All out war, finally done…

The Walking Dead: All Out War AP Edition
by Robert KirkmanCharlie Adlard (Creator)

This special Artist Proof edition collects the monumental ALL OUT WAR story arc all in one volume as seen through artist CHARLIE ADLARD’s raw pencils. Read the story in a whole new way, never before collected together in one single volume. Collects THE WALKING DEAD #115-126.

Part 1 — Rick versus Negan with a little help from everyone else. Things do not go well.

Part 2 — The quiet before the storm. Our bunch of heroes draw back and consolidate in the Hilltop and prepare… They don‘t have to wait long for Negan to show up. Kaboom, boss fight!

In my review of the first part of All Out War I wrote that maybe the artwork was getting sloppier. Flipping through the pages of this artist‘s version, purely done as pencil sketches, I have to say that the sketches are very good and I might actually like this better than the inked version.

I wonder what comes next? Well, I have a vague idea from peeking at some episodes of the later TWD seasons. We‘ll see.

Another story arc comes to an end

All Out War Part 2 (The Walking Dead, #21)
by Robert KirkmanCharlie Adlard (Illustrator), Stefano Gaudiano (Illustrator), Cliff Rathburn (Illustrator)

The quiet before the storm…

Our bunch of heroes draw back and consolidate in the Hilltop and prepare… They don‘t have to wait long for Negan to show up. Kaboom, boss fight!

Motherfuck, there is a lot of god damn swearing in this fucking thing. I don‘t generally mind, but even I think that this is a bit over the top.

This volume collects The Walking Dead #121-126. 

This is now all past the point where I stopped watching the TV series. I am tempted to go back and pick it up again in… season 6, I think.

And now what? Before I delve into A New Beginning, I will skim through The Walking Dead: All Out War AP Edition:
“This special Artist Proof edition collects the monumental ALL OUT WAR story arc all in one volume as seen through artist CHARLIE ADLARD’s raw pencils. Read the story in a whole new way, never before collected together in one single volume.“

Millennial banality with zombies

Severance
by Ling Ma (Author), Nancy Wu (Narrator)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

“The end begins before you are ever aware of it.“

Odd book. The beginning feels like Covid-19 reimagined, bacterial instead of viral. Or rather it’s prophetic, as it was written in 2018. Apocalyptic/dystopian on the surface, it reads more like literary fiction. Commentary on capitalism, consumerism, the life of millennials, hopes and aspirations and the reality of making ends meet, the occasional boredom and banality of everyday life and work.

A long look back at the depressing/monotonous life of the MC. Average millenial with average job, living an average-sounding life of the relatively well-off. Illness strikes, an outbreak at first and then a pandemic. People seem to wind up as harmless zombies, wandering about and repeating tasks of their living past. Society as we know it ends. Our MC eventually leaves New York and joins up with a group of other survivors.

The backstories of the MC and her parents, Chinese immigrants to the US, take centre stage for most of the book. Which made me question if the apocalyptic setting was just a gimmick, to draw more readers. There is an odd amount of narrative about the MCs book production job. This had me wondering even more, what the whole point of this book was supposed to be. The dystopian elements only play a small part.

One of my GR friends described this as a „a slightly disguised New Adult Contemporary coming of age“. It’s a bit deeper than that, but nails it pretty well.

The audiobook narrator sounded pretty bored and laconic for most of the book. Or depressed? Pretty similar to how the MC felt about her life before the apocalypse.

The last few chapters made up for the indifference I mostly felt towards this story. The ending is pretty open, which I usually hate, but it gave a nice sense of purpose and possibility here.

Swashbuckling fun

Sorry for the long break in posts. I am back from my holiday and the first week back at work was busy. I mostly watched TV in the evenings. I also finished another of my books for the StoryGraph Reading Randomizer challenge. It‘s been a really useful challenge so far, helping me to regularly and easily pick from my TBR pile of owned books.

The Iron Duke (Iron Seas, #1)
by Meljean Brook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Officially marketed as PNR, but much more steampunk-pirates-zombie-swashbuckling fun. 

Alternate history, where the mongol hordes continued their advance through Europe and had something extra to help them along. England was conquered and subdued, until the Iron Duke freed it. Our MC, Mina, is a police inspector at Scotland Yard, dealing with a murder. She crosses his path and together they have to solve a conspiracy and save England again.

When picking this up, I feared that there would be a huge amount of silly PNR, but luckily this was more adventure yarn than silly romance. Don‘t get me wrong, romance can be a lot of fun. But PNR has this tendency of being peopled with especially stupid characters. Anyhow, this was not it. There was some of the required drama at the end and some over-the-top sex with that big member and with slightly dubious-consent issues. I just blinked and kept going. 

Good plot, a speedily told adventure story, good world building, believable characters, a slightly different take on Steampunk keeping it interesting — the nanotech is a nice addition. Loved the parts on the air and sea ships, although this London was well rendered as well.

Excellent brain candy! I had fun.

Normally I would say that I will continue with the next book in the series, Heart of Steel, but it centers around Yasmeen, a character of this book that I didn‘t particularly like and that I am not all that interested in. I would definitely try something else by the author though.

Other books read, containing stories by Meljean Brook

Must Love Hellhounds (Sookie Stackhouse, #9.2; Guild Hunter, #0.5; Kate Daniels, #3.5; The Guardians, #5.5)
by Charlaine HarrisNalini SinghIlona AndrewsMeljean Brook

Read in 2011. I don‘t remember anything of this story, but must have liked this at the time. It‘s part of The Guardian series. Angels were never my thing, even back in the day when I still regularly and obsessively read UF and PNR. Hence I picked another series by the author to explore her writing further.

The job was simple: find her boss’s niece, bring her home safely, and hand out a whole lot of pain to whoever had abducted her. But Maggie hadn’t counted on her boss’s nephew, the hellhound who loved to make her life difficult, or her own past rearing its complicated and ugly head.“ — https://meljeanbrook.com/books/the-guardian-series/must-love-hellhounds/

The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance
by Trisha Telep

Read in 2015. This is what I noted down back then:

Very good, 5 stars:
Paranormal Romance Blues, Kelley Armstrong (vampires, demons) – FUN!
John Doe, Anna Windsor (angels) – I don’t like angels, but this was a positive surprise.
The Tuesday Enchantress, Mary Jo Putney (guardians) – very entertaining, good sense of humour, I might get something longer by this author.
Trinity Blue, Eve Silver (demons, sorceres) – fun! I want to read more of this.
Night Vision, Maria V. Snyder (light bender): fun as well. The heroine is blind in daylight and has absolute vision at night. Refreshing idea.
Pack, Jeaniene Frost (werewolves): excellent werewolve story. Likeable characters. Reads like the first chapter of a book I want to finish reading.
Blue Crush, A Weather Warden story, Rachel Caine (djinn, mermen) – fabulous, loved it. Snark, humour, great characters from the get-go. I was fully immersed in the story right from the start. Taking a break right now to finally read that first book of the Weather Warden series.

Good, 4 stars:
Grace of small magics, Ilona Andrews (revenants, magic battle) – slow build-up, too fast ending, but entertaining.
Temptation of Robin Green, Carrie Vaughn (selkies, vampires, the lot…) – nice, nothing earth shattering
Daniel, C. T. Adams and Cathy Clamp (vampires) – Generally not a bad plot, but the story had a very abrupt ending.
Pele’s tears, Catherine Mulvaney (gods, alternate reality): Instalove, nicely written, characters I could easily relate to, story not terribly exciting, but a nice idea.
Blood Song, Lynda Hilburn (vampires, magical healing powers) – Fun, neat plot idea, a little simplistic, but might be tempted to try more by the author.
The Princess and the Peas, Alyssa Day (fae, fairytales) – complete and utter fluff, with a princess, some fae and a little humour.
In Sheep’s Clothing, Meljean Brook (werewolves) – pretty decent werewolf story. Nothing earth shattering, but I already have one of her books on my shelf to check her out further.

Ok, 3 stars:
Taking Hold, Anya Bast (werewolves) – good plot idea, sounds like it could be an interesting series. Reminds me a bit of Patrica Briggs. But I did not like the tone of the writing very much.
Light through Fog, Holly Lisle (alternate universes) – a little too sweet for my taste.
Once A Demon, Dina James (demons, vampires): nice plot idea, but the characters were a little wooden. Nothing earth shattering.
When Gargoyles fly, Lori Devoti (gargoyles) – the initial idea, a woman waking up a gargoyle, is not bad. But the plot has a twist that feels rushed and not believable. And Instalove is not my thing.
The Lighthouse Keeper and His Wife, Sara Mackenzie (gods, alternate timeline) – the lighthouse keeper gets a second chance.
The Dream Catcher, Allyson James (mind reading, wish fulfillment) – unusual idea, not badly written. But a bit too shallow for my taste, too sweet and characters that are too black and white. Plus Instalove.

Not for me, skimmed, 1-2 stars:
Succubus Seduction, Cheyenne McCray (succubi, faeries) – the plot was daft, the characters were silly, too much saccharine.
How to Date a Superhero, Jean Johnson (superheros) – a lot of talking, not much happening, not interested in those superheroes.
At Second Bite, Michelle Rowen (vampires) – not badly written, but it rubbed me the wrong way. Very cliched. And a man that does not like women has to be gay… Really?
The Wager, A Lords of Avalon story, Sherrilyn Kenyon writing as Kinley MacGregor (Merlin) – ramble, ramble, ramble, nothing happening, DNF. Must remember to never again buy anything by this author. Was underwhelmed by her novels, too.

Last, but not least, have a holiday photo!

Getting ready for war

March to War (The Walking Dead, #20)
by Robert KirkmanCharlie Adlard (Illustrations), Cliff Rathburn (Illustrator)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Another one in the endless comic series of The Walking Dead. Getting ready for that ultimate confrontation with Negan. 

At the Hilltop. Maggie is dealing with something not to be mentioned to avoid spoilers… Rick is rallying the troupes against Negan, with varied results. People are tired and want to live in peace. Jesus helps. Aaand… that‘s not going so well. Almost.

In the meantime the classic supply run is happening… ?

There is more of the Kingdom as well. Oh oh, measuring the length of… whatever. Michonne wins…

This one probably reached new heights of profanity. So many shit and fuck and variations thereof on one page, page after page. Must be a new record.

Rick has to really become the leader they all need….

Because Negan is going to war…

“This volume collects THE WALKING DEAD #109-114, the prelude to ALL OUT WAR—the epic battle that will change the world of THE WALKING DEAD for years to come.“

From the blurb

My January 2022

And the first month of the year is over already! Here is what read, listened to and watched…

Activation Degradation ★★★★☆, audio, SF, not Murderbot, just ignore that. Different take on robots/cyborgs/AI.
Cursed ★★★★½, Alex Verus #2, ebook, UF, wizards in London battle it out, good fun.
Black Powder War ★★★☆☆, Temeraire #3, ebook, Fantasy, the way back from China to Europe over land, with stopovers in Istanbul and Prussia, set in 1806.
– Fruiting Bodies ★★★★★, short story, SF Horror, a little creepy.
– Life on Earth ★★★★☆, audio, TBR pile, David Attenborough narrates his book, natural history.
– The Sweet Rowan ★★★★¼, ebook, TBR, sweet Regency romance, set in Scotland, with a wee bit of magic.
– Saga #55 ★★★★☆, eComic, SF, finally back after three years of waiting.
– The Marrow Thieves ★★★☆☆, ebook, TBR, dystopian YA set in Canada. People have lost the power to dream, except for indigenous people, who are hunted for a cure.
– Tietjen auf Tour: Warum Camping mich glücklich macht, paper, DNF after 84 pages reading and skimming to 150 pages / 55%. Travel anecdotes, nice enough, but very repetitive.

Still reading, carry over into February:
Fire and Ice: The Volcanoes of the Solar System, audio. Fascinating!

Specfic Movies & TV watched:
– The Expanse, S6, Ep. 3-6 ★★★★☆ Season finished. They went off script quite a bit. Not sure yet how much I liked this.
– Foundation, S1, Ep. 4-10 ★★★★★ Season finished. Excellent!
– Venom ★★★¾☆ Entertaining and a little too silly.
– Kingdom, S1, Ep. 1-3 ★★★☆☆ Korean zombie series in a historical setting. Unintentionally funny at times. Different. The people in this have the survival instincts of gnats.

Some StoryGraph statistics:

(yes, the last and first page counts are different, I updates something in between screen shooting the stats… 😝)

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….

Six degrees of Separation, from Scotland in the past to a dystopian England of the future

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‘s starting book is yet again one I haven‘t read…

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, about a 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow. I don‘t want to follow the same trodden path and the amount of books dealing with unhappy childhoods on my shelf is pretty limited, let‘s go with the author‘s last name. Bizarre, but it worked out in the end and my six degrees settled on children, birth and growing pains in different settings…

The Future Is Nigh (Mass Market Paperback) by C. Stuart Hardwick
A collection of previously published short stories of winners of the Writers of the Future Contest. Length varies from 6 to 32 pages. Pretty decent collection. Three really excellent stories, one that didn‘t really do it for me and the rest was ok to fairly good. 4 stars overall.

My favourites: Martin L. Shoemaker, Today I Am Paul: My emotional winner. I want to hug this android so hard. / Marina J. Lostetter, Rats will Run: Great world building, imaginative flora and fauna. / William Ledbetter, Last House, Lost House: Great post-apocalyptic story with a nice twist.

Thinking about short stories, mothers and unhappy childhood led me to The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu. Read the titular story, if you have the opportunity.

“A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees.“

Lovely, truly lovely. And terribly bittersweet and sad. Can be read for free here: https://io9.gizmodo.com/read-ken-lius…

Ken Liu leads me to Ted Chiang almost without pause. And to another mother and child and what effects their shared history has on the world at large…

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. Again, look at the titular story, if you can. It was the basis for the SF movie Arrival with Amy Adams in the lead role.

“Your father is about to ask me the question. This is the most important moment in our lives, and I want to pay attention, note every detail.“

I liked the story and the characters. I have seen the movie several times and like it a lot. The most interesting for me were the differences from the story to the film. Would I have liked the story more or less, if I hadn‘t seen the movie? Did I like it more, because I like the movie? Despite the differences? Probably. Would I have understood the story as well without knowing the movie? Maybe. Did the story add layers to the movie? Possibly.

Another books about mothers and children, at least peripherally, is The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere #1) by Meg Elison. Loved the stroy, although it depressed the hell out of me at times. The audiobook was extremely well done as well. The main character waking up in a hospital and figuring out that the world has ended is a pretty tired idea by now. Nonetheless, the book started on full throttle and was great from the get-go. And horrific. By chapter three I had goosebumps allover and was close to crying. The story had an episodic feel to it, as it follows the midwife on her trip across the country, chronicling her encounters with various other survivors. Very graphic, with a realistic feel to it. 

My final book is yet again about children in a fairly horrific, post-apocalyptic setting. And it brings us back to the island we started this journey on. England though, instead if Scotland… The Girl with All the Gifts (The Girl with All the Gifts, #1) by M.R. Carey. Here children end up in a very different world.


Walking uphill…

The Walking Dead, Vol. 16: A Larger World
by Robert Kirkman,  Charlie Adlard (Illustrator),  Cliff Rathburn (Illustrator)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Outside, scavenging for food, meeting Jesus… Rick is a little psychotic in this one, at least in the beginning. Something good happens and the ending is very upbeat. Oh boy, the next issue is going to be really horrible, right? Because of you-know-who….

Normally my next comics read would be The Walking Dead, Vol. 17: Something to Fear (Comics), especially now, with Negan on the horizon. But I think I need a breather from The Walking Dead. I watched Alita Battle Angel on TV last night — well, I watched bits of it and missed the ending, because I got distracted. Still, it looked good and it turns out that some of the comic is available on Kindle Unlimited. At least I won‘t have gotten the free KU trial for naught! So, next:

Battle Angel Alita Vol. 1 (Gunnm, #1) by Yukito Kishiro

Or option number 2… I just got the Netgalley of this one:

Dark One by Brandon Sanderson

I finally bit the bullet and re-activated my Adobe ID, got the Adobe Digital Editions App and unpacked this comic there… reading app number 4, me thinks? Argh.