Entertaining sword-and-sorcery

by T. KingfisherJesse Vilinsky (Narrator)

Funny! Comfort read! Audio with great accents! Great ideas! I enjoyed this so much that I just kept going and never took any notes. Halla is unintentionally funny, naive, willfully clueless and ever curious—I understand why Sarkis keeps banging his head against inanimate objects. And he has a delightful brogue in the audio. Scottish?

“Sarkis turned around and began to beat his forehead very gently against the wall. “The great god is punishing me,” he said softly, “for my crimes. I cannot go to his hell, and so he has sent a woman to torment me.” 

What is it about? Halla is a 36-year old widow, looking after an elderly collector of curious items. After his death she inherits all of this estate. Her mother-in-law and cousin are having none of it. She is locked up and confronted with a forced marriage to her cousin with the clammy hands. She considers to kill herself with an old sword to avoid that situation and ends up with an enchanted warrior coming out of said sword. Sarkis now has the job of protecting her, as long as she is his wielder. They have to flee her relatives and run into all kinds of trouble whilst trying to figure out how she can get a hold of her inheritance. On the way they pick up a non-binary priest and a gnole—a badger/weasel with a very dry sense of humour. I was enchanted.

Sword-and-sorcery on the somewhat silly side. If you are looking for a light read with some laughs, some snark and a little romance, this could be it. I recommend the audio.

My last two reading relays for Dewey‘s readathon were ok. During the week I always read less. By the time I am done with work, I often opt for watching TV, it‘s easier on the brain. Anyway, I started to read The Last Astronaut. The first 50 pages were good so far! My plans for tomorrow fell through. Not sure yet what else we might do. Potentially I stay home and actually participate in the readathon, I‘ll see.

Regaining control of the Western Association…

Pretender (Foreigner, #8)
by C.J. Cherryh (Author), Daniel May (Narrator)

The second book in this particular sub-trilogy. If you don‘t want to be spoiled, look away now…

But then make sure, not to read the book blurb or probably the back flap of the paper version of the book…

In the last book, Destroyer, Bren and company came back to their homeworld to find the planet in a political upheaval, Tabini having being deposed by a pretender. In this book it‘s all about Tabini retaking control of the government.

Nice amount of action, I really liked the interpersonal dynamics in this one, especially between Bren and his staff and guards. I never doubted the outcome of the general plot, which made it all a little too predictable.

Series overview:

Trilogy arc 1 – read

Arc 1 (Foreigner, Invader, Inheritor): focuses on an assassination attempt against Bren Cameron, an act illegal by the peace treaty made following the War of the Landing. The attempt proves to be a conspiracy by factions of humans and atevi to depose Bren as the paidhi, or official translator between the two cultures. The Starship Phoenix returns, causing the entire system to come out of balance, causing political unrest on both Mospheira and the mainland, and while the atevi change from simple rocketry to advanced single-stage-to-orbit shuttles, radically altering their economic and industrial base in the process. (Text taken from Wikipedia)

Trilogy arc 2 – read

Arc 2 (Precursor, Defender, Explorer): focuses on Bren as he is elevated by Tabini to be the Lord of the Heavens, making him a lord of the aishidi’tat with authority to negotiate. Bren is then charged with taking Tabini’s heir, Cajeiri, and Ilisidi, Cajeiri’s great-grandmother, to see to a threat of aliens encountered by Phoenix, but Bren and the aiji-dowager must first solve a mutiny aboard Phoenix. (Text taken from Wikipedia)

Trilogy arc 3 – this is where I am currently.

  • Destroyer (2005) – read, 3 stars
  • Pretender (2006) – read, 4 stars
  • Deliverer (2007) – next!

Arc 3 (Destroyer, Pretender, Deliverer): focuses on the return of Bren Cameron, Ilisidi and Cajeiri from deep space and their encounter with the alien Kyo. They find the aishidi’tat in tatters, Tabini-aiji rumored to be dead, and Murini, the pretender-aiji, on the throne in Shejidan. The kyo will expect to meet a unified planet under the rule of Tabini-aiji. Bren, the dowager, and the aiji must restore order before the kyo arrive for negotiations. (Text taken from Wikipedia)

The current status of this series has the beginning of Trilogy arc 8, with the novel Defiance scheduled for October 17, 2023.

The science in science fiction…

The Science of Sci-Fi: From Warp Speed to Interstellar Travel
by Erin Macdonald 

“Woooosh”—That’s the sound of some of info-dumping parts of this book going right over my head. Perhaps I should have listened to it at less than warp speed. It was a mildly funny and rather superficial excursion into the realm of SF shows, games and movies, the laws of physics and how it could all work (or not).

This was a bit better than ok, but due to the lecture format at times very episodic and repetitive. I actually could have done with more basics. Still, it came free on Audible and offered a nice overview into the topic of how scientifically accurate some of our favourite SF shows are. 

May the Force be with you. Live long and prosper. So say we all! 

Further planned listening with Audible and The Great Courses: My Favorite Universe and The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries by Neil deGrasse Tyson

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. 


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


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?


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. 


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…

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….