent on killing her. So she kills them first. Around that concept the story of her life to a certain point is told. How she grew up and learned about the mollys, how her parents taught her to deal with them, her road to understanding about herself and the mollys and why some of them seem to be different than others…

I didn‘t like Molly. She was too dispassionate for my taste. But I guess with her history that was to be expected. It‘s tragic and whatever passion and positive emotions she experienced lead to revelations that would be spoilers. I really liked her parents, though. Especially her mother.

The writing is very good. I was totally immersed in the story, the characters and Molly‘s world. I am looking forward now to another offering lingering on my TBR shelf: Rosewater(same author, different world, not related to Molly, won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Nommo Award and was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award).

This read is part of my attempt to clear my TBR pile of owned books and my #ReadBIPOC2021 challenge (entry for June).

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….

First Line Friday — Elatsoe

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 am currently reading an ebook; I am about halfway with it. I also started an audiobook and a comic. Here are first lines of all three of them:

Elatsoe (ebook)
by Darcie Little Badger

ELLIE BOUGHT THE LIFE-SIZED plastic skull at a garage sale (the goth neighbors were moving to Salem, and they could not fit an entire Halloween warehouse into their black van).

First line, chapter one

Yes, it‘s Young Adult, not my favourite genre. But it looked interesting. And while I‘m not biting my nails, the story is not bad and the writing is good. More background on the world this is set in would be nice. Essentially it‘s UF/magical realism, set in our place and time, with ghosts, vampires and fae added to the mix. My favourite gadget: instant teleportation via fae ring.

I would like to finish this weekend, but I have plans in real life, so it‘s doubtful. I also started the next audiobook in my re-read of The Expanse:

Nemesis Games (Expanse, #5)
by James S.A. Corey (Goodreads Author),  Jefferson Mays (Narrator) 

The twin shipyards of Callisto stood side by side on the hemisphere of the moon that faced permanently away from Jupiter.

First sentence of the prologue

This is my review from 2018:

Fabulous. I think I have a new favourite in the Expanse series! 5 stars with a cherry on top. Some slight spoilers ahead…

All about Holden, Naomi, Alex and Amos, instead of the usual introduction of a new host of characters never to be seen again. 

And Bobby is back! And Avasarala, potty-mouth and all.

This is like pure gold for the fans of the series. No distractions of getting to know other characters or slowly diving into a complicated storyline. Just our favourite crew, with their odd-ball humour, trying to survive against mounting odds in a pretty straight forward action adventure story. Don’t get me wrong, the other books with their conspiracies, aliens, universe-spanning plots and amazing world building were fun, too. But this was a great joy ride in its straight forwardness and relative simplicity. And the action, twists and turns kept coming right from the start. I wanted to take breaks between chapters, but I just couldn’t, I was having too much fun…

My favourite stories were those of Amos and Naomi. Holden’s was fun, too, but more of a filler. Alex’s story interested me the least. Each of those plots easily could have been the basis for full novels of their own. 

Waiting till next month for my fellow buddy readers to pick up the next book of the series is going to be hard…

P.S.: Reading the short story The Churn beforehand is recommended, it gives background on Amos Burton’s youth and characters that are relevant to this story arc.

And the comic I just loaded via Kindle Unlimited:

The Swords of Glass, Vol. 3: Tigran (Kindle Edition)
by Sylviane Corgiat

Very nice artwork in the first two volumes! It‘s been a while since I read them, so my memory of the plot is a little vague, but we‘ll see…

Hail funny science dude in space!

Project Hail Mary
by Andy Weir,  Ray Porter (Narrator) 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Mark Watney in space! And he sciences the sh*t out of his situation… so, yes, very much reminiscent of The Martian. And then some. I loved it and could barely put it down. So much fun! 

The female MC reminded me a bit of Avasarala (with less potty mouth) from The Expanse series. The science babble made my eyes glaze over once or twice, but it was generally presented in an understandable way for a layman. It all sounded completely believable for me. 

The ending is absolutely precious!

Some readers might think it‘s too similar to The Martian in tone and situation, but I am practically ecstatic about this book. I liked the structure of the book as well, with the two timelines telling the current story and the backstory in alternating chapters. You go on a trip of discovery together with Ryland Grace. Who am I? How did I get here? What am I supposed to do? And wow, this is so cool and I am the first one experiencing this! The enthusiasm of this book is addictive.

Very well narrated audiobook as well. I will be looking up other books narrated by Ray Porter.

Dawn of a new age…

Dawn (Xenogenesis, #1)
by Octavia E. Butler,  Aldrich Barrett (Narrator)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Lilith wakes up into a world of bipeds reminiscent of Cthullu with a touch of octopus biology. The world as she knows it has ended, the Onkali have rescued her and other humans. They intend for her to teach the other humans how to make a fresh start on a recovered Earth, at a price, once she got used to the Onkali. It won’t be easy or free of conflict.

What did I think? 

It was ok. The plot was fairly straight forward. Lilith wakes up to alien surroundings and actual aliens that she perceives as repulsive. She has to get used to her circumstances and work with her captors/rescuers to maybe make it back to Earth. Awakening other humans complicates matters.

I kept wondering about the total lack of consent. The book was published in 1987, when the concept of consent did not really exist. The lack of it bothered me, but considering the publishing date it wasn‘t really an issie/topic at the time. I wonder what I would have thought, if I had read the book back then.

Will I continue the series? 

Unlikely. The story was ok, but did not really engage me. The plot felt too simplistic, there was no real suspense, no great twists or massive surprises. I might change my mind at some point, but right now I think reading the blurbs of the other books will satisfy my curiosity.

Why did I pick up this book?

I‘ve been meaning to read something by Octavia Butler for a while and this seemed to be a good place to start. I might pick up another series written by her or some short stories.