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! 

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.

Dewey‘s Reverse Readathon

I just signed up for Dewey‘s Reverse Readathon. Spontaneously and rather foolishly. It will start in a little less than 3 hours, at 2 a.m. my time. When I will most likely be in bed, I am really tired already! Well, maybe…. I just started a batch of sourdough bread and need to do another two stretch-and-folds. Anyway… I can read a bit in the morning. In the afternoon I am at a birthday party and I might be there quite a long time. Maybe more reading in the last hours of the readathon. I will definitely not be around a lot for this one. We‘ll see!

More about this readathon here: WHAT IS DEWEY’S 24-HOUR READ-A-THON? | Important Links

I feel a little lost, actually, as I haven‘t done any of the preppy things. Oh well, I will check in when I can. And I will set up my timer to keep at least some kind of track of my reading. There is a bingo card for updates to Instagram…

Current bookstack:

Paper: Tietjen auf Tour: Warum Camping mich glücklich macht by Bettina TietjenYes, we camp! Well, I don‘t actually. But I like the author, a German TV journalist and talk show host.

Audio #1: Babylon’s Ashes (The Expanse, #6) by James S.A. Corey — re-read of the Expanse series.

Audio #2: Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1) by Ann Leckie — re-read

eBook #1: Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora (ebook) by Zelda Knight

eBook #2: Widdershins (Whyborne & Griffin #1) by Jordan L. Hawk

Graphic novel: Gideon Falls, Vol. 1: The Black Barn (Kindle Edition) by Jeff Lemire

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….

First Line Friday — Elatsoe

First Line Friday is a meme created by Hoarding Books. Feel free to head over there, have a look around, grab your nearest book and post its first line in the comments there and in your blog.


I am currently reading an ebook; I am about halfway with it. I also started an audiobook and a comic. Here are first lines of all three of them:

Elatsoe (ebook)
by Darcie Little Badger

ELLIE BOUGHT THE LIFE-SIZED plastic skull at a garage sale (the goth neighbors were moving to Salem, and they could not fit an entire Halloween warehouse into their black van).

First line, chapter one

Yes, it‘s Young Adult, not my favourite genre. But it looked interesting. And while I‘m not biting my nails, the story is not bad and the writing is good. More background on the world this is set in would be nice. Essentially it‘s UF/magical realism, set in our place and time, with ghosts, vampires and fae added to the mix. My favourite gadget: instant teleportation via fae ring.

I would like to finish this weekend, but I have plans in real life, so it‘s doubtful. I also started the next audiobook in my re-read of The Expanse:

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

The twin shipyards of Callisto stood side by side on the hemisphere of the moon that faced permanently away from Jupiter.

First sentence of the prologue

This is my review from 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…

P.S.: 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.

And the comic I just loaded via Kindle Unlimited:

The Swords of Glass, Vol. 3: Tigran (Kindle Edition)
by Sylviane Corgiat

Very nice artwork in the first two volumes! It‘s been a while since I read them, so my memory of the plot is a little vague, but we‘ll see…

Expanding universe

And while I am on a roll with re-read of The Expanse, I just read this:

The Expanse: Origins
by James S.A. Corey,  Hallie Lambert,  Georgia Lee,  Huang Danlan (Illustrator),  Triona Farrell (Illustrator),  Juan Useche (Illustrator),  Rahzzah (Illustrator) 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

As the title suggests, these are backstories of our favourite crew, set several years before the plot of the main storyline of the books.

Definitely a companion piece for fans of The Expanse. The characters are done in the image of the TV series. The artwork is pretty basic and not good. Why do media-tie ins always have such bad artwork? Is that an unwritten rule somewhere?

Jim Holden, Naomi Nagata, Alex Kamal, Amos Burton and Miller each get a chapter. 

Holden‘s chapter was the weakest for me. It shows the end of his military career and is the least believable. ★★½☆☆
I really liked Naomi‘s chapter — strong story, I connected emotionally and it had Amos in it…. I love Amos! ★★★★★
Alex Kamal‘s chapter was surprisingly good, considering that he is my least favourite member of the Roci‘s crew. ★★★★☆
Amos‘s chapter was a little too wacky, sad and a little upsetting. ★★★½☆
And Miller‘s chapter didn‘t do much for me. This is a media tie-in to the TV series and his likeness to TV Miller was the least well done. ★★☆☆☆

You don‘t miss much, if you don‘t read this. If you don‘t know the series, don‘t bother with this. Watch the series first or, even better, read the books. They are a lot of fun!

City of Gold

Cibola Burn (Expanse, #4)
by James S.A. Corey, narrator: Jefferson Mays

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Whatever had built the protomolecule and fired it toward Earth back in the depths of time wasn’t answering calls anymore. The bridge builder had opened the way, and no great gods had come streaming through.

It was astounding, Bobbie thought, how quickly humanity could go from What unimaginable intelligence fashioned these soul-wrenching wonders? to Well, since they’re not here, can I have their stuff?

from the prologue

And that is the driving force behind this book. Let‘s finds the City of Gold and get all that stuff. Well, ok, the Belters go there as well to have a place of their own and a life free from the Inners. Then the rest show up to kick them out and try to get that stuff instead. And Avasarala sends Holden and company to mediate. Yes, crazy idea, right? It doesn‘t take long for the proverbial sh*t to hit the fan. Entertaining! On top of that we get a fascinating ecosystem, alien ruins, natural disasters, battles in space and more. Never a dull moment. This time around my mind wandered a little though, hence I knocked off a star from my first review.


First review from November 2017:

This is a solid addition to the Expanse. Another fairly straight forward story, not as twisty and with as memorable characters as Caliban’s War, but good stuff. My only grievance is the very formulaic aka always very similar plot construction.

Holden is a bit much at times, with his boy scout persona, but luckily he has Amos at his side to keep him ankered to the realities of life and death. Naomi and especially Alex could have gotten a little more page time. There is the now expected bunch of new and never to be seen again characters thrown into the mix.

The really bad guy is really bad and there is the also usual morally ambiguous character, that could fall either side of that line. Miller does his thing, we get unexpected plot twists and oh-shit situations and everything slowly goes to hell in a hand basket, also as in the previous books.

I really liked the natural history excursions. I’ll have one of those mimic lizards, please. Good sense of humour. The interludes are new. And odd. And interesting. And they didn’t end up in quite the direction I expected them to go.

All in all a good read, if somewhat repetitive in set-up/structure. Entertaining , but not mind blowing. Will I read the next book in the series? Absolutely.


Next up in The Expanse would be the short story The Churn (The Expanse, #0.2) and the next full novel Nemesis Games (Expanse, #5), which is one of my favourite books in the series. The short story should ideally be read before it, as it gives us the origin story of Amos Burton. Still, I am taking a break here and listen to a different audiobook first:

Klara and the Sun (Audible Audio)
by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun, the first novel by Kazuo Ishiguro since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her.

from the blurb

I am not sure if I every actually read The Remains of the Day, I might mix it up with my memory of the movie. So, practically let‘s consider this my first Ishiguro.

When we were new, Rosa and I were mid-store, on the magazines table side, and could see through more than half of the window. So we were able to watch the outside – the office workers hurrying by, the taxis, the runners, the tourists, Beggar Man and his dog, the lower part of the RPO Building. Once we were more settled, Manager allowed us to walk up to the front until we were right behind the window display, and then we could see how tall the RPO Building was. And if we were there at just the right time, we would see the Sun on his journey, crossing between the building tops from our side over to the RPO Building side.

first paragraph

So far, so good.

First Line Friday, currently reading…

First Line Friday is a meme created by Hoarding Books. Feel free to head over there, have a look around, grab your nearest book and post its first line in the comments there and in your blog.


I am currently reading:

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

Finally, the sequel to Memory Called Empire

TO think—not language. To not think language. To think, we, and not have a tongue-sound or cry for its crystalline depths. To have discarded tongue-sounds where they are unsuitable.

first lines, Prelude

Cibola Burn (Expanse, #4)
by James S.A. Corey

My ongoing Expanse re-read, before the last book of the series, Leviathan Falls (The Expanse, #9),  comes out in October — fingers crossed!

A thousand worlds, Bobbie thought as the tube doors closed. And not just a thousand worlds. A thousand systems. Suns. Gas giants. Asteroid belts. Everything that humanity had spread to, a thousand times over.

first lines, Prologue

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

Using my current, free Kindle Unlimited trial to read more about octopuses. Octopi? Whatever.

On a rare, warm day in mid-March, when the snow was melting into mud in New Hampshire, I traveled to Boston, where everyone was strolling along the harbor or sitting on benches licking ice cream cones. But I quit the blessed sunlight for the moist, dim sanctuary of the New England Aquarium. I had a date with a giant Pacific octopus.

first lines, Chapter 1

Going through The Ring…

Abaddon’s Gate (Expanse, #3)
by James S.A. CoreyJefferson Mays (Narrator)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Ring, finally! And the battle I was looking forward to. Good reminder. Red and Peaches are the most interesting characters in this for me. Bull had completely disappeared from my memory, replaced by TV Drummer.


First read October 2017:

I wonder if our writing team follows a how-to-list for their books, something like….
1. boy or girl disappears / is kidnapped / dies and introduced a main plotline for the book doing so,
2. Holden shows up and contemplates his life,
3. Several new, possibly major characters show up, never to be seen again in the next book

I liked Anna, Clarissa, Bull, Sam, Serge…. Corey is good at making characters come to life. But, OMG, did Corey take writing hints from GRR Martin? 

I also liked the slightly time shifted chapters with alternating POVs, made it lively. 

The plot was more straight forward than in the previous two books, which makes it simpler, but dragged me along much faster, too.

Very good, really liked this book, looking forward to the next installment!


On the comics front I decided to read Battle Angel Alita Vol. 1 (Gunnm, #1)  next. Very good so far! Very nice artwork, great characters, good suspense…

1-F8-EB396-88-B8-4-F35-B015-9-C3-E4-C5-BEBBF