Top Ten Tuesday

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.

This Week’s Topic: New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2020. Create your own top ten (or 2, 5, 20, etc.)… Feel free to put a unique spin on the topic to make it work for you! 

Well, I am done with looking at my reading from 2020 and generally try to use memes to find a more interesting way of posting my backlog to this blog. So, how about new-to-me authors that got 5 stars from me, regardless of the year I read them in (and with reviews that I haven‘t posted here yet…).

  1. Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris, read in 2003

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. This, by the way, is the author of “Chocolat“.

2. Married with Zombies (Living with the Dead, #1) by Jesse Petersen, read in 2012

Great fun. Don’t let the zombies get your brains. If you liked the film Zombieland, this is for you. I already read the second book of the series and it was so-so. This time around I liked two main characters much better. Classic plot — outbreat, lots of gore, shooting, biting, brains and running. Don’t expext any deep thoughts.

3. iZombie, Vol. 1: Dead to the World by Chris Roberson (Author),  Mike Allred (Illustrator),  Laura Allred (Colorist),  Todd Klein (Letterer), read in 2018

I really like the artwork. No, I love it. The further I got into this, the more I liked it. I could just stop myself from getting the next volume, while I was still reading this one. I compromised, it’s on my wishlist. It didn‘t help that there were some teasers at the end of this volume. Grrrr.

The characters are spot-on anatomically and consistent, the women (mostly) don‘t look like bimbos, the guys (mostly) look like nerds, I really like the colour work as well… it‘s refreshing.

On top of that there is a good plot with a decent set-up, excellent humour and nice world building somewhere in the middle. I was sucked into the story right away. And I want to continue so much. But first I need to read a ton of other comics… I joined up at comiXology. I am so doomed! Who mentioned this website anyway? You are fired!

Did I mention that I really like the artwork? 5 stars with brains on top.

4. Regeneration (Regeneration, #1) by Pat Barker, read in 1995

The Regeneration Trilogy: I read these books in the late ’90s, after Ghost Road was first published. I was in love with the British war poets of WWI at the time and this fit right in. I don’t remember many details, but these books were great reads. Very athmospheric, accessible and captivating main characters, I suffered with them every step of the way.

P.S.: The movie is also very good.

5. First Contact (In Her Name: The Last War, #1) by Michael R. Hicks, read in 2012

Great space opera with epic battles. Great pacing, a lot of suspense, very graphic, believable, hard to put down. 

A little confusing at times: The multitude of characters. Sometimes I had to go back a page or so to remind myself from whose perspective the story is being told. But eventually, as I got deeper into the plot, it stopped being an issue.

The characters are well drawn and believable. They are also interesting and not one-dimensional at all. I wouldn’t mind meeting some of them in real life. Even the aliens aren’t just the big, evil monsters, but actual personalities.

6. Three Days to Dead (Dreg City, #1) by Kelly Meding, read in 2010

My reason for choosing this book: The blurp recommending it on the front cover was by Patricia Briggs.

Geat fun! I almost read it in a day. The next one of the series is out already and I will definitely get it. 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.

7. All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1) by Martha Wells, read in 2017

This was fun, especially the inner monologue of our Murderbot. 

In just 160 pages the author managed to build a believable world with lively and varied characters and an entertaining plot. This is a winner!

And in their corner all they had was Murderbot, who just wanted everyone to shut up and leave it alone so it could watch the entertainment feed all day.

That could be me on any given day. 

Lots of potential. Is Murderbot a real person or not? The awkwardness of the crew, trying to figure out the correct way of interacting with Murderbot, once they realized that perhaps there is a person behind that opaque faceplate, was pretty priceless. 

And Murderbot’s horror at their attempts to interact! Talking to the humans! And feelings, oh no! 

I tried not to assign a gender to Murderbot. I don’t want to use “it” as a personal pronoun and I am not a fan of “they”. Tricky. I am leaning towards using “him”, not quite sure why. Well, actually, because I pictured him as the android in the Prometheus movies, aka Michael Fassbender.

8. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, read in the early 1980s

I read this in my early teens, several times. And then I read a ton of other horse-related YA novels. I guess it is a phase all reading girls go through, same as playing with Barbie dolls. I loved it very much.

9. Dragonclaw (The Witches of Eileanan, # 1) by Kate Forsyth, read in 2005

Well drawn characters, good story telling, started the second book immediately after putting this one down. The only thing that annoyed me – the characters speak with a Scottish accent. I found that very distracting, but got used to it eventually. I had one of my Scottish work colleagues read out some passages to me one day, which was pretty funny….


Pretty eclectic list of the ages, from my teens to now…

October Wrap-up

BR novels:
– Monstress, Vol. 5, comic, ★★★★★, siege of a city, war, revelations about the past. This was good, although different to the previous ones. More of an ensemble cast and more focused on setting up the scene for that siege and the war that will probably pick up speed in the next volume.
– Dragonquest, paper, ★★★★★, fun 2nd Dragonriders book. Fire-lizards! I enjoyed this a lot and it was much better than I remembered it.
– The Only Good Indians, audio, ★★☆☆☆, revenge, indigenous people, hunting. Carry-over from last month. There were some good parts in this. Some of it I even liked. It just didn‘t come together well. 
– The Ministry for the Future: A Novel, ebook, Netgalley, ★★☆☆☆, DNF at 56%, climatefic, too little plot, more a collection of essays, too much economics, blockchain, weird surrealistic meta-fic somethings. The plot that was there, I liked. The rest bored me silly.

Ongoing BR:
– The Doors of Eden, audio, featured BR, 6 hours left, will finish in November… Good so far, I like it. Tchaikovsky writes well and is great at world-building. I have to get to his back catalogue one of these days.

Planned BR, but didn‘t read:
– The Butterfly Garden, ebook, didn‘t manage to squeeze it in and after reading a friend‘s review I am not sure if I want to. Postponed.

Solo reads:
– Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory, short, ★★★★☆, intermezzo for Mensah and Murderbot 
– Shakespeare’s Sonnets, poetry, ★★★★☆, read-along with Sir Pat on Instagram.
– BLAME! Vol. 4, manga, ★★★★☆, fighting and exploring the megastructure.

Plans for November:

BR novels:
– The White Dragon — started already! Fun!
– Phoenix Extravagant, netgalley 
– Conventionally Yours, netgalley — romance readers
– Great Expectations, read-along on wordpress — this will be postponed, month tbc

Aftermath…

Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory (The Murderbot Diaries #4.5)
by Martha Wells (Goodreads Author) 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Takes place before Network Effect. I had to look that up, because I honestly remember little of the novellas or the novel. High time for a re-read, apparently.

It feels unfinished. Just a small plot bunny with some editing mistakes. But it was nice. I liked it. Told from Mensah‘s POV, seeing Murderbot from the outside, but really struggling with her internal landscape after the events of the last novella. Unusual! For fans…

Can be found here: https://www.shortstory.club/assets/ma…

Books I am looking forward to in 2021…

I try not to buy too many new books. Therefore I tend to avoid all these lists of upcoming books or just have a very quick glance at them, but refuse to add anything to my want-to-read-pile. I dream of the day, when I have no books piling up on my kindle or my living room table… Alas, I have middling success. Here are a few books I want to read in 2021. It’s a pretty short list, yay!

GRAPHIC NOVEL

Black Magick, Vol. 3: Ascension (Paperback)
by Greg Rucka

Expected publication: February 2nd 2021 by Image Comics

The black-and-white artwork of the first two volumes was excellent. Beautifully drawn, rich details, just very nice. The story was good and has lots of potential.

URBAN FANTASY

Blood Heir (Aurelia Ryder, #1)
by Ilona Andrews (Goodreads Author) 

Expected publication: January 12th 2021 by NYLA

From award-winning author, Ilona Andrews, an all-new novel set in the New York Times #1 bestselling Kate Daniels World and featuring Julie Lennart-Olsen, Kate and Curran’s ward. 

I refrained from reading this on IA‘s website, aka the weekly serialized chapters. In fact, I think that is still ongoing. The fact that there is no cover artwork yet makes me feel a little dubious about the planned publishing date of January 2021… And I am wondering if Julie will be as good as the original Kate Daniels stories.

Wild Sign (Alpha & Omega, #6)
by Patricia Briggs

Expected publication: March 16th 2021 by Amazon Digital Services

Mated werewolves Charles Cornick and Anna Latham must discover what could make an entire community disappear—before it’s too late

I have been reading the Mercy Thompson books and this spin-off for years. It is still one of my favourite UF series, almost as loved as Ilona Andrews‘ Kate Daniels series. I actually spent the first few months of this year with re-reading all of these books in preparation for a new release of the main series.

SCIENCE FICTION

A Desolation Called Peace (Teixcalaan, #2)
by Arkady Martine (Goodreads Author)

Expected publication: March 2nd 2021 by Tor Books

An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, …

I really liked the first book and I can‘t wait to find out what Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass are going to face in this sequel to A Memory Called Empire.

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries, #6)
by Martha Wells (Goodreads Author) 

Expected publication: April 27th 2021 by Tor.com

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

What can I say… Instabuy! Although the last installment dragged a bit in the middle…

Untitled (The Expanse, #9)
by James S.A. Corey (Goodreads Author) 

The much awaited 9th and final installment of The Expanse series.

Oh boy, oh boy. No proper cover yet, no title yet and no publishing date… O.o <— that‘s my anxious face. It will be the end of an era… and if we‘re unlucky, it might not even happen in 2021… who knows!? Meep.

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

One Last Stop (Hardcover)
by Casey McQuiston (Goodreads Author) 

Expected publication: May 6th 2021 by Piatkus

From the New York Times bestselling author of Red, White & Royal Blue comes a new romantic comedy that puts a queer spin on Kate & Leopold.

I really liked Red, White & Royal Blue. And Kate & Leopold is a fun movie…

Murderbot strikes again…

I apologize for my lack of updates, but this book catapulted me into a reading slump…

Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries, #5)
by Martha Wells

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The first, novel-length Murderbot, with the return of a beloved character from the second novella.

“Surely they won’t suspect anything,” Ratthi was saying to the others at the bulk dock. “Who runs around with a friendly rogue SecUnit? Besides us, I mean.”

I liked (parts of) this book, but I definitely did not love it. It took me 11 days to get through this, because I kept putting it down and had no interest in picking it up again.

I enjoyed the beginning and the last third of this, but the middle part dragged a lot. There was plenty of „she did this, he did that and then she did that and he discussed this…“, which made for some very boring reading. Too much telling and showing, too little doing. Add to that a convoluted plot with many details that just did not get explored sufficiently. 

Perhaps this would have worked better as a novella, same as the other stories. Did Wells take her usual story and blow it up with chaff to reach novel length, is that what this was? It felt long and slow, with a lot of hot air.

The beginning was good, I was practically giddy about finally picking up a longer version of Murderbot and getting a deeper look at its development as a sentient being with free will and burgeoning relationships with Dr. Mensah and its other humans. That did not happen.

The initial giddiness turned into pronounced disinterest very quickly and I kept putting this down to read fanfiction instead. The middle part just dragged immensely and was so full of filler, I actually skimmed many paragraphs of introspective musings and too little value to the story (for me, at least).

The plot progression was entirely too slow for me and too contrived. The exploration of Murderbot‘s personal relationships was too superficial.

I was bored and did not care (yes, I get bored easily at the moment, blame it on Quarantine Brain™️). On top of that I thought the Targets were silly and not explored enough. All the superfluos detail elsewhere should maybe have been invested here.

However, in the last third of the book interesting things happened and I was immediately intrigued and hooked. I enjoyed that part and it elevated the book to three stars for me.

The ending was a very obvious set-up for the next book, which I already ordered, despite this not so stellar review. 

Whilst this probably works as a standalone, I would recommend reading these novellas/books in publishing order for maximum enjoyment.

Further reading:

Martha Wells on Reading Recommendations and Murderbot’s Favorite Media

Short, unfinished, but sweet

Compulsory (The Murderbot Diaries, #0.5)Compulsory by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“IT’S NOT LIKE I haven’t thought about killing the humans since I hacked my governor module. But then I started exploring the company servers and discovered hundreds of hours of downloadable entertainment media, and I figured, what’s the hurry? I can always kill the humans after the next series ends.“

Fun, too short… maybe a deleted scene from the first novella? Plot bunny? Can‘t wait for that full-length novel!

Can be read for free here: https://www.wired.com/story/future-of…

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My 2018

2018 on Goodreads

2018 on Goodreads by Various

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I read a lot of short stories and novellas this year. I used to say anything under 300 pages is not worth reading, when I was still a booksnob. Apparently I changed my mind!

All Systems Red and all of it‘s sequels were part of that shorts & novellas adventure.

Other favourites were for example The Lady Astronaut of Mars and Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience, plus all of the short story and novella nominees for the 2018 Hugo Awards.

I also read a lot of online magazins, like Clarkesworld and Lightspeed Magazine. But also Tor.com provided a ton of material.

Comics also became a large part of my reading enjoyment, partly to blame on comiXology and their devilish sales. My favourite comic series, all caught up to the latest issue:
Saga, Vol. 1 and Lazarus, Vol. 1: Family

And we had the end of an era with the final Kate Daniels novel, Magic Triumphs! Luckily Ilona Andrews is working hard on writing other fun stuff, for example Iron and Magic.

I still listen to audiobooks, but I am pretty ambivalent to the experience. If I have the time, I rather read than listen. I keep missing too many nuances, when listening. And I can’t sit motionless and listen, it just makes me sleepy. Listening so far has always been a substitute, when I couldn‘t sit and read. Maybe I need to pick up long walks as a hobby…

One of my favourite audiobooks in 2018 was Blue Remembered Earth. Not because of Alastair Reynolds—I specifically picked this book, because it is narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith. A god amongst audiobook narrators! Ok, the book was good as well…

I found Kobna through listening to the most fun series I read in 2018: Peter Grant and Rivers of London. Hail to London‘s most entertaining wizard! Harry Potter in a police procedural for grown-ups and a lot of fun. Plus I get to go back to my beloved London, where I lived for four years and that is still sorely missed.

I am starting the year 2019 with reading the first volume of the accompanying comic, Rivers of London – Body Work #1.

My most conflicting relationship with an author in 2018 was with Dan Simmons. Ilium netted five stars for it‘s sheer inventiveness, although I struggled with the minutiae of the writing. The sequel, Olympos, ended up as a DNF, because the crazy amount of details and neverending bla-bla-bla of not getting on with the plot superseded the inventiveness. Strike three was The Abominable. I had fun with the mountain climbing descriptions, but the story did not do much for me, was incorrectly labelled as horror and just dragged insufferably. Done, thanks!

My love of all things underwater brought me to the very good Starfish and Into the Drowning Deep, but also to the incredibly pulpy Meg. Embarassingly bad, politically incorrect, sexist, but fun. I even read the sequel… The movie wasn‘t much better, but had Jason Statham in it. Your argument is invalid.

And although I still (mostly) continued my Urban Fantasy hiatus, Vigil proved to be a highly entertaining break from said hiatus and was a fun tour of Brisbane.

Other favourites:
Summerland Nemesis Games The Book of Etta Dichronauts Unholy Land Burn Bright The Calculating Stars Shifting Dreams

I had an excellent reading year and I hope I will discover many more fun books in 2019!

+++
Some potentially boring statistics, aka my tally for 2018:

January – 2105 pgs
February – 1652 pgs
March – 2730 pgs
April – 1250 pgs
May – 3111 pgs
June – 2693 pgs
July – 2940 pgs
August – 2480 pgs
September – 2080 pgs
October – 1761 pgs
November – 1537 pgs
December – 2378 pgs

My page count is allover the place! The lowest month was April with 1250 pages, the highest May with 3111.

Daily average: 73 pages
Weekly average: 514 pages
Monthly average: 2.226 pages
Total page count: 26.717 pages


According to My Year in Books according to Goodreads I read over 32.000 pages. Not sure where that figure comes from, I am guessing some of it is from DNFs. That‘s only 9 books though, so… shrugs



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And now we wait for 2020!

Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries, #4)Exit Strategy by Martha Wells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“WHEN I GOT BACK to HaveRatton Station, a bunch of humans tried to kill me. Considering how much I’d been thinking about killing a bunch of humans, it was only fair.“

If I hadn‘t been so tired last night, I would have read this in one sitting. Very good. Not as fast paced as the last one, a little lighter on humour, but still full of the expected snark and eye-rolling. Nice ending to this story arc. It lacked a little of the suspense and tension of the previous novellas in my opinion, but it was still very good.

The ending took me by surprise, it seemed a little abrupt (well, I would have happily continued for another 50 pages). However, it is a fitting set-up for the full-length novel that seems to be in the works. I am looking forward to a full novel (expected to be published in 2020, sigh!), expanding on Murderbot‘s relationship with its first family and friends from All Systems Red. That is what I am rooting for, anyway.

Have a look at this article over on Tor (Spoilers!), which I got from a goodreads friend:
https://www.tor.com/2018/10/02/book-r…

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Sassy bot is back

Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries, #3)Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I tried hard to keep this free of spoilers, but I might have failed a little.

“There needs to be an error code that means ‘I received your request but decided to ignore you.‘“
Sassy bot is back! This newest novella is full of increasing levels of snark, sarcasm and mental eye rolls by one of the most engaging AIs I have met so far.

“Who knew being a heartless killing machine would present so many moral dilemmas.“
Murderbot is still struggling with… emerging emotions? Becoming more human? Trying and failing to understand those pesky humans? And really getting fed up with pretending to be one.

I really liked Murderbot‘s interactions with other bots, from remembering and missing ART to meeting transport bots that are either too demanding or too simple and unaware to present adequate sparring partners.

I really liked the combat bots, too. Wells painted a great picture with her description of them. And how smart to put the main processing units where they are. Makes perfect sense.

“I hate caring about stuff. But apparently once you start, you can‘t just stop.“
As if hacking yourself and running away isn‘t bad enough, now there is also caring for pesky humans (again!) and their pets.

Miki was an interesting addition. Not as fun as ART, but a great exploration of where intelligence can take you and how treatment by others can shape your personality. Nature or nurture. And envy and anger. Murderbot is learning more every day.

Great addition to the series, can‘t wait for the next one and I am really looking forward to the full-length novel!

I received this free, uncorrected digital galley from Tor via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much!

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It‘s scary to be conscious and have free will…

Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries, #2)Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A quick read. Which annoys me even more considering the ridiculously high price of the ebook. I even considered docking a star of the rating for that, but it wouldn‘t be fair to the story.

It was good, but not as good as the first installment. I found it a bit thinner on plot and suspense, although I liked the way our murderbot keeps exploring its non-humanity. The addition of ART was fun. The bad guy was not very bad or scary. Regardless, I read it in two sittings and I am craving more. Good entertainment.

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