Heavenly intervention led to this…

Heroes: Mortals and Monsters, Quests and Adventures (Stephen Fry’s Great Mythology, #2)
by Stephen Fry (author and narrator)

Stephen Fry‘s second offering in his Greek Mythology series. We are looking at all of the Greek heroes, some more well-known than others. Lots of names and someone begetting someone else, etc. But as Stephen points out himself early on, don‘t get hung up on trying to memorize them all. I certainly didn‘t. Those that kept getting repeated eventually stuck.

Herakles (Hercules), Jason and Theseus are covered quite extensively and I knew their stories at least in broad strokes. I was foggier on the details of Perseus. But I had never heard of Bellerophon or Atalanta. Orpheus and Oedipus were nice refreshers. The ending dragged. I blame Theseus, he must have been quite a tosser.

Stephen‘s sometimes amusing narration made me think of Monty Python at times. Pity that they never picked up on the Greek heroes. Parts of this could have qualified.

This is quite long, so I listened to Stephen with longish breaks in between heroes. And yes, I recommend the audio, as half of the fun is listening to Fry‘s narration.

I will definitely proceed to the next book. I want to see what he makes of Troy! Should be entertaining.

The story of Troy speaks to all of us – the kidnapping of Helen, a queen celebrated for her beauty, sees the Greeks launch a thousand ships against the city of Troy, to which they will lay siege for 10 whole and very bloody years. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53443339-troy

Further reading for the only female hero in this book: I came across a retelling that looks interesting, Atalanta by Jennifer Saint.

From the beloved, bestselling author of Elektra and Ariadne, a reimagining of the myth of Atalanta, a fierce huntress raised by bears and the only woman in the world’s most famous band of heroes, the Argonauts

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61884838.Atalanta

Oh, and Ariadne makes an appearance as well in Fry‘s stories about Theseus….

Goodreads Choice Award — Nominee for Best Fantasy (2021)

Ariadne, Princess of Crete, grows up greeting the dawn from her beautiful dancing floor and listening to her nursemaid’s stories of gods and heroes. But beneath her golden palace echo the ever-present hoofbeats of her brother, the Minotaur, a monster who demands blood sacrifice.

When Theseus, the Prince of Athens, arrives to vanquish the beast, Ariadne sees in his green eyes not a threat but an escape. Defying the gods, betraying her family and country, and risking everything for love, Ariadne helps Theseus kill the Minotaur. But will Ariadne’s decision ensure her happy ending?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54860614-ariadne

And these three ladies will probably make an appearance in Fry‘s Troy as well:

Goodreads Choice Award — Nominee for Best Fantasy (2022)

The House of Atreus is cursed. A bloodline tainted by a generational cycle of violence and vengeance. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to this curse, and the fickle nature of men and gods. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58725016-elektra

Next time I feel like reading about women in Ancient Greece / mythology, I should probably give this author a try, what do you think?

Currently reading…

Thistlefoot
by GennaRose Nethercott

I am about halfway with my Netgalley. I like it, but it‘s not a super fast read.

In the tradition of modern fairytales like American Gods and Spinning Silver comes a sweeping epic rich in Eastern European folklore–a debut novel about the ancestral hauntings that stalk us, and the uncanny power of story.

Anybody interested in Eastern European folklore has probably come across Baba Yaga and her chicken-legged hut before. My last encounter was when watching The Witcher. So colour me intrigued, when I read about the Yaga siblings, their inheritance of a house with chicken legs and a road trip. I had to go along.

The siblings come across as amicable characters, when they are introduced—a wood-working sister and her trickster-like brother. The Longshadow Man though is creepy right off the bat.

After starting this book and reading the first chapters, I spent some time reading up on Baba Yaga and looking at various images of her chicken-legged hut.

Author‘s website: https://www.gennarosenethercott.com

And her Traveling Poetry Emporium: https://travelingpoetryemporium.mystrikingly.com/#the-traveling-poetry — What a fun idea!

Children of Memory (Children of Time, #3)
by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Author), Mel Hudson (Narrator)

I am about 60% into the audiobook.

I am not sure if I really understood Parts I and II, there were some pretty confusing bits to it. But by Part III the narrative started to come together and paint a picture. The corvids are a truly wacky addition to this ever growing zoo of uplifted craziness.

A linear timeline. Back and forth and in parallel. Parts of the story are revealed in retrospect. Nicely done.

And one of Tchaikovsky‘s recurring themes: otherness, being something else and trying to bridge the gap. We have our humans, Humans, octopuses and spiders, artificial intelligence and more. And struggle and hate and wanting to help. And terraforming.

I enjoy the audio narration by Mel Hudson.

Also planned for December:

Heroes: Mortals and Monsters, Quests and Adventures, audio, narrated by Stephen Fry, #2 of his Greek Mythology books.
Even Though I Knew the End, Netgalley audio

And once I am done with Thistlefoot, I will return to Ship of Destiny.

Horror in the Arctic Circle

The Nox
by Joe WhiteCatriona Ward

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

“2045, the Arctic Circle. A crew of six aboard the research vessel, The Nox, embark upon a voyage through the melting ice and Arctic dark in search of the last of the polar bears. The mission represents a ray of hope in a world ravaged by climate change, but it quickly becomes clear that some on board are in search of more than bears….

Isolation and the disorientation of 24/7 darkness soon have the group losing their grip on reality – accidents, nightmares, or hauntings – no one can be sure, but the voyage seems cursed. For Professor Clara Fitzgerald, the mission quickly turns from conservation to survival as she realises that danger lurks not only out on the ice, but on The Nox itself.

The Nox is a nightmare fuelled SciFi thriller that asks how far is too far to save the world.“

From the blurb

A full-cast audiobook production of slightly under 4 hours of listening time. 

I was underwhelmed. The captain mumbled a lot and was hard to understand, quite a few sound effects where hard to puzzle out, there was too much unnecessary music. The overacting of the voice actors was not my thing either.

The story had potential, but was not developed in a meaningful way in those 4 hours. There were some good ideas, but nothing much was made of any of them. It was unsatisfactory. 

Nice cover though. Meh.

Aliens, rinse and repeat…

Alien: Sea of Sorrows (Canonical Alien trilogy, #2)
by James A. Moore (Author), Dirk MaggsJohn Chancer (Narrator), Stockard Channing (Narrator), Walles Hamonde (Narrator), Laurel Lefkow (Narrator)

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Very confusing intro and prelude. Had to check that I had picked up the correct book, aka the sequel to Alien: Out of the Shadows. Anyway, once the story starts with chapter one, we are in a plot very similar to that of the second Alien movie. The main character (barely) Decker is a descendant of Ellen Ripley.
He is sent to a planet to recover a Xenomorph. Settlers have been lost. The ship is staffed with marines/mercenaries and he is a consultant. They go down into a mine, some of them get snatched, the others try to recover them, there is a malfunctioning escalator… it‘s a bit like painting by colours… it‘s all very predictable, down to figuring out who the „synthetic“ is this time around. No big surprises and it doesn’t add anything new to this universe. It was ok, but you don‘t miss anything if you skip this.

The full-cast audiobook dramatization was well done, although the action with all the background noises was often unintelligible, aka you needed a lot of imagination to figure out what was going on.

My preview of the previous audiobook set in this franchise/series is here.

Nope, this is not dating material.

How to Date Your Dragon (Mystic Bayou, #1)
by Molly Harper (Author), Amanda Ronconi (Narrator), Jonathan Davis (Narrator)

Rating: 2 out of 5.

A female anthropologist visits a small town in Louisiana to meet and interview mythical shapeshifters living together with humans peacefully and in harmony. The love interest is a dragonshifter and the town’s sherif. They have zero chemistry, there is no decent world building. DNF at 40% (2 hours 33 minutes), as nothing of consequence had happened until then and I was to disinterested too listen to more of it. The audiobook narration was decent. 

PS: It‘s a shame, really, as my reading buddies all seem to like this. So it might be me, who knows.

This month is pretty spectacular so far. I DNFd three — THREE!!!! — books, which is pretty unheard of for me. However, 2 of them are UF, leaning towards PNR. It proves that I am really, truly done with that type of subgenre. 

Riding the bus through London

The 392
by Ashley Hickson-Lovence

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Set entirely on a London bus travelling from Hoxton to Highbury and taking place over just 36 minutes, the events of The 392 unfold through a cast of charismatic characters coming from very different worlds. On the 392 are all the familar faces you might expect to see on any bus ride through inner-city London in the grip of gentrification; delinquent school kids, the high-flyers, the weird, the wonderful and the homeless. These Londoners share two things: a bus journey and a threat. A threat which is ready to blow apart everything they know.

From the book blurb

Not my usual type of reading. The premise sounded interesting and it is included in my Audible subscriptions. So here we are. Narrated by a British cast, we are riding on a bus through London, listening to the bus passengers narrating their life, their past, their wishes for their future, their prejudices, fears and wants… Hipsters, racism, soccer, gentrification, low brow, high brow, drugs, a pregnant girl, a barrister, a blind man, an elderly lady, unknown buildings, weird smells, school children, a camera man, a politician…. A bomb?

Great narrators, great characters talking about their own experiences and perceptions. Very well written and the narration by different voice actors makes it very lively.

Barney makes me think of Boris Johnson. Is he supposed to be? 

Slightly gross at times, for a mature audience.

Bottom line, not bad, getting a glimpse at Londoners from various backgrounds. Ultimately not really my thing.

The author reading from his debut novel:

Dewey‘s Readathon October 2022

If I calculated that right, this readthon will start in half an hour. The timing is always weird for me, starting at 2pm in Germany. I have things to do on Saturdays, having a full time job during the week, and I am going to the theatre tonight, so I won‘t be reading much in the first 12 hours. And then it will be the middle of the night… we‘ll see… I guess I will not take the actual start and finish times of this readathon too seriously. And my main reading day will be tomorrow.

My TBR for this readathon:

I am 75% through Chosen, so I want to finish that this weekend. Then there is Ship of Destiny — I only read 50 pages of this 900+ page monster, so definitely not finishing this weekend. But maybe taking a good bite out of it?

And I just started a fairly short audio: The 392. I might pick up another one of those free-with-my-audible-subscription shorter audios, once I am done with this one.

I only have a few stories left in The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six

And if I have time left after that, I might read Into the Riverlands, which is the third novella of a trilogy. Well, not sure actually if it‘s a trilogy

Ok, so, I will go for a shower now, then I do have to do a little shopping. Have to check when to pick up my friend, we might go for a walk and a little dinner before the theatre. I will check back in with the readathon when getting back from that, probably shortly before midnight. Read for 2 to 3 hours, then sleep and checking in again tomorrow morning at breakfast. I‘ll see how much of those activities I will cover with audiobooks. Actually, downloading another one right now….

Apocalypse, horror, adventure and vampires

Impact Winter
by Travis Beacham

Earth was hit by a comet and the world went dark. In the darkness, vampires rose. This story is about a group of human survivors, battling to stay alive.

“A story of apocalypse, horror, and adventure, Impact Winter is a wholly original new saga created just for Audible with immersive 3D audio (featuring a brilliant British cast) that dares you to pop in your earbuds and listen in the dark. Venture into an eternally sunless world of swords and crossbows; primal hunters and shape-shifters; leaders and lovers. Hear how a brave few fight to survive the impact winter.“

Entertaining, a little creepy and too short to really explore this world to its fullest. Nothing Earth-shattering, but I liked the characters and the story in general. Good, if you are looking for a shorter audio, that isn‘t too taxing. The cast did a good job.

Reading the real deal

Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection
by Arthur Conan DoyleStephen Fry (Narrator)

A Study in Scarlet 
The very first Sherlock Holmes story. John Watson meets Sherlock Holmes. The mystery wasn‘t terribly exciting. Two Americans turn up dead. Obviously there is a back story. Utah, Mormons, romance… ★★★½☆

The Sign of the Four 
The sequel. Holmes & Watson meet Mary Morstan. And Toby, the dog with the supernose. The backstory takes us to the Andaman islands. I have read this one several times and so far it is my favourite.

I still astonishes me how (relatively) human and social Holmes comes across in the original. TV has a lot to be answered for.

This audiobook monster is narrated by the adorable Stephen Fry, who did his usual stellar job. Some interesting forewords are included.

More reviews to come, as I slowly progress through this audio.


The last time I read The Sign of the Four was in 2016. Here is what I had to say about it back then:

Re-reading a classic.

This is my favourite Holmes story. I was fascinated about the description of his drug use, when I read this first as a teenager.

With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle, and rolled back his left shirt-cuff. For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks.

The plot is (mostly) fun. We meet Mary, Toby, Wiggins and get to read many immortal sentences from the Sherlock Holmes universe.

I know the plot so well that I find it hard to be critical about it. The only part I truly do not like, is Jonathan Small’s story. It drags and I find it a little boring. It’s too long and feels like an afterthought, that got stuck on to inflate the page count. 

And from today’s point of view Doyle’s description of Tonga comes across as pretty offensive. But this was published in 1890, so I can acknowledge that and live with it.

And even back then they wrote bad insta-love! It also struck me as strange during this re-read, how jovial Holmes is and how often he laughs. Should I blame the BBC for that?

Millennial banality with zombies

Severance
by Ling Ma (Author), Nancy Wu (Narrator)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

“The end begins before you are ever aware of it.“

Odd book. The beginning feels like Covid-19 reimagined, bacterial instead of viral. Or rather it’s prophetic, as it was written in 2018. Apocalyptic/dystopian on the surface, it reads more like literary fiction. Commentary on capitalism, consumerism, the life of millennials, hopes and aspirations and the reality of making ends meet, the occasional boredom and banality of everyday life and work.

A long look back at the depressing/monotonous life of the MC. Average millenial with average job, living an average-sounding life of the relatively well-off. Illness strikes, an outbreak at first and then a pandemic. People seem to wind up as harmless zombies, wandering about and repeating tasks of their living past. Society as we know it ends. Our MC eventually leaves New York and joins up with a group of other survivors.

The backstories of the MC and her parents, Chinese immigrants to the US, take centre stage for most of the book. Which made me question if the apocalyptic setting was just a gimmick, to draw more readers. There is an odd amount of narrative about the MCs book production job. This had me wondering even more, what the whole point of this book was supposed to be. The dystopian elements only play a small part.

One of my GR friends described this as a „a slightly disguised New Adult Contemporary coming of age“. It’s a bit deeper than that, but nails it pretty well.

The audiobook narrator sounded pretty bored and laconic for most of the book. Or depressed? Pretty similar to how the MC felt about her life before the apocalypse.

The last few chapters made up for the indifference I mostly felt towards this story. The ending is pretty open, which I usually hate, but it gave a nice sense of purpose and possibility here.