Dawn of a new age…

Dawn (Xenogenesis, #1)
by Octavia E. Butler,  Aldrich Barrett (Narrator)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Lilith wakes up into a world of bipeds reminiscent of Cthullu with a touch of octopus biology. The world as she knows it has ended, the Onkali have rescued her and other humans. They intend for her to teach the other humans how to make a fresh start on a recovered Earth, at a price, once she got used to the Onkali. It won’t be easy or free of conflict.

What did I think? 

It was ok. The plot was fairly straight forward. Lilith wakes up to alien surroundings and actual aliens that she perceives as repulsive. She has to get used to her circumstances and work with her captors/rescuers to maybe make it back to Earth. Awakening other humans complicates matters.

I kept wondering about the total lack of consent. The book was published in 1987, when the concept of consent did not really exist. The lack of it bothered me, but considering the publishing date it wasn‘t really an issie/topic at the time. I wonder what I would have thought, if I had read the book back then.

Will I continue the series? 

Unlikely. The story was ok, but did not really engage me. The plot felt too simplistic, there was no real suspense, no great twists or massive surprises. I might change my mind at some point, but right now I think reading the blurbs of the other books will satisfy my curiosity.

Why did I pick up this book?

I‘ve been meaning to read something by Octavia Butler for a while and this seemed to be a good place to start. I might pick up another series written by her or some short stories.

Swamp thing

Cage of Souls
by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Gorgeous cover. Everything I read by Tchaikovsky so far was very good. And it‘s amazing, how different Tchaikovsky sounds in this book compared to some of his other offerings. In a good way. Just not my way.

In the first few pages it felt as if I had stumbled into something written by Joseph Conrad. With a not very likable MC, who thought too highly of his own intelligence, status and education. And a few pages later, when we reached The Island, I had to think of Papillon by Henri Charriere. 

When I picked up this book, I thought I was getting apocalyptic SF. And there were brief glimpses…

”The morning sun was rising from behind the trees like a bloated red mushroom. The mists that hung about the jungle were the colour of blood. I have heard that the sun is dying by degrees, swelling up with some illness and parching the land into the lifeless deserts you find to the west of the city.”

What shall I call this? Period-drama fantasy with a pinch of SF? I dragged myself until the middle of the book, until I was ready to admit that this was not working for me. It‘s not horrible, Tchaikovsky can write. It’s just not the least bit what I expected or wanted. I am not a fan of ponderous exposition, cruelty or prison settings. Perhaps I should look more closely at book blurbs and tags again.

There were elements that I found interesting enough to not abandon the book completely. Instead I skimmed very, very heavily. I obviously missed a lot, but I picked up some very inventive details. The last 10% of the book I read a little more carefully and actually liked. I can understand why some of my reading buddies loved this book. It was just not my kettle of fish swamp monster.

Top Ten Tuesday and the animal kingdom…

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: Animals (Real and Fantasy) in the books, on the cover or in the title…

Ok, animals in books, no problem…. there are plenty of werewolves and dragons in my reading past… the tricky part will be to find books that I haven‘t mentioned here before. Let‘s see…

Animal Farm — read in the 80s or 90s…?
by George Orwell

I read this a long time ago. It was good, I don‘t remember all that much. Maybe time for a re-read of this classic fable about communism.

Animal Dreams — read in 2006
by Barbara Kingsolver

I liked “Poisonwood Bibel” and loved “Prodigal Summer”. But this one wasn‘t for me. It bored me at the time and I didn‘t like the main character. It has an animal in the title though!

His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire, #1)
by Naomi Novik

This was fun. Set in an alternate universe during the Napoleonic wars, the British and the French not only fight each other with their powerful Navies, but also with aerial combat — the captains not flying in planes, but riding on dragons. Well written, it reads a bit like a mix of Patrick O’Brien and Anne McCaffrey.

Still Life With Crows (Pendergast, #4) — read in 2004
by Douglas Preston,  Lincoln Child

A serial killer starts killing in a small Kansas town. The corn is high, the heat is hot and the agent, that appears out of nowhere, dressed all black, is really weird….

If you are into graphic violence, this is for you. Really nasty murders, with a lot of detail! Ewwww. I sort of made my way through that book in small doses. Pretty gruesome. And that agent was really very weird. 

Red Rabbit (Jack Ryan, #2) — read in 2005
by Tom Clancy

I like Clancy and Jack Ryan is one of my favourite characters. With only slightly over 600 pages this is one of Clancy’s shorter efforts. It was ok at the time. But I do not recall any of the storyline, which usually means that it was nothing special.

A Falcon Flies
by Wilbur Smith

At the end of the 19th century our main characters travel to Africa to make their fortune and search for their father, who disappeared into South-East Africa several years previously. They encounter the British Navy, slave traders, African kings, elephants, treasures, witches, buffalo, malaria, love, betrayal, loss and their destiny… To be continued in the next book… 😉

My next and last two offerings are colouring books! I have the German versions, but both have originally been published in English.

Animorphia – Phantastische Tiermotive: Eine atemberaubende Welt zum Ausmalen
by Kerby Rosanes

I couloured in this last time in 2018. I should probably get out my art supplies again….

A quick and messy watercolor…

The whale was fun…

The elephant was a bit simpler…

[

And my favourites, the owls!

Nordische Wildnis: Ausmalen und entspannen
by Claire Scully

Here I stayed in one colour…

And here it is black and white with some highlights…

And the snake was a lot of fun:

Ok, that‘s only eight books, but I am done for today! 😏

Nigerian Godpunk

David Mogo, Godhunter
by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

A new take on classic Urban Fantasy—Godpunk? 

Gods have rained down on Lagos, the capital of Nigeria. We enter the story some time later, into the dystopian society that has developed here in the aftermath. David Mogo, our 1st person narrator, is a demi-god working as an illegal godhunter. An old wizard with dubious morals sends David Mogo off to catch two high gods, Taiwo and Kehinde. David is in need of money to fix his roof, so off he goes, despite his misgivings about this wizard. Obviously things don’t go as expected. 

This was the first part in a book that reads like three novellas collected in one volume, with a red thread running through them and each connected closely in terms of time, location and characters. Enjoyable, even though I never really connected with David Mogo on an emotional level.

I looked up a lot about Nigeria, the orishas, Nigerian Pidgin, a lot of vocabulary, food items, clothing styles, etc. Then I was looking up info about Lagos, Victoria Island, Makoko, and, and, and… all this kept slowing down my reading speed, as I kept going off on tangents and looking something up almost constantly… My kind of fun!

I struggled a bit with the Nigerian Pidgin used in some of the dialogues, but decided to just go with it — I hope I managed to get the gist of the conversations. 

Interesting article in the Guardian about the floating city of Makoko:
https://www.theguardian.com/cities/20…

Bottomline: I had fun, my imagination got engaged, I learned a lot of new things, I enjoyed the writing. I would read more by this author.


Part of my #ReadPOC2021 challenge. I read this for the March prompt, „A Work of Fiction“. 

Post about the March prompt: https://lonelycryptidmedia.com/2021/0…
Main challenge: https://lonelycryptidmedia.com/2020/1…

From the author‘s website: (slightly amended)
Suyi Davies Okungbowa is a Nigerian author of fantasy, science fiction and other speculative works inspired by his West-African origins. His new epic fantasy trilogy, The Nameless Republic, is forthcoming from Orbit, beginning in May 2021 with Son of the Storm. His highly-anticipated debut, the godpunk fantasy novel David Mogo, Godhunter, won the 2020 Nommo Ilube Award for Best Speculative Novel by an African. Learn more at suyidavies.com.

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

Breq and Murderbot would not have put up with this…

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Klara and the Sun
by Kazuo Ishiguro (Goodreads Author),  Sura Siu (Narrator) 

I did not love this. The beginning was promising, but I was throughly bored by the mid point and skimmed to the end. Not for me.

Klara is an AI, or rather an AF, an artificial friend. Supposedly she is very intelligent, it‘s being mentioned repeatedly. In reality she was a pretty dull and childlike character without personality. Ok, you say, isn’t that what you would expect from an AI? She had no redeeming features. Granted, she had an uphill battle from the moment she left the shop, to more or less become an automated companion for a child. She had to learn through observation, because her makers did not exactly supply her with many survival skills. Even walking outside was a task fraught with perils. She did not show signs of advanced intelligence or higher reasoning and I did not notice that she learned from her careful observations. She sounded the same throughout the book and did not develop at all. There was no understanding. Was that intended?

The world is a dystopian one, where people can be genetically enhanced and those that choose not to enhance their offspring have started to be relegated to the fringes of society and the children are disadvantaged. Brave New World comes to mind. Something that is not explored much either.

The story telling is flat and just seems to meander along aimlessly. It all seemed pretty lifeless. Maybe this is an interesting read for someone who hasn‘t read any SF dealing with the topic of AIs. It doesn‘t cover any new ground. It doesn‘t even explored the ground it does walk on in a satisfying manner.

The only interesting bit was how Klara saw the world — I think this is based on a computer technology called object detection. Think computer vision and image processing. Again, this wasn‘t explored and led nowhere.

Bottom line, this was boring and lacklustre. Many valid topics were touched upon and then left behind. Luckily I refrained from the temptation to get the hardback and was able to return the audio and get my credit back. The audiobook narration was decent.

City of Gold

Cibola Burn (Expanse, #4)
by James S.A. Corey, narrator: Jefferson Mays

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Whatever had built the protomolecule and fired it toward Earth back in the depths of time wasn’t answering calls anymore. The bridge builder had opened the way, and no great gods had come streaming through.

It was astounding, Bobbie thought, how quickly humanity could go from What unimaginable intelligence fashioned these soul-wrenching wonders? to Well, since they’re not here, can I have their stuff?

from the prologue

And that is the driving force behind this book. Let‘s finds the City of Gold and get all that stuff. Well, ok, the Belters go there as well to have a place of their own and a life free from the Inners. Then the rest show up to kick them out and try to get that stuff instead. And Avasarala sends Holden and company to mediate. Yes, crazy idea, right? It doesn‘t take long for the proverbial sh*t to hit the fan. Entertaining! On top of that we get a fascinating ecosystem, alien ruins, natural disasters, battles in space and more. Never a dull moment. This time around my mind wandered a little though, hence I knocked off a star from my first review.


First review from November 2017:

This is a solid addition to the Expanse. Another fairly straight forward story, not as twisty and with as memorable characters as Caliban’s War, but good stuff. My only grievance is the very formulaic aka always very similar plot construction.

Holden is a bit much at times, with his boy scout persona, but luckily he has Amos at his side to keep him ankered to the realities of life and death. Naomi and especially Alex could have gotten a little more page time. There is the now expected bunch of new and never to be seen again characters thrown into the mix.

The really bad guy is really bad and there is the also usual morally ambiguous character, that could fall either side of that line. Miller does his thing, we get unexpected plot twists and oh-shit situations and everything slowly goes to hell in a hand basket, also as in the previous books.

I really liked the natural history excursions. I’ll have one of those mimic lizards, please. Good sense of humour. The interludes are new. And odd. And interesting. And they didn’t end up in quite the direction I expected them to go.

All in all a good read, if somewhat repetitive in set-up/structure. Entertaining , but not mind blowing. Will I read the next book in the series? Absolutely.


Next up in The Expanse would be the short story The Churn (The Expanse, #0.2) and the next full novel Nemesis Games (Expanse, #5), which is one of my favourite books in the series. The short story should ideally be read before it, as it gives us the origin story of Amos Burton. Still, I am taking a break here and listen to a different audiobook first:

Klara and the Sun (Audible Audio)
by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun, the first novel by Kazuo Ishiguro since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her.

from the blurb

I am not sure if I every actually read The Remains of the Day, I might mix it up with my memory of the movie. So, practically let‘s consider this my first Ishiguro.

When we were new, Rosa and I were mid-store, on the magazines table side, and could see through more than half of the window. So we were able to watch the outside – the office workers hurrying by, the taxis, the runners, the tourists, Beggar Man and his dog, the lower part of the RPO Building. Once we were more settled, Manager allowed us to walk up to the front until we were right behind the window display, and then we could see how tall the RPO Building was. And if we were there at just the right time, we would see the Sun on his journey, crossing between the building tops from our side over to the RPO Building side.

first paragraph

So far, so good.

First Line Friday, Welcome to Lagos…

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 just started reading…

David Mogo, Godhunter
by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

This is going to be a bad job. I know it from the angular smile of the wizard-ruler seated before me.

first lines

Suyi Davies Okungbowa is a Nigerian author of fantasy, science fiction and other speculative works inspired by his West-African origins. His new epic fantasy trilogy, The Nameless Republic, is forthcoming from Orbit, beginning in May 2021 with Son of the Storm. His highly-anticipated debut, the godpunk fantasy novel David Mogo, Godhunter (Abaddon, 2019), won the 2020 Nommo Ilube Award for Best Speculative Novel by an African. Learn more at suyidavies.com.

from the author‘s website

I can‘t say much yet about the book, as I have only read a few pages so far.

More about the African Speculative Fiction Society and the Nommos here. I didn‘t know about the Nommos and I am quite pleased to have discovered them.


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

Top Ten Tuesday — Abandon Ship!

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: Books I‘d gladly throw into the ocean. You can want to throw a book into the ocean for a number of different reasons, both good and bad…

I used to never DNF a book and would force myself to read through those books that I truly did not enjoy. Not a great experience and it would keep me from reading more enjoyable books. So, eventually, I started to DNF those books, although it always felt tremendously unsatisfying. These days I have changed tactics again, I just skim like a fiend. That way I at least get some closure and find out how it all ends…

Here are some examples of the DNF category:

Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling, #1) — tossed in 2016
by Nalini Singh

I was excited at first at the prospect of characters with Vulcan traits meeting shapeshifters., I was skimming by chapter two and felt no compulsion to pick this up again. Made myself read another two chapter of nothing much. Boring. I don’t care about the MCs or their inner monologue. Bla. She’s constantly worrying about her own inadequacies, he’s disrespectful of her boundaries and personal space. If I was her, I would have punched him by the second time he touched me without invitation, especially after I had told him not to. Pulling her plait? Is he twelve?

I skimmed and picked at some bits of this novel and it all reads and feels like the first few chapters. Read a few pages in the last chapter and the epilogue. Really don’t care. Perhaps this is too much PNR for me. Add to that antiquated gender models and I am done.

DNF at 56 pages and some nilly-willy skimming through later bits of the book. It’s probably me. I think I have UF/PNR-burn-out. I am really not interested anymore in the same old tropes, clichées and tired, old plot devices.

The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty, #1) — abandoned in 2016
by Ken Liu

World building:
Imperial airships. Some gods appeared briefly every now and then, but other than that this was conflicts between houses, conspiracies and war. 

At times this felt like a historical novel set in another version of China. Reading other reviews, I realized that this is exactly what it was. Ken Liu took real events of China’s history and transplanted them into a fictional setting, tinted with light fantasy elements. 

All not bad things, but the narrative felt very dry to me. More an account of things that a captivating narrative.

Characters:
I found it difficult to relate to the characters. They felt very one-dimensional and simplistic, almost like paper cut-outs from children’s books. This is the hero, this is the bad guy, this is the supportive wife… There was not a lot of life or development to these characters.

Plus there was a huge cast with unusual names. Added on top were the many place names and I really struggled to keep everything straight.

The lack of strong female characters has been commented on quite a bit in other reviews. It’s not a topic I tend to get militant about, but I did take note of the lack of interesting females. There was one with a bit more time on the page early on, but she was barely more than a side character. Towards the middle another one popped up, but she was as flat as the other characters.

Plot:
Slow. Changing points of view and settings in every chapter made the plot progression even slower. They did not help with my struggle to remember names and who-was-who either.

There was a lot of talking and very little doing. I wish there would have been more “Show, don’t tell!” As mentioned above, this read like an account of events, as if the various plot points were simply ticked off. There was no suspense or meaningful build-up.

I found this book a curious mix of boredom and glimpses into a great storyline. Those were the rare moments, when the plot did take a step forward. The flowery and stilted prose added to my difficulties with relating to the characters or the story.

DNF at 46%. Too many books, too little time.

I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you! Sorry that my review has not been more favourable!

PS from present-day-me: I have read some short stories by Ken Liu that I liked and I plan to try one of his other books eventually…

The Unleashing (Call of Crows, #1) — abandoned in 2015
by Shelly Laurenston

The beginning of the book is a little confusing, as it isn’t very clear that the character is having flashbacks. The ebook formatting of my advanced reading copy is also pretty wonky, which made reading this not any easier.

Initially some nice world building, some interesting characters. But the book never gets off the ground. There is a lot of talking, the characters have the maturity of really shallow teenagers and the plot never develops at all. 

The main character is an ex-marine and has been on two tours to Afghanistan. She sounds like she’s still in high school. Her male counterpart starts off with a lot of potential, but also goes nowhere fast.

There are various clans, fighting each others in the name of some Norse gods. A quarter into the book I still hadn’t figured out why and it all felt pretty pointless.

One bonus point for a Tolkien reference, but other than that I was bored and did not care what happens next. I kept pushing myself from one chapter to the next, in the hopes of something interesting happening, but finally gave up at 35%. Even the main character finding her wings couldn’t convince me to try for a few more chapters. If there is a good story somewhere, it took too long to raise its head.

I received this ARC copy of The Unleashing from Kensington Publishing Corp./NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. Sorry that it didn’t turn out better than this.

The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories — ran out of steam in 2013
by Ian Watson,  Ian Whates

DNF at 63%, 373 of 582 pages. I am fed up with this cluttering up my currently reading shelf. The 15 stories that I did read, average out at three stars. It’s not a bad collection, but it’s not really interesting either. I doubt I will pick it up again, but you never know.


Excellent, can I have that as a novel, please. 5 stars:
Harry Harrison & Tom Shippey, A letter from the Pope (vikings invading British isles, Middle Ages)

Entertaining and enjoyable, 4 stars:
James Morrow, The raft of the Titanic
Eugene Byrne & Kim Newman, The Wandering Christian (time of Christ to Middle Ages)
Esther M. Friesner, Such a deal (Christoper Columbus)
Kim Stanley Robinson, The Lucky Strike (WWII, war against Japan) – excellent! If I didn’t know first-hand already that Robinson is a great writer, this would have convinced me.
Ian R. MacLeod, The English Mutiny (England did not conquer India) – liked it, good idea well excecuted. Can see myself picking up something else by this author.

Interesting idea, but I was not really sold, 3 stars:
Ken MacLeod, Sidewinders (SF, dystopian future)
Suzette Hayden Elgin, Hush my Mouth (American civil war and onwards)
Rudy Rucker, The Imitation Game (Alan Turing) – interesting idea, but I didn’t care much for the characterization of Alan Turing or the actual plot.
Keith Roberts, Weihnachtsabend (Nazi Gemany and The British Empire form a pact) – the spelling and grammar mistakes of the German sentences were annyoing. The story was a bit odd.

Not interested, mostly skimmed. 1 or 2 stars:
A. A. Attanasio, Ink from the new Moon (discovery of the New World, China rules the world)
Pat Cadigan, Dispatches from the Revolution (USA, Vienam war onwards, politics, civil rights)
Paul McAuley, A Very British History (history of the space race) – boring, I was skimming almost from the beginning.
Marc Laidlaw, His Powder’d Wig, His Crown of Thornes (The colonies did not win during the American revolution…) – the story creeped me out, did not like it, skimmed through half of it.
Judith Carr, Roncesvalles (Spain, Middle Ages) – felt old-fashioned, talkative, with an overload of details. Lost interest, before anything of consequence happened.
Chris Robertson, O One (China rules the world, computation)

Stopped before reading: Harry Turtledove, Islands in the Sea

Cold Burn of Magic (Black Blade, #1) — gave up in 2015
by Jennifer Estep

DNF at 37%. And I only got this far with some skimming. I think I have to stop reading YA, it mostly does not work for me.

I did not buy the main character. Orphaned at 13, living alone and hiding away in a basement for years. And despite that she has these kick-ass fighting skills, capable of offing grown men that fight for a living. Not working for me.

On top of that she is a mean spirited, unlikeable teenager. She was probably written to be like that on purpose and might go through a change later in the book, to become a more mature person. But meanwhile I disliked her so much that I developed no interest in her.

And who wears a trenchcoat to a robbery? And carries the loot in its pockets?

The main themes of the book rang too many bells. Magical, powerful families, as in the Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews. Soul sight, as in the Dresden series by Jim Butcher. Repetitive writing, in teenager lingo, like. Been there, read it, was done much better in those books. Felt worn and did not engage me at all.

And some of the writing was just so silly. Another girl gets injured during a fight and spouts arterial blood. Our heroine finally gets a closer look and is shocked that it is even worse than she thought. The girl was spouting arterial blood. Come on, how much worse can it get?

Bottom line, unlikeable and unrealistic main character. Don’t buy the action scenes. The pacing was just not right. Action scenes should be fast and action-filled, they shouldn’t be full of explanations and thinky thoughts. Sketchy world building, magical families and talents that might not be intentional copies of other books, but felt so done already. At a third into the book still no monster sighting, which could have been the only novel idea of the book thus far.

If you are a fan of Jennifer Estep and of YA, this is probably a great read for you. But for me, every new scene kept rubbing me the wrong way. Not interested enough to keep going.

Free ARC, provided by Netgalley. Sorry that the review wasn’t positive.

The Accidental Demon Slayer (Demon Slayer, #1) — gave up in 2015
by Angie Fox

Woman finds out that the supernatural exists and that she is an especially strong and gifted demon hunter, when her Harley-driving granny shows up to save her from evil. Demons chase them, they survive and meet tall, dark and handsome. Who is mysterious and a great kisser. And not entirely human. Potential love-interest. There is also a talking Jack Russel terrier, who doesn’t seem to serve any purpose. Maybe comic relief, but not.

They escape to some bar, meet all the other biker witches, drink lots of alcohol, have a magic ceremony, have some not-quite-road-kill food, and 30% of the book are over without much happening, despite all the action. 

Characters are supposed to be weird and quirky, I guess. The various witches were confusing, as they all come across alike. Not a lot of world building, no explanations about the main character and her powers. I felt like watching the Halloween episode of Golden Girls.

Bored and glad that I got this for free from Amazon. DNF at 32%

Priceless (Rylee Adamson, #1) — did not track in 2015
by Shannon Mayer

„My name is Rylee and I am a Tracker.” 

Nice idea. Unfortunately the heroine does not track a thing in the first 20% of the book. She just drives around, visits random people and keeps telling herself, what a kick-ass bitch she is. 

I am guessing the introduction of a bunch of people with various, amazing skill sets is intended as a set-up for the rest of the series. Those characters are mostly clichees. Enter the young, paranoid hacker, living in a wired dump, sourrounded by CCTV and swilling root beer. Et cetera. 

I am sorry, I am not feeling it. I don’t like the main character, I am not connecting with the story at all. I keep finding other, more interesting things to do, just to avoid reading another chapter of this book. I am out. DNF at 21%.

Star Wars: Darth Vader, Vol. 1: Vader — abandoned ship in 2017
by Kieron Gillen,  Salvador Larroca (Illustrator),  Adi Granov (Illustrator) 

I liked the artwork, the story didn’t do it for me. By issue #3 I was skimming. 

Vader is the ultimate bad guy and seeing him not being the top dog was strange. I did like the glimpses into the parallels of the original Star Wars movies, but the storyline as a whole did not interest me.

Kiss of Fire (Dragonfire, #1) — done with this in 2015
by Deborah Cooke

Marie Sue is rescued from a deadly situation by a mysterious, ruggedly handsome and well-muscled guy. Check.

Instalove. Check. 

Silly dialogue, barely-there plot, minimal world building.

Skimmed to the fabled shower sequence. Yep, badly written sex. Done.

DNF after 130 pages.

The Bride Wore Spurs (the Inconvenient Bride Series #1) — no to this in 2017
by Sharon Ihle

I read, skimmed to 35% and Had to DNF. I could not continue with this. 

The female main character is TSTL in such a monumental fashion that it was painful to read. I don’t care if it is on purpose and if she would have turned into Superwoman in the last three chapters. Nobody can be this ignorant. Squeeze eggs out of a chicken? Give me a break. 

And I can’t develop any sympathies for a character that willfully lies and deceives and is stupid enough to think that she will get away with it.

There is no world building to speak of. Few descriptions of people or settings, I did not really get a mental picture of anything. The plot had potential and could have been fun, but lacked… not sure what. There were inconsistencies in the POV and also things that just didn’t make sense. For example, he is a rancher, she walks away from him with jingling spurs and he wonders where that noise is coming from. Is he deaf and directionally challenged? She wears boots that the mysterious person gave her and that she isn’t supposed to know about. He sees her take off those boots and…. nothing? I don’t know, everything just aggravated me about this book, I had to put it down.

In these cases I usually give two it-was-me-not-you stars. But this books annoyed me so much, I had to downgrade it to 1 star.

Thanks to the publisher for this freebie! Sorry, didn’t work for me!

Six degrees, from Scotland in the past to a dystopian England of the future

Welcome to #6Degrees. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book. I am using this meme to work on my backlog, aka reviews that I haven‘t yet posted to my blog here. How the meme works and how you can join is explained here. The initial blog post about this month‘s choice is here.


This month‘s starting book is yet again one I haven‘t read…

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, about a 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow. I don‘t want to follow the same trodden path and the amount of books dealing with unhappy childhoods on my shelf is pretty limited, let‘s go with the author‘s last name. Bizarre, but it worked out in the end and my six degrees settled on children, birth and growing pains in different settings…

The Future Is Nigh (Mass Market Paperback) by C. Stuart Hardwick
A collection of previously published short stories of winners of the Writers of the Future Contest. Length varies from 6 to 32 pages. Pretty decent collection. Three really excellent stories, one that didn‘t really do it for me and the rest was ok to fairly good. 4 stars overall.

My favourites: Martin L. Shoemaker, Today I Am Paul: My emotional winner. I want to hug this android so hard. / Marina J. Lostetter, Rats will Run: Great world building, imaginative flora and fauna. / William Ledbetter, Last House, Lost House: Great post-apocalyptic story with a nice twist.

Thinking about short stories, mothers and unhappy childhood led me to The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu. Read the titular story, if you have the opportunity.

“A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees.“

Lovely, truly lovely. And terribly bittersweet and sad. Can be read for free here: https://io9.gizmodo.com/read-ken-lius…

Ken Liu leads me to Ted Chiang almost without pause. And to another mother and child and what effects their shared history has on the world at large…

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. Again, look at the titular story, if you can. It was the basis for the SF movie Arrival with Amy Adams in the lead role.

“Your father is about to ask me the question. This is the most important moment in our lives, and I want to pay attention, note every detail.“

I liked the story and the characters. I have seen the movie several times and like it a lot. The most interesting for me were the differences from the story to the film. Would I have liked the story more or less, if I hadn‘t seen the movie? Did I like it more, because I like the movie? Despite the differences? Probably. Would I have understood the story as well without knowing the movie? Maybe. Did the story add layers to the movie? Possibly.

Another books about mothers and children, at least peripherally, is The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere #1) by Meg Elison. Loved the stroy, although it depressed the hell out of me at times. The audiobook was extremely well done as well. The main character waking up in a hospital and figuring out that the world has ended is a pretty tired idea by now. Nonetheless, the book started on full throttle and was great from the get-go. And horrific. By chapter three I had goosebumps allover and was close to crying. The story had an episodic feel to it, as it follows the midwife on her trip across the country, chronicling her encounters with various other survivors. Very graphic, with a realistic feel to it. 

My final book is yet again about children in a fairly horrific, post-apocalyptic setting. And it brings us back to the island we started this journey on. England though, instead if Scotland… The Girl with All the Gifts (The Girl with All the Gifts, #1) by M.R. Carey. Here children end up in a very different world.


Fiction By Authors of Color #ReadPOC2021

Ok, my March #ReadPOC challenge was a total fail, aka I didn‘t get to it… what can I say, I was overbooked and struggling a bit to concentrate on my reading commitments. The March prompt was „A Work of Fiction“ and after some deliberation I picked David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa.

Nigerian God-Punk – a powerful and atmospheric urban fantasy set in Lagos.

New attempt in April! I hope… which brings along the April prompt: Written by a Queer or Trans Author of Color.

And to my surprise, I found two books on the suggested reading lists, that ring a bell:

1) Dawn (Lilith’s Brood, #1) by Octavia E. Butler — this one is on my kindle-unlimited want-to-read list. I will try to read it in April. After the above and all the other stuff. I am an optimist.

In a world devastated by nuclear war with humanity on the edge of extinction, aliens finally make contact. They rescue those humans they can, keeping most survivors in suspended animation and begin the slow process of rehabilitating the planet.

2) The Black Tides of Heaven (Tensorate, #1) by J.Y. Yang — read in January 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is fantasy novella with a strong chinese flavour. The author identifies as non-binary and the main characters as well, at least until they reach their teenage years…

“Sonami had just turned fifteen, yet still wore the genderfree tunic of a child, their hair cropped to a small square at the top of their head and gathered into a bun.“

It is strange at first, then becomes normal and when eventually gendered pronouns crop up, they seem just as strange. Well done! I wasn‘t sure I would like this, because my track record with fantasy has been poor in the past few years. But once the story picked up speed, I found it hard to put down. The writing and plot were also a lot more accessible than I had expected. I really need to read the companion novellas. Plan B, if I shouldn‘t feel like Octavia Butler or want to read something shorter!

Author‘s website with info about the whole Tensorate series is here

Main Challenge page: https://lonelycryptidmedia.com/2020/1…