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

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, counting to 10…

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

http://www.thatartsyreadergirl.com/top-ten-tuesday/

 This week‘s topic / September 13: Books with numbers in the titles

Let‘s see if I manage from one to ten on my shelf of read books…

One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles, #3)
by Ilona Andrews

I first read this as an online serial on Ilona Andrews’ website, which took most of 2016. I had fun reading the weekly bits and agonizing over them with my reading buddies. However, reading a finished book in one go is a more cohesive affair. It runs smoother, you can read as long as you want, no waiting for the next gripping bit. Also more editing and small improvements on various details. Plus a maturer rating.

“Look, it can be fast, good, or cheap. You can have any two but never all three.”

― Ilona Andrews, One Fell Sweep

Two Ravens and One Crow (The Iron Druid Chronicles #4.3)
by Kevin Hearne

You read that right. I purposefully did not pick The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2) by J.R.R. Tolkien… 😜 Instead I picked a short story from The Iron Druid Chronicles. A fun series, if you manage to ignore that a 2000-year-old druid is this dumb and juvenile.

Three Days to Dead (Dreg City, #1)
by Kelly Meding

Great fun! I almost read it in a day. Our heroine is a bounty hunter for all things that go bump in the night. There are shapeshifters, vampires, bridge trolls, the fey… Nothing really unusual or terribly new, but an entertaining read nonetheless, if you like Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs or Carrie Vaughn.

The Eye of the World: The Graphic Novel, Volume Four
by Chuck Dixon, Robert Jordan

Another attempt to make headway with this series. I got a very nice hardback edition. Starts with chapter 27 of the book, Shelter From the Storm, and ends with chapter 34 of the book, The Last Village.

Very close to the book. The artwork is nothing breath taking, but well done. Especially the cover gallery in the back has some very nice images.

This takes place roughly in the middle of The Eye of The World, which dragged for me. The pacing of the comic is not much different. I liked it, but it didn‘t tempt me to get another volume right away. If I saw some WoT comics in a second hand store at a reduced price, maybe…

Five Quarters of the Orange
by Joanne Harris

Framboise is running a creperie in a small village in rural France. She spent her childhood years during WWII in this village, but nobody knows that. She now lives under another name, to protect a dark secret in her past. One day her nephew and his wife appear at her doorstep, to ask for the use of her name and recipes. When she refuses – to protect her true identity – she quickly realises that they will stop at nothing to get those recipes. But she is not easily defeated. And while she struggles against her nephew, she tells us her story….. Very good book, recommended! Great storytelling.

Rainbow Six (Jack Ryan Universe, #10)
by Tom Clancy

Unusual, as it is one of the rare books where Jack Ryan is not the main character. John Clark is not as black and white and makes for an interesting character. There is the usual body count and a lot of gadgets, all in all a solid thriller.

Sherlock Holmes: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
by David Tipton,  Scott Tipton,  Ron Joseph (Illustrations) 

I have the seen the movie several times, it is one of my favourite Sherlock Holmes movies. 

This is a very close retelling of the story. The dramtic chase and the big reveal of Holmes’ secret at the end are well done, as well as the artwork. An enjoyable read and a surprising take on the life of the great detective. Sherlock Holmes fans should not miss this.

Eight Feet in the Andes: Travels with a Mule from Ecuador to Cuzco
by Dervla Murphy

I really wanted to like this, but after spending ages getting past the first 50 pages I decided to give up. The great thing about travel literature is the things that happen on the way. But as far as I got, the main thing was going up the mountain, over the mountain, down the mountain…. And I did not think the descriptions of the most likely stunning scenery were very good either. Very disappointing.

Nine Last Days on Planet Earth
by Daryl Gregory

Free short story on Tor.com.

“When the seeds rained down from deep space, it may have been the first stage of an alien invasion—or something else entirely.“

https://www.tor.com/2018/09/19/nine-last-days-on-planet-earth-daryl-gregory/

I‘m Groot! Interesting. I liked it, fascinating take on evolution and alien invasion, great character development. I felt with LT and almost cried with him at the end. Not sure if I am a fan of that quasi open ending. 

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That Will Improve and/or Ruin Everything
by Kelly Weinersmith,  Zach Weinersmith

My NetGalley version only consisted of the introduction and the first two chapters: How to get into space cheaply and asteroid mining. Once I realized that, I mostly skimmed and just perused a bit here and there.

Entertaining, amusing style, that borders on slightly silly. Amusing, very simple comic strips—I recommend reading the ebook version on something that allows colour. Easy to understand explanations of complex topics. Space elevators, reusable rockets, Elon Musk and the odd Star Trek joke make an appearance.

It‘s ok, if you are looking for something light to flick through, when you have a few minutes to spare. Coffee table reading, mostly decorative.

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.

Hail funny science dude in space!

Project Hail Mary
by Andy Weir,  Ray Porter (Narrator) 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Mark Watney in space! And he sciences the sh*t out of his situation… so, yes, very much reminiscent of The Martian. And then some. I loved it and could barely put it down. So much fun! 

The female MC reminded me a bit of Avasarala (with less potty mouth) from The Expanse series. The science babble made my eyes glaze over once or twice, but it was generally presented in an understandable way for a layman. It all sounded completely believable for me. 

The ending is absolutely precious!

Some readers might think it‘s too similar to The Martian in tone and situation, but I am practically ecstatic about this book. I liked the structure of the book as well, with the two timelines telling the current story and the backstory in alternating chapters. You go on a trip of discovery together with Ryland Grace. Who am I? How did I get here? What am I supposed to do? And wow, this is so cool and I am the first one experiencing this! The enthusiasm of this book is addictive.

Very well narrated audiobook as well. I will be looking up other books narrated by Ray Porter.

Not my kind of soul searching

The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness
by Sy Montgomery

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Another octopus book! And, confession time, I was more skimming than reading every word properly… so this is a bit of a haphazard review. 

“The sand-dwelling mimic octopus, an Atlantic species, is particularly adept at this. One online video shows the animal altering its body position, color, and skin texture to morph into a flatfish, then several sea snakes, and finally a poisonous lionfish—all in a matter of seconds.“

Oh, I saw that in some nature documentary recently, it looked really cool! Have a look at this: https://youtu.be/Wos8kouz810

Interesting comparison of the different structure and build of the human brain and that of an octopus. 

The beginning of the book is pretty good, if somewhat anecdotal. The rest of the book does not keep up. 

Roughly in the middle of the book the author learns to scuba dive. Goodness, her scuba instructors should loose their license! I am by no means an expert with only 50 logged dives, but that was atrocious.

I am also horrified about the aquarium keeping an octopus in a dark, closed barrel for months. Talk about animal cruelty! No wonder that the octopus was ecstatic to have contact with people, when they opened that lid every day. You would be, too, if you were continuously kept in singular confinement without sensory input!

It also bothered me that these animals were wild catches and nobody seemed to be bothered by that.

I enjoyed parts of this book, some of the animal facts were entertaining. I would have preferred more science. There was less actual information and exploration about octopuses that I had hoped. She spends a lot of time at the aquarium, to touch the octopuses and gush about it, but her musings about the animals is pretty superficial. It‘s very much about her. Not for me.

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith was a much better book. My review of that book is here

Miss Evolution at work…

Nachrichten aus einem unbekannten Universum: Eine Zeitreise durch die Meere
by Frank Schätzing

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Schätzing usually writes SciFi thrillers, so this non-fiction was a detour, albeit into the realm dealing with the universe at large. There is a speculative element in these „news from an unknown universe“. He takes us on a tour from the Big Bang to the near future. Schätzing calls this „Humans and the oceans, a peculiar relationship, marked by love, hate, ignorance and romanticism.“ He shows us how oceans work and life evolved and where all this water came from in the first place. Why evolution took the route it took. We get a look at the mechanics of the Gulf stream, the movements of tectonic plates, the structure of the world‘s oceans and their inhabitants, to the creation of waves, how our moon came to be, its effects on our planet, to the evolution of bacteria, plankton, bigger fish and whales and ultimately the struggles our seas are facing today. „Miss Evolution“ is the driving force in this book.

I am not a fan of Schätzing‘s flippant tone and his habit of anthropomorphising everything. I understand that he wants to make this entertaining and fun for the reader. But I found it annoying, his assigning of all kinds of human emotions and motives to sponges, fish and whatever appeared on the page, usually with a comical comment at the end of a paragraph or chapter. And Miss Evolution ticked me off.

The book is nicely done, with unusual page layouts and nice illustrations and photos. I struggled a bit with the odd black pages with white print. The contrast was crap and I had a hard time with the small and dense font already anyway.

I didn‘t learn a lot of new things, however this is a nice primer into our evolution, Earth‘s geological history and the development of life in the oceans. So, if you‘re looking for some pop-science with a funny writing style and don‘t mind the anthropomorphising, this might be for you.

As alien as it can get on this Earth

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness (Audible Audio)
by Peter Godfrey-Smith

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Not what I expected, aka a somewhat amusing popscience piece about octopuses. Instead this started with a fairly thorough account of the Ediacaran era and biota, followed by the Cambrian Explosion. One of these days I might even manage to memorize the timeline! Fairly challenging stuff, when listening to an audiobook.

Then we cover different topics—the arms race between predators and their prey, the evolution of the eye, the question what signifies intelligence, and so on and so forth… The chapter about Inner Speech was fascinating. Making Colours was a very interesting chapter as well. I hadn‘t know that octopuses can‘t see colours the way we do. The last chapter, Octopolis, reminded me very strongly of Children of Ruin (Children of Time #2) by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Who took inspiration from this book, I believe.

As mentioned, this was not what I expected, namely a book strictly talking about the evolution of octopuses. I liked it, but at times it was off on unexpected tangents, instead of concentrating on my reason for reading this. If the scientific or philosophical discourse of the chapter I was in at any given point wasn‘t gripping me, I just bided my time until the main act made an appearance again. Nonetheless, I was entertained. And I learned new things.

The audiobook narration was done well. However, the more complicated parts of this narrative probably escaped me a bit. It would probably be worth getting a print version, to be able to go over parts of it more easily again. And I assume there are photos and illustrations… 

My review of Children of Ruin is here….