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!

My favourite books of 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted over at That Artsy Reader Girl. The current Top Ten is MY TOP TEN FAVORITE READS OF 2020, predictably so. Let‘s see, how many 5-star reviews I can scare up for this year… no particular order, I listed them as they popped up.

Moon Called (Mercedes Thompson, #1)
by Patricia Briggs

I re-read the whole series, plus Alpha & Omega spin-off, at the beginning of this year. Still good and still one of my favourite UF series of all time. I am looking forward to the new Alpha & Omega in March 2021.

The Walking Dead, Vol. 8: Made to Suffer
by Robert Kirkman,  Charlie Adlard,  Cliff Rathburn

I am slowly working my way through The Walking Dead, the ultimate zombie graphic novel, that spawned an ever increasing horde of books and TV series… this volume was a very good ones. I am still at it, currently reading Volume 13.

To The Center Of The Earth
by Greig Beck

As pure escapism goes, this was an excellent choice. Cavers go down to find the centre of the Earth. And things they did not bargain for. Reminding you of Jules Verne? Yes, indeed.

Paper Girls #1
by Brian K. Vaughan,  Cliff Chiang (Illustrator)

Paper Girls is another excellent graphic novel by Vaughan, that I really should continue. Good story, great colouring, fun!

Dune (Dune, #1)
by Frank Herbert

Another re-read, in a pretty Deluxe hardback edition. The book shows its age and author‘s bias in the treatment of women and LGTBQ representation, but if you can look past that it is still one of the best SF novels out there.

The White Dragon (Pern, #3)
by Anne McCaffrey

This seems to be my year of re-reading old favourites, because I also read the first Dragonriders of Pern trilogy again. And I still like it a lot, phew. The treatment of women in this one is even more problematic than in Dune though. Odder still, the author is a woman. However, if dragons are your thing, this series should be on your list.

Monstress, Vol. 5: Warchild
by Marjorie M. Liu,  Sana Takeda (Artist)

Another graphic novel series that is still going strong. The plot thickens though in this horror/fantasy story full of demons and gorgeous artwork.

Red, White & Royal Blue
by Casey McQuiston

My winner in the romance genre for this year. Good sense of humour, believable and not cringe-worthy amounts of drama and angst, blessed lack of the most stupid romance tropes. 

Mindtouch (The Dreamhealers, #1)
by M.C.A. Hogarth

Finally I picked up something by Hogarth again, after a longer break. Very chilled, very relaxing, a nice amble through her unusual universe. Let’s call it Pastoral Science Fiction. A slow book with mellow drama and a slowly building asexual romance. Uplifting. Another reviewer called it a cozy, finding-one’s-place story and that sums it up nicely.

Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy, #5)
by Ilona Andrews

Ilona Andrews, well… I would rate their shopping list with five stars.


Not a very sophisticated list with a lot of literary merit, but I had fun. I could list a few more graphic novels. In terms of novels there were no massive highlights this year. Plus the longer I review books, the stricter I seem to get with my ratings.

November Wrap-up

Here is my November. Sorry for the long break since my last post. Slow book and not a lot of reading mojo at the moment…

BR novels finished:
– The White Dragon, paper, featured BR, ★★★★¾, the runt of the litter saves the day. 
– The Doors of Eden, audio, featured BR, carry-over from October, ★★★¾☆
– Conventionally Yours, netgalley, romance readers, ★★¾☆☆, new adult, enemies-to-lovers, M/M romance, card gaming à la Magic The Gathering, meh.

BR novels started, carry-over into December:
– To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, audio, group read, at 48%
– Phoenix Extravagant, netgalley, at 40%

Solo reads / comics:
– Fathom Vol. 1 #0, ★★★☆☆, Surfer Barbie plans to go on an adventure.
– Fathom Vol. 2 #0, ★★½☆☆, where is Aquaman, when you need him?
– Fathom Vol. 2: Beginnings, ★★★½☆, backstory, only eight pages. The Artwork seems to be better.
– BLAME! Vol. 5, ★★★½☆
– BLAME! Vol. 6, ★★☆☆☆, not happy how this all played out. Seriously missing some decent plot.

Solo read / Fanfiction:
Performance in a Leading Role, online, ★★★★☆, Johnlock, rom-com with the boys as leading Hollywood actors. 156,714 Words.

The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky The White Dragon (Pern, #3) by Anne McCaffrey Fathom Vol. 1 #0 by Michael Layne Turner Fathom Vol. 2 #0 by J.T. Krul Fathom Vol. 2 Beginnings by J.T. Krul Conventionally Yours (True Colors, #1) by Annabeth Albert BLAME! Vol. 5 by Tsutomu Nihei BLAME! Vol. 6 by Tsutomu Nihei 

The runt of the litter saves the day

The White Dragon (Pern, #3)
by Anne McCaffrey

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I my memory this is my favourite Pern book, closely followed by the Haperhall books. There is a lot more going on than I remembered. Or that I thought of happening in another book of the series. This is definitely a worthwhile refresher.

We finally get to read more about my favourite dragon Ruth and about a ton of fire-lizards. Plus there is adventure, a conspiracy and plenty of exploring of the Southern continent and the past. Jaxom has to come to terms with his double role of Lord Holder and Dragonrider. Although he isn‘t allowed to be either and chafes at the restrictions put upon him. In the meantime Ruth grows and matures in unexpected ways. 

F‘lar and Lessa are in the sidelines in this storyline and we get to see more of the characters from the Harperhall novels. Which makes me wonder why this book was put into a collected edition with the first two books of the series, although the three Harperhall novels are set before it chronologically. But I guess this way you come full circle with all of the issues that are raised in Dragonflight and Dragonquest and the various plotlines are tied up neatly.

McCaffrey is still not very good at writing love scenes in this and we are still dealing with antiquated gender roles. But then, this is set in a medieval, feudal society, so that actually fits. The women do all the cooking and act as servants to the men, the actual servants are faceless drudges (I always deeply disliked that term), the farmers are beholden to their lords and the droit-de-seigneur is alive and well. Jaxom‘s dealings with Corana are not stellar, but he is a product of the society he grew up in.

Is this still my favourite? I think it is neck to neck with Dragonquest, which has a more focussed and streamlined plot. The White Dragon is longer and more meandering, with several highpoints. This could have easily been several novellas, stuck together.

*+*+*

Here is the chronological order of the current timeline and the books I plan to re-read:

Dragonflight — re-read in September 2020 
Dragonquest — re-read in October 2020

Dragonsong —> Harperhall, plan to read after White Dragon
Dragonsinger —> Harperhall, dito
Dragondrums —> Harperhall, dito

The Renegades of Pern — I might skip this one, it doesn‘t sound essential to the main plotline.
The White Dragon — re-read in November 2020
All The Weyrs of Pern
The Dolphins of Pern
The Skies of Pern

I never before realized that the Harperhall books are aimed at a different age group, aka YA. None of those books released in the years 2000+ are part of my planned read above. I‘ll decide after reading those, if I will pick up the newer offerings, co-written with Todd McCaffrey (set before Dragonflight).

+*+*+
What I wrote in 2013:

My all-time-favourite Pern novel. The ultimate underdogs of Pern. The rider should never have become a rider and the little dragon was a discard from the get-go. So they stick it to all of them and show the finger to those snobby other riders, dragons and assorted nobility…

October Wrap-up

BR novels:
– Monstress, Vol. 5, comic, ★★★★★, siege of a city, war, revelations about the past. This was good, although different to the previous ones. More of an ensemble cast and more focused on setting up the scene for that siege and the war that will probably pick up speed in the next volume.
– Dragonquest, paper, ★★★★★, fun 2nd Dragonriders book. Fire-lizards! I enjoyed this a lot and it was much better than I remembered it.
– The Only Good Indians, audio, ★★☆☆☆, revenge, indigenous people, hunting. Carry-over from last month. There were some good parts in this. Some of it I even liked. It just didn‘t come together well. 
– The Ministry for the Future: A Novel, ebook, Netgalley, ★★☆☆☆, DNF at 56%, climatefic, too little plot, more a collection of essays, too much economics, blockchain, weird surrealistic meta-fic somethings. The plot that was there, I liked. The rest bored me silly.

Ongoing BR:
– The Doors of Eden, audio, featured BR, 6 hours left, will finish in November… Good so far, I like it. Tchaikovsky writes well and is great at world-building. I have to get to his back catalogue one of these days.

Planned BR, but didn‘t read:
– The Butterfly Garden, ebook, didn‘t manage to squeeze it in and after reading a friend‘s review I am not sure if I want to. Postponed.

Solo reads:
– Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory, short, ★★★★☆, intermezzo for Mensah and Murderbot 
– Shakespeare’s Sonnets, poetry, ★★★★☆, read-along with Sir Pat on Instagram.
– BLAME! Vol. 4, manga, ★★★★☆, fighting and exploring the megastructure.

Plans for November:

BR novels:
– The White Dragon — started already! Fun!
– Phoenix Extravagant, netgalley 
– Conventionally Yours, netgalley — romance readers
– Great Expectations, read-along on wordpress — this will be postponed, month tbc

Still riding…

Dragonquest (Pern, #2)
by Anne McCaffrey

Rating: 5 out of 5.

My first re-read since being a young adult. I went into Dragonquest with slight apprehension. I never much liked the drama with the Oldtimers and Kylara always grated. But we also get fire-lizards! Love them! Want one! I didn‘t remember that they show up for the first time in Dragonquest. My memory had placed them securely with Menolly and the Harperhall trilogy…

The language feels a little dated sometimes, however that feeling disappeared as I delved deeper into the story. 

The gender roles are old-fashioned. But I think that is largely on purpose and there are some indications that it could or should be different. There are some hints at non-normative pairings, because what do you do when you ride a green dragon, right?

Characters in general are not explored much emotionally. The developing romance between Brekke and F‘nor delves a little deeper and I enjoyed that part. Writing sex scenes is not something that McCaffrey did well, even for the non-graphic variety.

The dragons feel more real to me than they appeared to be in my memory, with more pronounced personalities and intelligence. 

In this one they find some more ancient tech. As a teenager I found that confusing. And now I find it surprising that they just grab any old tech they find and use it. As if it was perfectly normal to live in a quasi feudal, medieval society, find a microscope or a telescope, figure out how works and just use it. If they regressed in their technological level, wouldn‘t that rather be like magic and very unsettling for them? How can they be at the level they are and then back-engineer electrical wiring, etc.? 

Anyway, I ended up enjoying this book very much, more than Dragonflight. Onwards to The White Dragon!

P.S.: I am filing this under Fantasy. It‘s a tough one though, because there is talk about other planets, traveling there, we discover tech from the colonists that settled our planet, however—this is very much a feudal society. Hm.

On gossamer wings…

Dragonquest (Pern, #2)
by Anne McCaffrey

My first re-read since being a young adult. The language feels a little dated now and the gender roles are very old-fashioned. Characters in general are not very deeply explored emotionally. But still fun to read.

I just finished Chapter IV.

I went into Dragonquest with slight apprehension. I never much liked the drama with the Oldtimers and Kylara always grated. But we also get  fire-lizards! Love them! Want one! I didn‘t remember that they show up for the first time in Dragonquest. My memory had placed them securely with Menolly and the Harperhall trilogy… Now that they showed up I can‘t wait to dive into the next chapter…

Dragons taking off…

Dragonflight (Pern: Dragonriders of Pern, #1)
by Anne McCaffrey

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Why is this one of my favourite fantasy series of all time? Sentient dragons, talking telepathically to their riders. People fighting the good fight on dragonback. A really cool world. Entertaining story telling. This is really fun to read. Eat your heart out, Christoper Paolini!

The first 150 pages are a lot of set-up and world building. I can live with that in such a long running series. The romance is mostly non-existent. They meet, they become a pair due to external circumstances, they seem to be fond of each other eventually and maybe in love and definitely possessive.

I can‘t say how many times I have read this series. Pretty much constantly as a teenager. Unfortunately I do not have my old paperbacks anymore, I gave them all away 25 years ago, when I moved. This is the first re-read since then. And it is definitely the very first time I am reading it in the original English. And now there are some additional books that I have never read.

So, Dragonflight—The fun truly starts for me, when Robinton shows up. He is one of my favourite characters of the series. The three Harperhall books are my favourite story arc as well. But first there is this, the beginning of the Dragonriders of Pern.

I have questions now that I didn‘t ask in the early 80s, when I read this for the first time. 

Here there be slight spoilers…

One is the shaking thing. What is with that? F‘lar pretty much expects Lessa to obey him without question and likes to shake her into submission, when she doesn‘t. Ok, there is an instance of affectionate shaking as well. Whatever that is supposed to be. How Lessa didn‘t develop whiplash remains a mystery.

Everybody seems committed to not telling her anything of importance. I am not sure why they don‘t talk with each other and explain things to her like she is an adult. I guess this was McCaffrey‘s way of creating drama suspense. 

Then there is the pink elephant in the room: lack of consent. Whatever happens, takes place in the off and is not explicit or ever discussed in more depth. One presumes that consent wasn‘t given. Did it bother me as a teenager? No. 
Would it be considered rape in the present? Yes, probably. Hard to say without actually being in the scene. It does sound like it though. 
Does the character that took that action feel remorse? Yes, however he had no choice in the matter of the act. But he could have forewarned his wronged counterpart. Guilty by omission. 
Did it bother me massively in the course of reading the story now? No again. I am still debating that with myself. I guess nostalgia won. 

If this had been my first read, I might have given it three stars. Or 3.5 stars, rounded up? Anyway, nostalgia demands 4 stars, despite the above. Yes, I will read Dragonquest and The White Dragon.

Dragonriders of Pern

One of my favourite fantasy series as a teenager was the Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. I read the books over and over again.

Then I moved abroad as an adult and gave away most of my paper books. Since then I have felt the urge to re-read some of them, but haven‘t — due to the fact that I would have had to buy the books again.

I recently decided to buy a paper version of the first trilogy again…

The Dragonriders of Pern (Dragonriders of Pern, #1-3)
by Anne McCaffrey

I am still waiting for this omnibus to arrived at my local bookstore, as I am trying to support my local… A buddy read with my favourite GoodReads buddies is in the making…

This omnibus contains my favourite books of the series:

The White Dragon (Pern, #3)
by Anne McCaffrey

My all-time-favourite Pern novel. The ultimate underdogs of Pern. The rider that should never have become a rider and the little dragon was a discard from the get-go. So they stick it to all of them and show the finger to those snobby other riders, worthier dragons and assorted (s)nobility…

If I still like the writing, I might get the next trilogy as well, when the new issue/omnibus of it comes out in paper in September…

Harper Hall of Pern Trilogy: Dragonsong; Dragonsinger; Dragondrums
by Anne McCaffrey

The Harper Hall books with Menolly and Robinton also were some of my favourites. Those two were my favourite characters, besides Jaxom and his white dragon.

Have you ever read any of these books? Which book of the series is your favourite? Have you read any of the never books, penned by Todd McCaffrey and how do they compare?

There is a first time for everything…

The Chronicles Of Pern: First Fall (The Dragon Books)
by Anne McCaffrey

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Discovered this in my reading pile… big surprise! I have been reading Anne MaCaffrey since I was a teen and I re-read many of my favourite Pern books over and over again. Eventually I lost interest and never got back into the series. 

After a little research I figured it out—at some point in 2019 I apparently decided to fill my gaps in this series in chronological order. So I seem to have gotten this as a start. After a little further research it turns out that McCaffrey herself suggested to read her books in publication order. But here we are…

This is a collection of five short stories/novelettes, „gripping episodes of early Pern.“

The P.E.R.N. Survey

We start of with a survey mission from space…

„Barring some unforeseen factor discovered in the analyses of soil, vegetation and biological samples, they were all three quite willing to let Castor initial it P.E.R.N. – parallel Earth, resources negligible.“

I would have liked to stay with them longer, to find out what becomes of them…

The Dolphins’ Bell

Early days with the dolphins of Pern. Vulcanic eruption, flight and the favourite word of this episode is „pyroclastic“-something-or-other. Master and Commander meets Dante‘s Peak, with dolphins… (not really).

The Ford of Red Hanrahan

A new Hold is founded… Lots of horses. The river crossing is mildly entertaining. The least interesting story of this collection.

The Second Weyr

Finally, a proper story about dragonriders.

“She was close enough at a roughly thousand-foot altitude to notice the churning of the water beneath where schools of every fish that thrived in Pern’s seas had gathered to feast on drowning Thread.“

Now that is more exciting than the previous stories!

Rescue Run

Maybe the colonists will get rescued? You and me know differently. Or do we? Not bad.

So, all together this story collection was ok. Nothing spectacular, however for fans it casts a light on the early colonists on Pern, how they got there, their abandonment of the Southern continent, beginnings in their new homes further North…

I‘ll have a look at the series in publication order. Maybe I will pick up one of the newer books.