September 2022 Wrap-up

My first two weeks of September I spent with hideous headaches and nausea. I finally went to see my doctor and she leaned towards what I has suspected already: my new night brace was too tight and made my bruxism worse. Not wearing the brace at night obviously didn‘t help. I had my brace redone, got pretty heavy pain medication for my headache and aching teeth and face. The right side of my face still hurts, but I‘m doing some exercises and I hope that I can stop with the pain killers soon. I am supposed to get manual therapy for my jaw muscles, neck and shoulders, but none of the local therapists have free slots until January. Oh well. We have a great manual therapist at work who did some work on my neck and stuck me under an infrared lamp. That helped a lot.

I was on a conference in Bremen for four days and my Corona App turned dark red for all of those days. Fabulous. So far I feel fine, disregarding my other pain…

Despite feeling pretty crap for most of September, I still managed to get some reading done…

Sword Dance ★★★¾☆ ebook, m/m romance and mystery in a greco-roman fantasy world.
– Eversion ★★★★¼ audio, Gothic steampunk time-travel space-exploration mystery.
– Ruby Fever (Hidden Legacy #6) ★★★★☆ ebook, another one with Catalina.
– The Mad Ship (Liveship Traders #2) ★★★★★ ebook, great continuation of Ship of Magic
– Defender (Foreigner #5) ★★★★½ audio, blast-off!
– The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes ★★★½☆ audio, finally finished this one. Some known stories, like The Speckled Band, some more obscure ones as well.
– The Cool Aunt (Hidden Legacy #5.1) ★★★★☆, short, online, set after Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy #5)
– The Tale of the Body Thief (Vampire Chronicles #4), DNF at 45% in August. Finally decided to dump it.
– The Girl Beneath the Sea (Underwater Investigation Unit #1) ★★★¼☆ audio, police diver with treasure-hunter dad chases down drug traffickers in South Florida.

Short story anthology The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six: (ongoing)
– TUNNELS by Eleanor Arnason. This was a pretty wacky story. Lydia is in a pickle and needs to rescue herself… I loved the alien and the world was definitely interesting. Hoot hoot hoot! ★★★★½ For free here: https://www.asimovs.com/assets/1/6/Tu…
– TEST 4 ECHO by Peter Watts. AI and illegal propagation? ★★★★☆ For free here: https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fi…
– UMA by Ken Liu. Our hero uses an avatar to save some people… This one was fun! ★★★★★ For free here: https://web.archive.org/web/202009251…

Comics:
– Lunatic (Moon Knight 2016-2017) by Jeff Lemire ★★★★★ eComic. Wacky! Loved it.
– The Bottom (Moon Knight 2006, Vol. 1) by Charlie Huston ★★★★★ eComic. Much darker and grimmer, a lot of blood and gore…

Currently reading:
– Midnight Sun (Moon Knight 2006, Vol. 2) by Charlie Huston, eComic

Carry-over:
– How the Earth Works, audio
– Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection, narrated by Stephen Fry

Specfic Movies & TV watched:
– She-Hulk, Attorney at Law, S1, Eps 3-5 ★★★☆☆ it‘s ok, I don‘t feel compelled to continue.
– The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, S1, Eps 3-4 ★★★½☆ nicely done, but leaving me untouched so far. Meh.
– Jurassic World Dominion ★★½☆☆ Oh my, what were they thinking? The plot was a mess and so much stuff was regurgitated.
– Day Shift ★★★☆☆ vampire action comedy with Jamie Foxx, entertaining enough.

Hidden Legacy, another sister has been squared away…

Ruby Fever (Hidden Legacy, #6)
by Ilona Andrews

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“Nevada first trained me in investigative work, she taught me to trust my instincts. If it didn’t look right, it probably wasn’t. If the hair on the back of your neck stood up, you needed to get the hell out of there. She taught Arabella the same thing. My younger sister called it listening to the lizard brain. I trusted my lizard brain. It kept me breathing.“

Classic Ilona Andrews. Things go downhill fast in inventive ways and graphic detail. It all gets going with a gruesome murder and an attack on the Warden‘s house. Oh, and the family moves into a new home that sounds a bit like Disneyland. 

Lots of magic, action, weapons, blood, exploding hardware and magic users gone bad.

Catalina still feels and sounds like Nevada. Sadly, the characters in IAs books have become pretty interchangeable and all seem to be the same person. Alessandro is pretty one-dimensional. Mom and Grandma Frieda sadly don’t get a lot of page-time. 

I am guessing that the next book will be about Arabella and her love interest. Considering the last chapter and epilogue, that‘s where I am putting my money.

And yes, despite my complaints I will very likely get the next book. I read this fast, it was very entertaining.

I wonder if we will meet Jadwiga again in the next book?

Playlist:
A Fistful of Dollars Theme (Ennio Morricone)
Triumphal March from Aida (Giuseppe Verdi)

And I just saw that I missed a 12-page short story….

The Cool Aunt (Hidden Legacy, #5.1)
by Ilona Andrews

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Apparently I should have read this straight after Emerald Blaze. Set directly afterwards, bonus short story from Arabella‘s point of view.

The birth of Nevada‘s and Mad Rogan‘s baby, short and fun.

Free online at the authors’ website: https://ilona-andrews.com/the-cool-aunt/

Here is my review of Emerald Blaze.

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…