You see, the hate they give is senseless…

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark (Author), Channie Waites (Narrator)

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Let‘s call it alternate history with a strong horror element. Three African-American women hunt Klu Kluxes, aka monsters disguised as Klu Klux Klan members. The story is set in Georgia in 1922. 

I liked the beginning quite a bit. Nice set-up, speedy beginning, interesting monsters. However, when the more supernatural elements entered and the focus shifted towards the characters, I started to drift off. The plot seemed to disappear into almost nothing and I lost interest in what went on. I never really connected with the main characters or the story.

The audio was ok at first. I struggle a bit with the Gullah accent of one of the characters. The narrator was too over the top with her vocalisations and her high tones eventually really grated on me.

I finished, but it was a close call and I barely paid attention at the end. Yes, the social commentary is very, very relevant, but if you‘re not telling me a gripping story, I find it hard to care.

I did like the aunties. Could they have been a version of the Three Fates? I looked up the Night Doctors, the Klu Klux Klan, Stone Mountain, D.W. Griffith and his movie, what a ring shout is and I wondered about Rhode Island. H.P. Lovecraft, maybe? So, this novella was not a complete loss for me.

From one-celled organisms to glass canyons

Life on Earth by David Attenborough (author and narrator) 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Attenborough recounts the history of the natural world, „from the emergence of tiny one-celled organisms in the primeval slime more than 3,000 million years ago to apelike but upright man, equally well adapted to life in the rain forest of New Guinea and the glass canyons of a modern metropolis.“

Not what I expected—which happens when you forgo reading the blurb. Not sure what I was thinking. But I didn‘t get this audiobook for the story, I got it to listen to him. David Attenborough can tell me anything and I would listen. The man is an international treasure. I love him, probably like many other people growing up on his TV documentaries about nature. In retrospect I would probably have enjoyed this more with moving pictures on a TV screen though. As in: a re-watch of his „Life“ series! 

I met some interesting critters, but the book could not completely captivate me. For me it lacked narrative tension. It felt a bit like ticking off a checklist. It needed more. Still, David Attenborough… 

Narrator: ★★★★★
Story: ★★★☆☆

Sometimes activation sucks.

Activation Degradation
by Marina J. LostetterHayden Bishop (Narrator) 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really hesitated to get this book because of the Murderbot comparison in the blurb. I love Murderbot and don‘t want to read a rip-off. I think they probably did this book a disservice by linking it to Murderbot.

Our robot is brought online on a platform orbiting Jupiter, to protect a mining platform that is under attack by aliens. It turns out that the situation is quite different to what Unit Four was lead to believe.

I liked the beginning very much and listened to the first half of the book almost in one sitting. There was a pretty good reveal towards the end. Good action sequences. The more reflective parts could have been a bit more elaborate. The plot lost a bit of steam in the second part and my interest flagged a little. 

I am still trying to decide if I like the rather convenient ending. I find it almost impossible to talk more about this book without spoilers, so I leave it at that. I largely enjoyed this book and might give it another go in printed form to pick up all of the nuances.

This is my first book by the author and I got the audiobook. The audiobook narration was good, but I didn‘t love it.

Would I pick up a sequel? Maybe. Probably.

Monthly wrap-up

My October 2021:

– Ancillary Mercy ★★★★★ audio, Imperial Radch #3, re-read. I really liked this. Not sure what I did during the first read, but I definitely did not pay attention, because I barely remembered any of this. Great fun, I loved all the AIs and their dynamics. And Translator Zaiat was precious.
We Have Always Been Here ★★★★☆ ebook, colony ship (is it?), AI, a litte horror, mystery, dystopia.
– Was weiße Menschen nicht über Rassismus hören wollen ★★★★☆ audio, about institutionalized racism in Germany and the experiences of a black woman growing up in Cologne. Not bad, a bit on the shallow side. Very readable.
– Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora★★★★☆ ebook, #ReadBIPOC2021, TBR pile, Netgalley. This is a very strong anthology. Even the stories that didn‘t fully grab me gave me plenty to think about. Recommended! 
– Dark Path ★★★☆☆ ebook, TBR pile, mystery fluff. Buddhist forensic pathologist solves a case in Florida.

Short stories:
– The Lottery ★★★★☆ online. Famous story by Shirley Jackson from 1948.
– You Can Make a Dinosaur, but You Can’t Help Me, Uncanny Magazine Issue 23: July/August 2018 ★★★★☆ online. About a trans man and his Jurassic Park-inventing dad.
– You Perfect, Broken Thing, Uncanny Magazine Issue 32: January/February 2020★★★★☆ online. Dystopia? Winning a race to stay alive…

Poetry:
– Uncanny Magazine Issue 41: July/August 2021 ★★★★☆ online, I read three of the four poems, about Japan and sacrifice, Beowulf and Madame Curie, here: https://uncannymagazine.com/issues/un…
– What to expect from the Hadron Collider as a college roommate, Uncanny Magazine Issue 16: May/June 2017 ★★★★☆ online, pretty amusing poem.
– A tenjō kudari (“ceiling hanger” yōkai) defends her theft, Uncanny Magazine Issue 32: January/February 2020 ★★★★☆ online, a spectre gets her revenge.

Currently reading:
– Tietjen auf Tour: Warum Camping mich glücklich macht, paperback, TBR pile
– The Resurrectionists, ebook, Netgalley, TBR pile

Abandoned reread:
– BR zombie Persepolis Rising, audio, Expanse #7, re-read
– BR zombie Tiamat’s Wrath, audio, Expanse #8, re-read

Movies & TV watched:
– No Time to Die ★★★★★, last 007 with Craig, cinema.
– Smoking Aces ★★¾☆☆, action thriller comedy with lots of blood, pretty pointless. 

Starting with that readathon….

Ok then, here is the Opening Event Survey for October‘s Deweys.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? — still the South of Germany, small town between Stuttgart and Tübingen.
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? — I want to finish Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora today and whilst making my way though my house work and laundry, I want to get into the audio of Rovers (Audible Audio) by Richard Lange, a horror book with a different take on vampires.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? — I am not much of a snack person. I don‘t actually have any sweet stuff in the house. I have some self-grown cocktail tomatoes left, I guess they will be my snack.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! — Speculative fiction is my drug.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? — not my first readathon, I don‘t participate in many. I realized at some point that they stress me too much. I like to connect to other readers though, so here I am. No promises that I will read more than usual or post regularly. And I definitely will not read through the night, as I will be travelling tomorrow afternoon and need to be rested. More audiobook time!

Some tea? Fish sauce? Oysters?

Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch #3)
by Ann Leckie,  Adjoa Andoh (Narrator) 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I really liked this. Not sure what I did during the first read, but I definitely did not pay enough attention, because I barely remembered any of this. Great fun, I loved all the AIs and their dynamics. And Translator Zeiat was precious.

I would love to read another book in this setting, to find out how it all turns out.


Review from 2017:

Lovely. I am sad that this is the end for the Imperial Radch. But then…

“Every ending is an arbitrary one. Every ending is, from another angle, not really an ending.” 

Direct continuation of Ancillary Sword. A nice and fitting conclusion to the trilogy.

The humour and tongue-in-check of the dialogues was great and right down my alley. And Translator Zeiat made this novel, what a great character! 

Loved Breq and how human she became in the last book. And not. 

Loved the development of her relationship with Seivarden, who definitely did not have enough page time. 

Loved the action sequences, loved the conversation about what makes one a significant being.

I will miss these characters, Athoek Station, the Undergarden… I would have loved to go through the ghost gate and meet the Presger.

Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy felt like one book and I think I liked them more than Ancillary Justice. The plot and characterizations were more intricate. Although I did like the plot of Ancillary Justice a lot, too, and the early days of Seivarden and Breq. I’ll need to think on that some more.

Some fish sauce in the meantime?


“Thank all the gods,” said Sphene. “I was afraid you were going to suggest we sing that song about the thousand eggs.”

“A thousand eggs all nice and warm,” I sang. “Crack, crack, crack, a little chick is born. Peep peep peep peep! Peep peep peep peep!”

“Why, Fleet Captain,” Translator Zeiat exclaimed, “that’s a charming song! Why haven’t I heard you sing it before now?”

I took a breath. “Nine hundred ninety-nine eggs all nice and warm…”

“Crack, crack, crack,” Translator Zeiat joined me, her voice a bit breathy but otherwise quite pleasant, “a little chick is born. Peep peep peep peep! What fun! Are there more verses?”

“Nine hundred and ninety-eight of them, Translator,” I said.

“We’re not cousins anymore,” said Sphene.” 

My September 2021

Here is what I read in September:

Ancillary Sword ★★★★★ audio, Imperial Radch #2, re-read. I remembered most of this and this time around liked it better than #1. Loved Dlique and Tisarwat.
– Return to the Center of the Earth ★★★★☆ KU, sequel, re-tracing the steps of Jules Verne. Brain candy. Fun!
– Babylon’s Ashes ★★★★☆ audio, Expanse #6, re-read
– City of Bones ★★☆☆☆ ebook, dystopian fantasy by Martha Wells. Not enough sarcastic AIs. I liked parts of it a lot, but as a whole it didn‘t excite me. I pretty much skimmed through the second part, because I didn‘t care.

Poetry:
– “You’d Have Me Be White” by Alfonsina Storni, https://betterthanstarbucks.wixsite.c…, ★★★★★, feminist poetry, made me smile and nod my head…
– Scifaikuest Online, https://www.hiraethsffh.com/scifaikue…, ★★★★½, great SF haikus
– “Among the Scythians“, Deborah L. Davitt, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #49, August 1, 2021, ★★★☆☆, https://www.heroicfantasyquarterly.co…
– Horrific Punctuation, poetry, KU, DNF, my ebook was barely readable and the poetry too abstract.

Comics:
– The White Trees #1 ★★★★☆, KU, eComic, high fantasy, x-rated, ex-killer has to pick up his weapons again to save his family
– The White Trees #2 ★★★☆☆, eComic, not as good as the first issue

Return To The Center Of The Earth by Greig Beck Horrific Punctuation by John Reinhart Babylon's Ashes (The Expanse, #6) by James S.A. Corey The White Trees #1 by Chip Zdarsky The White Trees #2 by Chip Zdarsky City of Bones by Martha Wells Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch #2) by Ann Leckie 

Currently reading:
– Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora, ebook, #ReadBIPOC2021, TBR pile, Netgalley
– Tietjen auf Tour: Warum Camping mich glücklich macht, paperback, TBR pile
– Ancillary Mercy, audio, Imperial Radch #3, re-read

Planned, but lacking in motivation:
– Persepolis Rising, audio, Expanse #7, re-read
– Tiamat’s Wrath, audio, Expanse #8, re-read
I might abandon the plan to read those two and just jump to the new book…

Movie watched:
– Dune ★★★★★ — I considered deducting a star, because it‘s only „Part One“. I was pretty frustrated about that. The beginning took forever! Is Caladan supposed to be Caledonia, aka Scotland? Never really thought about that before. My first visit to a cinema since 2019! 

Expanding…

Babylon’s Ashes (The Expanse, #6)
by James S.A. Corey

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

“We are not people, we are the stories that are told about people by others. Inners, Belters, women…“

I just read my first review and have to say that this book has not improved for me over time. It was good, but I could have stopped reading it at any time. It took me for ever to get through it. Very, very generously rounded up to four stars, because I do love all the main characters.

What I can say now though: this would have made a good final book for the series, because it nicely wraps up the major plotlines.

“Against all evidence, I keep thinking the assholes are outliers.” 

James Holden, in one of the last chapters

Review of first read, February 2018:

Very quotable one hour into the narration. Yay for Bobbi and Avrasarala being there! Great one-liners, the usual humour.

Unfortunately the first half of the book did not interest me much, I felt no compelling need to pick up the book and continue. First time that happened to me with an Expanse book. It made me go back to the previous books and 5-star those with 4 stars, so I would have room to move. 9 hours into the book it still wasn’t doing much for me. 

I care very little for Filip, his father and what they are up to. That trend continued for the rest of the story. I loved Holden and his crew, how Peaches and Bobby became part of the Rocinante family, the glimpses of Avrasarala, the dry humour… the plot just wasn‘t happening for me. It didn‘t add much to the world of the Expanse and there were no interesting new characters either. The guys on Medina station were depicted too briefly to elicit much of an emotional response from me.

This felt a bit like filler. Wrapping up some things from the previous book and setting the scene for the next one. Filling the gaps. A bit meh. Compared to other things I read over the years a pretty good filler, but filler nonetheless.

I give it four starts for the love of the series, but it was really more of a just-ok-3-stars.

Catching up with the Reversereadathon

Good morning! So, I stayed up a little longer last night to catch the beginning of the readathon. Read a few pages in my ebook—not making much headway with it yet—and listened to one of my audiobooks for a bit. Woke up shorty after 9 a.m., lay in bed and listened to my audio for an hour. I felt really knackered, when I finally got up. Still feel knackered, actually.

Puttered around with my tomatoes—a friend thinks they have some kind of illness, so I cut off some of the uglier leafs. No idea. Then I got my sourdough loaf out of the fridge and carefully decanted it into the prepared baking tin. I am useless with the whole shaping thing. My dough is always so soft, if I try to do it, I always end up with a really big mess.

Anyway, books! While I was sleeping, this happened…

Hour 3 – exploring the online bookworld

What are some of your favorite bookish sites online? Do you have any book blogs or booktubers you like to follow for reading suggestions (or just for fun)? Do you have a book blog or other bookish social media site?

You are currently reading my bookblog, I am on Goodreads and I use Netgalley. Sometimes I add bookish photos to my Instagram. In the early days I used Livejournal for blogging. I also used Librarything for a few years and although I was quite active for a while, I eventually found it too chaotic and visually unappealing and moved to GR permanently. I tried some smaller sites, but was never really happy. My favourite buddy reading group is where I spend most of my time there and we did indeed start having the odd Zoom meeting during Covid!

I follow a few bookbloggers via WordPress, but I am crap at keeping up and I am not very persistent or regular. I apologize! I do have a look every now and then! I do not follow any booktubers. Idk, I just find it deeply odd somehow to watch people talking about books.

Hour 5 – the weirdest place you‘ve read

… tell us some of the weirdest places you’ve read! Have you ever gotten any looks or comments about it?

Where haven‘t I read? Brushing my teeth, in the cinema waiting for the film to start, boarding a plane… The oddest one is probably reading a physical book whilst walking. That was before the days of smartphones and audiobooks, obviously. Nowadays I just listen and walk. These days, whenever and whenever I have to wait for something, I read on my smartphone. Which is nothing unusual, half the world stares at a smartphone at any given time. Other places? Anywhere sitting down, really. Mainly with my kindle. I‘ve been know to read in hotel elevators on my way down to the restaurant, where I obviously continue reading. The elevator thing probably garners me odd looks.

Hour 7 – how do you read?

What books are on your TBR for this reverse readathon?

How do I read? Well, mostly on my kindle paperwhite. I always have one audiobook on the go. I read a lot of comics, mainly via kindle app or comixology app on my iPad, so I have a large screen and can zoom in.

Hour 9 – summer book recommendations

I don‘t get this whole summer / winter thing. I read what I read and the weather or season doesn‘t influence my decisions. Do you vary your reading based on the seasons and why?

Hour 11 – hobbies in books

I started sourdough baking during the first lockdown. And yes, I have read some cozy mysteries and romances involving sourdough. For example Sourdough by Robin Sloan. I am open for recommendations!

I recently came across knitting vampires, so there are all kinds of funny themes around… Tomato-growing werewolves? Not yet. Wasn’t there some fierce gardening in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1)?

Ok, I think I am caught up enough. I will now return to actually reading something… oh, and I should probably switch on my oven! 😏

Have you heard?

I just came across a post mentioning Tom Hanks as an audiobook narrator. Colour me intrigued. I immediatley sought out the book and listened to the sample.

The Dutch House (Audible Audio) by Ann Patchett,  Tom Hanks (Narrator)

The sample sounds great, Hanks goes along at a nice clip, enunciates beautifully and is just his usual awesome self. However, the story is really not my kind of thing. Usually I run the other way, when I see a book tagged as literary fiction.

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.

From the Goodreads blurb

Will have to think about it! I also feel tempted by his short story collection, Uncommon Type: Some Stories. Somewhere I came across a story talking about his hobby of collecting manual typewriters. It immediately made me long for having one again myself. They are so expensive! And not easy to come by…

I love Tom Hanks. I hope there will never, ever be any stories in the news declaring him to be a horrible human for some reason. It would break my heart.