Some tea? Fish sauce? Oysters?

Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch #3)
by Ann Leckie,  Adjoa Andoh (Narrator) 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I really liked this. Not sure what I did during the first read, but I definitely did not pay enough attention, because I barely remembered any of this. Great fun, I loved all the AIs and their dynamics. And Translator Zeiat was precious.

I would love to read another book in this setting, to find out how it all turns out.


Review from 2017:

Lovely. I am sad that this is the end for the Imperial Radch. But then…

“Every ending is an arbitrary one. Every ending is, from another angle, not really an ending.” 

Direct continuation of Ancillary Sword. A nice and fitting conclusion to the trilogy.

The humour and tongue-in-check of the dialogues was great and right down my alley. And Translator Zeiat made this novel, what a great character! 

Loved Breq and how human she became in the last book. And not. 

Loved the development of her relationship with Seivarden, who definitely did not have enough page time. 

Loved the action sequences, loved the conversation about what makes one a significant being.

I will miss these characters, Athoek Station, the Undergarden… I would have loved to go through the ghost gate and meet the Presger.

Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy felt like one book and I think I liked them more than Ancillary Justice. The plot and characterizations were more intricate. Although I did like the plot of Ancillary Justice a lot, too, and the early days of Seivarden and Breq. I’ll need to think on that some more.

Some fish sauce in the meantime?


“Thank all the gods,” said Sphene. “I was afraid you were going to suggest we sing that song about the thousand eggs.”

“A thousand eggs all nice and warm,” I sang. “Crack, crack, crack, a little chick is born. Peep peep peep peep! Peep peep peep peep!”

“Why, Fleet Captain,” Translator Zeiat exclaimed, “that’s a charming song! Why haven’t I heard you sing it before now?”

I took a breath. “Nine hundred ninety-nine eggs all nice and warm…”

“Crack, crack, crack,” Translator Zeiat joined me, her voice a bit breathy but otherwise quite pleasant, “a little chick is born. Peep peep peep peep! What fun! Are there more verses?”

“Nine hundred and ninety-eight of them, Translator,” I said.

“We’re not cousins anymore,” said Sphene.” 

My September 2021

Here is what I read in September:

Ancillary Sword ★★★★★ audio, Imperial Radch #2, re-read. I remembered most of this and this time around liked it better than #1. Loved Dlique and Tisarwat.
– Return to the Center of the Earth ★★★★☆ KU, sequel, re-tracing the steps of Jules Verne. Brain candy. Fun!
– Babylon’s Ashes ★★★★☆ audio, Expanse #6, re-read
– City of Bones ★★☆☆☆ ebook, dystopian fantasy by Martha Wells. Not enough sarcastic AIs. I liked parts of it a lot, but as a whole it didn‘t excite me. I pretty much skimmed through the second part, because I didn‘t care.

Poetry:
– “You’d Have Me Be White” by Alfonsina Storni, https://betterthanstarbucks.wixsite.c…, ★★★★★, feminist poetry, made me smile and nod my head…
– Scifaikuest Online, https://www.hiraethsffh.com/scifaikue…, ★★★★½, great SF haikus
– “Among the Scythians“, Deborah L. Davitt, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #49, August 1, 2021, ★★★☆☆, https://www.heroicfantasyquarterly.co…
– Horrific Punctuation, poetry, KU, DNF, my ebook was barely readable and the poetry too abstract.

Comics:
– The White Trees #1 ★★★★☆, KU, eComic, high fantasy, x-rated, ex-killer has to pick up his weapons again to save his family
– The White Trees #2 ★★★☆☆, eComic, not as good as the first issue

Return To The Center Of The Earth by Greig Beck Horrific Punctuation by John Reinhart Babylon's Ashes (The Expanse, #6) by James S.A. Corey The White Trees #1 by Chip Zdarsky The White Trees #2 by Chip Zdarsky City of Bones by Martha Wells Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch #2) by Ann Leckie 

Currently reading:
– Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora, ebook, #ReadBIPOC2021, TBR pile, Netgalley
– Tietjen auf Tour: Warum Camping mich glücklich macht, paperback, TBR pile
– Ancillary Mercy, audio, Imperial Radch #3, re-read

Planned, but lacking in motivation:
– Persepolis Rising, audio, Expanse #7, re-read
– Tiamat’s Wrath, audio, Expanse #8, re-read
I might abandon the plan to read those two and just jump to the new book…

Movie watched:
– Dune ★★★★★ — I considered deducting a star, because it‘s only „Part One“. I was pretty frustrated about that. The beginning took forever! Is Caladan supposed to be Caledonia, aka Scotland? Never really thought about that before. My first visit to a cinema since 2019! 

Eggs are so inadequate, don’t you think? 

Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch #2)
by Ann LeckieAdjoa Andoh (Narrator) 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I liked this a lot and, differently to my first review, I think I liked it better than the first book. Breq is more reflected and emotional. I really liked the addition of Lieutenant Tisarwat, Translator Dlique was a delight and the locations of Underworld and on the planet were well imagined and lively.

I do love the narration by Andoh, although it is a bit over the top at times.


Review from April 2017 *some spoilers* 

I liked it. It was very laid back in between the more energetic action sequences. A lot of drinking tea. I liked the plot of the first book more, I think (still debating with myself). The alternating timeline made it more vibrant and suspenseful. It was proper space opera. 

However, the relationships of the various characters in this sequel were more intricate. The dynamics of the people on the station and down on the planet were well done. The disenfranchised in the Undergarden (brilliant idea) and their revolution, the serfs on the planet, the ruling class and its notions of entitlement and righteousness… Good stuff, I will be going over it in my mind for quite a while.

“You take what you want at the end of a gun, you murder and rape and steal, and you call it bringing civilization. And what is civilization, to you, but us being properly grateful to be murdered and raped and stolen from? You said you knew justice when you heard it. Well, what is your justice but you allowed to treat us as you like, and us condemned for even attempting to defend ourselves?”

Very talkative prose, sometimes a little too much for my taste. But only a little. Seivarden’s role was sadly diminished in this, the addition of Tisarwat added a good character into the mix. Breq’s Kalrs pretending to be ancillaries was another great idea. She herself mourning for her lost connectedness with all that she was as Justice of Torren… I am not usually a friend of character driven narratives, but this was good.

Looking forward to Ancillary Mercy. Can’t wait to read, what they find on the other side…

Expanding…

Babylon’s Ashes (The Expanse, #6)
by James S.A. Corey

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

“We are not people, we are the stories that are told about people by others. Inners, Belters, women…“

I just read my first review and have to say that this book has not improved for me over time. It was good, but I could have stopped reading it at any time. It took me for ever to get through it. Very, very generously rounded up to four stars, because I do love all the main characters.

What I can say now though: this would have made a good final book for the series, because it nicely wraps up the major plotlines.

“Against all evidence, I keep thinking the assholes are outliers.” 

James Holden, in one of the last chapters

Review of first read, February 2018:

Very quotable one hour into the narration. Yay for Bobbi and Avrasarala being there! Great one-liners, the usual humour.

Unfortunately the first half of the book did not interest me much, I felt no compelling need to pick up the book and continue. First time that happened to me with an Expanse book. It made me go back to the previous books and 5-star those with 4 stars, so I would have room to move. 9 hours into the book it still wasn’t doing much for me. 

I care very little for Filip, his father and what they are up to. That trend continued for the rest of the story. I loved Holden and his crew, how Peaches and Bobby became part of the Rocinante family, the glimpses of Avrasarala, the dry humour… the plot just wasn‘t happening for me. It didn‘t add much to the world of the Expanse and there were no interesting new characters either. The guys on Medina station were depicted too briefly to elicit much of an emotional response from me.

This felt a bit like filler. Wrapping up some things from the previous book and setting the scene for the next one. Filling the gaps. A bit meh. Compared to other things I read over the years a pretty good filler, but filler nonetheless.

I give it four starts for the love of the series, but it was really more of a just-ok-3-stars.

What are you willing to do for love?

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1)
by Ann Leckie,  Adjoa Andoh (Narrator)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A re-read. This is not a love story, it’s a story of revenge.

“If that’s what you’re willing to do for someone you hate, what would you do for someone you love?” 

Breq is willing to do quite a lot. A lot of subtle tones that I missed the first time around and almost missed again during my second read. A many layered narrative, where you have to peel off layers to get to the heart of it all. My favourite part is still the evolving relationship between Breq and Seivarden. And the parts of the story set on Ors. Good stuff and worth the awards this book won.

“Choose my aim, take one step and then the next. It had never been anything else.” 


Review from my first read in March 2017:

The beginning was a little confusing. Might be due to it being an audiobook, it’s a fairly new medium for me. Here are my slightly spoilerish thoughts.

Breq’s voice in the audibook works well for the character. I didn’t find her too neutral or emotionless. In the beginning she almost felt childlike, exploring and getting to know her world. As the book went on, she gained more emotions and more of a personality.

I found some of the dialects of the other characters a bit weird. Some of the voices in the audiobook also sounded a bit “too much” and not natural to me. But they all grew on me eventually.

It’s interesting that Breq used a female pronoun for all other characters, until she could figure out if they were male or female. And even then she often stuck to the female version. It made for an unusual reading experience. Ultimately it made no difference, if a character was male or female. Which was perhaps the point of the whole idea.

What I did find a bit difficult with the audiobook: Telling the other characters apart. And it was slightly annoying that I couldn’t see the spelling of the various names and places.

I liked the timeline alternating from chapter to chapter. The story only really took off for me with the convergence of both plotlines. I liked the story before that, too. But the pace was a bit too leisurely. The last 30% of the book finally picked up speed.

My personal highlight was the development of the relationship between Breq and Seivarden. The conclusion of the book’s underlieing conflict in contrast to that was just ok. Smart, but nothing earth shattering. Nice ending. And I am fairly certain that I will pick up the next book.

Sorry for my fairly lame review, literary mastermind I am not. Bottom line, I liked the book. A bit slow at times. Good plot. Good world building. Interesting characters. Loved Ors, loved Seivarden and the relationship of her and Breq. The last few chapters were fun. One gripping moment full of sadness. Good stuff.

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?

Underdogs against the Universe

Shards of Earth (The Final Architects Trilogy, #1)
by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Rating: 5 out of 5.

When I read the name of the MC, all I could think was… Idris Elba! The main character looks nothing like Idris Elba though, he is this smallish, skinny dude with enhanced powers. Space opera with a touch of The Expanse and Babylon 5, with a great ensemble cast on a scrappy scavenger ship, fighting against the odds and pretty much everything else. The proverbial underdogs against the universe.

Good introduction here:
https://www.newscientist.com/article/…

Don‘t read it, if you want to go into the book completely spoiler free!

And an author interview here:
https://thebookinhand.com/2021/05/26/…

It was really interesting to read about Tchaikovsky‘s working day and writing process. I actually skipped the parts where he talks about this book, as I was afraid to spoiler myself too much.

Some excellent world building. Great aliens with a lot of variety—Tchaikovsky really has a thing for beings with more than two legs—, good action sequences and plot. For me this really shined through the crew of the Vulture God. A third into the book, I already loved them. Obviously, things went to hell in a hand basket pretty quickly, as they tend to go in this kind of story! And they kept on going. Never a dull moment.

My ebook had very useful appendices, in the form of an additional part: „Universe of the Architects: Reference“, with a glossary, a chapter on characters, other key characters, worlds, species, ships and a timeline. Especially the timeline was very useful.

Good audiobook narration. Loved Olli‘s voice in the audio. Great relationship dynamics all around and the audiobook narration added another layer of depth to the characters.

Great fun! Easily in the top row of my favourite books of the year. And I will very definitely wait for the next installment in this series/trilogy.

The enemy. He had an enemy again. He didn’t like it. Loathed it, in fact. Yet an ugly little part of him was awake now, like a cold arrowhead buried deep inside his mind.“

More Tchaikovsky…

Shards of Earth (The Final Architects, #1)
by Adrian Tchaikovsky,  Sophie Aldred (Narrator)

I started reading this as an ebook, but then switched to the Audible version, after realizing that I do like and know the audiobook narrator, Sophie Aldred. So far, so good!

The Arthur C. Clarke award-winning author of Children of Time brings us an extraordinary new space opera about humanity on the brink of extinction, and how one man’s discovery will save or destroy us all.

The war is over. Its heroes forgotten. Until one chance discovery . . .

Idris has neither aged nor slept since they remade him in the war. And one of humanity’s heroes now scrapes by on a freelance salvage vessel, to avoid the attention of greater powers.

When I read the name of the MC, all I could think was… Idris Elba! Full review to come. I am about 30% in and already love the crew of this salvage vessel. Obviously, things go to hell in a hand basket pretty quickly, as they tend to go in this kind of story!

Good introduction here: Shards of Earth review: A rip-roaring space opera with a psychic twist

Don‘t read it, if you want to go into the book completely spoiler free!

And there is a good author interview here. It was really interesting to read about his working day and writing process. I actually skipped the parts where he talks about this book, as I was afraid to spoiler myself too much.

Sophie Aldred also narrated his The Doors of Eden, which I did not love, but liked enough to read a sequel, if one should materialize. Looks unlikely though.

One of my reading buddies mentioned that Shards reminds him of the books by Peter F. Hamilton. My success rate with Hamilton is pretty checkered, from DNF to loving them. Maybe worth another try..

Expanding re-read

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

An interesting re-read, after having watched the TV adaptation not too long ago. Some of the most gripping parts of the TV series happen completely in the off in the book. So this time around I have nice, additional visuals in my head.

I picked up some nuances and small details that I don‘t remember from my first read. I am pretty sure I did not understand the implications of the epilogue during my first read and did not remember the scene, when I could have connected the dots in the later books. Now I am looking forward to that aha-moment, when I get to it later in the series.


First read in January 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…

PS.: 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.


“There was a button,” Holden said. “I pushed it.” 
“Jesus Christ. That really is how you go through life, isn’t it?” 

Top Ten Tuesday in quotes…

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: book quotes that fit a particular theme! I guess my theme will be amusing quotes! Here we go:

“Dogs make sense. They understand hierarchy and the need to cooperate. They come when you call them. A cat though—a cat will take your number and get back to you. Maybe. If he’s in a good mood.” 

Mortal Danger by Eileen Wilks

Read in 2012. The first book was only just interesting enough for me to want to get the next one. Nothing special. But this one grabbed me. I really liked it. Interesting plot, good world building, introduction of some new characters that I really liked and want to see more of. The varying points of view added a nice layer to the various existing characters as well. Very good.

“Some people are like Slinkies. They aren’t really good for anything, but they still bring a smile to my face when I push them down a flight of stairs.” 

Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs

Still one of my favourite UF series. Just re-read the lot last year.

“I can’t wait till I have grandchildren. When I was younger, I had to walk to the rim of a crater. Uphill! In an EVA suit! On Mars, ya little shit! Ya hear me? Mars!”

The Martian by Andy Weir

I could easily do this whole TTT with quotes from The Martian. I love this book. My cheeks are hurting just from reading over all of the quotes I marked…

“I gave him a smile. I was aiming for sweet, but he turned a shade paler and scooted a bit farther from me. Note to self: work more on sweet and less on psycho-killer.” 

Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Still my favourite UF series. And another series I could use easily as well to fill all the quotes for this TTT.

“I apologize for anything I might have done. I was not myself.”
“I apologize for shooting you in the leg.” said Lila. “I was myself entirely.” 

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

The story is a mystery, a conspiracy, an adventure and a fight against evil. There is smuggling, thievery, but sadly no pirates. And sadly, it wasn‘t a complete hit for me.

“So you killed him with what now?”
“I tried that Dr. Phil book at first”…”And I finished it off with the toilet seat. Just so you know, you left it up again. That drives me crazy.” 

Married with Zombies by Jesse Petersen

Great fun. If you liked the film Zombieland, this is for you.

“She was not a political creature. She felt that politics was the second most evil thing humanity had ever invented, just after lutefisk.” 

Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey

My favourite SF series…

“It’s not that I’m not upset; it’s just that I’m too tired to run up and down the corridor screaming.” 

Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold

Another good SF series, if you want to read something classic. My steam only lasted a few books in though. As a teenager I probably would have loved this to pieces.

“He was an American, so it seemed only fair to shoot him.” 

The Devil in Amber by Mark Gatiss

Mark Gatiss isn‘t only great as screenwriter or the occasional supporting actor…

“Once the telephone had been invented, it was only a matter of time before the police got in on the new technology and, first in Glasgow and then in London, the police box was born. Here a police officer in need of assistance could find a telephone link to Scotland Yard, a dry space to do “paperwork” and, in certain extreme cases, a life of adventure through space and time.”

The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

Another endless supply of funny quotes is the Rivers of London series. And excellent UF. I highly recommend the audiobooks, they elevate the series by a few more pegs.

I could keep going, but that‘s 10 quotes! That was very entertaining, actually….