Think of something cold….

Antarctica: Life on the Frozen Continent
by Conor Kilgallon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

East Antarctica, West Antarctica, Islands, Wildlife—each part of this book shows a different part on Antarctica, prefaced by a short text describing the specifics of that geographic region or chapter.

There are photographs of icebergs, sea ice, mountain ranges, ice shelves, quite a few penguins, seals and various signs of human exploration and habitation. Climate change makes a brief appearance as well, obviously. If the Ross ice shelf melts (the largest ice shelf in Antarctica), sea levels worldwide would rise by 15 meters. Scary thought. Generally this book focuses on the (still) beautiful aspects of our southernmost continent though.


My favourites were the photos showing wildlife, but there were a lot of stunning photos of icebergs, too.


A nice tabletop book for lovers of Antarctica and stark sceneries of ice, sea and sky.


I received an advanced copy of this book from Amber Books Ltd. through NetGalley. All opinions are my own and I was not required to give a positive review. I read a pdf for review purposes, only physical books will be sold.

February 2022 Wrap-up

Here is my February 2022. My page count is a bit lower this month, due to some distracting family issues. I couldn‘t concentrate on new stories and reverted to comfort re-reading quite a lot of older fanfiction early in the month, which I don‘t really track.

Empire of Wild ★★★★☆, ebook, TBR, slow burning horror, indigenous folklore about a Rogarou.
– Iterum ★★★★☆, Stargate Atlantis fanfic, McShep, re-read / comfort reading — and a ton of other Spirk and McShep fanfiction!
– Bots of The Lost Ark in Clarkesworld Magazine #177, June 2021 ★★★★☆, online novelette, bots run amok, aliens threaten, ship and humans need to be saved, little bot to the rescue.
Interview with the Vampire ★★★★☆, ebook, re-read after 30 years or so. Slow start, but re-discovered so many details that I had forgotten. Ultimately rewarding.
– Shadecraft #1 ★★★★★, eComic, online for free at Image Comics, YA, Zadie is being chased by shadows… good artwork.
Fire and Ice: The Volcanoes of the Solar System ★★★★☆, audio, non-fiction, entertaining tour through our solar system and a fascinating look at volcanoes.
– Saga #56 ★★★★★, eComic
– Wikihistory ★★★★☆, short story, online, amusing piss-take on time travel and Wikipedia.
– The Legacy by R.A. Salvatore ★★★¾☆ ebook, TBR / StoryGraphReading Randomizer February #1, dark elves and dwarves battling it out in a lot of deep tunnels.
– An Easy Job ★★★★☆, short story, online, prequel to Sinew and Steel and What They Told

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six (ongoing):
– SCAR TISSUE by Tobias S. Buckell – human MC fosters a robot. Is the mind just bolted into its carriage or the sum of a whole? And what does it mean to be raised and to learn from experience? Sweet story, I got pretty emotional. ★★★★★
– EYES OF THE FOREST by Ray Nayler – scouts in an alien and dangerous forest, very cool concepts. ★★★★½
– SINEW AND STEEL AND WHAT THEY TOLD by Carrie Vaughn – Graff faked his medical records and something really awkward is going to come out. ★★★★¾

StoryGraph Reading Randomizer / backlog:
– The Solitaire Mystery, paper, TBR / February StoryGraph #2, have to see when I can fit this in…

Specfic Movies & TV watched:
– For All Mankind, S1, Eps. 1-5 ★★★★☆

Planned for March:
Ring Shout, audio, started…
Mickey7, ebook, Netgalley owned and running late
Ogres, ebook, pub date 15.03., Netgalley owned
The Complete Angel Catbird, Angel Catbird #1-3, Margaret Atwood, comic, owned
– Saga #57, pub date 23.03., pre-ordered
– StoryGraph #1 Even The Wingless
– StoryGraph #2 The Walking Dead, Vol. 17: Something to Fear

Volcanoes in Space

Fire and Ice: The Volcanoes of the Solar System by Natalie Starkey (Goodreads) (Narrator)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What a fascinating book! Have you ever considered that Earth might be the odd one out, because it has plate tectonics and the other planets in our solar system do not? Well, I certainly never did. The majority of our volcanoes, sitting above tectonic plates diverging from or converging with each other, are actually not really a typical phenomenon, if you broaden your reach beyond our planet. And that is only the start of the journey. This book gives you a great overview of the volcanoes on Earth and then takes you on a spin through our solar system and more unusual types of volcanoes, spewing all kinds of unexpected materials. In the process there is a lot to learn about planets, dwarf planets, asteroids, you name it…

I learned a lot, but have to confess that the constant info dump was a bit much at times. Still, it was a fascinating read and pretty entertaining.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the author. She did a good job. Here is a talk she gives about her book:

And her website with blog: https://www.nataliestarkey.com

My January 2022

And the first month of the year is over already! Here is what read, listened to and watched…

Activation Degradation ★★★★☆, audio, SF, not Murderbot, just ignore that. Different take on robots/cyborgs/AI.
Cursed ★★★★½, Alex Verus #2, ebook, UF, wizards in London battle it out, good fun.
Black Powder War ★★★☆☆, Temeraire #3, ebook, Fantasy, the way back from China to Europe over land, with stopovers in Istanbul and Prussia, set in 1806.
– Fruiting Bodies ★★★★★, short story, SF Horror, a little creepy.
– Life on Earth ★★★★☆, audio, TBR pile, David Attenborough narrates his book, natural history.
– The Sweet Rowan ★★★★¼, ebook, TBR, sweet Regency romance, set in Scotland, with a wee bit of magic.
– Saga #55 ★★★★☆, eComic, SF, finally back after three years of waiting.
– The Marrow Thieves ★★★☆☆, ebook, TBR, dystopian YA set in Canada. People have lost the power to dream, except for indigenous people, who are hunted for a cure.
– Tietjen auf Tour: Warum Camping mich glücklich macht, paper, DNF after 84 pages reading and skimming to 150 pages / 55%. Travel anecdotes, nice enough, but very repetitive.

Still reading, carry over into February:
Fire and Ice: The Volcanoes of the Solar System, audio. Fascinating!

Specfic Movies & TV watched:
– The Expanse, S6, Ep. 3-6 ★★★★☆ Season finished. They went off script quite a bit. Not sure yet how much I liked this.
– Foundation, S1, Ep. 4-10 ★★★★★ Season finished. Excellent!
– Venom ★★★¾☆ Entertaining and a little too silly.
– Kingdom, S1, Ep. 1-3 ★★★☆☆ Korean zombie series in a historical setting. Unintentionally funny at times. Different. The people in this have the survival instincts of gnats.

Some StoryGraph statistics:

(yes, the last and first page counts are different, I updates something in between screen shooting the stats… 😝)

Book haul

Yes, yes, I do not want to buy new books, instead I want to reduce my TBR pile of owned books. What can I say, I am weak on occasion… I rarely get to visit well-stocked bookshops, so when I do, the temptation is just too great. I am lucky I got out of there with only three new books!

Besserwissen mit dem Besserwisser (Better knowledge with the know-it-all: This is how you train your general knowledge)
by Sebastian Klussmann

The quiz champion reveals his easy way to more general knowledge.
When was the Prague Defenestration? How many bits are in a byte? What is the name of the capital of Bolivia? It doesn’t matter whether it’s a job, aptitude test, job interview or conversation at a party – with good general knowledge you can score points everywhere. Sebastian Klussmann, popular hunter from the successful German quiz show “Gefragt – Gejagt” reveals how you can increase your knowledge without much effort. For example, when you go on a walk through the city and find out to whom a street name goes back to. Or explores geography through football. Or combine topics with emotions by letting grandmother show you your favorite flowers in the garden. An entertaining book that helps you to simply educate yourself – up to quiz maturity.

Translation of the German book blurb

Why did I get this book? I like the quiz show and I like him. My mum does so as well and I got this partly to share it with her.

Der neunte Arm des Oktopus: Thriller (The Ninth Arm of the Octopus)
by Dirk Roßmann

A climate alliance – our last chance? Climate change – a catastrophe of unforeseen proportions is upon us. But then the superpowers China, Russia and the USA are taking a radical path: They are forming a climate alliance to save the earth. Their demands dramatically interfere with people’s lives, and not everyone wants to accept that. The opponents are willing to do whatever it takes. The situation comes to a head – and suddenly the fate of us all lies in the hands of an anxious cook and an inconspicuous secret agent.

Translation of the German book blurb

Why did I get this book? Because my mum keeps mentioning it and also its sequel. So another one to read and share with her. I actually think the blurb sounds a bit silly. China, Russia and the USA form an alliance. And pigs fly. Anyway….

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders 
by Joshua Foer,  Dylan Thuras,  Ella Morton

Inspiring equal parts wonder and wanderlust, Atlas Obscuracelebrates over 600 of the strangest and most curious places in the world. […]

Atlas Obscura revels in the weird, the unexpected, the overlooked, the hidden, and the mysterious. Every page expands our sense of how strange and marvelous the world really is. And with its compelling descriptions, hundreds of photographs, surprising charts, maps for every region of the world, it is a book you can open anywhere.

Part of the book blurb

Why did I get this book? Because it is pretty! And it shows lots of weirdly interesting places. A great coffee-table book and conversation starter. And yes, I will share it with my mum. Trivia is fun! Geography is cool!

The matching website is here: https://www.atlasobscura.com

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.

Infectious

Fruiting Bodies by Kemi Ashing-Giwa

ebook, 16 pages, publication: January 26th 2022 by Tor Books

“An alien fungal infection has ravaged a faraway planet, turning all but six of the colonists into ravenous arinkiris. Inyama, a mycologist, is her species’ last hope. But it’s not expertise her fellow survivors want from her.“

Blurb from tor.com

SciFi-horror. When I read the title, I immediately had to think of fungi and of the zombie ant fungi. Maybe I am watching too many nature documentaries. Anyway, space ship crashing on foreign body, settlers not doing too well on the inhospitable planet and… fungi.

I liked it. Well written, tightly plotted. Very short, but with a nice plot bunny at the end. Can be read for free here.

And have a look at what probably inspired this short story. It‘s actually a lot creepier than the story…

New year, new opportunities…

So, I spent most of today sorting my reading shelves and looking through possible challenges and whatnot. This is what I came up with…

Planned reading for January:
– Buddy Read Cursed, Alex Verus #2, ebook, started today and made it to chapter 2.
– Buddy Read Black Powder War, Temeraire #3, ebook. I will pick this up after the above. More dragons!
– Saga #55, eComic, pre-ordered, pub date Jan 26. I can‘t possibly wait for the collected volume, after waiting for this since they went into their extended hiatus in 2018!

Also reading / ongoing:
– Life on Earth, audio, narrated by David Attenborough. I made it to chapter 9, all about birds of paradise. Fun chapter, but even so I feel a bit bored by this book.


I settled on a TBR Challenge for 2022 for the 217 owned books currently on my physical and digital shelves:

This reading challenge is for folks who have an obnoxiously large TBR (over 100 books) and need a kick in the pants to get it whittled down. These prompts will help you randomly select 24 books (2 for each month) from your TBR in the hopes that you pick up books you keep forgetting about or putting off. 

RULES:
1. You must start AND finish each book in 2022.  
2. A DNF still counts! The purpose of the challenge is to get you to at least try reading some books you might not otherwise pick up.
3.  Audiobooks count!
4. You must use a random number generator for each prompt. Here is an example of one you can use, but you can use any random number generator of your choice. 
5. You must use the first number that is generated every time you select a book for a prompt. 

Here is what I got from that numbers generator and my owned-books-shelf over at Goodreads:

1. January: Book 1 
Using the default order of the books on your spreadsheet (or my sorted-by-numbers GR list…), generate a random number from 1 to the number of books on your TBR. Use this number to find the book on the corresponding row in your spreadsheet.

– January #1 The Sweet Rowan

2. January: Book 2 (126 books added)
Sort your TBR by date added in ASCENDING order. Generate a random number from 1 to 100 and choose the book on the corresponding row. 

– January #2 The Marrow Thieves

I just realized that I didn‘t just pick between 1 and 100, but between 1 and all of my owned books. Never mind, not doing it again. So, we‘ll see how long I can keep up with this challenge!


And then there is my Pern Re-read:
I am deleting, as I progress through my re-reads. I made a nice dent in my list in December. Here is what‘s left! I probably won‘t get to the next one until February though, looking at my above plans.

Publication Order
* 1983 – Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern — part of On Dragonwings
* 1984 – Nerilka’s Story
* 1989 – The Renegades of Pern
* 1991 – All The Weyrs of Pern
* 1994 – The Dolphins of Pern
* 1998 – The Masterharper of Pern
* 2001 – The Skies of Pern
* 2003 – Dragon’s Kin
* 2005 – Dragonsblood
* 2006 – Dragon’s Fire
* 2007 – Dragon Harper
* 2008 – Dragonheart
* 2010 – Dragongirl
* 2011 – Dragon’s Time
* 2012 – Sky Dragons

I should not run out of ideas of what to read next, what do you think?

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

Around the world…

The Voyage Of The Beagle (Illustrated)
by Charles Darwin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I am pretty sure I read this as a teenager, about 40 years ago, and liked it, mainly for the illustrations. I decided to have another look… 

Places Darwin visits with the HMS Beagle:

  1. Chapter I: St. JagoCape de Verde Islands (St. Paul’s RocksFernando Noronha, 20 Feb.., Bahia, or San Salvador, Brazil, 29 Feb..)
  2. Chapter II: Rio de Janeiro
  3. Chapter III: Maldonado
  4. Chapter IV: Río Negro to Bahia Blanca
  5. Chapter V: Bahía Blanca
  6. Chapter VI: Bahia Blanca to Buenos Aires
  7. Chapter VII: Buenos Aires to St. Fe
  8. Chapter VIII: Banda Oriental
  9. Chapter IX: Patagonia
  10. Chapter X: Santa Cruz–Patagonia
  11. Chapter XI: Tierra del Fuego
  12. Chapter XII: The Falkland Islands
  13. Chapter XIII: Strait of Magellan
  14. Chapter XIV: Central Chile
  15. Chapter XV: Chiloe and Chonos Islands
  16. Chapter XVI: Chiloe and Concepcion
  17. Chapter XVII: Passage of Cordillera
  18. Chapter XVIII: Northern Chile and Peru
  19. Chapter XIX: Galapagos Archipelago
  20. Chapter XX: Tahiti and New Zealand
  21. Chapter XXI: Australia (Van Diemen’s Land)
  22. Chapter XXII: Coral Formations (Keeling or Cocos Islands)
  23. Chapter XXIII: Mauritius to England

I read the first few chapters, then skimmed my way roughly to the middle of the book, looking at the illustrations and reading a bit here and there. The writing doesn‘t feel as dry and dated as I feared, but all together this didn‘t grab me enough to properly read it in full. That‘s just me though. I recommend reading the Goodreads review of my buddy Trish…

P.S.: I found a fun website detailing the voyage, with an interactive map.