Inside out

Eversion
by Alastair Reynolds

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In the 1800s, a sailing ship crashes off the coast of Norway. In the 1900s, a Zepellin explores an icy canyon in Antarctica. In the far future, a spaceship sets out for an alien artifact. Each excursion goes horribly wrong. And on every journey, Dr. Silas Coade is the physician, but only Silas seems to realize that these events keep repeating themselves. And it’s up to him to figure out why and how. And how to stop it all from happening again.

From the book blurb

I read the book blurb, took a good look at the cover (blue version) and googled Eversion, which led me to watch animations of what sphere eversion could look like. Other than I tried to stay away from spoilers (this is me, going over my review again, shortening and „de-spoilering“ it…).

The story is quite odd, actually. It feels a bit like those idle games for smart phones, where you have to destroy your current evolution of the game in order to progress to the next level. Silas keeps figuring things out slowly and a little further with each progressive step of the plot. It‘s a neat way to create suspense. 

I am surprised that this book hasn‘t been shelved as horror. I found it quite claustrophobic and not a little creepy. It has been tagged as Space Opera though, which I don‘t think applies. Gothic steampunk time-travel space-exploration mystery?

I would have liked to connect more deeply with Silas on his journey of (self-)discovery. His ethical dilemma was well-done, but could have been… just more? Funny, I never thought I would turn into a reader wanting more character development.

Very good audio narration.

What I have read so far by Reynolds, I liked. I am going about it quite haphazardly though. Perhaps I should have a closer look at his back catalogue and make an attempt at a more coordinated reading experience. 

Read so far by Reynolds, both 5-star reads:
The Prefect (Prefect Dreyfus Emergency, #1)
Blue Remembered Earth (Poseidon’s Children, #1)

On my shelf, to be read:
Permafrost
Revenger (Revenger, #1) 

Middling to Good

Middlegame (Alchemical Journeys, #1) by Seanan McGuire

Reed is an alchemist. He created twins with special powers, with the aim to attain dominion over the world, as one-dimensional villains are wont to do. The book starts off in the late 19th century, but moves into the 1990s and 2000s right away, telling the story of the two siblings, Roger and Dodger. 

The concept and central idea is good, but this was not my kind of book. I get it, but it all felt like a never-ending set-up, peppered by convenient escapes and do-overs. 

Roger and Dodger felt like interesting characters at first, but they never really got past their defining features. And in Roger‘s case not even that was well explored until almost the end. Their dynamic and on-and-off again relationship irritated me and they never really matured as characters, despite being 30ish by the end of the story. Of the other characters only Erin ever evolved past her blueprint.

This book was definitely too long, with too little happening plot or characterwise. By the midway point I lost interest. The road to the climax was too aimless. I basically skimmed the third quarter of the book, just reading first sentences of paragraphs. Frankly, I don‘t think I missed much. The last quarter of the book was ok, I just wish it had happened a lot faster.

I made it to the end and liked the general idea, 2.75 stars rounded up. I won‘t be getting anything else in this world.

I did like her zombie horror Feed, written under her other name, Mira Grant. And her underwater horror with evil mermaids was fun: Rolling in the Deep and Into the Drowning Deep. I own the first five books of her Wayward Children series, written as Seanan McGuire—I do hope that I will like them better than this one here.

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.

My stop is here…

One Last Stop
by Casey McQuiston

The blurb reminded me of Kate & Leopold, the movie that put Hugh Jackman on my radar as an actor. After reading the first three chapters, I put the book away. Not bad, but I couldn‘t work up much interest. August (Kate) mets Jane (Leopold) in the subway and eventually realizes that something fishy is going on, namely that Jane is from the 1970s. Nice idea, I‘m just not feeling it. DNF for now, around 19% and 70-odd pages. It‘s probably me.

P.S.: I really liked her previous book, Red, White & Royal Blue.

The Left Hand of Darkness
by Ursula K. Le Guin

“What Earthsea and the Hainish Cycle have in common is maximal impact with minimal page count.”

From the ebook introduction

After reading the first three chapters, I put this away, as I wasn‘t having fun with it. When this was published in 1969, it might have been a groundbreaking work. Now, after having read my share of gender-bending novels, this felt dated to me. The writing is dry, the style is not engaging me. Little plot progression, no exploration of the characters, to whom I felt absolutely no emotional connection.

It‘s probably also not quite what I was expecting. I read the blurb and thought „genderless society, lots of commentary and exploration about their personal interactions and divergence compared to our society“, but none of that happened in the first 60 pages.

The topic of loyalty and betrayal could have introduced more tension, but was told just as blandly. By the time I reached the supposedly more interesting part of their travel North, I had lost my will to continue. I am not interested to keep on going in the hopes of more.

One thing that irritated me deeply: The characters are all genderless, with brief exceptions of their „kemmer“, aka fertile periods / their Time / heat. Yet they are all being referred to as „he“. Which wouldn’t necessarily be an issue—Leckie does the same thing in reverse in her Imperial Radch novels and I had no issue with it. Maybe that makes me a hypocrite, I am not sure. I plan to re-read Ancilliary Justice this year, so I will pay more attention to that. However, when descriptions were made of someone appearing or behaving feminine in some way (irritating in itself), it was always with a negative slant. Maybe the point was to show how strange the situation was for the narrator, but it just made me dislike the book deeply. Why do female authors do that?

Another strange point was the narrator not seeming to be interested in what was going on in the society he was supposed to get to know. Odd. 

Maybe I should have expected something slow and not obvious, considering that this was first published in 1969. This reminded me of Foreigner, which was also a book of only middling success for me. I guess in the future I should just stay away from the SF Classics.

DNF around 20%. No impact in too many pages. I might revisit this review or the book again at some point.

Top Ten Tuesday – Book Titles that sound like Crayola Colors

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.

This week’s topic is all about color. Crayola has come out with special ones, like fluorescents, magic scents, metallic, pearlescent, colors of the world, and even ones with glitter in them. Just imagine your titles as colors and see what you come up with.

http://www.thatartsyreadergirl.com

Burnt Offerings (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #7) — read in 2019
by Laurell K. Hamilton

A burnt, reddish-orangey colour.

Number 7 of the series was still pretty good, but started to go off the trodden path and started off into that weird direction that eventually turned me off the series — after another dozen or so books… I was pretty stubborn. What I wrote in 2010:

Anita’s powers grow and grow. Never mind raising the dead. Dating a vampire, being alpha-female to a pack of werewolves, acting queen and protector of wereleopards and friend to some two-legged rats, where can she go from here? She has crossed the line from fighting the monsters to snuggling with them. Very erotic, violent, funny, disgusting, suspenseful… Actually, this is the first Anita Blake novel where it took me more than a day to get past the first 100 pages. The main character is going through so many severe changes, that it affects the pace of the story. The series is changing from crime novels with a supernatural twist to not-quite-sure-what-yet. I can’t wait to see, how the Anita/Richard/Jean-Claude triangle will develop in the next book. And I hope we’ll get back to some real sleuthing and mystery solving…

The Black Incal — read as a teenager in the 1980s, then again in 2017 and 2019.
by Alejandro Jodorowsky,  Mœbius (Illustrator) 

This makes me thing of something black with glitter.

An absolute classic. If you are an SF fan and have seen classic SF movies, this comic will trigger so many memories of great SF movies! A pivotal comic with astounding graphics. First published in 1981. I probably read it shortly thereafter, as a teenager, branching out from Tintin, wanting something more artistic and with a deeper storyline. I could still kick myself that I didn’t keep those early editions. I like everything about it, the story, the humour, the line art, the colouring. A lot of running, shooting, blowing stuff up, sci fi geek madness, The Fifth Element absurdness and it is as good as I remember.

The Fiery Cross (Outlander, #5) — read in 2003
by Diana Gabaldon

A fiery, red colour, obviously!

The fifth installment of the saga of Claire and Jamie. My recommendation: Read them in order, otherwise you literally loose the plot. Previous things get mentioned frequently without much of an explanation. And although I read all of them except for no. 2, I kept asking my mum (huge fan and proud owner of the compendium…) “What’s that, who’s this, what happened again there…?” No wonder with about 1000+ pages a pop. A must for fans, although my mum and I both found this one here not exactly thrilling. Number 5 is getting a bit tired.

Pale Horse Coming (Earl Swagger, #2) — read in 2003
by Stephen Hunter

A pale horse — a pretty light crayola, something beige or egg shell coloured…

An almost classic tale of vengeance. Our hero Earl Swagger goes down south to a penal farm, to find a friend that has disappeared while investigating the whereabouts of a client. He barely gets away with his life and sanity intact and swears to come back to give them hell. He gathers some tough and trigger happy gunmen around him and they go back. Sounds familiar? You can picture the rest!

Crimson City (Crimson City, #1) — read in 2006
by Liz Maverick

A dark, deep red crayola.

I am thinking Charlize Theron as Fleur and Colin Farell as Dain… There was quite a lot of action and not too much romance. The hero was good-looking, but grumpy and without a past, the heroine was a bit silly, but smartened up nicely. Well described and thought-out futuristic city setting. The revelation at the end was surprising, but led to the expected ending. A good, light read for low brain power.

Night Embrace (Dark-Hunter, #3) — read in 2006
by Sherrilyn Kenyon

A deep black crayola. With a velvety sheen…

I considered putting this book down and to not finish it. It took about half way into the book until something resembling a real storyline finally emerged. Nice sex, granted. But the constant descriptions of how gorgeous everybody looks on every second page started to go on my nerves eventually. Not much vampire hunting going on, despite that being the sole reason of being for the main characters. Still, the whole idea had some appeal.

Obsidian Butterfly (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #9) — read in 2006
by Laurell K. Hamilton

Another Anita and a jet-black crayola with bluish-grey mottling.

The story’s theme is quite a turn-around from the previous ones. A lot less of the supernatural, although it is still there. And a lot of whistling bullets. The previous book started to explored Anita’s fears of what she is becoming. I missed the lightness and the fun of the earlier books, but the darker look at the world in these later ones had appeal, too.

Northern Lights (His Dark Materials, #1) — read in 2010
by Philip Pullman

A multi-coloured crayola, with green blue and purple streaks.

I got the book, because I liked the movie a lot. My interest had been piqued after I had heard that people in the US had complained about the controversial religious undertones of the movie. The movie is a very close adaptation. Two events that happen at the end of the book have been moved further forward in the movie and the actual ending of the book is missing completely – I guess too much would have been left dangling. I did not like the book more or less than the movie. Lord Asriel in the movie was a more likeable character and the voice of Ian McKellen is hard to replace in writing.

The Blue Edge — read in 2008
by Carlos Eyles

A shimmering blue, full of bubbles and light streaking through…

This book gives a fascinating insight into freediving. When I started to scuba dive, I was amazed at the level of noise I produced with my breathing gear. I always felt very distracted by the ruckus I caused with all the gear I was hauling along. I wanted to be part of this amazing underwater world, without scaring the crap out of the animal life. This book reminded me of that. 

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers — read in 2014
by David Perlmutter,  Kristin Loberg

A wheat coloured crayola.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Dr. Perlmutter, the devastating truth about the effects of wheat, sugar, and carbs on the brain, and a 4-week plan to achieve optimum health.

from the book blurb

The first half of this book cited study after study and endless anecdotes, trying to convince the reader of the rightness of the book’s subject matter. Preaching to the choir, I already bought the book, I did not need further convincing. Made the book extremely boring for me and after a while I just skimmed. In contrast the practical part of the book, the how-to, was extremely short and almost felt like an afterthought. Very populistic, very one-sided.

Top Ten Tuesday, the lovebirds edition

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: Valentine’s Day/Love Freebie

Valentine’s Day, a worldwide conspiracy by flower sellers everywhere… so not my holiday. Romance books in my backlist, let‘s see…

Maybe something historical, set in Egypt?

Reflections in the Nile (Time Travel, #1), read in 2004
by Suzanne Frank

Chloe visits her sister, an archeologist, in Luxor. She does the usual sight seeing and also goes to the Sound and Light show at Karnak temple. She decides that she wants to see the sunrise from inside the temple to take some photos and hides in a small side chamber. Then, suddenly, when she kneels down to pick something up from the ground, everything shifts and wavers and she finds herself in the body of someone else in the times of Pharao Hatchepsut.

A romantic novel with an archeological twist. Quite entertaining and nice reading for low brainpower. This is the first of four books. In the sequels Chloe will travel to Atlantis, Canaan and finally (I think) to Babylon.

Some contemporary romance…

Catch of the Day (Misty Harbor, #1), read in 2004
by Marcia Evanick

Nice brain candy. Likeable characters, decent storyline, well written. Everybody gets hitched in the end, so it makes for happy reading.

Maybe some time travel?

The Time Traveler’s Wife, read in 2006
by Audrey Niffenegger

I was very dubious about it, when I finally picked up this book. Very often, when I start reading a highly praised and bestselling book, I find it utterly indigestible and throw it in a corner after 70-odd pages. Plus my mum didn’t like it and thought the language was childish. So a book that I tackled with very low expectations. 

And lo and behold – What a great book, I loved it! My only complaint – I thought the ending was given away much too early in the book and that ruined my enjoyment a little. I knew what was coming and that is rarely good. But still, fantastic story. I thought the time travelling would be too weird and too interruptive of a smooth story flow. But not a all. It was well done, felt very natural and opened up the door to some great opportunities for the plot.

How about some werewolves?

Bitten (Otherworld, #1), read in 2007
by Kelley Armstrong

Very good and strong first book in a series. Believable characters and believable wolves (as far as humanised animals can go). And I did not mind the very conventional romance, it was a nice change to the supercharged shapeshifter version.

Tempting Danger (World of the Lupi, #1), read in 2012
by Eileen Wilks

Tough female homicide detective meets tall, dark and handsome stranger. He’s a werewolf and a murder suspect. And she has secrets of her own. Romance interferes with a murder investigation. The usual. 

The first half was not bad. The suspense part was fairly mild and not too exciting. The romance and sex were so-so. The book didn’t grab my attention much and it took me forever to get past the half-way point. The action picked up after that and it actually got interesting. Enough for me to want to pick up the next book in the series.

And I eventually read the whole series and it became one of my favourites! Sadly, the series was never finished.

Or rather historical fiction?

Passion, read in 2007
by Jude Morgan

An account of the women sharing their lives with Lord Byron, Shelley and Keats. A very good description of the middle/upper class of that time with emphasis on the women, their social surroundings, morals and ethics of that time, politics and major events of the period. You get a look at the literary and social scene, the Prince Regent, Beau Brummel, Napoleon, Waterloo and so on and so forth.

Although its central theme is romantic relationships, I would not class this as a romantic novel, but rather a historic one. There is not a strong narrative thread. Which is probably the reason, why I started loosing interest about half way through. So, I enjoyed the first 300 pages very much, but thought that the book got a bit scattered after that. I did not like the chapters that were told by Caro Lamb much – mostly because I did not like her talking directly at me. I did not think that worked very well.

The storyline of Keats and Fanny Brawne felt like an afterthought and the book could have done without it. I liked Augusta and Mary Shelley best. They were the most vivid and interesting characters in the book. And Byron – I wouldn’t mind having dinner with him, to see what all the fuss is about and if he was really this fascinating!

I expected their stay at lake Geneva – where Frankenstein was “born” – to be the pivotal point of the book and was a bit disappointed how briefly it appeared. It is a good story though and was worth reading.

Vampires with a shoe fetish!

Undead and Unwed (Undead, #1), read in 2011
by MaryJanice Davidson

Betsy wakes up in the morgue, undead and clearly unhappy. Shenanigans ensue, good-looking vampires appear, bad guys make trouble and expensive shoes make several appaerances as well. Low on content, but high on snark. I laughed a lot. Very entertaining for those low-brain-power days.

More werewolves!

Kitty and the Midnight Hour (Kitty Norville #1), read in 2008
by Carrie Vaughn

Very good start to a the series! Kitty gets herself into trouble, when she starts counselling fellow shapeshifters and assorted vampires on her midnight radio show. Shows you – stay out of things or you get into lots of trouble! Light mystery with werewolves, good fun!

A spot of literary fiction?

Cold Mountain, read in 1998
by Charles Frazier

A book that I remember fondly, without recalling many details of the writing. It was slow, I think. And the movie was a decent adaptation.

And rounding it off with more historical romance…

The Raven Prince (Princes Trilogy, #1), read in 2007
by Elizabeth Hoyt

Very enjoyable historical romance. The usual set-up. Nasty male hero. Cute and humble heroine does not like him, but eventually falls in love and….. The twist with the brothel is unusual. But it was fun, I had a good time reading it and really liked the characters.

Wild mix, I know. I just grabbed them as they popped up on my shelf.

Rescue mission, last attempt…

Christmas Present (The Chronicles of St. Mary’s, #4.5)
by Jodi Taylor (Author),  Zara Ramm (Narrator) 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Another short story, set in the world of St. Mary‘s and its crazy, time-travelling professors. This time around we end up in Roman Britain, more precisely in Colchester and get a chance to meet Boudica. That was mildly interesting, but yet again didn‘t excite me very much. Too many arbitrary one-liners and pointless fluff for the sake of making it all funnier. Yes, well, I should give up already, after reading the first book and having listened to the third short story and not liking any of them particularly much. Ultimately I am not a fan of time-travel and this is not my brand of humour. Ok for fans of the series.

Lost in time

The City of Shifting Waters (Valérian, #1)The City of Shifting Waters by Pierre Christin

My first time with Valerian and Laureline. 3D chess, holy Star Trek! Originally published in 1976. Has a pretty old-fashioned and, dare I say it, cartoonish look to it. But then it is about 40 years old. Laureline is mostly in the sidelines, with a supporting role and the whole shebang is a little sexist, but considering the comic’s age I can live with that.

My free Kindle edition (kindle unlimited/amazon prime reading) from 2010 does not have the best resolution, the speech bubbles are a little out of focus.

The artwork grew on me pretty quickly. Guys in 70s hippy clothing, what’s not to like. Good story, too. Pretty chatty for a comic, though, with a lot of text. Sometimes overly crowded with speech bubbles.

I liked the artwork, colouring and plot. Aged fairly well, although it doesn’t have any of the flashiness and visual depth of modern comics. I would recommend this to friends and maybe even get another volume. I have not watched the movie yet, but I might do so now.

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Time-travelling backstory

The Very First Damned Thing (The Chronicles of St Mary's, #0.5)The Very First Damned Thing by Jodi Taylor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My third go at The Chronicles of St. Mary’s. I read the first book and listened to another short story. So far solid three-star experiences. Ok, but ultimately not for me. I am not a huge fan of time-travelling stories or the particular brand of humour that I have found in these books.

Recommended for fans of the series, for new readers I think it would maybe make more sense to go straight for the first book. This did not feel like a prequel, it is more of an addition to give some backstory.

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