The Exuberant Vitality of Hatchling Habitats

„The Exuberant Vitality of Hatchling Habitats,“ is now available in Multispecies Cities anthology! It’s about birds, oceans, structures and…

ICYMI: „The Exuberant Vitality of Hatchling Habitats“ is now available in Multispecies Cities anthology!

This sounds interesting… maybe… „Solarpunk“ is a new one…

Cities are alive, shared by humans and animals, insects and plants, landforms and machines. What might city ecosystems look like in the future if we strive for multispecies justice in our urban settings? In these more-than-human stories, twenty-four authors investigate humanity’s relationship with the rest of the natural world, placing characters in situations where humans have to look beyond their own needs and interests. A quirky eco-businessman sees broader applications for a high school science fair project. A bad date in Hawai’i takes an unexpected turn when the couple stumbles upon some confused sea turtle hatchlings. A genetically-enhanced supersoldier struggles to find new purpose in a peaceful Tokyo. A community service punishment in Singapore leads to unexpected friendships across age and species. A boy and a mammoth trek across Asia in search of kin. A Tamil child learns the language of the stars. Set primarily in the Asia-Pacific, these stories engage with the serious issues of justice, inclusion, and sustainability that affect the region, while offering optimistic visions of tomorrow’s urban spaces.

From the blurb

Expanding universe

And while I am on a roll with re-read of The Expanse, I just read this:

The Expanse: Origins
by James S.A. Corey,  Hallie Lambert,  Georgia Lee,  Huang Danlan (Illustrator),  Triona Farrell (Illustrator),  Juan Useche (Illustrator),  Rahzzah (Illustrator) 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

As the title suggests, these are backstories of our favourite crew, set several years before the plot of the main storyline of the books.

Definitely a companion piece for fans of The Expanse. The characters are done in the image of the TV series. The artwork is pretty basic and not good. Why do media-tie ins always have such bad artwork? Is that an unwritten rule somewhere?

Jim Holden, Naomi Nagata, Alex Kamal, Amos Burton and Miller each get a chapter. 

Holden‘s chapter was the weakest for me. It shows the end of his military career and is the least believable. ★★½☆☆
I really liked Naomi‘s chapter — strong story, I connected emotionally and it had Amos in it…. I love Amos! ★★★★★
Alex Kamal‘s chapter was surprisingly good, considering that he is my least favourite member of the Roci‘s crew. ★★★★☆
Amos‘s chapter was a little too wacky, sad and a little upsetting. ★★★½☆
And Miller‘s chapter didn‘t do much for me. This is a media tie-in to the TV series and his likeness to TV Miller was the least well done. ★★☆☆☆

You don‘t miss much, if you don‘t read this. If you don‘t know the series, don‘t bother with this. Watch the series first or, even better, read the books. They are a lot of fun!

City of Gold

Cibola Burn (Expanse, #4)
by James S.A. Corey, narrator: Jefferson Mays

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Whatever had built the protomolecule and fired it toward Earth back in the depths of time wasn’t answering calls anymore. The bridge builder had opened the way, and no great gods had come streaming through.

It was astounding, Bobbie thought, how quickly humanity could go from What unimaginable intelligence fashioned these soul-wrenching wonders? to Well, since they’re not here, can I have their stuff?

from the prologue

And that is the driving force behind this book. Let‘s finds the City of Gold and get all that stuff. Well, ok, the Belters go there as well to have a place of their own and a life free from the Inners. Then the rest show up to kick them out and try to get that stuff instead. And Avasarala sends Holden and company to mediate. Yes, crazy idea, right? It doesn‘t take long for the proverbial sh*t to hit the fan. Entertaining! On top of that we get a fascinating ecosystem, alien ruins, natural disasters, battles in space and more. Never a dull moment. This time around my mind wandered a little though, hence I knocked off a star from my first review.


First review from November 2017:

This is a solid addition to the Expanse. Another fairly straight forward story, not as twisty and with as memorable characters as Caliban’s War, but good stuff. My only grievance is the very formulaic aka always very similar plot construction.

Holden is a bit much at times, with his boy scout persona, but luckily he has Amos at his side to keep him ankered to the realities of life and death. Naomi and especially Alex could have gotten a little more page time. There is the now expected bunch of new and never to be seen again characters thrown into the mix.

The really bad guy is really bad and there is the also usual morally ambiguous character, that could fall either side of that line. Miller does his thing, we get unexpected plot twists and oh-shit situations and everything slowly goes to hell in a hand basket, also as in the previous books.

I really liked the natural history excursions. I’ll have one of those mimic lizards, please. Good sense of humour. The interludes are new. And odd. And interesting. And they didn’t end up in quite the direction I expected them to go.

All in all a good read, if somewhat repetitive in set-up/structure. Entertaining , but not mind blowing. Will I read the next book in the series? Absolutely.


Next up in The Expanse would be the short story The Churn (The Expanse, #0.2) and the next full novel Nemesis Games (Expanse, #5), which is one of my favourite books in the series. The short story should ideally be read before it, as it gives us the origin story of Amos Burton. Still, I am taking a break here and listen to a different audiobook first:

Klara and the Sun (Audible Audio)
by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun, the first novel by Kazuo Ishiguro since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her.

from the blurb

I am not sure if I every actually read The Remains of the Day, I might mix it up with my memory of the movie. So, practically let‘s consider this my first Ishiguro.

When we were new, Rosa and I were mid-store, on the magazines table side, and could see through more than half of the window. So we were able to watch the outside – the office workers hurrying by, the taxis, the runners, the tourists, Beggar Man and his dog, the lower part of the RPO Building. Once we were more settled, Manager allowed us to walk up to the front until we were right behind the window display, and then we could see how tall the RPO Building was. And if we were there at just the right time, we would see the Sun on his journey, crossing between the building tops from our side over to the RPO Building side.

first paragraph

So far, so good.

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!

Six degrees, from Scotland in the past to a dystopian England of the future

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‘s starting book is yet again one I haven‘t read…

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, about a 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow. I don‘t want to follow the same trodden path and the amount of books dealing with unhappy childhoods on my shelf is pretty limited, let‘s go with the author‘s last name. Bizarre, but it worked out in the end and my six degrees settled on children, birth and growing pains in different settings…

The Future Is Nigh (Mass Market Paperback) by C. Stuart Hardwick
A collection of previously published short stories of winners of the Writers of the Future Contest. Length varies from 6 to 32 pages. Pretty decent collection. Three really excellent stories, one that didn‘t really do it for me and the rest was ok to fairly good. 4 stars overall.

My favourites: Martin L. Shoemaker, Today I Am Paul: My emotional winner. I want to hug this android so hard. / Marina J. Lostetter, Rats will Run: Great world building, imaginative flora and fauna. / William Ledbetter, Last House, Lost House: Great post-apocalyptic story with a nice twist.

Thinking about short stories, mothers and unhappy childhood led me to The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu. Read the titular story, if you have the opportunity.

“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.“

Lovely, truly lovely. And terribly bittersweet and sad. Can be read for free here: https://io9.gizmodo.com/read-ken-lius…

Ken Liu leads me to Ted Chiang almost without pause. And to another mother and child and what effects their shared history has on the world at large…

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. Again, look at the titular story, if you can. It was the basis for the SF movie Arrival with Amy Adams in the lead role.

“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 liked the story and the characters. 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.

Another books about mothers and children, at least peripherally, is The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere #1) by Meg Elison. 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 had 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. 

My final book is yet again about children in a fairly horrific, post-apocalyptic setting. And it brings us back to the island we started this journey on. England though, instead if Scotland… The Girl with All the Gifts (The Girl with All the Gifts, #1) by M.R. Carey. Here children end up in a very different world.


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!

Books by Women of Color #ReadPOC2021

Bloodchild
by Octavia E. Butler

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A human colony living as little more than slaves, joined to an insectoid race as hosts to their eggs and larvae. Gruesome imagery. Alien comes to mind. The „conception“ is a much gentler event though, even sensuous. Love, possesiveness and self-sacrifice are themes. 

Butler voices her surprise in the afterword, that readers see this as a story of slavery. But are we looking at symbiosis or at a parasitic relationship? Is it really consent in a situation, where your personal rights have been curtailed and there are no equal rights? I think not. 

Interesting. And worth reading. I will have another look at Dawn, which I have been circling for a while.


This is my entry for January of the BIPOC challenge I joined this year. My original post is here. For an explanation and the general rules please go to the actual webpage of the challenge, hosted by Lonely Cryptid Media.

The prompt and page for January is here: Books by Women of Color to Read for #ReadPOC2021

My original choice was The Gilded Ones (Deathless, #1) by Namina Forna, but I read that in December already. I am also currently listening to Becoming by Michelle Obama, but I am very slow with audiobooks, so I might not finish in January.

First contact, Elon Musk to the rescue!

The Best We Can
by Carrie Vaughn

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What if aliens show up and nobody cares enough to go and have a look?

Wow, very frustrating and depressing. Don’t get me wrong, the story is great.

If that is the best we can do, then we suck! I hope we will be more curious than this, if we ever make a similar discovery. But I can see it happening just like that. I‘d rather believe in The Martian and that we can be better than this, pull together, pool our resources and do the right thing. Or Elon Musk to the rescue. 

My glass is half full. And hopefully space as well! I know, I know, I am overly optimistic. Anything else would be too depressing (again). 

Well done, Carrie Vaughn!

Can be read for free here.

Reading Writers of Color 2021

I came across this challenge on habitica.com and as I want and need to mix up my reading, I think this could be an excellent prompt to do so next year!

For an explanation and the general rules please go to the actual webpage of challenge hosted by Lonely Cryptid Media.

I‘ve not done so badly towards the end of this year with BIPOC authors, but over the whole year my average was probably horrific. The vast majority of authors will have been white, male US Americans. Sigh. That definitely needs to change. Which won‘t be easy, as I still have a ton of books on my TBR pile that will have that same demographic. And I don‘t want to buy a lot of new books. Right. Not sure yet, how I will accomplish this. We‘ll see. I have some books in mind already, but I don‘t want to plan ahead too much.


Anyway, here is more on the prompt for January:

Books by Women of Color to Read for #ReadPOC2021

I am not going to repeat the 10 books suggested by Lonely Cryptid Media, please go there to have a look! What do I have on my pile? Yesterday I actually started reading this book:

The Gilded Ones (Deathless, #1)
by Namina Forna

This is an ARC I received from Netgalley. It‘s YA, which is not really my genre. But I really liked the cover artwork and some of my fellow Goodreads buddies where so enthusiastic about this novel, that I requested it. And voilá! As mentioned, I started it already and there is a slim chance that I will finish it before January, otherwise I might cheat a little and use this as my January entry.

However, if I find the time and motivation, I also have this on my TBR pile:

The Black Parade (The Black Parade, #1)
by Kyoko M.

Angels and demons are not my thing and I am generally a bit tired of UF, but Ilona Andrews recommended this and it‘s for free on kindle… I think I might have gotten this, because it looked like the cover of a graphic novel to me, but it‘s another YA novel. And the reviews of my reading buddies are not stellar. So I‘m a bit dubious about this one.

Jade City (The Green Bone Saga, #1)
by Fonda Lee

In this epic saga of magic and kungfu, four siblings battle rival clans for honor and power in an Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis.

* World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, winner
* Aurora Award for Best Novel, winner
* Nebula Award for Best Novel, nominee
* Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, finalist

Bloodchild
by Octavia E. Butler

This one is a short story, but it‘s high time that I read something by Ms. Butler…

Bloodchild is Octavia E. Butler’s shattering meditation on symbiosis, love, power and tough choices. It won the Hugo, Locus, Nebula and Science Fiction Chronicle awards and is widely regarded as one of her greatest works. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21265321-bloodchild

Measure of Days
by Sophy Layzell

This is another one of my overdue Netgalleys. I will definitely read it next year (well, that‘s the plan, anyway), not sure if I‘ll manage January. I can‘t quite say what this is exactly. Post-apocalyptic YA horror adventure? Reviews so far seem to be in the okay-ish region.


So, that gives me some options for January. Have you read any of these? Do you have any recommendations?