Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki, published 28 September 2021.
This was weird, but in a good way weird. A hopeful story about identity and finding your place in the world, or should I say universe?
A deal with the devil leads former violin prodigy turned violin teacher, Shizuka, to seek her latest young music genius in San Francisco. Katrina is a runaway recently arrived in the city whose most priced possession is a cheap Chinese violin. Shizuka has a year to turn Katrina into a star violinist and so lift the curse on her soul. There is absolutely no time for anything else in her life, but then she meets Lan Tran. She's a mother of four, and her family of galactic refugees is selling donuts while secretly creating a stargate on the roof of their donut shop.
5/5 Harpy Eagles
January Fifteenth by Rachel Swirsky, published 14 June 2021.
The near-future Sci-Fi novella follows four women on the day when the Universal Basic Income (UBI) is paid by the government to the citizens of the U.S.
The author prefaces the novella that she won't go into how the UBI came about and/or how it is organised.
I assumed the story was about how the UBI shapes and influences the four women's lives, but somehow this was only lightly touched on. In the end it was speculative fiction depicting one day in the lives of a divorced mother of two who's escaped an abusive relationship; a rich college girl bored at her privileged party in Aspen; a jaded reporter taking care of her transgender teenage sibling; a pregnant teenaged member of a polygamist cult.
Interesting, but I was hoping for more depth.
2/5 Harpy Eagles
Amongst our Weapons by Ben Aaronovitch, published 12 April 2022.
I am a fan of the Rivers of London series and I re-read part of the series and caught up with the ones I hadn't read yet to enjoy this ninth instalment. Yet, somehow I am left a bit wanting.
I wanted to see more Nightingale, more banter between Master and Apprentice. Nightingale is a great character and the more domestic Peter became during this book, the more Nightingale could have taken the limelight.
Dear Mr Aaronovitch, please give Thomas more page space next time around. Also, let us know what happened to the rings. Thank you!
3.5/5 Harpy Eagles
A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne, published 03 October 2017.
I am not a fan of epic fantasy. Mainly because I like to know where the journey is going and epic fantasy, to me, is more like taking the extra scenic route that doesn't end in the destination but at a way point from which you then carry on (in the next book).
Hearne's first novel in the Seven Kennings series is no exception. There are many stories within the framing story. Following all those different characters to the end to find out how those different plot lines lined up was tough, for me (see above).
I felt interested enough to see it through to the end of the book, but I won't read the other novels in the series. I am going to stick to Hearne's Urban Fantasy.
Almost 2 years ago, I wrote a raving review about Seven Devils by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May (I now also learned to spell the name correctly. Apologies to the author).
Seven Mercies concludes the action packed sci-fi duology. I was kindly provided with an ARC via Netgalley, but kept pushing the book back on my TBR. Now I also have a signed copy on my hands.
The story starts several months after the end of the first book. I heard it should originally have been about a pandemic, but due to the current world state, most of the book was changed. But I don’t think the quality suffered at all. Filled with a lot of action and the fantastic cast of characters, the book ties every lose end together nicely, finishing the story in a clashing, but satisfactory crescendo. Not entirely unexpected maybe, but I did not expect this book to surprise me. Found family space action seems to be my comfort reading genre of choice.
The Salvagers series begins with A Big Ship at the End of the Universe. War veteran, former treasure hunter and reality TV star Boots Elsworth is not only a magical anomaly – born without a mark that let’s her do magic – but also barely scraping by.
Nilah Brio is blessed with the mechanists’ mark. This particular form of magic lets her trace a glyph to interact, hack, und tune all kinds of machinery. And she is a soon-to-be racing champion – think the podraces of Star Wars Episode 1. This all changes when she is framed for a murder. Desperately trying to escape, she crashes into Boots’ office. 5 minutes later, Boots’ former war officer, now Captain of the Capricious, demands Boots’ services again, searching for a treasure everyone thought long gone and takes Nilah as a potential bounty with them.
Nilah wakes up in custody on the Capricious, having been at the wrong place at the wrong time. Framed for a murder, she has a bounty on her head and nowhere to go.
Without spoiling too much, of course they all end up working together to unravel various mysteries and an even deeper secret during the three books.
Neither Boots nor Nilah are particularly likeable at the start of the book, but this is a story of redemption arcs of a ragtag spaceship crew – so give them time. The rest of Capricious’ crew makes up for that in the meantime.
The characters reminded me of tabletop RPGs (if you don’t play one yourself, you might at least have heard of Critical Role), how the most unlikely bunch of people end up working together, diving headfirst from one problem into the next, holding together even when the darkest of pasts catches up to one of its members.
Let’s sum it up: Found family, space, magic, racecars, and a treasure hunt. What more could you possibly want?
In my post about the first book in the “Take Them To The Stars” series by Sylvain Neuvel, I mentioned that bloodlines are important; they still are in book two of the series Until the Last of Me, published 29 March 2022.
The first book started in the 1940s, with Mia, the one hundredth incarnation, extricating Wernher von Braun from Nazi Germany. The second book starts in 1968, Mia is a middle-aged woman and has to flee from the Tracker with her young daughter Lola. Their flight takes them to the US, where they try to live an inconspicuous life, which is not very easy especially once Lola turns into a teenager.
Without giving away too much of the content of the book, it follows the two women and the family of the Tracker with flashbacks to earlier incarnations of the two bloodlines. There is also a quest when a former friend of Mia’s mother sends them pictures of a bow, which belonged to one of their fore-mothers and has a message carved into its sides.
The story takes us from the Moon Landing, the Space Race, the Voyager probes, to the Spaceshuttle, but also to Victorian London, ancient Egypt, as well as Iron Curtain Russia and China.
Neuvel left the story at a mild cliffhanger. This means, that although part of the plot has been wrapped up, there are, of course, some things unresolved. I’m wondering where he’s taking us next, apart from To The Stars.
3.5/5 Harpy Eagles (that makes it 4/5 stars on Goodreads)
Braking Day by Adam Oyebanji, published 05 April, 2022.
The cover and title were the things that drew me to this ARC. I immediately wanted to know answers to all the wh-questions. When I then opened the book, I noticed that it said “Revolutions Book 2” on the very first page. So, obviously, I searched the internet to find out which first book in the series I might have missed. Turns out I didn’t miss a book, this is Oyebanji’s debut novel. Well, it reads like a “not the first” novel in a series. I’m not saying it has middle-book-syndrome, it is a good standalone. It would have been an even better standalone with a tiny bit more background information.
We find ourselves on board a generation ship on the way to Tau Ceti. The inhabitants of this ship, and the two other accompanying vessels, have been on their journey for 132 years or six generations. They have reached the point on their route, where Braking Day is upon them. The day the ship will turn and the thrusters will start decelerating the vessels for about a year to get them into orbit of Destination World.
Our main character is Ravi MacLeod, a midshipman training to be an engineer. Coming from a family with non-academic/non-officer class background it is hard for him to work his way up within the seemingly tight social classes on board. What makes Ravi so special? I am tempted to say he is a chosen one. Sounds YA Fantasy, but in fact he is. He’s the one with the vision of a girl floating outside the hull with no spacesuit on. He’s the one with the voice inside his head and the weird dreams. He’s also the one with a non-law abiding family and hence has had “special” training as a kid and a family to help him out of a tight spot. Especially his cousin Roberta, called Boz, who’s extremely good with technology. And he’s the one who will make sure Braking Day will happen.
Here’s what I didn’t like about the book – it’s not much:
The feeling that I am not reading the first book, hence knowing I am missing some information. I puzzled it together reading the book, yet I am sure there is a “Revolutions Book 1” on Oyebanji’s hard disk and I would love to read it.
Well-known phrases turned so that they fit the generation ship. Instead of ‘for God’s sake’ people say ‘for Archie’s sake’ – the ship is called Archimedes. People do not ‘keep it straight’, they ‘keep it circular’ – because of the rings that make up the ship; which is a very clever world-building strategy. Still, they’ve been out there for only 132 years, or six generations, language does not change that much in such a short time.
Here’s what I liked about the book:
The book is packed with action, conspiracy, good banter, illicit tech, sabotage, and a deadline that they cannot afford to overshoot, literally.
The world-building is very well thought through to holidays, inter-ship sports events and protest organisations, even if I am grumpy about the phrases.
Ravi’s struggle of being true to his family, true to his home/ship, true to his chosen position in life is very real. He’s not only trying to keep his sanity (girl floating in space, voices in his head, dreams), he’s trying to do right by all the people around him.
TheHatchling#1 (aka my son) re-re-…-re-read the Murderbot series so many times, since he just couldn’t find anything that kept his interest, that I was actually very happy when he read and liked Six Wakes and then alerted me to the Indranan War series after he had read the first chapter that was printed as a teaser at the end of Six Wakes. We decided to do a buddy-read, which ended with TheHatchling#1 reading all three books and then nagging me to get started already since he wanted to discuss.
Since we want to avoid any spoilers we’re only reviewing the first book in the series, Behind the Throne by K.B. Wagers, published 02 August, 2016.
Meet Hail: Captain. Gunrunner. Fugitive.
Quick, sarcastic, and lethal, Hailimi Bristol doesn't suffer fools gladly. She has made a name for herself in the galaxy for everything except what she was born to do: rule the Indranan Empire. That is, until two Trackers drag her back to her home planet to take her rightful place as the only remaining heir.
But trading her ship for a palace has more dangers than Hail could have anticipated. Caught in a web of plots and assassination attempts, Hail can't do the one thing she did twenty years ago: run away. She'll have to figure out who murdered her sisters if she wants to survive.
A gun smuggler inherits the throne in this Star Wars-style science fiction adventure from debut author K. B. Wagers. Full of action-packed space opera exploits and courtly conspiracy - not to mention an all-out galactic war - Behind the Throne will please fans of James S. A Corey, Becky Chambers and Lois McMaster Bujold, or anyone who wonders what would happen if a rogue like Han Solo were handed the keys to an empire . . .
The blurb is partly spot on, partly misleading. Yes, Hail is a sarcastic princess-turned-pirate/smuggler who’s been forcefully returned to her home planet, because someone is killing off the members of her family, the royal family. She’s the only direct heir to the Indranan throne left alive and is struggling to stay breathing with assassination attempts from all sides. Although it is more a story of “courtly conspiracy” rather than action packed space opera, the novel is intriguing, and thanks to assassinations, scandals and betrayals there is never a dull moment.
Hail left her home twenty years ago to hunt down her father’s killers. She embraced the life outside the confines of an empirical princess’ life so much that she became a gunrunner and furthermore captain of her own ship. When she’s dragged back into the palace, she not only has to confront her now ailing mother, whom she has had a troubled relationship with, but also cope with her grief for her sisters’ deaths and come to terms with her new role. Moreover, she learns about the role her long-time companion/lover played without being able to reconcile with him.
As mentioned above, the people behind the murders of her family are also plotting to kill her, which turns out not to be as easy as the plotters thought it would be. Hail swears to uncover the conspiracy and bring the culprits to justice.
What we really liked about this book and the following two books in the trilogy: The Indranan Empire is a matriarchal empire built on Hindu/Indian culture and mythology. It has been matriarchal for more than a thousand years which is obvious down to the swearing, Hail calls people out on their “cowshit” several times.
What this book is not: It’s not a Star Wars-style SF adventure/space opera. It’s more Urban Fantasy set in an SF environment; taking place in a solar system far from our current one, there are space ships and futuristic technology, and there are alien races. There are no epic space battles, we hardly see the inside of a spaceship, and Hail is definitely not a female Han Solo. Whoever came up with that comparison might not have read the book they were writing the blurb for.
The writing: It is a character driven story told from the first person POV, Hail’s. This might mean that you need some time to warm to Hail, especially since she has the tendency to be a bit melodramatic. Further the writing style of this debut novel is ‘a tad bit’ exaggerated, but we soon ignored that the world came crashing down around Hail and that the air was sucked from her lungs, since we were drawn in by the plot enfolding and the secondary characters being more fleshed out. And while we, along with Hail, learned who she can trust and who is nothing more than a two-faced sycophant, Hail also proved that she is a strong ruler who cares for her people.
Someone in Time is a short story anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan, publishing date 10 May 2022. All stories centre around the topic of time travel and finding love. As a fan of time travel novels and romance novels, this was right up my alley and I am glad I was approved for an advanced copy. I enjoyed reading about the different time travel devices, all were as diverse as the authors of and protagonists in the stories.
Even time travel can’t unravel love
Time-travel is a way for writers to play with history and imagine different futures – for better, or worse.
When romance is thrown into the mix, time-travel becomes a passionate tool, or heart-breaking weapon. A time agent in the 22nd century puts their whole mission at risk when they fall in love with the wrong person. No matter which part of history a man visits, he cannot not escape his ex. A woman is desperately in love with the time-space continuum, but it doesn’t love her back. As time passes and falls apart, a time-traveller must say goodbye to their soulmate.
With stories from best-selling and award-winning authors such as Seanan McGuire, Alix E. Harrow and Nina Allan, this anthology gives a taste for the rich treasure trove of stories we can imagine with love, loss and reunion across time and space.
Including stories by: Alix E. Harrow, Zen Cho, Seanan McGuire, Sarah Gailey, Jeffrey Ford, Nina Allan, Elizabeth Hand, Lavanya Lakshminarayan, Catherynne M. Valente, Sam J. Miller, Rowan Coleman, Margo Lanagan, Sameem Siddiqui, Theodora Goss, Carrie Vaughn, Ellen Klages
I particularly liked Zen Cho’s story about an M/M couple that had recently broken up. The MC of the story uses a machine that allows him to experience his past lives. Every time he uses the machine, he meets his former partner. It is soon clear that this person is his soulmate and they belong together, but can he win him back in his own time, his real life?
This collection allowed me to discover and re-discover some of the finest speculative fiction/science fiction/fantasy authors out there. Surprising to me was that I actually liked the short stories from authors that I had read full length novels by before and didn’t like; a second chance romance.
If you are looking for a palate cleanser in between some longer books, pick this up and read a story from it. Actually, I dare you to manage to read just one story at a time. I couldn’t do it, I read the whole book in one sitting.
Dear Readers, this is the first review about a German book in German. I will not translate this review into English. I’m going to leave my short description of this book here instead: It’s a very philosophical sci-fi novel featuring an aging, sexually frustrated inquisitor and his AI assistant with a very misogynistic holo-Barbie appearance, as well as a handful of ascetic monks and their ethically compromised AI.
Athos 2643 – Nils Westerboer – erschienen am 19. Februar 2022 bei Hobbit Presse, Klett-Cotta.
Beschreibung des Verlags:
Auf Athos, einem kleinen Neptunmond, stirbt ein Mönch. Rüd Kartheiser, Inquisitor und Spezialist für lebenserhaltende künstliche Intelligenzen, ermittelt. An seiner Seite: Seine Assistentin Zack. Schön, intelligent und bedingungslos gehorsam. Ein Hologramm. Für Rüd die perfekte Frau. Doch das Kloster des Athos verbirgt ein altes, dunkles Geheimnis. Rüd erkennt: Um zu überleben, muss er Zack freischalten. Das Jahr 2643: Der Neptunmond Athos ist zum Schauplatz eines unerklärlichen Verbrechens geworden. Die lebenserhaltende KI des Klosters steht im Verdacht, gemordet zu haben. Inquisitor Rüd Kartheiser, ein Spezialist im Verhören künstlicher Intelligenzen, wird mit dem Fall beauftragt. Zusammen mit seiner attraktiven holografischen Assistentin Zack, die ihm durch eine Reihe von Sicherheitsbeschränkungen absolut ergeben ist, erreicht er den kleinen, zerklüfteten Mond. Doch die Ermittlungen der beiden treffen auf Widerstand. Während Zacks anziehende Erscheinung bei den Mönchen Anstoß erregt, entpuppt sich die KI des Klosters als gerissene Taktikerin, die ihr Handeln geschickt verschleiert. Als sich unter den Mönchen ein zweiter Todesfall ereignet, begreift Rüd, dass er mehr als je zuvor auf Zacks Hilfe angewiesen ist. Um ihr Potential auszuschöpfen, trifft er – hinsichtlich ihrer Sicherheitsbeschränkungen – eine folgenschwere Entscheidung.
Die Menschheit hat aus irgendeinem Grund irgendwie das Sonnensystem bevölkert. Die Technik hat sich weiterentwickelt. Es gibt Klöster. Also hat die Menschheit weiterhin Religionen, vermutlich monotheistische patriarchale Religionen.
Ein Inquisitor muss in einem Kloster auf einem Neptunmond einen Mord aufklären. Na wenn das nicht nach „Der Name der Rose“ klingt. Wir sind also in der Zukunft, aber sozial doch eher im Mittelalter. Frauen sind an bestimmten Orten verboten und werden, mal wieder, auf ihr Äußeres und ihren bedingungslosen Gehorsam reduziert.
Wie kann man einen Klappentext so sexistisch darstellen? Alles nur Marketingmasche? Steckt hinter dem Buch gar ein feministischer Roman? Wird Zack sich befreien? Wurde der Mord mit ganz viel Finesse durchgezogen? Unter Nutzung der lokalen Begebenheiten und Widrigkeiten?
Mein Fazit – nachdem ich den Roman am Ende von Teil 1 (67%) abgebrochen habe:
Das Buch ist mehr philosophische spekulative Fiktion als ein Science-Fiction-Roman. Die Geschichte mag in der Zukunft spielen, auf einem Neptunmond, es gibt KIs, es gibt eine gruselige automatisierte Fleischzucht, künstliche Gravitation, etc pp. Es gibt ausschweifende, teils extrem langatmige Landschafts- und Planetenbeschreibungen. Es wird mit Sci-Fi Ausdrücken und Abkürzungen um sich geworfen, zu denen oft die (wissenschaftliche) Erklärung fehlt – und nein, ein Appendix, der mir diese Dinge erklären soll, reicht mir hier nicht. Das ist die faule Version eines Sci-Fi-Romans. Abgesehen davon scheinen einige Handlungselemente komplett von den bisherigen spärlichen Erklärungen abzuweichen. So werden, zum Beispiel, die Gravitationsspule und die damit verbundenen Injektionen semi-wissenschaftlich erklärt, und dann ist da dieses Insekt, das offensichtlich der Schwerkraft ausgesetzt ist, bei dem ich mir aber nur schwer vorstellen kann, dass ihm jemand regelmäßig die nötigen Partikel einspritzt.
Wie ich bereits angedeutet habe, der Roman ist sehr philosophisch. Was bei KIs als Hauptcharakteren natürlich nicht weiter verwunderlich ist. KIs in einem Roman fordern geradezu die Diskussion über die üblichen philosophischen, ethischen und religiösen Themen, die als „wer darf über Leben und Tod entscheiden?“ zusammengefasst werden können, heraus. Das macht letztlich auch den Hauptteil der Geschichte aus, das Philosophieren mit den KIs und über die KIs und deren Entscheidungsfreiraum.
Erzählt wird die Geschichte aus Sicht der Gynoid Zack, der KI mit Holoprojektion. Diese Holoprojektion ist fast perfekt nach Rüds Wünschen angefertigt worden, die Brüste sind zum Beispiel etwas zu klein geraten, aber sonst ist sie eine prima Holo-Barbie: gehorsam in allen Lebenslagen, gibt keine Widerworte und lässt sich prima zulabern, wenn Rüd mansplainen muss. Dass sie auch hervorragend seine sexuellen Phantasien erfüllt, erfährt man direkt in der Eingangsszene, einer soft-BDSM Situation. Durch ihre geringe Oberflächenspannung kann Zack nur sehr kurze, sehr dünne Kleidchen tragen. Und immer wenn es Rüd passt, stellt er sie bloß. Egal ob sie dabei gerade allein sind, oder unter Menschen (eigentlich müsste es „unter Männern“ heißen, denn Zack ist die einzige weibliche Figur im Roman). Zack weiß, als auktoriale Erzählerin der Geschichte, netterweise auch häufig was in den anderen Charakteren vor sich geht. Gut, dass sie Rüd einschätzen kann, verstehe ich, aber woher weiß sie so gut über die Gedanken der Mönche bescheid? Das kann nicht alles nur Beobachtung sein.
Die Mordermittlung an sich ist nebensächlich. Mir zumindest war recht früh klar wer es war und warum. Ja, ja, natürlich hab ich nicht zu Ende gelesen und dahinter steckt noch ein größeres Geheimnis, das in Teil 2 des Romans sicher geklärt wird. Aber am Ende des ersten Teils hatte ich definitiv kein Interesse mehr weiterzulesen. Zumal ich schon nach dem Klappentext nicht wirklich Lust auf den Roman hatte.
Ein paar Gedanken, die mir während des Lesens kamen:
Gynoid? Ganz nah an Gynozid. Überhaupt nicht sexistisch im 21. Jahrhundert, oder? Abgesehen davon, warum Gynoid? Also quasi die weibliche Form von Android. Frau-Droid? Dabei ist die Holo-Barbie ja gar kein Gynoid/Android, sondern nur eine KI, die dank eines Emitters holographisch dargestellt wird.
Warum muss Zack aus ihren Wahrnehmungen (über den kugelförmigen Emitter), zum Beispiel in der Fleischfabrik, Schlussfolgerungen über die dort arbeitenden Drohnen anstellen? Als KI sollte sie die nötigen Informationen abrufen können.
Warum kann die KI alles im Raum wahrnehmen, auch wenn der Emitter in Rüds Tasche oder Faust eingeschlossen ist?
Wenn Zack im „mediterranen Raum“ eine holografische Burka tragen kann, warum kann Rüd ihre Kurven dann nicht auch auf Athos mit angemessener Kleidung bedecken?
Im 27. Jahrhundert gibt’s weiterhin klar abgegrenzte Länder. Der Shisha-Bar-Inhaber ist anatolischer Herkunft? Die Gründer der Minen auf dem Athos waren Schweden? Erklärung?
Apropos mediterraner Raum. Wieso wird die Gravitation auf der Raumstation über Neptun(?) wegen des Ramadans reduziert?
Apropos Raumstation – Wasserstoffmeere bedeuten flüssiger Wasserstoff. Wie hält eine Raumstation dem Druck und den Temperaturen stand? Und der dazugehörigen Gravitation des Planeten? Wasserstoff wird erst ab mehreren Giga-Pascal flüssig. Da hätte ich so gern eine Erklärung gehabt.
Die Namen der Charaktere wirken extrem mittelalterlich. Einige der Mönche haben sogar alliterative Namen, ich dachte ernsthaft: ich hab’s kapiert, das hier ist eine Satire! Vor allem wenn man „Zack“ für die Holo-Barbie dazu nimmt; weil sie so auf Zack ist?
Gibt’s auch nur irgendeine sinnvolle Erklärung für die gruselige Fleischzucht? Betonung auf sinnvoll.
Skleroiden gibt’s auch. Wenn ich das jetzt mit Gynoid vergleiche, dann sind das Hart-Droiden. Geschlechtsneutrale Arbeits-Droiden, die wie ein Golem mittels eines Stück Papiers (hier eines Chips) in der Stirn kontrolliert werden.
Wo sind die Frauen? Es gibt nur Holo-Barbie Zack als agierenden weiblichen Charakter. Werden die Männer in Fabriken hergestellt? Diese Idee kam mir, nachdem die KI des Klosters ein Problem lösen sollte und erklärte, dass man auf eine Hebamme verzichten könne, man aber dringend einen Kreisler bräuchte, der mit Seilen umgehen kann.
Das bringt mich zu meiner letzten Frage, was ist ein Kreisler? Stand bestimmt im Appendix, oder? Denn ein Kornfruchthändler (veralteter österreichischer Begriff) wird es wohl kaum sein.
Abschließend kann ich nur sagen, Athos 2643 war definitiv nicht was ich anhand des Klappentexts erwartet hatte. Es war sogar noch schlechter. Ich hatte auf eine Mordermittlung im klassischen Holmes&Watson-Format gehofft; auf eine Holo-Barbie-Watson, die aus ihrem Gefängnis ausbricht; auf mehr Science, weniger Philosophie. Stattdessen hat der Roman das typisch deutsche Sci-Fi-Frauenbild bestätigt: Eine Nackte auf dem Umschlag und „Zacks anziehende Erscheinung“. Ich frage mich, ob ein Roman mit einer weiblichen Inquisitorin und ihrem Holo-Adonis als Assistenten es überhaupt in den Druck geschafft hätte. ABER, das war ja nicht die Botschaft des Buchs, das hab ich sicher alles komplett missverstanden. Ging eigentlich um “Wer darf Gott spielen”.
0/5 Harpy Eagles [bei NetGalley 1/5 Sternen, 0 Sterne mag deren KI nicht 😉 ]
Well, this was a page turner, although or despite not being as bone chilling as I had expected.
Mattie lives in the woods, with her husband William. When checking the rabbit snares she finds strange bear-like tracks. There's a beast hiding on the mountain.
William is much older than Mattie, very brutal and the reader soon understands that something is not right here.
Mattie remembers impossible bits from her past. Three college students are in the woods tracking the creature. William bought bear traps and grenades to kill the beast.
Any idea how this will end?
The sinister part reminded me of Neville's The Ritual. I was rooting for Mattie, but there were moments when I despised her for being such a wuss, nevertheless I kept turning the pages because I wanted to know whether my prediction of the outcome was right.
3/5 Harpy Eagles
Pandora by Susan Stokes-Chapman
Review based on an ARC provided by the publishers.
Pandora "Dora" Blake's parents were killed in an accident twelve years ago. Her uncle took charge of Dora and of the antiquarian shop Dora's parents built and has nearly run it to the ground. Dora knows her uncle is hiding something and eventually finds Greek antiquities in the cellar. She enlists the help of Edward Lawrence, a book binder and antiquarian scholar, to find out whether the items are genuine. Soon they discover that the large vase Dora found has more in store than helping Edward to achieve an academic future and Dora to restore her parents' shop to its former glory.
Pandora is a historical novel set in Georgian time. It's a mystery novel as much as a historical novel. The writing is good. The descriptions of London and the characters are vivid. The three POV give each of the three characters their own voice.
At times, though, the use of anachronistic words took me out of the story, but that might have been rectified before publishing.
3,5/5 Harpy Eagles
Strange Beasts of China by Yan Ge, translated by Jeremy Tiang
In Yo'ang humans and "strange beasts", human-like mythical creatures, live together. Each of the nine interconnecting chapters of the book is dedicated to a different species of "strange beasts". The nameless narrator tells us about the origins, appearances and habits of the different beasts. It was interesting, but the repetitive nature of the stories soon got boring.
It's surrealism, or magical realism.
3/5 Harpy Eagles
Fortune Favours the Dead by Stephen Spotswood
It's the late 1940s. Willowjean Parker ran away with the circus years ago. In New York she comes across the famous detective Lilian Pentecost, who hires her as an assistant.
Fast forward to three years later, Mrs P and Parker are hired to solve a locked room mystery. The widow of a rich industrial magnate was killed after a seance at the family's Halloween party.
The murder could be anyone from the husband's business partner, to the children, the medium present at the seance, to the ghosts of the past.
I liked how Pentecost and Parker faced the usual trials and prejudices of women in that time. It was done well, I never had the impression that the women behaved anachronistically. Pentecost further has to deal with a chronic illness that makes her job very hard at times; from personal experience, I can say that the author depicted Mrs P's problems very accurately.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (GER edition) by Laini Taylor, 2011.
The first book of a YA fantasy romance trilogy featuring angels and demons and a blue haired girl with lots of tattoos. The human girl Karou grew up among chimera. She's an arts student in Prague, but she's also dealing in teeth for her 'adoptive' father, the chimera Brimstone.
When, on one of her errands for Brimstone, an angel attacks her, and subsequently all the doors to Brimstone's workshop are magically burnt shut, Karou has to face the angel Akiva to find answers about her life and a way back to the shop.
I've read Karou's and Akiva's story several times. This time I read it in German with my daughter.
The story is still as good, the translation leaves room for improvement though.
5/5 Harpy Eagles – because we enjoyed the mistranslations very much
The Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari, expected publication 7 June 2022. (ARC provided by the publishers through NetGalley)
A murder mystery set in London in the 1930s with a strong female heroine.
Saffron Everleigh is working on her PhD in botany. As a woman in academia, in the 1930s, she has to fight a lot of uphill battles already. When the wife of one of the professors of the department is poisoned at a party, Saffron is determined to proof the innocence of her mentor.
There are some really villainous villains and a lot of very dumb detectives; and there's chemistry between Saffron and her sidekick.
Brimming with botanical information that isn't at all dull, and, most importantly for me, not too obvious plot twists.
5/5 Harpy Eagles
Evershore. A Skyward Flight novella by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson, published 28 December 2021.
This is Jorgen's story and it's taking place at the same time as the third Skyward Flight novel Cytonic.
Jorgen is trying to master his cytonic abilities. He's training with the alien Alanik. This is how they pick up a transmission from Evershore, the Kitsen home planet. Jorgen and part of Skyward flight travel to Evershore, where they meet Kitsen, see clouds, the sea and beaches for the first time; and find out - among a lot of other things - that sand truly gets everywhere.
4/5 Harpy Eagles
Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows by James Lovegrove, published 2017.
Lovegrove knows how to spin a yarn, just as well as Dr Watson.
Three manuscripts, by Dr Watson, were found. Those manuscripts are the true accounts of what Holmes and Watson faced.
In 1880, logical Sherlock Holmes comes up against the occult for the first time. Lovecraft's Elder gods are roaming Victorian London. Can Sherlock Holmes' rational reasoning handle the inexplicable? Magic?
Has this been done before? Sure.
Did it entertain me? Couldn't put it down.
4/5 Harpy Eagles
Cackle by Rachel Harrison, published 5 October 2021.
Annie, after being dumped by her BF of ten years, moves from Manhattan to a small town in a rural area. The quaint town offers her a new start. Alas, Annie is a doormat and hence gravitates towards the self-confident and charismatic Sophie, who surprisingly wants to be Annie's friend. She wants Annie to recognise her true self. Annie wants her ex back, wants a man in her life, wants to drink her body's volume in alcohol. Honestly, this woman drinks a lot.
Tension? Horror? Not really.
Female empowerment? If that means you should be obnoxious and rude, then no.
Best character, even though he was more like a children's book character, the pet-spider Ralph.