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

Chugging away…

I am slowly making my way through my current reads.

In The Walking Dead, Vol. 16: A Larger World (Comics) I finally reached a spot in the narrative that is new to me. I never got this far in the TV series. New territory from here on out! And tonight I took a trip down memory lane and rewatched the first episode of the TV series. It was fun!

I reached the last 100 pages of The Prefect (Prefect Dreyfus Emergency, #1). I like the book, but I am looking forward to finally finishing it. My motivation is flagging…

The Queen’s English: And How to Use It is turning out to be a drag. Useful, but the tone of the book is… patronizing?

So, what‘s on my plate for March? First of all I started the next Expanse audiobook.

Abaddon’s Gate (Expanse, #3)
by James S.A. Corey

I read this for the first time in October 2017. Here is what I had to say about it back then:

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, that made it very 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!


In print I have these three beauties planned:

Winter’s Orbit and A Desolation Called Peace are both slightly overdue Netgalleys that I plan to buddy read this month. For my #ReadPOC2021 challenge I will most likely read another very overdue Netgalley, David Mogo, Godhunter.

I haven‘t made up my mind yet, which of them I will pick up first, once I have finished The Prefect. Do you have any reading plans for March?

Caliban rebels against his master?

Caliban’s War (Expanse, #2)
by James S.A. Corey (Goodreads Author),  Jefferson Mays (Narrator) 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My Expanse re-read. I thoroughly enjoyed Avasarala, she is precious. She makes the book for me.

“Well, you’ve got a full load of torpedoes and bullets, three Martian warships trailing you, one angry old lady in tea withdrawal, and a Martian Marine who could probably kill you with your own teeth.“

Plenty of potty-mouth, several laughing-out-loud moments. And then there is Bobbie Draper, our second, great addition. The crew comes together, life on the Rocinante takes shape.

I had forgotten about Holden‘s suggestion of a group marriage as an option for shared ownership of the Roci. I wish the authors had taken the story in that direction, I think that could have added a really interesting angle.

In retrospect this feels like a middle book, adding just a little detail to the overarching plot and leading up to the larger events taking place in the next books.


1st read, audio, September 2017:

The continuation of Leviathan Wakes. Holden and his team work for the OPA and it just doesn’t feel right. They stumble across the proto-molecule again and get themselves a new search-and-rescue mission. And we get to meet three great, new characters. Two of those I hope we’ll meet again in further books: Bobbie Draper, the marine, and Chrisjen Avasarala, the kick-ass UN politician. 

The story was entertaining, the world building excellent, the characters mostly well developed. There were some plot points that I found confusing and not clear, but that might have been due to me getting distracted whilst listening to the audiobook. 

Good, solid storytelling, not the most inventive plot. Not as great as Leviathan Wakes, which was one of the best reads of my year so far. The cliffhanger at the end wasn’t exactly mind boggling. I had wondered all along, when he would show up again. What caught my attention, but was never mentioned again—Holden’s suggestion that they all get married to own the Rocinante together. I hope we’ll get back to that in the next book. I wouldn’t mind seeing the personal relationships between the Rocinante crew developed more fully.

Leviathan reawakened

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse, #1)
by James S.A. Corey,  Jefferson Mays (Narrator) 

Re-read, because I just watched season 5 of The Expanse on TV and felt the urge to refresh my memory. And to maybe immerse myself more deeply again, before the last book comes out. I doubt I will manage to get through all of the books until then, but it will be fun either way.

There is definitely a difference. The first time around I read the ebook, now I am listening to the audiobook. This time around I have the visuals from the TV adaptation in my head, which didn‘t exist back then. Especially Miller is a much stronger presence, because I am a Thomas Jane fan.

First time around I found Holden to be very naive and it bothered me, how clueless he seemed to be about his transmissions into the void and how they affected the world at large. Now I wasn‘t half as bothered, because I know what happens later.

I am still pretty happy with this as a starting point for a really excellent space opera series with very well thought out world building. Jim, Naomi, Amos, Alex, Bobbie and Avasarala will stay with me for a very long time.


My review of the 1st read in 2017 (ebook):

„Living on the surface of a planet, mass sucking at every bone and muscle, and nothing but gravity to keep your air close, seemed like a fast path to crazy.“

Excellent world building! By chapter four I was reading up on the solar system, inner and outer planets, the asteroid belt, dwarf planets… well-done sci-fi, without going too hardcore. And some crime noir thrown in…

“You are under arrest for the murder of that lady over there, whoever the hell she is. You are not required to participate in questioning without the presence of an attorney or union representative, and if you so much as look at me wrong, I’ll space you. Do we understand each other?” 

I like Miller, a disillusioned cop on a moon in the belt, he is an engaging character. POV alternates between him and Holden, a naive and blue-eyed XO on a water hauler. At first glance this is a mix of crime novel, colony politics and military SF / space opera. But the plot takes it many different places. From disillusioned cop to Alien horror story to submarine-like space battles. Fun, fun, fun. 

The other characters populating this book were just as entertaining. Alex and Amos could always sign up with the circus, if being space pirates doesn’t work out in the end.

“Goddamn, Boss, I’d give my left nut for food that didn’t look like a dildo,” Amos said, then tapped his food against Naomi’s in mock toast.

Excellent stuff. Imaginative, twisty plot, swamped with fully realized settings that could have filled several books. Great character development. Good humour and dialogue, interesting concepts and ideas, all around excellent book.

Extra points for quoting Dune! Now move along and find a review that does a much better job at describing this book than I could… Meanwhile I will find myself a copy of the next book in the series and maybe try to rustle up the TV adaptation.

First Line Friday in Space

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 paperbook from my TBR pile and re-reading the first book of The Expanse. I have been thinking about re-reading that series for a while now and the last season of the TV adaptation clinched the deal. I doubt that I will manage to get through the whole series again, before the last book comes out in October, but I‘ll give it a shot.

The Prefect (Prefect Dreyfus Emergency, #1) — re-published as Aurora Rising (Prefect Dreyfus Emergency, #1) — by Alastair Reynolds

Thalia Ng felt her weight increasing as the elevator sped down the spoke from the habitat‘s docking hub.


Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse, #1)
by James S.A. Corey (Goodreads Author),  Jefferson Mays (Narrator) 

The Scopuli had been taken eight days ago, and Julie Mao was finally ready to be shot.

Somehow Dreyfus and Miller feel very alike. I like that both first sentences drop you right in the action and you get a pretty good idea, what type of story you are dealing with. No tortured first lines full of flowery adverbs and superfluous fluff, trying to create atmosphere.

September Wrap-up

Towards the end of the year my reading always seems to go down. Not sure why. Anyhow, I just finished one audio and will post the review later. And I am about to start the next audio. I have one credit left with Audible and yet again I am contemplating to cancel my membership. Sometimes I enjoy listening to audio, but most of the time it feels more like a chore to sit and listen. My listening comprehension is not as good as my reading comprehension and I do have to make more of an effort to understand and follow the stories.

There are a few notable exceptions. One exception are the Peter Grant novels—not because they are fun, but because they are so excellently narrated. And the Expanse novels by Corey were a fun ride as audiobooks. So there is at least one more audiobook in my future, for that I would revive my Audible—the last Expanse novel, Leviathan Falls, to be published sometime in 2021…

So, what did I read in September?

Buddy reads:
– Mindtouch, ebook, ★★★★★, pastoral SF, non-sexual not-quite-romance, finding your place in the world… Another one of Hogarth‘s offerings in her Pelted Universe.
– Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy #5), ebook, ★★★★½, all the Ilona Andrews fans go „Yay“. Enough said.
– Sourdough (zombie), ebook, ★★★★☆, techy San Francisco and a mystical sourdough starter. This made me bake.
– The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, ebook, ★★★¾☆, solitude, books, family, trivia and romance.

Comics, aka my guilty pleasure:
– Captain America: Sam Wilson Vol. 1: Not My Captain America, ★★★☆☆, Sam Wilson takes over as Cap. And turns into a werewolf. The bad guy is Donald Trump in disguise.
– Pretty Deadly #1, ★☆☆☆☆, weirdWestern, allover the place, no plot.

Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy, #5) by Ilona Andrews Captain America Sam Wilson Vol. 1 Not My Captain America by Nick Spencer Pretty Deadly #1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick Mindtouch (The Dreamhealers, #1) by M.C.A. Hogarth The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman Sourdough by Robin Sloan 

Books I am looking forward to in 2021…

I try not to buy too many new books. Therefore I tend to avoid all these lists of upcoming books or just have a very quick glance at them, but refuse to add anything to my want-to-read-pile. I dream of the day, when I have no books piling up on my kindle or my living room table… Alas, I have middling success. Here are a few books I want to read in 2021. It’s a pretty short list, yay!

GRAPHIC NOVEL

Black Magick, Vol. 3: Ascension (Paperback)
by Greg Rucka

Expected publication: February 2nd 2021 by Image Comics

The black-and-white artwork of the first two volumes was excellent. Beautifully drawn, rich details, just very nice. The story was good and has lots of potential.

URBAN FANTASY

Blood Heir (Aurelia Ryder, #1)
by Ilona Andrews (Goodreads Author) 

Expected publication: January 12th 2021 by NYLA

From award-winning author, Ilona Andrews, an all-new novel set in the New York Times #1 bestselling Kate Daniels World and featuring Julie Lennart-Olsen, Kate and Curran’s ward. 

I refrained from reading this on IA‘s website, aka the weekly serialized chapters. In fact, I think that is still ongoing. The fact that there is no cover artwork yet makes me feel a little dubious about the planned publishing date of January 2021… And I am wondering if Julie will be as good as the original Kate Daniels stories.

Wild Sign (Alpha & Omega, #6)
by Patricia Briggs

Expected publication: March 16th 2021 by Amazon Digital Services

Mated werewolves Charles Cornick and Anna Latham must discover what could make an entire community disappear—before it’s too late

I have been reading the Mercy Thompson books and this spin-off for years. It is still one of my favourite UF series, almost as loved as Ilona Andrews‘ Kate Daniels series. I actually spent the first few months of this year with re-reading all of these books in preparation for a new release of the main series.

SCIENCE FICTION

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

Expected publication: March 2nd 2021 by Tor Books

An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, …

I really liked the first book and I can‘t wait to find out what Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass are going to face in this sequel to A Memory Called Empire.

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries, #6)
by Martha Wells (Goodreads Author) 

Expected publication: April 27th 2021 by Tor.com

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

What can I say… Instabuy! Although the last installment dragged a bit in the middle…

Untitled (The Expanse, #9)
by James S.A. Corey (Goodreads Author) 

The much awaited 9th and final installment of The Expanse series.

Oh boy, oh boy. No proper cover yet, no title yet and no publishing date… O.o <— that‘s my anxious face. It will be the end of an era… and if we‘re unlucky, it might not even happen in 2021… who knows!? Meep.

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

One Last Stop (Hardcover)
by Casey McQuiston (Goodreads Author) 

Expected publication: May 6th 2021 by Piatkus

From the New York Times bestselling author of Red, White & Royal Blue comes a new romantic comedy that puts a queer spin on Kate & Leopold.

I really liked Red, White & Royal Blue. And Kate & Leopold is a fun movie…