Brain Candy with monsters

Return To The Center Of The Earth
by Greig Beck

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A year after the first book, some of the survivors get together again for a repeat performance. We quickly get to the creepy parts. 

Can I just say that I find it ridiculous that Alastair just reads that old script, after explaining at length, why it‘s so difficult to do just that. Anyway….

The caving part in the first book was longer and more fun. This time around I liked the part at the center of the Earth better. Once we reach the center, the narrative splits again to two groups of explorers, much like the first book. Different objectives though. The first book was mainly about being lost, about meeting whatever is down there and about escaping, with a small side story. This time around the reason for the trip is a different one and takes up a tiny latger slice of the narrative.

The book is just as fast-paced, with the expected head count, brought about by a colourful array of nasty critters. Escapism at its best. Just the brain candy I was looking for. And this is much better written than those Meg books by Alten. Beck actually writes well, the characters are not just cardboard cut-outs and the women aren‘t objectified and defined by their looks.

Trigger warning for rape — in the off, not graphic, but leading to some nasty imagery.

Brain candy at the center of the Earth

After my recent struggle into hard SF and before my next venture into 400+ pages of Fantasy I decided to read some brain candy as palate cleanser:

Return to the Center of the Earth by Greig Beck

“Those who descend into the dark find monsters. Or become them.”

Page 1

This is my review of book one.

I am also still reading:
– Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora, ebook, #ReadBIPOC2021, TBR pile, Netgalley
– Babylon’s Ashes, audio, Expanse #6, re-read
– Tietjen auf Tour: Warum Camping mich glücklich macht, paperback, TBR pile

I have lined up for September:
City of Bones, ebook 
– Persepolis Rising, audio, Expanse #7, re-read
– Tiamat’s Wrath, audio, Expanse #8, re-read
– Ancillary Sword, audio, Imperial Radch #2, re-read

Not smelling of roses for me

Rosewater (The Wormwood Trilogy, #1)
by Tade Thompson

Rating: 2 out of 5.

An alien lands on Earth, burrows into the ground and presents as a illuminated dome. A shanty town develops around it. Eventually there is a opening through which something escapes and heals people. A city called Rosewater springs up around the alien dome, benefitting from these regular healings. 

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. The three timelines felt aimless, without purpose and never came together in a satisfying way for me. The author frequently lost me with all those jumps.

Kaaro is a thief, he is sexist, he feels like a clueless, self-centered, mysoginistic idiot to me. He is not interested in anything and meanders around aimlessly, propelled by others.

The trilogy is called „Wormwood Trilogy“. This nagged at me, so I googled it. Aha! Look for yourself, I am not telling… Suffice to say, this went in the direction I expected. And it also didn‘t. The ending felt anticlimactic.

I can appreciate the inventive world building, but the rest was a slog. The whole thing felt pretty pointless to me and I actively disliked Kaaro and especially his weird obsession with sex and his various orgasms. It was slightly disturbing and off-putting. 

I was mostly bored and heavily skimmed the last third of the book.

As the book won various awards and many of my friends liked it, I can only assume that I read this wrong. I will definitely not read the other two books of this trilogy and will also not recommend this to anybody. However, I did like something else by the author, The Murders of Molly Southbourne. Also disturbing, but with pacing and plot that were more my thing. Not an enjoyable main character either though.

Nice enough as a whole

The Night Marchers and Other Oceanian Stories
by Kel McDonald (Goodreads Author) (Editor),  Sloane Leong (Goodreads Author) (Editor),  Kate Ashwin (Editor),  Jonah Cabudol-Chalker (Contributor),  Rob Cham (Contributor),  Yiling Changues (Contributor),  Paolo Chikiamco (Goodreads Author) (Contributor),  Diigii Daguna (Contributor),  Brady Evans (Contributor),  Mark Gould (Contributor),  Gen H. (Contributor)

Middle Grade is not something I read a lot, I am pretty set on adult fiction. But this anthology looked interesting. There are some nice stories here and some that I liked less. The artwork spans various types, some of it is very simple, some very nice. The usual mixed bag. The individual stories are generally fairly short, they often also feel unfinished. 

I am disappointed in the choice of settings. Mostly the stories originate from the Philippines, there are a few from Hawaii and one story from Fiji — I had hoped for more variety. Do the Philippines even count a belonging to Oceania? And why is New Zealand mentioned in the blurb? There is no story from New Zealand.

I liked The Legend of Apolaki and Mayari by Kim Miranda. What a pretty story with nice sketches! Brother and sister end up fighting each other, a Filipino folkloric story.

Also pretty good was Nanuae the Sharkboy by Gen H. Set in Hawaii. There is shapeshifting (yay!), sharks (yay!) and the story is told a lot through images instead of text, which was done well. The ending was a bit abrupt.

The Legend of the Coconut Tree by Yiling Changues was that singular story from Fiji. Beautiful artwork. I would call it illustrated poetry? Very pretty, although I am not sure if I understood the ending correctly.

Nice enough as a whole. I would probably recommend this to friends.

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

Fiji and Norderney

The Night Marchers and Other Oceanian Stories by Kel McDonald (Editor) 

Last night I read The Legend of the Coconut Tree by Yiling Changues. Finally something from a different place, Fiji! Beautiful artwork. I would call this illustrated poetry? Very pretty, although I am not sure if I understood the ending correctly.

In other news you probably won‘t hear from me every day for the next few days, as I am on holiday. Not on Fiji, sadly, but on one of the Friesian islands off the German coast…


Birthright #1
by Joshua Williamson,  Andrei Bressan (Illustrator),  Adriano Lucas (Illustrator) 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The first issue of this series came for free. There are 50 (!) single issues as of June 2021. That seems to be the end of it though. 

Magical journey of a boy disappearing from the park, where he was playing catch with his dad. 

Portal fantasy with a bit of a World of Warcraft look. Turns out he is The Chosen One. Beings from a mystical realm are trying to save the world, potentially with the help of a small boy. Naturally, there is an unexpected twist at the end. On the other end of the story is the boy‘s family and what his loss is doing to them.

Solid start to a very long-looking series. Nothing outstanding or truly surprising in the first issue, with the exception of that small cliffhanger at the end. The artwork is ok. I took some peeks at later issues and I am pretty sure the story develops nicely. 

Will I continue with this series? Not right now. 
Would I buy it for a friend or recommend it? Yes, quite likely, it was nice enough.

More cautionary tales…

The Night Marchers and Other Oceanian Stories
by Kel McDonald

More cautionary tales…

The Night Marchers by Jonah Cabudol-Chalker (illustrator, Hawaii) & Kate Ashwin (writer, UK) ★★★☆☆

A positive ghost story. Nice page layouts. Very short.

The Legend of Apolaki and Mayari by Kim Miranda ★★★★☆

What a pretty story with nice sketches! Brother and sister end up fighting each other… Philippines again. Very simple, but I really liked the artwork.

Nanuae the Sharkboy by Gen H. ★★★★☆

And Hawaii… good story! There is shapeshifting (yay!), sharks (yay!) and the story is told a lot through images instead of text, which was done well. The ending was a bit abrupt.

Thousand Eyes by Paolo Chikiamco & Tintin Pantoja ★★★★☆

And the Philippines again… about a girl that seems to be lazy and gives her mother some trouble. Of the stories included here, this looks the most like a comic. Another good one, with a sci-fi twist this time.

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

First Line Friday in German

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 a few books in German lingering on my TBR- and currently-reading shelf. One of them I have been taking along to the communal pool… it‘s a fun read, actually, so it will come along on my holiday as my summer read…

No, that photo does not show my communal pool….. 😜

Tietjen auf Tour: Warum Camping mich glücklich macht (Tietjen on tour: Why camping makes me happy) by Bettina Tietjen

Translation of the German book blurb:

I am a guest in a hotel, I am at home in my camper

Whether on Corsica or in the Swedish forests, Bettina Tietjen has happily parked her motorhome forwards, backwards and sideways for many years. She and her family enjoy life without a dress code or a fixed destination – and if the weather is bad, you simply drive to another place. Her declaration of love for camping is about freedom under the starry sky, the search for the best place for a van and a hammock, it’s about hot tent neighbors, animal visitors and other strange encounters. For example, when someone exclaims enthusiastically while emptying the smelly chemical toilet: “Ms. Tietjen, is it really you? I know you from TV! ”- these are camping moments that you will never forget.

Yes, we camp!

The sympathetic presenter and bestselling author lets us look behind the curtains of her camper

From the German book blurb

And the first sentence, translated from the original German:

„Could you just take off your sun glasses?“ The man stands so closely to me, that his belly almost touches me.

„It‘s really me“, 1st line of the 1st chapter