Horrible past, scary present

The White Trees #1
by Chip Zdarsky,  Kris Anka (Artist) 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Our MC has retired from being a hero and warrior, but has to pick up his weapons again, to save his family. High fantasy, swords, a dragon, cat-like humanoids, mentions of an epic war.

Interesting artwork. Coloured pencils and watercolours? Unusual perspectives.

Rating: graphic nudity, graphic sexual content

I already downloaded issue #2, RTC.

Brain candy done right…

I mentioned K.J. Charles in my previous review. Here is what I read…

The Magpie Lord (A Charm of Magpies, #1) by K.J. Charles

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Very entertaining and well written brain candy with likeable characters, a nice mystery, some sorcery and the requisite hot sex toward the end. Couldn’t put it down! Well, I had to sleep at some point…

Interlude with Tattoos (A Charm of Magpies, #1.5) by K.J. Charles

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Interlude with Tattoo (A Charm of Magpies #1.5) is a short story set just after the end of The Magpie Lord and is included at the end of that eBook. Nice little follow-up.

The Smuggler and the Warlord (A Charm of Magpies, #0.5) by K.J. Charles (Goodreads Author) 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

And this is set before the first full-length novel. Flash fiction, just a tiny snippet to set the mood, I guess. I liked the humour and sarcasm in it.

A Case of Possession (A Charm of Magpies, #2) by K.J. Charles

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Main story again. Brain candy with magic, mentions of exotic locations, some fairly graphic m/m sex and a simple murder/revenge plot with shamans and scary rats, historical setting. Has a Regency Victorian feel to it (timing, not tone), I am not sure when exactly it takes place. 

The plot is nothing too twisty or deep, this is a quick and entertaining read. The ending was a bit rushed. I was pretty surprised to stumble into the dramatic climax all of a sudden, also because I wasn’t aware that there was another story at the end. Best read in chronological order of the series, including the short stories.

A Case of Spirits (A Charm of Magpies, #2.5) by K.J. Charles

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Quick read, Victorian setting, nobility, gay lovers, magic and a little suspense. Well written, entertaining.

Flight of Magpies (A Charm of Magpies, #3) by K.J. Charles

The third, full-length novel. I haven‘t read this one yet, it‘s part of my TBR pile, review to come…

Feast of Stephen (A Charm of Magpies, #3.5) by K.J. Charles

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read this out of order, before novel #3, and enjoyed it quite a bit. Very short, but for fans of the series worthwhile. Stephen seems to have gone through some interesting changes in the previous book. 

Spectred Isle (Green Men #1) by K.J. Charles

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This is the start of another series. Very similar set-up to The Magpie Lord, but in earlier times. Tall dark stranger, magic, mystery, the other character is generally more of a Dr. Watson type…

A saturnine, sardonic sort of face, clean-shaven; a mouth that seemed made to sneer. He looked like the kind of man Saul had met a great deal in the war in the officer ranks: a thoroughbred aristocrat, effortlessly superior, endlessly disdainful.

I like her writing. It rolls along nicely, good tension, she has humour. I don‘t know how much sense these stories make in their historical setting, but so far they have been fun. And I learned something about London‘s suburbs, parks and medieval, Norman sherifs.

Several refences in the book made me think that I missed reading an important prequel. Perhaps reading the stand-alone The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal would provide back-up to some of the stories hinted at in Spectred Isles?

I like the humour and the slow build-up between Randolph and Saul.

The stories about the war remind me a little of Nightingale’s backstory at Ettersberg in the Peter Grant series—opposing magical forces, misused by their respective governments, the destruction of all the wizards/occultists…

Very readable, creepier than expected, not too many horrid romance clichees, a not too predictable plot. I am very tempted to pick up the next book in the series. 

2018 RITA® finalist for Paranormal Romance

And last but not least I have this on my TBR pile: Think of England (Think of England #1). Review to come!

Unlucky in any direction

Widdershins (Whyborne & Griffin #1)
by Jordan L. Hawk

Rating: 2 out of 5.

A reclusive scholar. A private detective. And a book of spells that could destroy the world.

Historical fantasy novel, set in the Victorian (?) era, me thinks. Horror with monsters made from resurrected corpses. Lovecraftian influences. Potential theft of an Egyptian mummy. Magic.

Several times I stumbled over the fact that this is set in New England. I kept waiting for London fog to creep up or for the characters visiting the British Museum.

Potential romance between the two male main characters — after 80 pages nothing much had happened in that direction, besides some angsty musings of the narrator, having to will down his misbehaving member.

I was bored, this story didn‘t work for me. I skimmed through the last two chapter and called it a day. I had hoped for another K. J. Charles. Sadly not.

Dewey‘s Reverse Readathon

I just signed up for Dewey‘s Reverse Readathon. Spontaneously and rather foolishly. It will start in a little less than 3 hours, at 2 a.m. my time. When I will most likely be in bed, I am really tired already! Well, maybe…. I just started a batch of sourdough bread and need to do another two stretch-and-folds. Anyway… I can read a bit in the morning. In the afternoon I am at a birthday party and I might be there quite a long time. Maybe more reading in the last hours of the readathon. I will definitely not be around a lot for this one. We‘ll see!

More about this readathon here: WHAT IS DEWEY’S 24-HOUR READ-A-THON? | Important Links

I feel a little lost, actually, as I haven‘t done any of the preppy things. Oh well, I will check in when I can. And I will set up my timer to keep at least some kind of track of my reading. There is a bingo card for updates to Instagram…

Current bookstack:

Paper: Tietjen auf Tour: Warum Camping mich glücklich macht by Bettina TietjenYes, we camp! Well, I don‘t actually. But I like the author, a German TV journalist and talk show host.

Audio #1: Babylon’s Ashes (The Expanse, #6) by James S.A. Corey — re-read of the Expanse series.

Audio #2: Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1) by Ann Leckie — re-read

eBook #1: Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora (ebook) by Zelda Knight

eBook #2: Widdershins (Whyborne & Griffin #1) by Jordan L. Hawk

Graphic novel: Gideon Falls, Vol. 1: The Black Barn (Kindle Edition) by Jeff Lemire

Top Ten Tuesday and what made me want to read those books…

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 / August 3: Titles or Covers That Made Want to Read/Buy the Book

Tricky. I mainly pick up books that are recommended to me by my reading buddies. Or books by favourite authors, never mind the cover or title. But I will have a look at my want-to-read list and see if I can recall what triggered my interest.

And What Can We Offer You Tonight by Premee Mohamed

I picked up this novella on Netgalley. I honestly can‘t remember why I chose it, but assume that the cover pulled me in and then the title. Because the blurb is not grabbing me right now.

In a far future city, where you can fall to a government cull for a single mistake, And What Can We Offer You Tonight tells the story of Jewel, established courtesan in a luxurious House. Jewel’s world is shaken when her friend is murdered by a client, but somehow comes back to life. To get revenge, they will both have to confront the limits of loyalty, guilt, and justice.

Sentient by Jeff Lemire

I went looking for comics written by Jeff Lemire, because I like him and want to work on his backlist. Here the title drew me in. I like SF about AI and this title suggest that something slightly unusual might have reached sentience and that offers unusual options…

When a separatist attack kills the adults on board a colony ship in deep space, the on-board A.I. VALARIE must help the ship’s children survive the perils of space.

Nemo Vol. 1: Heart of Ice by Alan Moore

Here I was looking for comics set underwater. I have a thing for anything underwater, from documentaries about the deep sea to cheesy creature features involving Megalodon. I definitely picked this one for the title. Captain Nemo is a classic. I don‘t expect this to follow Jules Verne, but who knows.

It’s 1925, fifteen years after the death of Captain Nemo, when his daughter Janni Dakkar launches a grand Antarctic expedition to lay the old man’s burdensome legacy to rest.

Oh yes, I have a thing for cheesy creature features set in Antarctica as well. Or adventure novels. That clinched the deal.

Goldilocks by Laura Lam

Definitely the title. A planet in the Goldilocks Zone is in a distance to the sun, where conditions are just right for human habitation. So, an SF about colonization? Or finding a new home for humanity… Instant winner.

This is The Martian by way of The Handmaid’s Tale – a bold and thought-provoking new high-concept thriller

Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Granted, I added this to my list, because it‘s Adrien Tchaikovsky. But isn‘t the cover pretty? And doesn‘t the title remind you of some awesome MMORPG?

In Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Elder Race, a junior anthropologist on a distant planet must help the locals he has sworn to study to save a planet from an unbeatable foe.

Below by Ryan Lockwood

Title again. I did mention my fascination with all things underwater and creature features, right?

Now, off the coast of California, something is rising from the deep–and multiplying. Voracious, unstoppable, and migrating north, an ungodly life form trailed by a gruesome wake of corpses. 

The Audacity of Sara Grayson by Joani Elliott

Title again. I seem to be a title person. How audacious of me!

What happens when the world’s greatest literary icon dies before she finishes the final book in her best-selling series?
 
And what happens when she leaves that book in the hands of her unstable, neurotic daughter, who swears she’s not a real writer?

Sounds like fun, right?

The Night Marchers and Other Oceanian Stories by Kel McDonald

Another comic. And… yes, there‘s an ocean in the title…

Ghostly warriors, angry gods, and monstrous tyrants? That’s just the start of this collection of folklore from the Pacific, retold in comics! 

We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen

This really was a recommendation by someone in my buddy reading group. The title piqued my interest and the cover sealed the deal. It‘s simple at fist glance, but very stylish. And then you notice those rock spires curving in, looking like claws. Hm…

This psychological sci-fi thriller from a debut author follows one doctor who must discover the source of her crew’s madness… or risk succumbing to it herself.

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

Not sure how I ended up with this one, but I imagine that the cover drew me in… plus it has a very lyrical title.

The cleric Chih finds themself and their companions at the mercy of a band of fierce tigers who ache with hunger. To stay alive until the mammoths can save them, Chih must unwind the intricate, layered story of the tiger and her scholar lover—a woman of courage, intelligence, and beauty—and discover how truth can survive becoming history.

So, that was more or less the last 10 books and comics that I added to my list and haven‘t actually read yet. Does anything here tempt you?

My stop is here…

One Last Stop
by Casey McQuiston

The blurb reminded me of Kate & Leopold, the movie that put Hugh Jackman on my radar as an actor. After reading the first three chapters, I put the book away. Not bad, but I couldn‘t work up much interest. August (Kate) mets Jane (Leopold) in the subway and eventually realizes that something fishy is going on, namely that Jane is from the 1970s. Nice idea, I‘m just not feeling it. DNF for now, around 19% and 70-odd pages. It‘s probably me.

P.S.: I really liked her previous book, Red, White & Royal Blue.

The Left Hand of Darkness
by Ursula K. Le Guin

“What Earthsea and the Hainish Cycle have in common is maximal impact with minimal page count.”

From the ebook introduction

After reading the first three chapters, I put this away, as I wasn‘t having fun with it. When this was published in 1969, it might have been a groundbreaking work. Now, after having read my share of gender-bending novels, this felt dated to me. The writing is dry, the style is not engaging me. Little plot progression, no exploration of the characters, to whom I felt absolutely no emotional connection.

It‘s probably also not quite what I was expecting. I read the blurb and thought „genderless society, lots of commentary and exploration about their personal interactions and divergence compared to our society“, but none of that happened in the first 60 pages.

The topic of loyalty and betrayal could have introduced more tension, but was told just as blandly. By the time I reached the supposedly more interesting part of their travel North, I had lost my will to continue. I am not interested to keep on going in the hopes of more.

One thing that irritated me deeply: The characters are all genderless, with brief exceptions of their „kemmer“, aka fertile periods / their Time / heat. Yet they are all being referred to as „he“. Which wouldn’t necessarily be an issue—Leckie does the same thing in reverse in her Imperial Radch novels and I had no issue with it. Maybe that makes me a hypocrite, I am not sure. I plan to re-read Ancilliary Justice this year, so I will pay more attention to that. However, when descriptions were made of someone appearing or behaving feminine in some way (irritating in itself), it was always with a negative slant. Maybe the point was to show how strange the situation was for the narrator, but it just made me dislike the book deeply. Why do female authors do that?

Another strange point was the narrator not seeming to be interested in what was going on in the society he was supposed to get to know. Odd. 

Maybe I should have expected something slow and not obvious, considering that this was first published in 1969. This reminded me of Foreigner, which was also a book of only middling success for me. I guess in the future I should just stay away from the SF Classics.

DNF around 20%. No impact in too many pages. I might revisit this review or the book again at some point.

Award Winning Authors for the Reading Writers of Color Challenge

I don‘t usually freak out about the end of the month coming, but July got away from me. I read good stuff, it was much better than June, but I did not manage to catch up… For my #ReadBIPOC2021 challenge I barely glanced at my pick for July, which was all about a collection or anthology. The main prompt leaned towards poetry, but I went for a short story collection from my TBR pile. My plan was to read:

Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora (ebook).

I will get to it eventually and probably post updates after each story.

The challenge for August is this:

Celebrating Award Winning Authors for the Reading Writers of Color Challenge.

And for my books on my TBR shelf (owned books) that gives me these choices:

In a futuristic world ravaged by global warming, people have lost the ability to dream, and the dreamlessness has led to widespread madness. The only people still able to dream are North America’s Indigenous people, and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world.

Literary Awards: Sunburst Award for Young Adult (2018)American Indian Youth Literature Award for Best Young Adult Book (Honor Book) (2018)Governor General’s Literary Awards / Prix littéraires du Gouverneur général for Traduction (de l’anglais vers le français) by Madeleine Stratford (2019) and for Young People’s Literature — Text (2017)CBC Canada Reads Nominee (2018)Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature (2017)

Ella and Kev are brother and sister, both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by structural racism and brutality. Their futures might alter the world. When Kev is incarcerated for the crime of being a young black man in America, Ella—through visits both mundane and supernatural—tries to show him the way to a revolution that could burn it all down.

Literary Award: Alex Award (2021) — there was a ton of nominations for other awards, which this did not win…

In this epic saga of magic and kungfu, four siblings battle rival clans for honor and power in an Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis.

Literary Awards: World Fantasy Award for Best Novel (2018)Prix Aurora Award for Best Novel (English) (2018)

Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless – people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumoured healing powers.

Literary Awards: Arthur C. Clarke Award (2019)Nommo Award for Best Novel (The Ilube Award) (2017)

Dystopia, gender and some genius

Sorry for the long break since the last post! Busy at work, tired and lazy in the evenings. TV ruled my week, mostly with watching all available episodes of Genius on Disney+.

Both Einstein and Picasso were ok. Einstein had some historical inaccuracies. Banderas as Picasso was surprising. I enjoyed the two available episodes of Aretha. The third one should be available now and I‘m pretty sure I‘ll watch it tonight.

I am reading, but very little—I seem to be in a bit of a slump after reading a lot during my recent holiday. I am making slow progress with my current choices, although I don‘t really feel engaged. For now I am giving you a blast from the past, prompted by the blog post of someone else

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere #1) — audiobook, listened to it in 2017
by Meg Elison (Goodreads Author),  Angela Dawe (Narrator) 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Philip K. Dick Award (2015)James Tiptree Jr. Award Nominee for Longlist (2014)

In the days when the world had not yet fallen, the screaming of sirens was constant. The structures that still held were the ones designed to cope with emergency and disaster, but none of them could work indefinitely. Desperation moved block by block, and people fought and fled.

Beginning of first chapter

Excellent. 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 has 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. 

From chapter eight onwards there are other POVs strewn in, which I found a little jarring at first. But they give a good overview of the fates of some of the people she meets on her way and of the world in general.

This was one of the best books I read (listend) to in 2017.

The narrator did a smashing job. The various characters have very distinct voices and she brings a lot of emotions into it. I would definitely get other books narrated by her.

The Book of Etta (The Road to Nowhere, #2) — read in 2018
by Meg Elison

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Make me. I was made. I made me.

What a great book. Deliverance meets Priscilla, Queen of the Desert meets Mad Max meets the end of the world. This deserves every price and award it was nominated for (Philip K. Dick Award Nominee (2018)). I was unsure if I even wanted to read this, after liking Unnamed Midwife so much. But this is probably even better.

The different towns with their varied societies—how fascinating. Awesome world building. There are so many plot bunnies for so many books here. So imaginative.

And horrible. At some points of the story I did not want to continue reading, because I dreaded what was coming next. The plot is like a train crash.

Loved the genderqueerness. Nonjudgmental exploration of what is or can be. The interactions between Flora and Eddy were great. But apparently we never learn. We just find new and different ways of screwing it up.

Not sure what to make of the seemingly supernatural character towards the end. A little too surreal. The only part of the novel that I did not like and that probably has the potential to ruin the book for some people. Besides that, I thought this book was bloody brilliant. Loved it.

“I give birth to guns. I bleed bullets. I was born to destroy men. Like you.”

The Book of Flora (The Road to Nowhere, #3) — read in 2019
by Meg Elison

Rating: 2 out of 5.

„Let’s see what I can grow into, see how long it takes me to reach the light.“

The first three chapters were not an easy read. First Flora‘s pretty horrible childhood and then Ommun and Alma—I am not a fan of her. This book was fighting an uphill battle to make me like it from the start.

Reading this back to back with Book of Etta would probably have work well. I struggled to place everybody, as it was a while since I had read Etta and the author made no effort to explain things.

After picking this up and putting it down for 3 weeks and not even making it halfway, I declared defeat. I did not like any of the characters. I didn‘t care what happened next. I didn‘t like the plot. I can‘t put my finger on why it didn‘t. Maybe it was me. Perhaps I expected too much. I don‘t know, was the plot too aimless? The characters all remained very one-dimensional as well. How can the two books be so great and this one…. not.

First Line Friday — Space, Egypt and New York…

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 have three buddy reads planned for June.

The Left Hand of Darkness
by Ursula K. Le Guin

I’LL MAKE MY REPORT AS IF I TOLD A STORY, FOR I WAS taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination.

First line

I started this four days ago and have managed the first three chapters, which brought me to page 53. It’s not doing much for me so far. I spent yesterday reading fanfiction rather than continuing this.

The writing is good, but the style is not engaging me. It‘s probably also not quite what I was expecting. I read the blurb and thought „genderless society, lots of commentary and exploration about their personal interactions and divergence compared to our society“, but so far I only met guys talking politics. And the main character, who I thought was an ambassador, comes across as someone mostly not really interested in what is going on. Odd.

Ok, maybe I should have expected something slow and not obvious, considering that this was first published in 1969. So far this reminds me of Foreigner, which was also a book of only middling success for me. I will read something else and then return to this later this month.

Next up, I guess, is this:

One Last Stop (Kindle Edition)
by Casey McQuiston

SEEKING YOUNG SINGLE ROOMMATE FOR 3BR APARTMENT UPSTAIRS, 6TH FLOOR. $700/MO. MUST BE QUEER & TRANS FRIENDLY. MUST NOT BE AFRAID OF FIRE OR DOGS. NO LIBRAS, WE ALREADY HAVE ONE. CALL NIKO.

Header above chapter 1

I just read the first two pages and this sounds like a much better read for my long weekend, sitting on my balcony with a cold glass of white wine… it also fits well into this LGBTQ+ and Pride Month.

Last but not least I will read:

A Master of Djinn (Dead Djinn, #1)
by P. Djèlí Clark

Fatma blinked at the tirade. Of all the djinn these two had to go and wake up, it had to be a bigot.

From the teaser posted at the beginning

Oh, this will be fun! I just had a peek at the first page and then had to forcibly remove myself from the book a page or two later, to finish this post. Promising! And not looking good for Ursula Le Guin…

First Line Friday — Elatsoe

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 am currently reading an ebook; I am about halfway with it. I also started an audiobook and a comic. Here are first lines of all three of them:

Elatsoe (ebook)
by Darcie Little Badger

ELLIE BOUGHT THE LIFE-SIZED plastic skull at a garage sale (the goth neighbors were moving to Salem, and they could not fit an entire Halloween warehouse into their black van).

First line, chapter one

Yes, it‘s Young Adult, not my favourite genre. But it looked interesting. And while I‘m not biting my nails, the story is not bad and the writing is good. More background on the world this is set in would be nice. Essentially it‘s UF/magical realism, set in our place and time, with ghosts, vampires and fae added to the mix. My favourite gadget: instant teleportation via fae ring.

I would like to finish this weekend, but I have plans in real life, so it‘s doubtful. I also started the next audiobook in my re-read of The Expanse:

Nemesis Games (Expanse, #5)
by James S.A. Corey (Goodreads Author),  Jefferson Mays (Narrator) 

The twin shipyards of Callisto stood side by side on the hemisphere of the moon that faced permanently away from Jupiter.

First sentence of the prologue

This is my review from 2018:

Fabulous. I think I have a new favourite in the Expanse series! 5 stars with a cherry on top. Some slight spoilers ahead…

All about Holden, Naomi, Alex and Amos, instead of the usual introduction of a new host of characters never to be seen again. 

And Bobby is back! And Avasarala, potty-mouth and all.

This is like pure gold for the fans of the series. No distractions of getting to know other characters or slowly diving into a complicated storyline. Just our favourite crew, with their odd-ball humour, trying to survive against mounting odds in a pretty straight forward action adventure story. Don’t get me wrong, the other books with their conspiracies, aliens, universe-spanning plots and amazing world building were fun, too. But this was a great joy ride in its straight forwardness and relative simplicity. And the action, twists and turns kept coming right from the start. I wanted to take breaks between chapters, but I just couldn’t, I was having too much fun…

My favourite stories were those of Amos and Naomi. Holden’s was fun, too, but more of a filler. Alex’s story interested me the least. Each of those plots easily could have been the basis for full novels of their own. 

Waiting till next month for my fellow buddy readers to pick up the next book of the series is going to be hard…

P.S.: Reading the short story The Churn beforehand is recommended, it gives background on Amos Burton’s youth and characters that are relevant to this story arc.

And the comic I just loaded via Kindle Unlimited:

The Swords of Glass, Vol. 3: Tigran (Kindle Edition)
by Sylviane Corgiat

Very nice artwork in the first two volumes! It‘s been a while since I read them, so my memory of the plot is a little vague, but we‘ll see…