DNFs of 2022

I don‘t DNF a lot of books. I used to be one of those people that did not DNF books at all. I HAD to read them to the end, even if it took me months. Eventually I came to my senses and started to occasionally DNF a book, if I did not enjoy it after 50-100 pages (depending on allover length) or it took me more than a few days to get that far. I still never DNFd more than perhaps one book per month or less. And these days I tend to rather skim heavily rather than DNF, because I often want to know how it ends. I just read about the rather tempting idea of “…will DNF a book if it takes me more than 2 days to read 50 pages.” That would mean that I would have DNFd my current eye read days ago. I finally made it halfway and there are some fascinating ideas in the book, but it is still not a gripping read.

So, what books did I DNF last year, because not even heavy skimming could take me to the end? Well, there were some comics.

I bounced off hard of Sin City by Frank Miller. Some classics probably only work for men. I disliked the art. The story was too offensive to finish it. I can only take a certain amount of sexism, before it really puts me off.

Copra by Michel Fiffe was a big disappointment. I have read some superhero comics, mostly Marvel, but it‘s not my favourite genre. Here I had ti deal with Unlikeable superheroes to boot. I am not a big fan of characters that are just mean for no obvious reason and don‘t seem to have any redeeming features. If I don‘t like the characters or they don‘t interest me in another way, why bother?

They’re Not Like Us, Vol. 1: Black Holes for the Young was another disappointment. Essentially another superhero comic, with teenager developing psychic powers. Didn‘t like the artwork. The story didn‘t do anything for me, could not be bothered to continue for long or pick it up again after putting it down. It took too long to get interesting.

I started to re-read the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice with some reading buddies last year. I liked my re-read of Interview with the Vampire. However, by the time I got to book #4, The Tale of the Body Thief, I was throughly fed-up with it. There were some scenes I remembered fondly, namely the part in the Gobi desert—which I had attributed to another part of the series. But overall, it felt dated and lacked tension. Knowing the plot wasn‘t helping, obviously. Too much detail, repetitive bla-bla and over exposition of almost everything. I skimmed quite a bit to get to the body swapping part, but was willing to plod on. Then the rape happened—I had no recollection of that scene from previous reads. Or maybe I didn‘t understand and didn’t consider it rape before—it had been several decades since I read this last. That scene pretty much killed the book for me. The callousness really bothered me. Maybe this was done intentionally by Rice, but I couldn’t get past it. Don‘t get me wrong, I get that this is fiction and authors explore all kind of things—I just re-watched four seasons of Dexter, who is a sociopathic serial killer and I love the series and Dexter. But I couldn’t deal with Lestat raping that waitress. Killing her and drinking her blood, no problem…. I get how nuts that it.

How to Date Your Dragon by Molly Harper… *sigh*. UF leaning towards PNR. A decade ago I barely read anything but UF. I was oversaturated. So I stopped, with very rare exceptions. PNR was always a gamble. The heroines tend to be TSTL. I can‘t tolerate that. Why do female authors write these stupid cliches of their own gender? Anyway, back to this particular book. The love interest is a dragonshifter and the town’s sherif. The couple has zero chemistry, there is no decent world building. Nothing of consequence happened in the first 40% and I was to disinterested too listen to more of the audiobook.

Polaris Rising by Jesse Mihalik was another book in the same direction. I had that trilogy on my TBR shelf for a while and quite a few of my buddies love Mihalik. Yep. So not my cup of tea. Brain Candy in space with a romance sub-plot. 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? It was.

Gallant by Victoria Schwab was more unexpected. A haunted house, relatives with a mysterious past and a hostile cousin, a vaguely creepy and gothic atmosphere. No romance elements. I didn‘t find the story as such terribly suspenseful, although it is definitely well written. It was too straight forward for me and too predictable. I liked the story, but started to drift off around the middle—there was just not enough tension or interest for me to keep going.

There was another comic, two Clarkesworld magazines and a Great Courses Lecture series that I broke off. Oh yes, and an autobiography by a German TV presenter who loves camping. I mostly got that one for my mum. It was ok, just not my kind of thing.

How about you, what was your most disappointing DNF of 2022?

Apocalypse, horror, adventure and vampires

Impact Winter
by Travis Beacham

Earth was hit by a comet and the world went dark. In the darkness, vampires rose. This story is about a group of human survivors, battling to stay alive.

“A story of apocalypse, horror, and adventure, Impact Winter is a wholly original new saga created just for Audible with immersive 3D audio (featuring a brilliant British cast) that dares you to pop in your earbuds and listen in the dark. Venture into an eternally sunless world of swords and crossbows; primal hunters and shape-shifters; leaders and lovers. Hear how a brave few fight to survive the impact winter.“

Entertaining, a little creepy and too short to really explore this world to its fullest. Nothing Earth-shattering, but I liked the characters and the story in general. Good, if you are looking for a shorter audio, that isn‘t too taxing. The cast did a good job.

Culling that TBR pile…


This year I ventured into re-reading Anne Rice‘s Vampire Chronicles and mabye venturing further along into unread titles. So I read Interview with the Vampire in February and gave it 4 stars. The Vampire Lestat in April was another 4 stars, The Queen of the Damned in June still managed to garner 3.5 stars from me. Then came The Body Thief in September and I bounced off it hard…

I took a long, hard look at the next two books in the series, already sitting on my bookshelf. Took a breather, looked again. Read the blurbs… Meh.

They would be the first two books in the series that I haven‘t read yet. Anyway, the blurbs do not grab me and reviews of Memnoch The Devil by my reading buddies were not good. So, I am calling it. Done! Off into my give-away basket…

Memnoch the Devil (The Vampire Chronicles, #5)
by Anne Rice

In the fifth Vampire Chronicle, Lestat is searching for Dora, the beautiful and charismatic mortal daughter of a drug lord. Dora has moved Lestat like no other mortal ever has, and he cannot get her out of his visions. At the same time, he is increasingly aware that the Devil knows who he is and wants something from him. While torn between his vampire world and his passion for Dora, Lestat is sucked in by Memnoch, who claims to be the Devil himself. Memnoch presents Lestat with unimagined opportunities: to witness creation, to visit purgatory, to be treated like a prophet. Lestat faces a choice between the Devil or God. Whom does he believe in? Who does he serve? What are the elements of religious belief? Lestat finds himself caught in a whirlpool of the ultimate choice.

The Vampire Armand (The Vampire Chronicles, #6)
by Anne Rice

In this installment of The Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice summons up dazzling worlds to bring us the story of Armand — eternally young, with the face of a Botticelli angel. We travel with Armand across the centuries to the Kiev Rus of his boyhood — a ruined city under Mongol dominion — and to ancient Constantinople, where Tartar raiders sell him into slavery. And in a magnificent palazzo in the Venice of the Renaissance we see him emotionally and intellectually in thrall to the great vampire Marius, who masquerades among humankind as a mysterious, reclusive painter and who will bestow upon Armand the gift of vampiric blood.
As the novel races to its climax, moving through scenes of luxury and elegance, of ambush, fire, and devil worship, to nineteenth-century Paris and today’s New Orleans, we see its eternally vulnerable and romantic hero forced to choose between his twilight immortality and the salvation of his immortal soul.

When the Zombie Apocalypse Comes, Remember That I Am Faster Than You

Soul Taken (Mercy Thompson, #13)
by Patricia Briggs

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Mercy #13. Straight forward, fairly simple plot, nice lack of annoying drama. Took me three days to get past the first 10%, but then I was hooked and could not put it down anymore. So although it was plain and simple and without big surprises, I give it 5 stars for sheer entertainment value.

Mercy and Adam are center stage, with a fair amount of Zee, Tad, Jesse, Warren, a bit of Sherwood, Tilly and various vampires. And the Walking Stick! Not telling you who the bad guys are… 

There is a merciful lack of Christy and no marital drama. Which I had expected after the last book, but wasn‘t sad to miss. It‘s nice to see people with a functioning relationship, including the pack—mostly…

I wonder how many more books it will take Briggs to wrap up the overarching narrative with Bonarata. That guy really needs to be permanently dead.

Mercy #14 planned for 2023
Alpha & Omega #7 planned for 2024
http://www.hurog.com/books/

Patricia Briggs Mercy’s World Reading Order & Timeline: 
http://www.hurog.com/books/printablet…

Review of the previous Mercy book, #13, Smoke Bitten: 
GR: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4…
WordPress: https://cathysreadingbonanza.wordpres…

Well, that was much better in my memory…

The Queen of the Damned: The Third Book in The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Another reread. In my memory from 30 years ago my favourite book book of the series. Although in reality that turned out to be an amalgamation of this and the previous book. And I am being charitable when calling them favourites and giving them 4 stars each, due to nostalgia. Both were much too slow and scattered for present day me. 

Part I was a good reminder of all the characters from previous books. Felt very much like a collection of short stories though. Took me forever to get through this part.

Part II, over 200 pages into my paperback edition, finally dug into the main plot and picked up a little speed and coherence.

Parts III and IV were a mix of my favourite parts of the book, the Story of the Twins, and my least liked parts of Lestat with Akasha. I didn‘t buy Akasha‘s motivation and she left me cold as a character. The finale was really short for this doorstopper and anticlimatic.

I really enjoyed Part V and could have read another 100 pages of that. We got emotional and mischievous Lestat back from the previous book.

Sorry for this non-review. I sort of meandered through this book slowly, without taking any notes. There were quite a few parts I liked—pretty much everything without the titular character in it. Which makes the book a bit pointless, really… I just consider it a short story anthology of Anne Rice‘s vampires and everything is good.

I will continue with the series, purely because I have the next three paperbacks sitting on my bookshelf already. 

PS: The movie is really bad. It also tells only a small part of the book and pretty much completely leaves out any attempt at explaining Akasha‘s motivation.

Currently reading…

The Queen of the Damned: The Third Book in The Vampire Chronicles
by Anne Rice

The next book in my re-read of the Vampire Chronicles. I‘m in chapter 3, on page 75 of 573 pages. I‘ve been out a lot with friends this week again, so things are progressing slowly.

I did also rewatch the movie of the same name this week and can honestly say that it is really bad. It wasn‘t quite this. bad in my memory. Bad acting, bad directing, bad accents and I didn‘t feel the presumed romance at all. I am enjoying the book so far though. Let‘s see how much I remember of this one.

On the plus side I got a letter from my brother today and it had a really nice magnetic bookmark in it. Thank you, brother!

I am trying to buy a little less from Amazon and instead buy more local and/or second hand. So while I still bought this paperback online, I did buy it second hand from a German company. Local-ish, no new trees had to die, but still bad for my CO2 footprint. You win some, you loose some. The book was published in 1988, my edition is from 1990. It‘s in pretty good shape for being 32 years old. The edges are a bit scuffed, but the spine is not cracked. It is clean and has this nice “old book“ smell. The print is smallish, but ok.

So, Friday, last workday of the week, yay! No plans for tonight, so I might actually get some decent reading in. Saturday is Free Comic Day here, so I will take a trip to the big bookstore in next town over and see if there is anything there that tempts me. Or maybe I should pick something that I wouldn‘t normally choose…

Vampire, Boss Level

The Vampire Lestat (The Vampire Chronicles, #2) by Anne Rice

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Another re-read and old favourite from my teen/tween days. I read the first three books of the series about 30 years ago and loved them. Alas, this is another book were I remembered almost nothing of the plot but the broadest strokes. A monster of a book with very dense print on 599 pages, packing many parts with distinct plotlines and various stories of other vampires besides Lestat, provided backstory and a pretty comprehensive explanations of the world he lives in.

The pacing was too slow for me, but the story pulled me along. We touch down in ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, visit the Celts and meet druids, finally get a good, long look at pre-revolutionary France and Paris, travel around Europe and eventually make our way into the new world. Interview with the Vampire (my review) Armand and Louis make an appearance and we meet new characters that will have a major impact in the next book of the series.

Existential questions are discussed at length. Faith, god, good and evil, relationships, love, rituals… I have to confess that I skimmed past a few of those paragraphs. Online somewhere I read a description of Rice‘s writing style as both verbose and overly philosophical. I tend to agree. Sometimes the writing was a bit convoluted as well. There were some longer passages that I reread several times and I was still unsure afterwards what she wanted to tell me. Her livelong on-and-off affair with organized religion and the catholic church will have been a major influence here.

There was a much stronger gay vibe than I remember. It was pretty clear for me this time around that Lestat and Nicholas were in a relationship, although it is never explicitly spelled out.

Parts I did not like: the fixation on the superiority of blue-eyed blond people. Lack of meaningful female characters besides Gabrielle. General disdain of women as weak or, if strong, as unpredictable (deranged and dangerous?)—why do female writers perpetuate that image? Lack of diversity.

Re-reading old favourites is always a daunting undertaking. What if you hate that once beloved book? Luckily I liked my re-read of Interview with the Vampire. I discovered so many things I had missed as a late teen/early tween. Vampire Lestat is a much broader and complicated story with an even slower pace. It turns Louis into a very unreliable narrator, as this is quite a different Lestat to the first book. Or is Lestat pulling our leg? And Armand is a lot less likable, which makes it hard for me to relate to Lestat‘s love for him. Anyhow, I liked the book despite the above mentioned parts. 

I plan to read the next three books of the series:
The Queen of the Damned: The Third Book in The Vampire Chronicles — reread
The Tale of the Body Thief — unsure if I have read this
Memnoch the Devil — new to me

I will see how I feel about the rest of the series, the plot summaries sound increasingly bizarre.

There is no I in team and not everything is as it seems

Ham Helsing #1: Vampire Hunter by Rich Moyer

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Ham Helsing comes from a long line of unsuccessful vampire hunters, killing themselves with crazy inventions. Apparently stupid runs in the family. Ham seems to be the odd one out…. Maybe? Anyway…

Written for young readers (8-12 years), this charmed me right away and made me laugh. It‘s all about not being bogged down by assumptions, being a good and sometimes selfless person, working as a team… There is humour, sarcasm, adventure, scary spiders, an evil chicken and other funny characters. It‘s a very simple story, but it is very well done.

Talking about team…

I might read issue #2 at some point…

February 2022 Wrap-up

Here is my February 2022. My page count is a bit lower this month, due to some distracting family issues. I couldn‘t concentrate on new stories and reverted to comfort re-reading quite a lot of older fanfiction early in the month, which I don‘t really track.

Empire of Wild ★★★★☆, ebook, TBR, slow burning horror, indigenous folklore about a Rogarou.
– Iterum ★★★★☆, Stargate Atlantis fanfic, McShep, re-read / comfort reading — and a ton of other Spirk and McShep fanfiction!
– Bots of The Lost Ark in Clarkesworld Magazine #177, June 2021 ★★★★☆, online novelette, bots run amok, aliens threaten, ship and humans need to be saved, little bot to the rescue.
Interview with the Vampire ★★★★☆, ebook, re-read after 30 years or so. Slow start, but re-discovered so many details that I had forgotten. Ultimately rewarding.
– Shadecraft #1 ★★★★★, eComic, online for free at Image Comics, YA, Zadie is being chased by shadows… good artwork.
Fire and Ice: The Volcanoes of the Solar System ★★★★☆, audio, non-fiction, entertaining tour through our solar system and a fascinating look at volcanoes.
– Saga #56 ★★★★★, eComic
– Wikihistory ★★★★☆, short story, online, amusing piss-take on time travel and Wikipedia.
– The Legacy by R.A. Salvatore ★★★¾☆ ebook, TBR / StoryGraphReading Randomizer February #1, dark elves and dwarves battling it out in a lot of deep tunnels.
– An Easy Job ★★★★☆, short story, online, prequel to Sinew and Steel and What They Told

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six (ongoing):
– SCAR TISSUE by Tobias S. Buckell – human MC fosters a robot. Is the mind just bolted into its carriage or the sum of a whole? And what does it mean to be raised and to learn from experience? Sweet story, I got pretty emotional. ★★★★★
– EYES OF THE FOREST by Ray Nayler – scouts in an alien and dangerous forest, very cool concepts. ★★★★½
– SINEW AND STEEL AND WHAT THEY TOLD by Carrie Vaughn – Graff faked his medical records and something really awkward is going to come out. ★★★★¾

StoryGraph Reading Randomizer / backlog:
– The Solitaire Mystery, paper, TBR / February StoryGraph #2, have to see when I can fit this in…

Specfic Movies & TV watched:
– For All Mankind, S1, Eps. 1-5 ★★★★☆

Planned for March:
Ring Shout, audio, started…
Mickey7, ebook, Netgalley owned and running late
Ogres, ebook, pub date 15.03., Netgalley owned
The Complete Angel Catbird, Angel Catbird #1-3, Margaret Atwood, comic, owned
– Saga #57, pub date 23.03., pre-ordered
– StoryGraph #1 Even The Wingless
– StoryGraph #2 The Walking Dead, Vol. 17: Something to Fear

Interview completed

Interview with the Vampire (The Vampire Chronicles, #1) by Anne Rice

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s been a long time since I read this, as a teenager and in German. Mid 80s or so and several times in the years after… Loved it, loved it, loved it. Got me started on my path of life-long love of vampire stories. Shortly after I read Bram Stoker‘s Dracula and a bunch of other classic vampire books and loved those as well. 

I think the German translation dragged a bit. Although about 30% into my current re-read it was not exactly speedy either. A lot of exposition, very little direct speech—not my favourite. Luckily the book eventuality got more involving and lively.

As a teenager I considered this the best of the Vampire Chronicles and the one with the best story-line. The sequels got more and more commercial. I read four of them and then stopped, while I still liked them. In retrospect I probably remember the most of The Vampire Lestat and The Queen of the Damned. Boy, that was a horrible movie! If I should re-read the other books as well, I would probably prefer the „more commercial“ ones by now. We will see. I read another of Anne Rice‘s books recently, The Passion of Cleopatra and thought it was pretty meh.

Anyway, Interview with The Vampire. Probably THE book that sailed a massive fantasy subgenre and lead to two movies, one of them sporting a horribly miscast Tom Cruise and a beautifully moody Brad Pitt. 

A young reporter and a vampire sit in a bare room with a tape recorder. The vampire tells the story of his 200 years of life, err, un-death, from his early days on a plantation near New Orleans to Europe and all the way back to the Garden District of New Orleans in the mid-1970s, when the book was written. 

The book is a bit of a declaration of love for that city, which has been nicely captured in this review here: https://gonola.com/things-to-do-in-ne…

A lot of things happen that I didn‘t remember at all. Everything that hasn‘t appeared in the movie seems to have fallen away. Lestat is also a lot more hateful than I remember. And Claudia and Armand a lot more seductive.

The story moved pretty slowly and with a lot of exposition at first. Is it possible that later books were more dynamic? I was not impressed and skimmed some more boring passages early on. By the time the narrative moved to New Orleans and then on to Eastern Europe, I had become comfortable with the slightly old-fashioned feel of the language and the narrative had picked up some momentum. The high point of the book for me is Paris and the Theatre of the Vampires. 

Bottomline this has a lot more to offer than the movie. It is mostly slow paced and rich in detail. Very contemplative, pretty sad, with some shocking moments.

PS: there is an interesting article here about Anne Rice and fanfiction:
A Deep Dive Into the Anne Rice Fanfiction Debacle