Unrest in the countryside

Sword Dance (Sword Dance, #1)
by A.J. Demas

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Interesting world. Names sound Greek, the architecture sounds a little more Roman. And the far away land of Zash reminds me a bit of Persia, maybe the hanging gardens of Babylon made an indirect appearance?

Damiskos, the main character, is a likeable fellow. Former soldier, not a terribly exciting job, gets sent to the countryside to make a deal about buying fish sauce for the troops. Fishy things start to happen, not just sauce-related. 

“Terza’s head, what a lot of ghastly people Nione seemed to have gathered around herself. Did he really have to stay out the week?“

Apparently he did. If Agatha Christie had ever written Fantasy, this is probably what it would have looked like. The requisite body might or might not have turned up. Damiskos gets support from unexpected quarters and has to pretend to be romantically inclined to towards the sword-dancing eunuch. Things do not go as planned. Do they ever?

Thrown in were some rather odd philosophers, some violence, a little not too graphic sex and various shenanigans. I liked the underhanded humour. Oh yes, and there were some serious topics woven into the narrative, about gender identity, equal rights, racism, power over and perception of others—nicely done.

This is not quick, the pace is rather sedate. Damiskos and the story take their time. It is well plotted though.

The world has potential for some more sweeping stories and there are two more books in this series. Recommended, if you are looking for a relaxed mystery with some action, light humour and a little m/m romance.

„… a dizzying week of intrigue, assassinations, and a fake love affair that—maybe—turned real.“

August Wrap-Up

August 2022: …stop it for a moment… August already, goodness me, wasn‘t it just January?

Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders #1) ★★★★★ paper, I unexpectedly really liked this. Took me 4 weeks to read it, but the characters and the world really came to life! Enjoying the sequel so far. Seamless continuation.
– Soul Taken (Mercy Thompson #13) ★★★★¾ ebook, entertaining brain candy with werewolves, vampires and fae. Maybe getting a little tired now, Ms Briggs?
– Inheritor (Foreigner #3) ★★★★☆ Audio, my second try and this time I had fun. Yay!
Precursor (Foreigner #4) ★★★★½ audio, Atevi in space! Even better!
When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain (Singing Hills #2) ★★★★☆ ebook, our cleric Chih has to narrate themself out of a prickly situation with three tigers.
– The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Engineer‘s Thumb / The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor ★★★☆☆

Ongoing short story anthology The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six: 
– TEXTBOOKS IN THE ATTIC by S.B. Divya — climate change has flooded towns, antibiotics are rare for those less privileged. A mother searches for a way to save her son. ★★★★★ More on tor.com: https://www.tor.com/author/s-b-divya/
– SEEDING THE MOUNTAIN by M. L. Clark — I am definitely not a fan of sentences running pages long, stuffed full of superfluous adverbs and adjectives. Hard pass. ★☆☆☆☆
– KNOCK, KNOCK SAID THE SHIP by Rati Mehrotra — Deenu works on a trading ship with a slightly disturbed AI. When the ship is attacked, she has to decide where her loyalties lie. ★★★★★
– STILL YOU LINGER, LIKE SOOT IN THE AIR by Matthew Kressel — Gil is a priest of Muu, a alien intelligence, who has „abilities that seem to defy known physical laws of nature.” In other words, Muu is a god. Gil lost his pupil and lover and struggles to come to terms with his loss and his entrapment by Muu. ★★★★☆ Can be read for free here: https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fi…

Comics:
– All Out War Part 2 ★★★★☆ The Walking Dead 21, eComic, StoryGraph #1 October
– The Walking Dead: All Out War AP Edition ★★★★☆ Done in raw pencils, without the ink. I like it a lot, it shows the artist‘s skill much better.
– Redlands Vol. 1, eComic, DNF after the first 2 issues (54 pages). Witches take over a town of misogynistic racists. Didn‘t like it.

Currently reading:
– The Mad Ship (Liveship Traders #2), ebook. Going slowly, as I keep reading shorter stuff in between. This will take me most of September for sure.

Ongoing:
The Tale of the Body Thief (Vampire Chronicles #4), paper, on hold, not enjoying it.
– How the Earth Works, audio, it‘s so-so. Sometimes very good, then again a bit slow and drawn out. It‘s lectures though, not a coherent book, which might be the problem.
– Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection, narrated by Stephen Fry: #3) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the rest. Long book is long.

Specfic Movies & TV watched:
– For All Mankind, S3, Eps. 4-10, completed ★★★★★ Mars!
– The Sea Beast, animation ★★★★★ Excellent swashbuckling adventure with sea monsters. So much fun!
– Prey (Predator) ★★★★☆ 
– The Sandman, S1, Eps 1-5 ★★★☆☆ I massively disliked episode 5, not sure I‘ll continue. Not really my cup of tea.
– Morbius ★★★☆☆ No big surprises, pretty predictable. Made me discover Leto’s band 30 Seconds to Mars though, which I love.
– Westworld, S1 ★★★★☆ Slow start, but developed nicely. Might continue, if I can get S2 at a reduced price.
– She-Hulk, Attorney at Law, S1, Eps 1+2, ongoing. Fun so far.

Scheherazade meets Rashomon

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain (The Singing Hills Cycle, #2)
by Nghi Vo

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Loved the mammoths immediately! And I was oddly happy to meet Chih again, despite complaining about a lack of an emotional connection to the characters in the first book of this series, The Empress of Salt and Fortune.

We meet demons/shapeshifters in the form of tigers. And they want to eat Chih and their travel companions. Chih has to tell a story to hopefully save them, but doesn‘t get it quite right. It felt a bit like Scheherazade of One Thousand and One Nights meets Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa. In my head I pictured an animated movie, perhaps inspired by the pretty book cover.

I am finally hooked and already requested The Singing Hills #3, Into the Riverlands, on Netgalley. Fingers crossed.

PS: These novellas are standalone, you do not need to read them in order.

Top Ten Tuesday — Adjective In the Title

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 / March 22: Books With an Adjective In the Title

Tricky topic. Lets see what I can did up on my shelf. For variety‘s sake I‘ll start with the books I added to my shelves last and work backwards…

Under Fortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings — my latest NetGalley addition: Two Ships. One Chance To Save The Future. Fleeing the final days of the generations-long war with the alien Felen, smuggler Jereth Keeven’s freighter the Jonah breaks down in a strange rift in deep space

The Art of Cursive Penmanship: A Personal Handwriting Program for Adults by Michael R. Sull — A practice guide to improve one‘s handwriting. We start with a discourse on the history and technicalities of handwriting. There is instructions on the correct sitting posture, how to place the paper, how to use your writing implement, on fountain pens and so on. Chapter 5 is the beginning of the practical part. That‘s roughly where I am right now. Haven‘t started with the exercises yet…

Ancestral Night (White Space, #1) by Elizabeth Bear — not quite sure why I added this one to my stack: A space salvager and her partner make the discovery of a lifetime that just might change the universe in this wild, big-ideas space opera from multi award-winning author Elizabeth Bear.

Dying Earths: Sixteen Stories from the Ends of Times by Sue Burke and others — sounds depressing, but I want to read Sue Burke‘s story: The writers and contributors to the little corner of the web called SFFWorld.com have brought together a collection of stories about a dying Earth. 

Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes — this was a buddy read that I skipped. Everybody really liked it, so I got it after all: Titanic meets The Shining in S.A. Barnes’ Dead Silence, a SF horror novel in which a woman and her crew board a decades-lost luxury cruiser and find the wreckage of a nightmare that hasn’t yet ended.

An Easy Job by Carrie Vaughn — short story, read it already… Carrie Vaughn is worth mentioning again.

The Black Coast (The God-King Chronicles, #1) by Mike Brooks — another buddy read that I skipped and my reading buddies all loved it: When the citizens of Black Keep see ships on the horizon, terror takes them because they know who is coming: for generations, the keep has been raided by the fearsome clanspeople of Tjakorsha. Saddling their war dragons, Black Keep’s warriors rush to defend their home only to discover that the clanspeople have not come to pillage at all. Driven from their own land by a daemonic despot who prophesises the end of the world, the raiders come in search of a new home . . .

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim — I like the original fairytale and the cover is pretty, so I couldn‘t resist: Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control.

Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days by Alastair Reynolds — two novelettes set in Revelation Space. And the blurb of one of them is something aquatic. I had to get it: In the seas of Turquoise live the Pattern Jugglers, the amorphous, aquatic organisms capable of preserving the memories of any human swimmer who joins their collective consciousness. Naqi Okpik devoted her life to studying these creatures—and paid a high price for swimming among them. 

Digital Divide (Rachel Peng, #1) by K.B. Spangler — not quite sure why I picked this one. Genre bender with cyborgs: Rachel Peng misses the Army. Her old life in Criminal Investigation Command hadn’t been easy, but she had enjoyed it. Now, as the first cyborg liaison to the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police, Rachel is usually either bored senseless or is fighting off harassment from her coworkers.

Yes, not 100% certain that those are all adjectives… *shrugs*

What interesting reads have you added to your shelves recently?

A pretty grim visit to the Pelted Universe…

Even The Wingless (Princes’ Game #1) by M.C.A. Hogarth

The blurb reminded me just a little of Foreigner. That is where the similarities end. 

It is great fun to be back in the world of M.C.A. Hogarth, with more space elves, although this is a much, much darker and more violent part of her Pelted Universe. Very intense, very violent. Strangely compelling, despite the pretty horrific plot. And I feel weird and embarrassed for liking this so much—have a look at my content warning below—I pretty much inhaled the second half in one sitting.

Lisinthir, space elf and empath, is the new Alliance ambassador to an empire of two-legged dragons and a society of brutal and violent male dominance and slavery. His job is to gather intelligence and free potential slaves kidnapped from the Alliance. And to survive. To do that, he has to go down a pretty dark and violent path.

Content warning: slavery, physical violence, frequent rape, sexual abuse, torture. None of it is graphic, but it is one the page almost constantly.

Princes‘ Game Series:
The books of the Princes’ Game series tell the story of the Chatcaavan war and the part the Eldritch played in it.

This universe contains books that are quite different in tone. I started with Her Instruments and liked that series quite a lot.

The Pelted UniverseList by SeriesList by Internal Chronology

It‘s Valentine‘s Day, so guess what…

Goodreads posted a ton of recommended reading lists today for Valentine‘s Day. I occasionally read romances, mostly as a kind of palate cleanser between SF novels or other a bit heavier offerings. I took a peek at those lists and this is what I found.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert has been on my want-to-read for a while.

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with six directives to help her “Get a Life”…

So, adult romance with a bucket list…

Boyfriend Material (Boyfriend Material, #1) by Alexis Hall is a more recent addition to my want-to-read.

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.

We know how that goes, right?

If I Never Met You (Kindle Edition) by Mhairi McFarlane is another newbie on my want-to-read.

Jamie Carter doesn’t believe in love, but he needs a respectable, steady girlfriend to impress their bosses. Laurie wants a hot new man to give the rumor mill something else to talk about. It’s the perfect proposition: a fauxmance played out on social media, with strategically staged photographs and a specific end date in mind.

Yep, another fake relationship, I like those!

Do you read romances? Any preferences, aka tropes you like? Recommendations?

Six Degrees of Separation — Talking, Shouting, Whispering…

Welcome to #6degrees. I haven’t done one of these in a while. 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 mostly use this meme to work on my backlog, aka reviews that I haven‘t yet posted to my blog here. Or to give myself a reminder of the books on my TBR pile or want-to-read-shelf.

So, as usual, this month starts the chain link with a book I haven‘t read or ever heard about.

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

„As this urgent, genre-defying book opens, a woman who has recently been elevated to prominence for her social media posts travels around the world to meet her adoring fans. […] Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray: “Something has gone wrong,” and “How soon can you get here?” […] Fragmentary and omniscient, incisive and sincere, No One Is Talking About This is at once a love letter to the endless scroll and a profound, modern meditation on love, language, and human connection from a singular voice in American literature.“ (from the book blurb)

Really not my kind of thing. I read the blurb three times and nothing came to mind. However, as we are on the subject of talking…

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

„A show runner and her assistant give the world something to talk about when they accidentally fuel a ridiculous rumour.“

Sounds like an entertaining romance. Just the kind of light escapism I enjoy at the moment. Just moved it to from my want-to-read to my TBR pile. So much for me not wanting to add to that pile. What can I say, could be fun and came relatively cheap.

And talking takes me to shouting…

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí ClarkChannie Waites (Narrator)

“Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns with Ring Shout, a dark fantasy historical novella that gives a supernatural twist to the Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror.“

I really like his Djinn stories and this keeps popping up on a lot of my kind of lists. On my want-to-read. I am leaning towards the audio, the narrator sounds good.

Not everybody who shouts can also whisper….

Under the Whispering Door by  T.J. Klune

“When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.“

Yes, alright, it is STILL on my want-to-read. I will read it at some point, I promise!

People that whisper often don‘t speak at all…

The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

„What if you knew how and when you will die? Csorwe does. She will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice. On the day of her foretold death, however, a powerful mage offers her a new fate.“

On my TBR pile. Not sure why this landed there. Traditional fantasy with a queer touch. Another one I will get to eventually.

Continuing with silence…

Circles Of Silence by Preeti Singh

Rating: 3 out of 5.

“A birth mark on the right shoulder! And one as big and as dark as that! Arre baap re! This is of some terrible significance…’ Despite his grandmother’s gloomy prophecy, Rattan grows up leading a charmed life – first in Delhi, then at Boston University. When he returns to Delhi, and the family business, Rattan is happy to fall in with his parents’ plans for an arranged marriage.“

I read this in 2007. It did not sweep me off my feet, but the characters were likeable. The story was sweet and interesting enough, although there were no great surprises.

And when you are done with silence, how about some wailing to break the tension?

The Wailing Wind (Navajo Mysteries, #15) by Tony Hillerman

Rating: 2 out of 5.

“Tony Hillerman’s novels are like no others. His insightful portrayal of the vast Navajo Reservation, the spirit-haunted people who inhabit it and the clash between ancient traditions and modern civilization that has shaped its present and will determine its future has produced a body of work unique in mystery fiction.”

I read this in 2008. Fairly run-of-the-mill murder mystery with a slightly unusual setting. Pretty forgettable.

Top Ten Tuesday — New-to-Me Authors

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 / January 25: New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2021

I generally read more new-to-me-authors these days than known ones. I used to read series after series, but have changed my reading habits in the last few years. I already posted my Top Ten Tuesday—the ten best books of 2021 and I will not mention those books again. Funnily enough those were mostly known-to-me-authors. Oh well.

The Murders of Molly Southbourne (Molly Southbourne, #1) by Tade Thompson — Weird. Disturbing. Creepy. Off-putting. Slightly disgusting in parts. Horror, as you might have guessed by now. It‘s like a train wreck—pretty horrible, but I couldn‘t look away. The writing is very good. I was totally immersed in the story, the characters and Molly‘s world. I will probably read The Survival of Molly Southbourne (Molly Southbourne, #2) at some point.

Rosewater (The Wormwood Trilogy, #1) by Tade Thompson wasn‘t quite as good for me. An alien lands on Earth, burrows into the ground and presents as a illuminated dome. We follow Kaaro, a „sensitive“, in the employ of some shady secret agency. His life story is told in three separate timelines, set around the biodome. He is a thief, he is sexist, he felt like a clueless, self-centered, mysoginistic idiot to me. I can appreciate the inventive world building, but the rest was a slog.

Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler — short story. A human colony living as little more than slaves, joined to an insectoid race. Love, possesiveness and self-sacrifice are themes. Butler voices her surprise in the afterword, that readers see this as a story of slavery. But are we looking at symbiosis or at a parasitic relationship? Is it really consent in a situation, where your personal rights have been curtailed and there are no equal rights? I think not. 

Dawn (Xenogenesis, #1) by Octavia E. Butler — 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. A classic. It was ok, but I won‘t continue with the series.

Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur — A queer rom-com debut with a social media astrologer. Give me a break! And Darcy, an actuary, her terrible blind date, is a total bitch (at first). Gorgeous though. Fake relationship trope! Well written, very readable. Oh, this is supposed to be a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I didn‘t see it, to be honest, besides the first name.

Becoming by Michelle Obama — Michelle Obama‘s memoir, from her early childhood to the end of her second term as FLOTUS. Entertaining.

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith — I was entertained. And I learned new things.

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell — potential m/m romance in an SF setting, marriage of convenience, potentially a murder mystery and court intrigue, hints of space opera.

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badge — YA. UF/magical realism, set in our place and time, with ghosts, vampires and fae added to the mix. Author and female main character are Lipan Apache. Ellie is 17 years old and has the power to call animal ghosts into being.

The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter — the author covers a vast amount of linguistic topics. The author‘s casual dismissal of places and people outside of the US was a bit irritating at times. It was interesting.

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron — Enjoyable, humorous, not too silly and not too much drama. There is baking and sourdough starter and delicious Indian/East African food… If you are looking for a book that represents Islam and Muslim life, this is not it. If you are looking for light romance and great food though, you are bang on. 

We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen — Androids, a claustrophobic spaceship, a mysterious ice planet and a conspiracy with a dash of horror. 

Ok, that was ten new to me authors. I had an interesting year.

The Top Ten — 2021 Releases I Added to my Want-to-Read But Didn’t Get To  

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 / January 18: 2021 Releases I Was Excited to Read But Didn’t Get To

I changed that “excited to read“ to „added to my want-to-read“. Excited is a strong word. Those that I was excited about I pre-ordered and read in 2021. As I am very, very stingy with adding books to my want-to-read-shelf, I ended up with just another 10 books. And here they are:

Black Magick, Vol. 3: Ascension by Greg Rucka,  Nicola Scott — I added this to my shelf in 2019 and it took its sweet time to get published. Greg Rucka does fantastic stuff and the artwork was really very pretty in the first two volumes. Plus it was a good story. But the break was just so long, by the time this one here came out I just wasn‘t as interested anymore. So it still lingers. I highly recommend Lazarus, Vol. 1: Family by Greg Rucka!

The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott — „A gripping novel of myth, environment, adventure, and an unlikely friendship, from an award-winning Australian author“ — I have no idea why this is on my shelf. Pretty cover. Deleted.

Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard — „Award-winning author Aliette de Bodard returns with a powerful romantic fantasy“ — I have read good things by her and this novella was recommended. I in turn recommend Lullaby for a Lost World.

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley — YA mystery. Not really my thing. But my reading buddies loved it and it sounds tempting enough. I guess this part of the blurb did it: “Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman)“. Because I quite liked a book by a different author from an Anishinaabe community, Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice. Does not really make sense, I know.

We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker — „about one family and the technology that divides them“ — contemporary setting, about a brain implant that helps to get ahead. Not sure about this one, deleted.

The Audacity of Sara Grayson by Joani Elliott — a nice sounding piece of chicklit. Mother dies, last wish is for her daughter to finish her final book in a bestselling series. Possible shenanigans. I might keep it for now.

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim — another YA. A retelling of The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen, one of my favourite fairytales. Or The Six Swans by the Brothers Grimm. I am actually not sure which one, they are almost the same thing. Anyway, it tempted me.

Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune — it seems that everybody on the planet has read this but me.

Glimmer by Marjorie B Kellogg — „This new cli-fi epic chronicles a future NYC wracked by climate change and follows the individuals who must make the most of what remains to survive.“ — or should I rather go for Kim Stanley Robinson? This one here sounds like more fun.

Noor by Nnedi Okorafor — „From Africanfuturist luminary Okorafor comes a new science fiction novel of intense action and thoughtful rumination on biotechnology, destiny, and humanity in a near-future Nigeria.“ — I still haven‘r read anything by Okorafor. Or should I rather start with Binti?

Sometimes activation sucks.

Activation Degradation
by Marina J. LostetterHayden Bishop (Narrator) 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really hesitated to get this book because of the Murderbot comparison in the blurb. I love Murderbot and don‘t want to read a rip-off. I think they probably did this book a disservice by linking it to Murderbot.

Our robot is brought online on a platform orbiting Jupiter, to protect a mining platform that is under attack by aliens. It turns out that the situation is quite different to what Unit Four was lead to believe.

I liked the beginning very much and listened to the first half of the book almost in one sitting. There was a pretty good reveal towards the end. Good action sequences. The more reflective parts could have been a bit more elaborate. The plot lost a bit of steam in the second part and my interest flagged a little. 

I am still trying to decide if I like the rather convenient ending. I find it almost impossible to talk more about this book without spoilers, so I leave it at that. I largely enjoyed this book and might give it another go in printed form to pick up all of the nuances.

This is my first book by the author and I got the audiobook. The audiobook narration was good, but I didn‘t love it.

Would I pick up a sequel? Maybe. Probably.