This black hole did not suck me in

They’re Not Like Us, Vol. 1: Black Holes for the Young
by Eric StephensonSimon Gane (Illustrator)

Rating: 1 out of 5.

DNF at 41 pages. Didn‘t like the artwork. The story didn‘t do anything for me, could not be bothered to continue for long or pick it up again after putting it down. It took too long to get interesting. Teens with psychic powers?

We all have advantages over one another, but what if you were capable of things most of us can only imagine? What would you do – and who would you be? A doctor? An athlete? A soldier? A hero? Everyone has to make a choice about how to use the abilities they’re born with… but they’re not like us. 

There is no I in team and not everything is as it seems

Ham Helsing #1: Vampire Hunter by Rich Moyer

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Ham Helsing comes from a long line of unsuccessful vampire hunters, killing themselves with crazy inventions. Apparently stupid runs in the family. Ham seems to be the odd one out…. Maybe? Anyway…

Written for young readers (8-12 years), this charmed me right away and made me laugh. It‘s all about not being bogged down by assumptions, being a good and sometimes selfless person, working as a team… There is humour, sarcasm, adventure, scary spiders, an evil chicken and other funny characters. It‘s a very simple story, but it is very well done.

Talking about team…

I might read issue #2 at some point…

Gallantly bowing out of this one…

Gallant by Victoria SchwabJulian Rhind-Tutt (Narrator)

Olivia lives at an orphanage. She doesn‘t speak, sees ghouls and is isolated from the other girls. One day there is a letter from an uncle, calling her home to his house, which is called Gallant. A haunted house, relatives with a mysterious past and a hostile cousin, a vaguely creepy and gothic atmosphere. No romance elements.

Very good audiobook narration, likable characters, some nice story elements, slow plot development. I emphasized with Olivia. I didn‘t find the story as such terribly suspenseful, although it is definitely well written. It was too straight forward for me and too predictable. I liked the story, but started to drift off around the middle—there was just not enough tension or interest for me to keep going.

I might have missed out on some of the charm of this book by not getting an illustrated print version. Maybe I will revisit that one of these days and actually finish the story properly.

Despite the DNF at 51% I am giving this three stars, because it was ok and well done, I just didn‘t feel it. 51% is a pretty relative figure as well—I snoozed through some later parts of this, which is on me, not the book…

Will I read further books by the author? Yes, it‘s likely, but I would aim for the adult/mature ones. I have to say though that Schwab is not high on my list. The other book I read by her also ended as a three-star read, although the world building was quite interesting.

Kudos to the audiobook narrator, actor Julian Rhind-Tutt, I will keep my eyes peeled for further offerings narrated by him.

February 2022 Wrap-up

Here is my February 2022. My page count is a bit lower this month, due to some distracting family issues. I couldn‘t concentrate on new stories and reverted to comfort re-reading quite a lot of older fanfiction early in the month, which I don‘t really track.

Empire of Wild ★★★★☆, ebook, TBR, slow burning horror, indigenous folklore about a Rogarou.
– Iterum ★★★★☆, Stargate Atlantis fanfic, McShep, re-read / comfort reading — and a ton of other Spirk and McShep fanfiction!
– Bots of The Lost Ark in Clarkesworld Magazine #177, June 2021 ★★★★☆, online novelette, bots run amok, aliens threaten, ship and humans need to be saved, little bot to the rescue.
Interview with the Vampire ★★★★☆, ebook, re-read after 30 years or so. Slow start, but re-discovered so many details that I had forgotten. Ultimately rewarding.
– Shadecraft #1 ★★★★★, eComic, online for free at Image Comics, YA, Zadie is being chased by shadows… good artwork.
Fire and Ice: The Volcanoes of the Solar System ★★★★☆, audio, non-fiction, entertaining tour through our solar system and a fascinating look at volcanoes.
– Saga #56 ★★★★★, eComic
– Wikihistory ★★★★☆, short story, online, amusing piss-take on time travel and Wikipedia.
– The Legacy by R.A. Salvatore ★★★¾☆ ebook, TBR / StoryGraphReading Randomizer February #1, dark elves and dwarves battling it out in a lot of deep tunnels.
– An Easy Job ★★★★☆, short story, online, prequel to Sinew and Steel and What They Told

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six (ongoing):
– SCAR TISSUE by Tobias S. Buckell – human MC fosters a robot. Is the mind just bolted into its carriage or the sum of a whole? And what does it mean to be raised and to learn from experience? Sweet story, I got pretty emotional. ★★★★★
– EYES OF THE FOREST by Ray Nayler – scouts in an alien and dangerous forest, very cool concepts. ★★★★½
– SINEW AND STEEL AND WHAT THEY TOLD by Carrie Vaughn – Graff faked his medical records and something really awkward is going to come out. ★★★★¾

StoryGraph Reading Randomizer / backlog:
– The Solitaire Mystery, paper, TBR / February StoryGraph #2, have to see when I can fit this in…

Specfic Movies & TV watched:
– For All Mankind, S1, Eps. 1-5 ★★★★☆

Planned for March:
Ring Shout, audio, started…
Mickey7, ebook, Netgalley owned and running late
Ogres, ebook, pub date 15.03., Netgalley owned
The Complete Angel Catbird, Angel Catbird #1-3, Margaret Atwood, comic, owned
– Saga #57, pub date 23.03., pre-ordered
– StoryGraph #1 Even The Wingless
– StoryGraph #2 The Walking Dead, Vol. 17: Something to Fear

Trouble with shadows…

Shadecraft #1 by Joe Henderson, Lee Garbett (Cover Art), Antonio Fabela (Artist)

A new offering from Joe Henderson, the showrunner of the Netflix series Lucifer and writer of the excellent comic Skyward Vol. 1: My Low-G Life. Apparently Netflix has preemptively picked up Shadecraft as well.

16-year old Zadie is not afraid of the dark. That is quickly remedied when shadows start chasing her.

Good artwork, diverse cast of characters, amusing. Some teenage angst. Nice twist at the end, I liked it! I might pick up more issues at some point.

Can be read for free at Image Comics.

Here is the video trailer. It shows some light spoilers, so don‘t watch it if you want to go into the comic with a fresh look:

2021 Locus Recommended Reading List 

Welcome to the annual Locus Recommended Reading List!

Published in Locus magazine’s February 2022 issue, this list is assembled by Locus editors, columnists, outside reviewers, and other professionals and well-known critics of genre fiction and non-fiction. This year we considered over 900 titles between short fiction and long fiction. The final recommendations, combined and trimmed to a somewhat reasonable-length list, are our best recommendations for your consideration. We know there will be titles you loved that do not appear here; it happens every year. Any one of our recommending group would have put forward a different exact list, but this is the combined sum of opinions, assessed with great affection and care for the field.

https://locusmag.com/2022/02/2021-recommended-reading-list/

Just follow the link above to see the full lists. Below are the ones I have actually read…

NOVELS – SCIENCE FICTION

Leviathan Falls, James S.A. Corey (Orbit US; Orbit UK) — good conclusion to the series. Loved the epilogue.

.Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro (Knopf; Faber & Faber) — not a winner for me.

A Desolation Called Peace, Arkady Martine (Tor; Tor UK) — some great ideas, but I didn‘t love it.

Shards of Earth, Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tor UK; Orbit US) — yep, one of my favourite reads of the year. Looking forward to the sequel in May.

YOUNG ADULT NOVELS

The Gilded Ones, Namina Forna (Delacorte; Usborne) — considering that YA is not my genre, this was decent.

FIRST NOVELS

A Master of Djinn, P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom; Orbit UK) — good. I liked the novellas and short stories more.

Winter’s Orbit, Everina Maxwell (Tor; Orbit UK) — m/m romance in a SF setting. Fun!

NOVELLAS

Fugitive Telemetry, Martha Wells (Tordotcom) — Murderbot. What else.

Well, I did not read a lot of the entries. Is there anything that you loved and that I really should have read?

Fleeing into the woods

The Marrow Thieves
by Cherie Dimaline

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A dystopian world. Climate change, melting ice caps, floods, torrential rains, no electrical power left, no running water, polluted rivers and lakes, collapse of society, the whole nine yards. And that is just what happens before the beginning of the book. Most people have lost the ability to dream.

“The only people still able to dream are North America’s Indigenous people, and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world.“

French has lost his family, but finds a new one. They flee the cities and treck north through the woods, hoping to find a safe place.

That‘s pretty much it for the first half of the book. Running, hunting, minimal plot. Plus a little backstory in the shape a few origin stories of some of the members of the group. More backstory would have been nice. Slow build-up and glacial pace after the initial intro to the story and world.

This had—at least in parts—the feel of magical realism, without the magic, if that makes sense. The grimness of the schools and the marrow thieves was mostly in the off, hinted at and not really explored. This was more about the relationships of those that survived and their decisions how to live and where to go from there. If the characters and their budding relationship are the point of the story though, more character development would have been nice.

So, whilst the idea of this story was a good one, it wasn‘t really my cup of tea.

Content warning: several fairly foggy mentions of rape, one not so foggy one. Murder, genocide, medical experimentation and more.

Top Ten Tuesday — New-to-Me Authors

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 / January 25: New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2021

I generally read more new-to-me-authors these days than known ones. I used to read series after series, but have changed my reading habits in the last few years. I already posted my Top Ten Tuesday—the ten best books of 2021 and I will not mention those books again. Funnily enough those were mostly known-to-me-authors. Oh well.

The Murders of Molly Southbourne (Molly Southbourne, #1) by Tade Thompson — Weird. Disturbing. Creepy. Off-putting. Slightly disgusting in parts. Horror, as you might have guessed by now. It‘s like a train wreck—pretty horrible, but I couldn‘t look away. The writing is very good. I was totally immersed in the story, the characters and Molly‘s world. I will probably read The Survival of Molly Southbourne (Molly Southbourne, #2) at some point.

Rosewater (The Wormwood Trilogy, #1) by Tade Thompson wasn‘t quite as good for me. An alien lands on Earth, burrows into the ground and presents as a illuminated dome. We follow Kaaro, a „sensitive“, in the employ of some shady secret agency. His life story is told in three separate timelines, set around the biodome. He is a thief, he is sexist, he felt like a clueless, self-centered, mysoginistic idiot to me. I can appreciate the inventive world building, but the rest was a slog.

Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler — short story. A human colony living as little more than slaves, joined to an insectoid race. 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. 

Dawn (Xenogenesis, #1) by Octavia E. Butler — 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. A classic. It was ok, but I won‘t continue with the series.

Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur — A queer rom-com debut with a social media astrologer. Give me a break! And Darcy, an actuary, her terrible blind date, is a total bitch (at first). Gorgeous though. Fake relationship trope! Well written, very readable. Oh, this is supposed to be a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I didn‘t see it, to be honest, besides the first name.

Becoming by Michelle Obama — Michelle Obama‘s memoir, from her early childhood to the end of her second term as FLOTUS. Entertaining.

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith — I was entertained. And I learned new things.

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell — potential m/m romance in an SF setting, marriage of convenience, potentially a murder mystery and court intrigue, hints of space opera.

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badge — YA. UF/magical realism, set in our place and time, with ghosts, vampires and fae added to the mix. Author and female main character are Lipan Apache. Ellie is 17 years old and has the power to call animal ghosts into being.

The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter — the author covers a vast amount of linguistic topics. The author‘s casual dismissal of places and people outside of the US was a bit irritating at times. It was interesting.

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron — Enjoyable, humorous, not too silly and not too much drama. There is baking and sourdough starter and delicious Indian/East African food… If you are looking for a book that represents Islam and Muslim life, this is not it. If you are looking for light romance and great food though, you are bang on. 

We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen — Androids, a claustrophobic spaceship, a mysterious ice planet and a conspiracy with a dash of horror. 

Ok, that was ten new to me authors. I had an interesting year.

The Top Ten — 2021 Releases I Added to my Want-to-Read But Didn’t Get To  

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 / January 18: 2021 Releases I Was Excited to Read But Didn’t Get To

I changed that “excited to read“ to „added to my want-to-read“. Excited is a strong word. Those that I was excited about I pre-ordered and read in 2021. As I am very, very stingy with adding books to my want-to-read-shelf, I ended up with just another 10 books. And here they are:

Black Magick, Vol. 3: Ascension by Greg Rucka,  Nicola Scott — I added this to my shelf in 2019 and it took its sweet time to get published. Greg Rucka does fantastic stuff and the artwork was really very pretty in the first two volumes. Plus it was a good story. But the break was just so long, by the time this one here came out I just wasn‘t as interested anymore. So it still lingers. I highly recommend Lazarus, Vol. 1: Family by Greg Rucka!

The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott — „A gripping novel of myth, environment, adventure, and an unlikely friendship, from an award-winning Australian author“ — I have no idea why this is on my shelf. Pretty cover. Deleted.

Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard — „Award-winning author Aliette de Bodard returns with a powerful romantic fantasy“ — I have read good things by her and this novella was recommended. I in turn recommend Lullaby for a Lost World.

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley — YA mystery. Not really my thing. But my reading buddies loved it and it sounds tempting enough. I guess this part of the blurb did it: “Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman)“. Because I quite liked a book by a different author from an Anishinaabe community, Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice. Does not really make sense, I know.

We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker — „about one family and the technology that divides them“ — contemporary setting, about a brain implant that helps to get ahead. Not sure about this one, deleted.

The Audacity of Sara Grayson by Joani Elliott — a nice sounding piece of chicklit. Mother dies, last wish is for her daughter to finish her final book in a bestselling series. Possible shenanigans. I might keep it for now.

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim — another YA. A retelling of The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen, one of my favourite fairytales. Or The Six Swans by the Brothers Grimm. I am actually not sure which one, they are almost the same thing. Anyway, it tempted me.

Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune — it seems that everybody on the planet has read this but me.

Glimmer by Marjorie B Kellogg — „This new cli-fi epic chronicles a future NYC wracked by climate change and follows the individuals who must make the most of what remains to survive.“ — or should I rather go for Kim Stanley Robinson? This one here sounds like more fun.

Noor by Nnedi Okorafor — „From Africanfuturist luminary Okorafor comes a new science fiction novel of intense action and thoughtful rumination on biotechnology, destiny, and humanity in a near-future Nigeria.“ — I still haven‘r read anything by Okorafor. Or should I rather start with Binti?

Harperhall concluded

Dragondrums (Pern: Harper Hall series)
by Anne McCaffrey

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Piemur became Menolly‘s best friend in Dragonsinger and here is his coming-of-age story. We pick up a few years after Menolly walked the tables and became a journeyman and follow Piemur to his destiny…

“Of all the young singers at the Harperhall of Pern, Piemur was the one chosen for the leading role at Lord Groghe’s Gather…and then his voice broke. Suddenly his whole future at Harperhall became uncertain. But Masterharper Robinton, Menolly and Sebell had other plans for Piemur.“

From the book blurb

Entertaining story of his misadventures, that eventually take a positive turn for him. Not quite as well plotted or as gripping as the two Harperhall novels Dragonsong / Dragonsinger with Menolly as main character. But nice enough. And it gives an enticing glimpse into the Southern Continent.