December 2021 Wrap-Up

Here is my December 2021:

The Quantum Magician ★★★☆☆ ebook + audio, Ocean‘s 11 in space with post-humans. Not as fun as it sounds.
Leviathan Falls ★★★★★ Expanse #9, audiobook, a fitting ending!
Silent Blade ★★★★¼ Kinsmen #1, ebook, novelette, romantic SF, enhanced humans, precursor to Hidden Legacy
Silver Shark ★★★★★ Kinsmen #2, ebook, The Matrix as a PNR novelette.
A Mere Formality ★★★★☆ Kinsmen short
Fated Blades ★★½☆☆ Kinsmen #3, ebook
– Dragonsong ★★★★★ Dragonriders of Pern #3, Harperhall Trilogy #1, re-read, YA, fun!
– Dragonsinger: Harper Of Pern ★★★★★ Dragonriders of Pern #4, Harperhall Trilogy #2, re-read, YA, fun as well! Dragonsong and Dragonsinger should be read back-to-back.
– Dragondrums ★★★★☆ Dragonriders of Pern #6, Harperhall Trilogy #3, re-read, YA, the coming-of-age story of Piemur.
– Dragonsdawn ★★★★☆ Dragonriders of Pern #9, chronologically #1, the colony ships arrive on Pern, it all begins here.
– Dragonseye ★★★★☆ Dragonriders of Pern #14, chronologically #3, set just before the Second Pass, this was a new one for me and I enjoyed it!

I will eventually continue with Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern next year and then switch back to reading in publication order, I‘ll see. But first I will tackle my planned January buddy reads. Too many already! But I tried very hard not to plan too many other books and to leave space for mood reading and to catch up with my TBR and NetGalley piles.

Currently reading:
– Life on Earth, audio, TBR pile — I am about halfway, I think. I love listening to David Attenborough, although the narrative isn‘t terribly exciting. This probably works better as an illustrated book or a TV documentary.

Specfic Movies & TV watched:
– The Witcher, Season 2 finished ★★★★★ — Now the waiting! When will the 3rd season start? 
– The Expanse, S6, Ep. 1+2 ★★★★¾ — will catch up in January!
– Foundation, S1, Ep. 2+3 ★★★★¼ — ditto!
– Wheel of Time, Season 1 finished ★★★¾☆ — the episodes got progressively better. I am actually looking forward to season 2.
– Infiltration (Invasion), Season 1 finished ★★★☆☆ — pretty forgettable (aka I watched the last episode last week and already struggle to remember how it ended).

The Quantum Magician (The Quantum Evolution Book 1) by Derek Künsken Leviathan Falls (The Expanse, #9) by James S.A. Corey Silent Blade (Kinsmen, #1) by Ilona Andrews Silver Shark (Kinsmen, #2) by Ilona Andrews A Mere Formality by Ilona Andrews Fated Blades (Kinsmen, #3) by Ilona Andrews Dragonsong (Pern Harper Hall series) by Anne McCaffrey Dragonsinger Harper Of Pern (Pern Harper Hall series) by Anne McCaffrey Dragondrums (Pern Harper Hall series) by Anne McCaffrey Dragonsdawn (Pern Dragonriders of Pern, #6) by Anne McCaffrey Dragonseye (Pern, #14) by Anne McCaffrey 

Happy New Year to all of you!

Ilona Andrews strikes again…

Fated Blades (Kinsmen, #3)
by Ilona Andrews

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I am glad that the first review I looked at gave this three stars only and it‘s not just me. I started skimming somewhere between 30 to 50% into this. And it took me 3 days to even get that far, which is shocking for 200 pages from Ilona Andrews. 

I didn’t care for the main characters and the plot did not interest me either. It’s all very much writing-by-numbers. The tried and tested IA formula. Smoldering, dark and scary hero, hard but hot. Short, busty and kick-ass heroine. Lots of fighting against the odds. I am not sure if it’s just this novella in particular or if I am getting tired of this in general. Maybe I have to be in the right mood for it. So, a re-read might be on the horizon at some point.

PS: Yes, ok, the epilogue was pretty funny.

A touch of smut in space

A Mere Formality by Ilona Andrews

26 pages | first published 2008

Finished this last night. It was funny and well plotted for such a short story. Tone and setting with aliens and ploitical intrigue and warfare reminded me of the later Innkeeper novels. The mature bits were entertaining. But, to be honest, this is not a memorable story. Just one day later I struggle to remember the ending…

Review from 2015:

How could I have missed this freebie on Ilona Andrews’ homepage?

“Things of a sexual nature…”, oh my, lol…. That was pretty funny. And a lot of excellent world-building for such a short snippet. Can I have that as a novel, please? With smut?

If The Matrix had been PNR…

Silver Shark (Kinsmen, #2) by Ilona Andrews

The Matrix meets something that comes along as SF on the surface, but feels more like UF with a dash of PNR and some steamy sex. Our female MC is the undercover caped crusader with insane skills, fighting for the desperate and powerless. Against a very steamy male hero with piercing looks. You get the picture. There is a grim start with a little darkness, good world building and a fascinating digital world. Reading this is a lot of fun. If you like Ilona Andrews and haven‘t read this, what are you waiting for?

Review from 2015:

Great story, the romance worked well for me, great characters, good snark, superb world-building in these few pages, with beautiful and vivid descriptions, definitely worth a full-length novel.

My only beef with this novella is the ending. WTF? That was such an infuriating place to finish the last chapter and with no sequel in sight. Argh.

I really, really like this on. Great fun.

Kinsmen and Hidden Legacy

Silent Blade (Kinsmen, #1) by Ilona Andrews

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Re-read. This novelette feels very much like a precursor to Hidden Legacy. It feels as if here the ideas are developed and put to paper for the first time, that will fully manifest into a fleshed out novel with Burn for Me five years later. Not quite as fun yet and due to length with a fairly simple plot. A devious little revenge story with a strong dose of romance. 


Review from 2015:

A little long for a short story, let’s call it a novella. Romance with a licking of sci-fi. Nice characters, one very good fight scene, some nice sex. Harlequinesce, silly, tacky, kitschy, feel-good ending with very high awww-factor. Satisfying. To be read on a rainy day on the sofa with a hot cup of cocoa.

Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy, #1) by Ilona Andrews

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Re-read 2016, before book #2 came out:

“The name is Mad Rogan. They also call me the Butcher and the Scourge, but Mad is the most frequently used moniker.”

Nevada Baylor sounds like Kate Daniels. Or perhaps they both sound like Ilona Andrews. The setting might be different and their magic, too. But other than that they feel the same.

I find Mad Rogan more interesting than Curran Lennart, though.

This time around I had no problems to get hooked by the story. Once I started, it was hard to put this down and only my own, feeble body prevented me from reading through the night to finish this.

The cover is still hideous, but I am willing to agree that it is a little bit PNR…


Read first in April 2015, original review:

I once read an adventure novel set on the ocean. The book cover featured waves with a drifting oil drum. The book was a 1000-page hummer of a book, but nowhere in there was an oil drum mentioned, drifting or otherwise. On my list of most-idiotic-book-covers-of-all-time Burn For Me has beaten this book and taken top spot on the list.

If you are a fan of PNR and don’t know Ilona Andrews, fair warning: this book is great fun, I loved it and can’t wait for the sequel, but this is NOT paranormal romance in any shape or form. The designers at Avon must have smoked something really strong, when they came up with this cover. As strange as it sounds, guys ripping of their shirts every five minutes do not make a romance novel.

Ok, now, book… 

I read a review that called the world building shoddy. Perhaps I am not critical enough and too fangirly, when Ilona Andrews is concerned, but I liked the world building. It told me everything I needed to know to get a good picture, there were no needlessly long info dumps and it fitted neatly into the plot.

The plot got going a tad slowly. Meaning not everything went BAM! on page two already. But it’s a new series, so a little setting-the-scene is to be expected. Also I didn’t read the beginning in one sitting, but with some stops. It might have influenced my perception of it.

I like the idea of Houses with different talents. It reminded me a little of the second book of the Kinship stories, as it toys with a similar set-up. The Pit reminded me of Bayou Moon.

Nevada’s family is to die for, the lot of them. Grandma is fabulous and I love the warehouse with its beehive of rooms stacked on each other and grandmother’s lair of tanks and assault vehicles.

All the characters work well and get enough of a backstory to be colourful and interesting. The two main male characters are idiotically handsome and, as mentioned, keep ripping their shirts off at every opportunity. I am thinking Hugh Jackman as Mad Rogan? By the way, does anybody else keep thinking of Indian food, every time his name is mentioned?

You never really get to see the bad guys that hold the strings, I am guessing they will either pop up in the sequel or we will have to suffer through one of those dragged out story archs that take several books to resolve. I hope not, because those tend to annoy and bore the crap out of me by the third installment.

The book has a proper high-stakes ending with a lot of suspense, but the story is not really resolved. It’s the first book in a series and the somewhat open ending and some other loose, dangling ends scream for the sequel. Half a year of waiting, argh! I almost took off a rating star just for that, but ultimately I had too much fun for that.

November Wrap-Up

We are galloping towards the end of the year, potentially more lockdowns, increased social distancing, renewed distance education, a new Covid mutation, snow storms, and so on… but for now here is just another wrap-up for my November reading.

– Rovers ★★★★★ – audiobook, Of Men and Mice meets From Dusk till Dawn. Excellent. Highlight of my month! Potentially one of the best books I have read this year.
– Elder Race ★★★★½ – ebook, novella, another Tchaikovsky, Sword-and-Sorcery with a touch of SF and Horror.
– Fated ★★★★☆ – ebook, re-read, wizards, London, Harry Dresden meets Peter Grant and the Iron Druid. Buddy reading #2 in January.
– Relic ★★¾☆☆ – ebook, Alan Dean Foster, the last human in search of Earth. Meh.
– The Resurrectionists ★★½☆☆ – ebook, Netgalley, novella, TBR pile, graphic body horror, not for me.

Comics:
– The Whale Library ★★★★★ eComic, Netgalley. Pretty story about a whale who contains a library.
– Dragonflight ★☆☆☆☆ paper, TBR pile, bad adaptation of Anne McCaffrey‘s first book of the Dragonriders of Pern.
– Cyber Force (2012) #1 ★☆☆☆☆ eComic, DNF after 8 of 24 pages, no idea what is going on.

Started, carry over into December:
The Quantum Magician, ebook + audio, ~60%. Around 3.5 to 4 stars right now. Ocean‘s 11 in space, post-humanism.
– Life on Earth, audio, TBR pile, ~30%. David Attenborough talks about evolution.

Movies & TV watched:

Nature Documentaries
– David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet ★★★★★+ Beautiful images, important story, fabulous Sir David!
– Our Planet — Behind the Scenes ★★★★★ The walruses, OMG!, and the calving ice shelf, wow!
– Our Planet — One Planet / Frozen Worlds / Jungles / Coastal Seas / From Deserts to Graslands ★★★★★
– Night on Earth: Shot in the Dark ★★★☆☆

Specfic Series
– Foundation, S1, Ep. 1 ★★★★☆
– Infiltration (Invasion), S1, Ep. 1-8 ★★★¾☆
– Wheel of Time, S1, Ep. 1-4 ★★★☆☆

Planned for December:
Leviathan Falls Expanse #9, the final novel, audiobook owned
Silent Blade Kinsmen #1, Ilona Andrews, re-read
Silver Shark Kinsmen #2, Ilona Andrews, re-read
A Mere Formality Kinsmen short, Ilona Andrews, re-read
Fated Blades Kinsmen #3, Ilona Andrews, the new one
– maybe Black Powder War, Temeraire #3
– maybe Dragonsong, re-reading Dragonriders of Pern

Top Ten Tuesday, counting to 10…

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 / September 13: Books with numbers in the titles

Let‘s see if I manage from one to ten on my shelf of read books…

One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles, #3)
by Ilona Andrews

I first read this as an online serial on Ilona Andrews’ website, which took most of 2016. I had fun reading the weekly bits and agonizing over them with my reading buddies. However, reading a finished book in one go is a more cohesive affair. It runs smoother, you can read as long as you want, no waiting for the next gripping bit. Also more editing and small improvements on various details. Plus a maturer rating.

“Look, it can be fast, good, or cheap. You can have any two but never all three.”

― Ilona Andrews, One Fell Sweep

Two Ravens and One Crow (The Iron Druid Chronicles #4.3)
by Kevin Hearne

You read that right. I purposefully did not pick The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2) by J.R.R. Tolkien… 😜 Instead I picked a short story from The Iron Druid Chronicles. A fun series, if you manage to ignore that a 2000-year-old druid is this dumb and juvenile.

Three Days to Dead (Dreg City, #1)
by Kelly Meding

Great fun! I almost read it in a day. Our heroine is a bounty hunter for all things that go bump in the night. There are shapeshifters, vampires, bridge trolls, the fey… Nothing really unusual or terribly new, but an entertaining read nonetheless, if you like Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs or Carrie Vaughn.

The Eye of the World: The Graphic Novel, Volume Four
by Chuck Dixon, Robert Jordan

Another attempt to make headway with this series. I got a very nice hardback edition. Starts with chapter 27 of the book, Shelter From the Storm, and ends with chapter 34 of the book, The Last Village.

Very close to the book. The artwork is nothing breath taking, but well done. Especially the cover gallery in the back has some very nice images.

This takes place roughly in the middle of The Eye of The World, which dragged for me. The pacing of the comic is not much different. I liked it, but it didn‘t tempt me to get another volume right away. If I saw some WoT comics in a second hand store at a reduced price, maybe…

Five Quarters of the Orange
by Joanne Harris

Framboise is running a creperie in a small village in rural France. She spent her childhood years during WWII in this village, but nobody knows that. She now lives under another name, to protect a dark secret in her past. One day her nephew and his wife appear at her doorstep, to ask for the use of her name and recipes. When she refuses – to protect her true identity – she quickly realises that they will stop at nothing to get those recipes. But she is not easily defeated. And while she struggles against her nephew, she tells us her story….. Very good book, recommended! Great storytelling.

Rainbow Six (Jack Ryan Universe, #10)
by Tom Clancy

Unusual, as it is one of the rare books where Jack Ryan is not the main character. John Clark is not as black and white and makes for an interesting character. There is the usual body count and a lot of gadgets, all in all a solid thriller.

Sherlock Holmes: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
by David Tipton,  Scott Tipton,  Ron Joseph (Illustrations) 

I have the seen the movie several times, it is one of my favourite Sherlock Holmes movies. 

This is a very close retelling of the story. The dramtic chase and the big reveal of Holmes’ secret at the end are well done, as well as the artwork. An enjoyable read and a surprising take on the life of the great detective. Sherlock Holmes fans should not miss this.

Eight Feet in the Andes: Travels with a Mule from Ecuador to Cuzco
by Dervla Murphy

I really wanted to like this, but after spending ages getting past the first 50 pages I decided to give up. The great thing about travel literature is the things that happen on the way. But as far as I got, the main thing was going up the mountain, over the mountain, down the mountain…. And I did not think the descriptions of the most likely stunning scenery were very good either. Very disappointing.

Nine Last Days on Planet Earth
by Daryl Gregory

Free short story on Tor.com.

“When the seeds rained down from deep space, it may have been the first stage of an alien invasion—or something else entirely.“

https://www.tor.com/2018/09/19/nine-last-days-on-planet-earth-daryl-gregory/

I‘m Groot! Interesting. I liked it, fascinating take on evolution and alien invasion, great character development. I felt with LT and almost cried with him at the end. Not sure if I am a fan of that quasi open ending. 

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That Will Improve and/or Ruin Everything
by Kelly Weinersmith,  Zach Weinersmith

My NetGalley version only consisted of the introduction and the first two chapters: How to get into space cheaply and asteroid mining. Once I realized that, I mostly skimmed and just perused a bit here and there.

Entertaining, amusing style, that borders on slightly silly. Amusing, very simple comic strips—I recommend reading the ebook version on something that allows colour. Easy to understand explanations of complex topics. Space elevators, reusable rockets, Elon Musk and the odd Star Trek joke make an appearance.

It‘s ok, if you are looking for something light to flick through, when you have a few minutes to spare. Coffee table reading, mostly decorative.

Heir and Imago…

Well, I finished Blood Heir and don‘t really have anything to add to the First Line Friday post from a few days ago. It was fun, I had hoped for fresh ideas, it was very much Kate Daniels by rote.

Blood Heir (Aurelia Ryder, #1; Kate Daniels #10.5)
by Ilona Andrews

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The moon was full and silver. It peeked at me through tattered clouds as I rode my horse down the old I-20, staying in the center of the highway.

First lines

I expected a fresh take on the world of Kate Daniels. I pretty much got Kate Daniels with a different name. That was a bit of a let down. Don‘t get me wrong, I love KD and her world, it‘s still one of my favourite UF series. But I had hoped that IA would tread new ground and reinvent this world with some fresh blood. It was more of a same-sh*t-different-day affair.

The ending was too abrupt. We were still in the middle of the action, I turned the page and we‘re done. The final confrontation was over much to quickly, considering the build-up that heavenly beast had gotten over the progress of the book.

Still, I was entertained, it was a mostly satisfying read.

There is hope for a breath of fresh air in the sequel, which I will definitely get. And there is waiting for a new installment of Hugh D‘Ambray‘s storyline. There is no date yet, however they are mentioning a second book on their website.

“When magic crests at its peak, the King of Fire will leave his citadel of misery in the Western Desert to travel east to devour the queen who doesn’t rule and sever bloodline reborn. Only the one who shares his power may oppose him.”

The prophecy — from the book

Prompted by our bad guy in this book:

Paradise Lost, Book I, lines 392-405:

First Moloch, horrid King besmear’d with blood 
Of human sacrifice, and parents tears,
Though for the noyse of Drums and Timbrels loud
Thir childrens cries unheard, that past through fire [ 395 ]
To his grim Idol. Him the Ammonite
Worshipt in Rabba and her watry Plain,
In Argob and in Basan, to the stream
Of utmost Arnon. Nor content with such
Audacious neighbourhood, the wisest heart [ 400 ]
Of Solomon he led by fraud to build
His Temple right against the Temple of God
On that opprobrious Hill, and made his Grove
The pleasant Vally of Hinnom, Tophet thence
And black Gehenna call’d, the Type of Hell. [ 405 ]

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/read…

First Line Friday: Blood Heir by Ilona Andrews

I am currently reading Blood Heir (Aurelia Ryder, #1; Kate Daniels #10.5)

The moon was full and silver. It peeked at me through tattered clouds as I rode my horse down the old I-20, staying in the center of the highway.

First Line Friday is a meme created by Hoarding Books. Feel free to head over there, have a look around, grab a book and post its first line in the comments there and in your blog.

I expected a fresh take on the world of Kate Daniels. I pretty much got Kate Daniels with a different name. That is a bit of a let down. Don‘t get me wrong, I love KD and her world, it‘s still one of my favourite UF series. But I had hoped that IA would tread new ground and reinvent this world with some fresh blood. It is more of a same-sh*t-different-day affair. Good, though, even so… I am fairly far along, so my full review will probably appear here at some point this weekend.

My favourite books of 2020

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

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

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

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

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

To The Center Of The Earth
by Greig Beck

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

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

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

Dune (Dune, #1)
by Frank Herbert

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

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

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

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

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

Red, White & Royal Blue
by Casey McQuiston

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

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

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

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

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


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