Brain Candy in space with a romance sub-plot

Polaris Rising (Consortium Rebellion, #1)
by Jessie Mihalik

Picked this up, because friends kept mentioning it favourably. Started into the first chapter and though that the writing was a bit bumpy. 

I don’t usually look at reviews until I have read a book, but here I made an exception after the first few pages. Romance with an SF setting? Insta-love, too many blond people, thin world building, a Mary Sue, two people great at hiding that keep getting captured and then proceed to repeatedly free each other. Sounds all pretty daft, right? Ok, ok, following the advice of one of my reading buddies: check your brain at the door and have fun.

Brain checked away and… I read the first 8 chapters, 27% into the book. It doesn‘t do anything for me right now, I am skipping paragraphs and find it mainly silly. I would probably really like it, if I was in the right mood for it—the style reminds me of Ilona Andrews. As it is, too many books, too little time. DNF!

I had books 2 (Aurora Blazing) and 3 (Chaos Reigning) of this on my shelf as well. I will kick them off and diminish my TBR pile by two more books, from 217 books by the start of the year to 165 books right now.

On the way to the stars

Defender (Foreigner, #5)
by C.J. Cherryh, Daniel Thomas May (Narrator)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Good thing that I don‘t really read the blurbs before diving into these books, because the main plot line of this one was a complete surprise, for me and Bren Cameron. So I experienced it all firsthand though him. Fun!

“Actually, you’re the alien.“
Oh yes, that was a good one. The crew of the Phoenix in all their entitlement still haven‘t understood that the colonists have moved on and are their own society now.

And by now it seems that Bren Cameron is more Atevi than Mospheiran. Stretched out between all those different cultures and not quite belonging to his own origin society anymore.

It doesn‘t feel like a transition or „middle-book“ at all for me, as other reviewers hinted at. Well, yes, it really is a middle-book in this sub-trilogy, but the story was entertaining and had some great new developments. Bren being kept out of the loop of some back-door dealings between two of the major players was quite a revelation to him and leading him to question Tabini‘s trust in him.

I wonder how this trip will shape Cajeiri and I can‘t wait to find out about that other station, the other aliens and what they will find when they all get back home…

Defender is the 5th Foreigner book. It is also the 2nd book in the second subtrilogy.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, and folded his hands and stopped where he was, listening, waiting while a very sick woman tried to gather her faculties.
“First off, tell the dowager she’s a right damn bastard.”
It was no time for a translator to argue. Mitigation, however, was a reasonable tactic. “Aiji-ma, Sabin-aiji has heard our suspicions regarding Tamun and received assurances from me and Gin-aiji that we have not arranged a coup of our own. She addresses you with an untranslatable term sometimes meaning extreme disrepute, sometimes indicating respect for an opponent.”
Ilisidi’s mouth drew down in wicked satisfaction. “Return the compliment, paidhi.”
“Captain, she says you’re a right damn bastard, too.” 

And the void is staring back at you…

Eyes of the Void (The Final Architecture, #2) by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Author), Sophie Aldred (Narrator)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The sequel and middle book. I really liked Shards of Earth, it was one of my favourites of last year and a great adventure yarn of a misfit crew and found family. Ambitious space opera. 

I struggled to stay focused though. So many characters, ships, planets, alien races and concepts. And there seems to be so much filler and endless talking. I think picking the audiobook was the wrong choice in this case. 

The audiobook narration is well done, if slightly over the top and a little grating at times. The complex and very dense story had me constantly struggling to keep everybody and everything straight. My mind kept wandering off, waiting for some action and plot progression.

So, great concept, world building, plot and well-fleshed out, likeable characters, but the execution of this story just didn‘t captivate me. I had to make an effort to make it to the end, it was a slog. I would pick up another book in the series though, when it is published, to get closure on all those unresolved plotlines.

My next audiobook is:

Dead Silence (Audiobook) by S.A. Barnes

Titanic meets The Shining in S.A. Barnes’ Dead Silence, a SF horror novel in which a woman and her crew board a decades-lost luxury cruiser and find the wreckage of a nightmare that hasn’t yet ended.

From the book blurb

Holy timeline!

Under Fortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Holy timeline! There are two of them, right from the start. Or is that one timeline plus flashbacks? Three timelines? And four POVs. But it all makes perfect sense, trust me. There are smugglers and mathematical and physical geniuses, undercover activists, a war in space, aliens, genetic modification, love, heists and more. That‘s all I am going to give away, read the blurb if you want more! Anything else would diminish the fun of finding it out by yourself!

“We could even be completely outside the flow of time.“

You don‘t say! Smart idea to tell the story by jumping back in time by increments and slowly revealing pertinent information to the reader for consecutive chapters. With the odd surprising twist strewn in.

Jereth‘s shaking hands showed up a bit too often for my taste. Other than that I was quite happy with the writing, although I would have preferred more action and faster pacing, especially towards the end. Some bits could have done with less telling and more showing. 

There was quite a lot of navel gazing, which I tend to dislike, but here it fit nicely into the plot and was an integral part of the story telling. The characters were believable, distinct and varied.

Great concept, a love of history and screwy timeline shenanigans. No idea if the science was solid, it worked for me. Satisfying ending with a nice plot bunny. As a debut novel this is excellent.

There are two Q&As about the book on the authors‘s blog here: https://www.renhutchings.com/blog

I would read more by the author and recommend or gift this to others.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Rebellion Publishing through NetGalley. All opinions are my own and I was not required to give a positive review.

Top Ten Tuesday — Adjective In the Title

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 / March 22: Books With an Adjective In the Title

Tricky topic. Lets see what I can did up on my shelf. For variety‘s sake I‘ll start with the books I added to my shelves last and work backwards…

Under Fortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings — my latest NetGalley addition: Two Ships. One Chance To Save The Future. Fleeing the final days of the generations-long war with the alien Felen, smuggler Jereth Keeven’s freighter the Jonah breaks down in a strange rift in deep space

The Art of Cursive Penmanship: A Personal Handwriting Program for Adults by Michael R. Sull — A practice guide to improve one‘s handwriting. We start with a discourse on the history and technicalities of handwriting. There is instructions on the correct sitting posture, how to place the paper, how to use your writing implement, on fountain pens and so on. Chapter 5 is the beginning of the practical part. That‘s roughly where I am right now. Haven‘t started with the exercises yet…

Ancestral Night (White Space, #1) by Elizabeth Bear — not quite sure why I added this one to my stack: A space salvager and her partner make the discovery of a lifetime that just might change the universe in this wild, big-ideas space opera from multi award-winning author Elizabeth Bear.

Dying Earths: Sixteen Stories from the Ends of Times by Sue Burke and others — sounds depressing, but I want to read Sue Burke‘s story: The writers and contributors to the little corner of the web called SFFWorld.com have brought together a collection of stories about a dying Earth. 

Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes — this was a buddy read that I skipped. Everybody really liked it, so I got it after all: Titanic meets The Shining in S.A. Barnes’ Dead Silence, a SF horror novel in which a woman and her crew board a decades-lost luxury cruiser and find the wreckage of a nightmare that hasn’t yet ended.

An Easy Job by Carrie Vaughn — short story, read it already… Carrie Vaughn is worth mentioning again.

The Black Coast (The God-King Chronicles, #1) by Mike Brooks — another buddy read that I skipped and my reading buddies all loved it: When the citizens of Black Keep see ships on the horizon, terror takes them because they know who is coming: for generations, the keep has been raided by the fearsome clanspeople of Tjakorsha. Saddling their war dragons, Black Keep’s warriors rush to defend their home only to discover that the clanspeople have not come to pillage at all. Driven from their own land by a daemonic despot who prophesises the end of the world, the raiders come in search of a new home . . .

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim — I like the original fairytale and the cover is pretty, so I couldn‘t resist: Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control.

Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days by Alastair Reynolds — two novelettes set in Revelation Space. And the blurb of one of them is something aquatic. I had to get it: In the seas of Turquoise live the Pattern Jugglers, the amorphous, aquatic organisms capable of preserving the memories of any human swimmer who joins their collective consciousness. Naqi Okpik devoted her life to studying these creatures—and paid a high price for swimming among them. 

Digital Divide (Rachel Peng, #1) by K.B. Spangler — not quite sure why I picked this one. Genre bender with cyborgs: Rachel Peng misses the Army. Her old life in Criminal Investigation Command hadn’t been easy, but she had enjoyed it. Now, as the first cyborg liaison to the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police, Rachel is usually either bored senseless or is fighting off harassment from her coworkers.

Yes, not 100% certain that those are all adjectives… *shrugs*

What interesting reads have you added to your shelves recently?

Top Ten Tuesday—the ten best books of 2021

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 / December 28: Best Books I Read In 2021

These books haven‘t necessarily been released in 2021, that‘s just when I read them… I left out all of my re-reads of Dragonriders of Pern, The Expanse, The Imperial Radch, etc. etc.:

Rovers by Richard Lange — A horror book with a different take on vampires. Of Mice and Men with vampires and a biker gang. 

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

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir — 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 Prefect (Prefect Dreyfus Emergency, #1) by Alastair Reynolds — On the surface this comes along as a police procedural in a SF setting. Dreyfus is a cop with a strong moral code of right and wrong, committed to justice. My first association was Miller from The Expanse, with a bit of Blade Runner and minus any projectile weapons. Space opera, ultimately, with the many and very varied habitats of the Glitter Band, artificial intelligences, body modifications, uplifted mammals, many political systems, states of being and an elaborate polling system — fascinating! 

David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa — Gods have rained down on Lagos, the capital of Nigeria. We enter the story some time later, into the dystopian society that has developed here in the aftermath. David Mogo, our 1st person narrator, is a demi-god working as an illegal godhunter. An old wizard with dubious morals sends David Mogo off to catch two high gods, Taiwo and Kehinde. David is in need of money to fix his roof, so off he goes, despite his misgivings about this wizard. Obviously things don’t go as expected. 

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries, #6) by Martha Wells — Muderbot is back in novella length. Snark and sarcasm abound. Just another crazy day, tracking down a murderer and making sure one’s humans don‘t come to harm. All the stars.

Leviathan Falls (The Expanse #9) by James S.A. Corey — A well done ending to the series. I did not expect it to go into the direction it did, so that was satisfying. It ends bittersweet, with some sadness, but also hope.

Revelation (Matthew Shardlake, #4) by C.J. Sansom — Historically pretty sound, as far as I can tell. Very homogenous. Full of suspense towards the end, could not put it down anymore. The murders are gruesome and reminiscent of a famous 90s movie. With the context of Henry VIII, his dissolution of the monasteries and the religious upheaval of that time it works well.

Wild Sign (Alpha & Omega, #6) by Patricia Briggs — The FBI shows up at the doorstep of Anna and Charles and asks for help. A village in the mountains has disappeared and something potentially evil lurks in the woods.

The Whale Library by Zidrou,  Judith Vanistendael — Pretty watercolours, a mature story about a whale who contains a large library, a postman delivering sea mail, his wife and a smattering of sailors, pirates, fish, sea turtles, octopi and more…

Besides this one I also read some very good more traditional graphic novels. But that probably needs another entry…

All good things come to an end

Leviathan Falls (The Expanse #9)
by James S.A. Corey,  Jefferson Mays (Narrator)

A well done ending to the series. I did not expect it to go into the direction it did, so that was satisfying. It ends bittersweet, with some sadness, but also hope. The epilogue was fun.

I am sad that the series ended, but it was a good time for it. 5 stars for the happy feels and the action and Amos Burton.

“I absolutely believe that people are more good on balance than bad,” he said. “All the wars and all of the cruelty and all of the violence. I’m not looking away from any of that, and I still think there’s something beautiful about being what we are. History is soaked in blood. The future probably will be too. But for every atrocity, there’s a thousand small kindnesses that no one noticed. A hundred people who spent their lives loving and caring for each other. A few moments of real grace.”

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

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.”