Into the wood and out of the woods…

Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A husband disappeared — or did he?

This is not a typical werewolf story. If you are looking for Urban Fantasy, this is definitely not it. It is a story by an indigenous Canadian writer, based on traditional folkore about the Rogarou (from the French word for werewolf, loup-garou) and then some. And a very real topic concerning indigenous people in Canada today.

I was a little lukewarm about this throughout, but the last third of the novel made up for it. That part was excellent and I couldn‘t put it down anymore. The changing points of view made for an exciting read and the ending and epilogue gave it a great and suspenseful finish.

Things I looked up during my read — from here on there are spoilers:

Here is an somewhat spoilerish interview with Dimaline where she describes how she came to write a novel about a Rogarou: A Native Woman Battles Neocolonialism and Werewolves in “Empire of Wild”

The novel might be adapted for the small screen: Kai Yu Wu & Cherie Dimaline Adapting Horror Novel ‘Empire Of Wild’ As Series With Fabel Entertainment

Towards the end of the novel there is a quote from a poem:

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
               So how should I presume?

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. ELIOT 

Some thoughts on Joan:

Joan‘s last name, Beausoliel: is that a anglicized version of „beau soleil“, aka beautiful sun?

Joan of Arcand = Joan of Arc… as in: she is supposed to deliver her region and people from the invading mining companies, etc.?

Joan‘s red coat — a hint at Litte Red Riding Hood? Considering some events in this book, it feels like a re-telling of that fairytale, at least in parts. Intermingled with that Rogarou folkore.

“What big teeth you have,” said Little Red Riding Hood her voice quivering slightly.
“The better to eat you with, my dear,” roared the wolf…“

From the fairytale

Bottomline: Lukewarm start for me. Some good characters. Some light skipping of paragraphs. Picking up of steam and suspense with a great last part and finale.

The Moon is still Calling…

The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs is one of the very few Urban Fantasy series that I still follow. I used to read almost nothing but UF for the best part of a decade, until the genre was so oversaturated with new, mediocre stuff that I lost the taste for it.

Last year, when another book in the spin-off series Alpha & Omega came out, I re-read both series in chronological order, which took quite a while. It was fun and an excellent reminder of some foggy details and hotly debated points of the fandom.

In June 2022 another installment of the series will be published, Soul Taken (Mercy Thompson, #13). Counting the spin-off series, that brings us to book 19 in this universe, ignoring a bunch of short stories, comics, etc. Book #12 of the main series dealt with some marriage problems between our titular hero and her mate, that hopefully will get resolved in the new book.

I liked that book, but this is another series where I am starting to wonder if it‘s perhaps time to wrap things up for good. Definitely still getting the new one in June though! Pre-ordered!

Six Degrees of Separation, you‘ve got mail…

Welcome to #6degrees. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book. I am using this meme to work on my backlog, aka reviews that I haven‘t yet posted to my blog here. How the meme works and how you can join is explained here. The initial blog post about this month‘s choice is here.

This month starts with autobiographical fiction, Postcards From the Edge by Carrie Fisher. 

Which, yet again, I haven‘t read. I know Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, as probably most people do. I don‘t know, how much of an autobiography this book is, but nonetheless I will mention another book by an author…

The Moon’s a Balloon by David Niven

I read this at some point in the ’90s. I don’t recall any details, just a general sense of having read something pleasant and somewhat entertaining, befitting of the biography of a true, English gentleman. I would have loved to mention an autobiographical book by Dirk Bogarde next. It was about his time in the Royal Airforce (I think?) during WWII, but sadly I don‘t remember the name and couldn‘t find it, when I looked now. I don‘t want to mention Michael Caine again, although it is a very funny book. However, I posted about it already in another meme. So… Moon? Moon!

Bayou Moon (The Edge, #2) by Ilona Andrews

My favourite book of Ilona Andrews‘ Edge books. I loved the crazy family, the rathole and the Mire. In my mind I kept punting through a darker and pissed-off version of the Everglades. Great setting, good plot, suspenseful, good snark. The sword on the cover of this book leads me to…

The Power of the Sword by Wilbur Smith

For a few years Wilbur Smith was my guilty pleasure and I enjoyed his books tremendously. This one here is the second book in the family saga of the Courtneys of South Africa. I liked the first one a lot. When I picked up Power of the Sword, I possibly had outgrown my interest in Wilbur Smith. One Smith leads me to another Smith…

Wynonna Earp Volume 1: Homecoming (Wynonna Earp #1-6) by Beau Smith (Writer),  Lora Innes (Illustrator)

None of my lists would be complete without a comic / graphic novel. The story did not do much for me. The heroine ran around shooting and otherwise killing a lot of baddies and in the process got the good guys killed as well. She got told off for it, ignores that completely and killed some more. Rinse and repeat. Gore, blood, not much plot. Not much character development either. I tried the TV adaptation and didn‘t like it much either. Homecoming is the title of another tie-in comic…

Homecoming (Mercy Thompson Graphic Novel) by Patricia Briggs,  David Lawrence,  Francis Tsai (Illustrator),  Amelia Woo (Illustrator) 

I am a huge fan of the series, so I had to give this a try. Not a lot of world building. I doubt I would have understood what was going on or who they all were and related to each other, if I hadn‘t know the books. Mercy looks different in every chapter. Her face changes, her body shape changes. Sometimes she is muscular, sometimes she looks like Barbie with runner‘s legs. Big boobs, small boobs, pointy chin, square chin, malnourished looking, at times badly proportioned. Very odd. The other humans or werewolves weren‘t terribly well done either. I suppose it‘s silly to expect them all to be anatomically correct, but sometimes the drawings looked a bit too amateurish for my taste. Bottom line, don‘t bother. I will certainly not get another of these comics. Apparently they have also done comics for Laurell K Hamilton, so those are out as well. Talking about Hamilton, I posted about a fair few Anita Blake books, but never about…

A Kiss of Shadows (Merry Gentry, #1) by Laurell K. Hamilton

The usual humour and an interesting storyline (this is early-ish Hamilton!), although not quite a gritty as Anita Blake. Up until the point, until the heroine goes home. From the onwards it just seemed to be Merry Gentry considering who looks the most stunning, what their clothes look like and how good they might be in bed. Probably sounds familiar for readers of Laurell K. Hamilton.

So, from the edge into the shadows in this round…

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….

Top Ten Tuesday in full sentences

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/

Last week‘s topic: book titles that are complete sentences…


Kitty Goes to Washington (Kitty Norville, #2) by Carrie Vaughn. Kitty outed werewolves to the world in her midnight radio show. Not on purpose, mind you. Now she has to show up in Washington for a senate hearing. 

Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville, #3) by Carrie Vaughn, things start to become darker and scarier than in the first two books.

Kitty Raises Hell (Kitty Norville, #6) by Carrie Vaughn, the action is good and the plotlines entertaining….

Kitty Goes to War (Kitty Norville, #8) by Carrie Vaughn. Entertaining, funny, lots of werewolves…

The Rest Falls Away (The Gardella Vampire Hunters, #1) by Colleen Gleason. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, meets Jane Austen. A lot of frocks, debutantes and dance cards mingle with the undead.

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. It is a very poetic book, the characters feel real and I got very involved in the storyline. It was just too much. Dolores was such a terrible person in the first half of the book. Not an easy read.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Hannah Green,  Joanne Greenberg. I found the characters too removed to develop enough interest.

Teach Yourself Islam by Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood. The book gives a good first look into Islam. It covers all the basics and is easy too read, albeit with a strong emphasis on Asian Muslims living in Britain,

Tell No One by Harlan Coben, boilerplate mystery / thriller.

From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East by William Dalrymple. Brilliant book. Traveling from the mountain cloisters of Greece across the Levantine to Mount St Catherine in the Sinai, you learn in a colourful way, why and how Christianity and Islam developed from Judaism. 

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee, a brilliant play, that led to an equally brilliant movie.

What’s Bred in the Bone (Cornish Trilogy, #2) by Robertson Davies. Imaginative, unusual, weird.

Top Ten Tuesday — Colorful Book Covers

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: Colorful Book Covers

I looked at a tapestry of book covers on my read-books-shelf and picked out the more colourful ones. First I looked at my comics shelf, then at all the other books. In the process I noticed that my Sookie Stackhouse books were pretty colourful… Not the first four, they were mostly in dark and purple tones, but after that they became increasingly happy looking….

I read the first Sookie Stackhouse book in 2005, about 4 years after it had been published. I caught up fairly quickly and then read the mass market paperbacks, as soon as they were published. These books started my decade-long and pretty serious love affair with Urban Fantasy and vampires. Some other great UF series with vampires and werewolves followed this one. For about 10 years I barely read anything else. Eventually I got tired of the carbon copies that were churned out year after year during the hayday of this genre and I started to read other things. Still, I have fond memories and I never re-read the Sookie Stackhouse books, for fear of not liking them anymore.

PS: I did like the first few season of True Blood, until they went too far off script. Yes, I always hated Bill. Team Eric all the way!

PSS: My love affair with vampires started much, much earlier. Probably with Christoper Lee and those campy Hammer movies. Those led me to Bram Stoker and eventually, with some detours, to Interview with the Vampire (The Vampire Chronicles, #1) by Anne Rice. Oh my giddy aunt, has it really be 40 years since I read this? Wow. I loved the vampire Lestat so much. And Tom Cruise was such a horrible casting choice for the movie. Ok, the whole movie was pretty horrible, compared to the book…Anyway, I will always have a soft spot for Eric Northman!

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.

Something creepy in the woods…

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The 6th installment of Alpha & Omega. Well-known characters do their thing. It‘s a bit like eating comfort food. You know what your‘re getting, it‘s enjoyable, mostly safe and entertaining. 

The FBI shows up at the doorstep of Anna and Charles and asks for help. A village in the mountains has disappeared and something potentially evil lurks in the woods.

Solid story telling with a decent plot, told from various POVs, with slightly overlapping timelines at chapter endings and beginnings. We finally get a closer look at Leah‘s backstory. I still don‘t like her very much, but considering how badly Bran has treated her all this time, I guess I should cut her some slack.

I wouldn‘t have minded, if the FBI had shown up again towards the end of the book, they were left dangling a bit. Another plot bunny is the story of Sherwood Post. And the fandom (me!) would probably very much enjoy to read a book about Samuel and Ariana and what they have been up to until now.

And that epilogue… exciting possibilities!

Top Ten Tuesday — Abandon Ship!

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: Books I‘d gladly throw into the ocean. You can want to throw a book into the ocean for a number of different reasons, both good and bad…

I used to never DNF a book and would force myself to read through those books that I truly did not enjoy. Not a great experience and it would keep me from reading more enjoyable books. So, eventually, I started to DNF those books, although it always felt tremendously unsatisfying. These days I have changed tactics again, I just skim like a fiend. That way I at least get some closure and find out how it all ends…

Here are some examples of the DNF category:

Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling, #1) — tossed in 2016
by Nalini Singh

I was excited at first at the prospect of characters with Vulcan traits meeting shapeshifters., I was skimming by chapter two and felt no compulsion to pick this up again. Made myself read another two chapter of nothing much. Boring. I don’t care about the MCs or their inner monologue. Bla. She’s constantly worrying about her own inadequacies, he’s disrespectful of her boundaries and personal space. If I was her, I would have punched him by the second time he touched me without invitation, especially after I had told him not to. Pulling her plait? Is he twelve?

I skimmed and picked at some bits of this novel and it all reads and feels like the first few chapters. Read a few pages in the last chapter and the epilogue. Really don’t care. Perhaps this is too much PNR for me. Add to that antiquated gender models and I am done.

DNF at 56 pages and some nilly-willy skimming through later bits of the book. It’s probably me. I think I have UF/PNR-burn-out. I am really not interested anymore in the same old tropes, clichées and tired, old plot devices.

The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty, #1) — abandoned in 2016
by Ken Liu

World building:
Imperial airships. Some gods appeared briefly every now and then, but other than that this was conflicts between houses, conspiracies and war. 

At times this felt like a historical novel set in another version of China. Reading other reviews, I realized that this is exactly what it was. Ken Liu took real events of China’s history and transplanted them into a fictional setting, tinted with light fantasy elements. 

All not bad things, but the narrative felt very dry to me. More an account of things that a captivating narrative.

Characters:
I found it difficult to relate to the characters. They felt very one-dimensional and simplistic, almost like paper cut-outs from children’s books. This is the hero, this is the bad guy, this is the supportive wife… There was not a lot of life or development to these characters.

Plus there was a huge cast with unusual names. Added on top were the many place names and I really struggled to keep everything straight.

The lack of strong female characters has been commented on quite a bit in other reviews. It’s not a topic I tend to get militant about, but I did take note of the lack of interesting females. There was one with a bit more time on the page early on, but she was barely more than a side character. Towards the middle another one popped up, but she was as flat as the other characters.

Plot:
Slow. Changing points of view and settings in every chapter made the plot progression even slower. They did not help with my struggle to remember names and who-was-who either.

There was a lot of talking and very little doing. I wish there would have been more “Show, don’t tell!” As mentioned above, this read like an account of events, as if the various plot points were simply ticked off. There was no suspense or meaningful build-up.

I found this book a curious mix of boredom and glimpses into a great storyline. Those were the rare moments, when the plot did take a step forward. The flowery and stilted prose added to my difficulties with relating to the characters or the story.

DNF at 46%. Too many books, too little time.

I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you! Sorry that my review has not been more favourable!

PS from present-day-me: I have read some short stories by Ken Liu that I liked and I plan to try one of his other books eventually…

The Unleashing (Call of Crows, #1) — abandoned in 2015
by Shelly Laurenston

The beginning of the book is a little confusing, as it isn’t very clear that the character is having flashbacks. The ebook formatting of my advanced reading copy is also pretty wonky, which made reading this not any easier.

Initially some nice world building, some interesting characters. But the book never gets off the ground. There is a lot of talking, the characters have the maturity of really shallow teenagers and the plot never develops at all. 

The main character is an ex-marine and has been on two tours to Afghanistan. She sounds like she’s still in high school. Her male counterpart starts off with a lot of potential, but also goes nowhere fast.

There are various clans, fighting each others in the name of some Norse gods. A quarter into the book I still hadn’t figured out why and it all felt pretty pointless.

One bonus point for a Tolkien reference, but other than that I was bored and did not care what happens next. I kept pushing myself from one chapter to the next, in the hopes of something interesting happening, but finally gave up at 35%. Even the main character finding her wings couldn’t convince me to try for a few more chapters. If there is a good story somewhere, it took too long to raise its head.

I received this ARC copy of The Unleashing from Kensington Publishing Corp./NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. Sorry that it didn’t turn out better than this.

The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories — ran out of steam in 2013
by Ian Watson,  Ian Whates

DNF at 63%, 373 of 582 pages. I am fed up with this cluttering up my currently reading shelf. The 15 stories that I did read, average out at three stars. It’s not a bad collection, but it’s not really interesting either. I doubt I will pick it up again, but you never know.


Excellent, can I have that as a novel, please. 5 stars:
Harry Harrison & Tom Shippey, A letter from the Pope (vikings invading British isles, Middle Ages)

Entertaining and enjoyable, 4 stars:
James Morrow, The raft of the Titanic
Eugene Byrne & Kim Newman, The Wandering Christian (time of Christ to Middle Ages)
Esther M. Friesner, Such a deal (Christoper Columbus)
Kim Stanley Robinson, The Lucky Strike (WWII, war against Japan) – excellent! If I didn’t know first-hand already that Robinson is a great writer, this would have convinced me.
Ian R. MacLeod, The English Mutiny (England did not conquer India) – liked it, good idea well excecuted. Can see myself picking up something else by this author.

Interesting idea, but I was not really sold, 3 stars:
Ken MacLeod, Sidewinders (SF, dystopian future)
Suzette Hayden Elgin, Hush my Mouth (American civil war and onwards)
Rudy Rucker, The Imitation Game (Alan Turing) – interesting idea, but I didn’t care much for the characterization of Alan Turing or the actual plot.
Keith Roberts, Weihnachtsabend (Nazi Gemany and The British Empire form a pact) – the spelling and grammar mistakes of the German sentences were annyoing. The story was a bit odd.

Not interested, mostly skimmed. 1 or 2 stars:
A. A. Attanasio, Ink from the new Moon (discovery of the New World, China rules the world)
Pat Cadigan, Dispatches from the Revolution (USA, Vienam war onwards, politics, civil rights)
Paul McAuley, A Very British History (history of the space race) – boring, I was skimming almost from the beginning.
Marc Laidlaw, His Powder’d Wig, His Crown of Thornes (The colonies did not win during the American revolution…) – the story creeped me out, did not like it, skimmed through half of it.
Judith Carr, Roncesvalles (Spain, Middle Ages) – felt old-fashioned, talkative, with an overload of details. Lost interest, before anything of consequence happened.
Chris Robertson, O One (China rules the world, computation)

Stopped before reading: Harry Turtledove, Islands in the Sea

Cold Burn of Magic (Black Blade, #1) — gave up in 2015
by Jennifer Estep

DNF at 37%. And I only got this far with some skimming. I think I have to stop reading YA, it mostly does not work for me.

I did not buy the main character. Orphaned at 13, living alone and hiding away in a basement for years. And despite that she has these kick-ass fighting skills, capable of offing grown men that fight for a living. Not working for me.

On top of that she is a mean spirited, unlikeable teenager. She was probably written to be like that on purpose and might go through a change later in the book, to become a more mature person. But meanwhile I disliked her so much that I developed no interest in her.

And who wears a trenchcoat to a robbery? And carries the loot in its pockets?

The main themes of the book rang too many bells. Magical, powerful families, as in the Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews. Soul sight, as in the Dresden series by Jim Butcher. Repetitive writing, in teenager lingo, like. Been there, read it, was done much better in those books. Felt worn and did not engage me at all.

And some of the writing was just so silly. Another girl gets injured during a fight and spouts arterial blood. Our heroine finally gets a closer look and is shocked that it is even worse than she thought. The girl was spouting arterial blood. Come on, how much worse can it get?

Bottom line, unlikeable and unrealistic main character. Don’t buy the action scenes. The pacing was just not right. Action scenes should be fast and action-filled, they shouldn’t be full of explanations and thinky thoughts. Sketchy world building, magical families and talents that might not be intentional copies of other books, but felt so done already. At a third into the book still no monster sighting, which could have been the only novel idea of the book thus far.

If you are a fan of Jennifer Estep and of YA, this is probably a great read for you. But for me, every new scene kept rubbing me the wrong way. Not interested enough to keep going.

Free ARC, provided by Netgalley. Sorry that the review wasn’t positive.

The Accidental Demon Slayer (Demon Slayer, #1) — gave up in 2015
by Angie Fox

Woman finds out that the supernatural exists and that she is an especially strong and gifted demon hunter, when her Harley-driving granny shows up to save her from evil. Demons chase them, they survive and meet tall, dark and handsome. Who is mysterious and a great kisser. And not entirely human. Potential love-interest. There is also a talking Jack Russel terrier, who doesn’t seem to serve any purpose. Maybe comic relief, but not.

They escape to some bar, meet all the other biker witches, drink lots of alcohol, have a magic ceremony, have some not-quite-road-kill food, and 30% of the book are over without much happening, despite all the action. 

Characters are supposed to be weird and quirky, I guess. The various witches were confusing, as they all come across alike. Not a lot of world building, no explanations about the main character and her powers. I felt like watching the Halloween episode of Golden Girls.

Bored and glad that I got this for free from Amazon. DNF at 32%

Priceless (Rylee Adamson, #1) — did not track in 2015
by Shannon Mayer

„My name is Rylee and I am a Tracker.” 

Nice idea. Unfortunately the heroine does not track a thing in the first 20% of the book. She just drives around, visits random people and keeps telling herself, what a kick-ass bitch she is. 

I am guessing the introduction of a bunch of people with various, amazing skill sets is intended as a set-up for the rest of the series. Those characters are mostly clichees. Enter the young, paranoid hacker, living in a wired dump, sourrounded by CCTV and swilling root beer. Et cetera. 

I am sorry, I am not feeling it. I don’t like the main character, I am not connecting with the story at all. I keep finding other, more interesting things to do, just to avoid reading another chapter of this book. I am out. DNF at 21%.

Star Wars: Darth Vader, Vol. 1: Vader — abandoned ship in 2017
by Kieron Gillen,  Salvador Larroca (Illustrator),  Adi Granov (Illustrator) 

I liked the artwork, the story didn’t do it for me. By issue #3 I was skimming. 

Vader is the ultimate bad guy and seeing him not being the top dog was strange. I did like the glimpses into the parallels of the original Star Wars movies, but the storyline as a whole did not interest me.

Kiss of Fire (Dragonfire, #1) — done with this in 2015
by Deborah Cooke

Marie Sue is rescued from a deadly situation by a mysterious, ruggedly handsome and well-muscled guy. Check.

Instalove. Check. 

Silly dialogue, barely-there plot, minimal world building.

Skimmed to the fabled shower sequence. Yep, badly written sex. Done.

DNF after 130 pages.

The Bride Wore Spurs (the Inconvenient Bride Series #1) — no to this in 2017
by Sharon Ihle

I read, skimmed to 35% and Had to DNF. I could not continue with this. 

The female main character is TSTL in such a monumental fashion that it was painful to read. I don’t care if it is on purpose and if she would have turned into Superwoman in the last three chapters. Nobody can be this ignorant. Squeeze eggs out of a chicken? Give me a break. 

And I can’t develop any sympathies for a character that willfully lies and deceives and is stupid enough to think that she will get away with it.

There is no world building to speak of. Few descriptions of people or settings, I did not really get a mental picture of anything. The plot had potential and could have been fun, but lacked… not sure what. There were inconsistencies in the POV and also things that just didn’t make sense. For example, he is a rancher, she walks away from him with jingling spurs and he wonders where that noise is coming from. Is he deaf and directionally challenged? She wears boots that the mysterious person gave her and that she isn’t supposed to know about. He sees her take off those boots and…. nothing? I don’t know, everything just aggravated me about this book, I had to put it down.

In these cases I usually give two it-was-me-not-you stars. But this books annoyed me so much, I had to downgrade it to 1 star.

Thanks to the publisher for this freebie! Sorry, didn’t work for me!

Top Ten Tuesday, the Mardi Gras 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: Purple, Yellow, and/or Green Book Covers (in honor of Mardi Gras)

Purple-ish backlog…

The Killing Dance (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #6)
by Laurell K. Hamilton

Finally there is a resolution to the dating drama. Werewolf or vampire? I think a threesome would have been a nice outcome! But no, instead we are having big relationship troubles and jealousy. We’ll see how that’ll work out. Very hot sex scene. I will never look at my bathtub the same way again.


Once Bitten, Twice Shy
by Christina Courtenay

Cute story, although one wonders how often one woman can be kidnapped over the course of two-hundred pages. Pretty silly plot twists and I agree with other reviewers that the story bordered on the ridiculous side. Most of the side characters were so over the top, they were more like caricatures than anything else, with the impulse control and common sense of five year olds. And the ending left me pretty unsatisfied.


Marry in Haste
by Christina Courtenay

Silly, shallow and entertaining. Nice, mindless brain candy. Marriage of convenience well done.


Yellow-ish backlog…

Monday Mourning (Temperance Brennan, #7)
by Kathy Reichs

Her 7th book. The first 4 were brilliant. By no. 7 the the excitement has gone. Perhaps I got too used to the character. Or the storylines are really not as suspenseful anymore. I am not sure. My interest lasted longer than with Patricia Cornwell though.


The Blessing Stone
by Barbara Wood

Several short stories, loosely connected by the wanderings of the Blessing Stone through the ages. I liked the earlier stories, but the further on we got in history, the more boring I found the stories. Towards the end I was skimming quite a bit. I did finish, but I was pretty under-whelmed.


The Walking Dead #1
by Robert Kirkman

At first I was a bit confused, because Rick doesn’t look like Rick. And then I wanted to smack myself, because the comic came before the TV series.

I really like the black-white-and-grey pencil work. Minimalistic, but great in telling the story. Very good artwork. By now I made it to volume 15…


The Leopard Prince (Princes Trilogy, #2)
by Elizabeth Hoyt

After the carriage wreck and a bit before the horses ran away, Lady Georgina Maitland noticed that her land steward was a man.

First sentence

Decent world-building, the first few pages had me giggling immediately. Good backstory, interwoven well with the main plot. The evil landowner is very evil indeed. The main characters are colourful and well drawn. Georgina and Harry are likeable and believable. For a historical romance the usual tropes are fairly mild and not too annoying. Sexy times are sexy. Surprisingly good plot. Not terribly suspenseful, although I had a few “Oh no!”-moments. 


Dead Witch Walking (The Hollows, #1)
by Kim Harrison

This book was boring and the main character was not interesting. Potential for great world building, but it was not happening. The narrative was flat, not funny and sloooooow and I have the sneaking suspicion that Rachel is really stupid, not just clumsy. Jenks was the only redeeming factor. The relationship with Ivy really ticked me off. It was a major struggle to finish this book and I doubt it very much that I will pick up another book of this series.


The Painter
by Will Davenport

The first paragraph made me smile. Unexpected opening. An interesting read. I thought the end was a bit rushed. Very funny in parts – I nearly peed myself when I read the passage with Rembrandt’s smelly shoe… Rembrandt’s character was really well developped and very plausible.


Green-ish backlog…

Throne of Jade (Temeraire, #2)
by Naomi Novik

Patrick O’Brien meets Anne McCaffrey. This picks up right where the first book ended. Old-fashioned feel to it, meshes well with other period-dramas I have read of that time. The naval jargon sounds true. Excellent world-building, great scenic descriptions. Good fight and battle scenes. Great travel narrative. However, there can be too much of a good thing. So much detail all the time got a bit boring and I did some skimming to get to the more action-packed bits faster. Those were always excellent.

The plot as such was good, but there were no great surprises. The characters were all pretty formulaic and stereotypical. None of them went through any noteworthy growing pains. I never managed to develop an emotional attachment to Laurence or Temeraire. And all other charaters were merely decorative anyway.

I read through the blurbs of all consecutive novels and quite a few of the reviews. Each book seems to be covering another continent and in at least every other book Laurence seems to be threatened with court-martial and an excecution. Sounds a bit tedious. 


A is for Alibi (Kinsey Millhone, #1)
by Sue Grafton

The first one of this very good crime series. Short and sweet. I keep picturing Holly Hunter in the title role. I even figured out who-dunnit for once, and why! Well, ok, only about half way through the book.

I eventually read 10 books of this series, mostly out of order. Not bad as a whole!


One For The Money (Stephanie Plum, #1)
by Janet Evanovich

Pretty entertaining, but it did not rock my boat. I never continued with the series.


Freya of the Seven Isles
by Joseph Conrad

I liked the prose, the characters were vivid and the setting was great. For someone whose first or second language was not English, Conrad wrote in it beautifully. I am not a big fan of using letters as a plot device to bring the narrative forward, but other than that I enjoyed this story very much, despite the tragic ending.


Mortal Sins (World of the Lupi, #5)
by Eileen Wilks

The story centered around Lily and Rule, it is set in the here and now, werewolves play a large part of it and the plot that developed in Blood Lines is picked up again. It’s a cop story with shapeshifters, ghosts and magic. I liked the new characters, especially the cops and FBI agents. A nice addition to Wilks’ world.


Immersed (The Clockwork Siren, #1)
by Katie Hayoz

Well written, vivid imagery, enticing main character, good backstory, well-paced, not too predictable. I haven’t read a lot of steampunk, so I can’t say if the setting worked for that. I liked it. The world building was great, I was transported there right away, down to the muck squelching in my boots. I would wish for more details on the automatons, to flesh out the imagery. Nice touch of explaining a little bit about Chicago before the start of the story.

Small set of characters, likeable, believable, nobody is silly or too stupid to live… I am not into mermaids as a rule, but here they were nicely evil and not the too sweet Disney version. Dark mermaids and Steampunk, I could do more of that!


Ok, Top Fifteen Wednesday — I got carried away! It was really hard to find purple covers on my shelf!