Dune [Frank Herbert]

Dune is the first novel in the Dune series by Frank Herbert.
Finished on: 23.9.2021
[Here’s my review of the 2021 movie adaptation.]

Content Note: fatmisia, colonialism, racism, misogyny, rape, homomisia, eugenics

Plot:
Paul is the son and heir of Duke Leto Atreides and Bene Gesserit Jessica. By decree of the Emperor, the Atreides clan just received stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis, home to the valuable spice. That means relieving the Harkonnens, led by their Baron, of their post there – and the resulting wealth. If the Harkonnens hadn’t already been the Atreides’ mortal enemies, they would be now. Just before the Atreides family is moving to Arrakis, the Reverend Mother of the Bene Gesserit comes to test Paul, seeing great potential in him, whose fate seems to be intertwined not only with Arrakis, but the entire universe.

I pretty much hated Dune, and I’m not entirely sure why I struggled my way through it to actually finish it. I’m just very, very sure that I will not be continuing with the series.

The book cover showing a man wrapped in a cloak in front of an orange background. Behind him is a blue moon, his eyes also are a shining blue.

[SPOILERS]

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Re-Read: Tintenblut (Cornelia Funke)

Tintenblut, translated as Inkspell, is the second book in the Inkworld Trilogy by Cornelia Funke.
Finished on: 9.9.2021
[Here’s my review of the first book.]
[Here’s my first review of this book.]

Plot:
Dustfinger has finally found somebody who promises to read him back into his book – Orpheus. Orpheus keeps his promise, but also double-crosses him. So Farid stays behind and the book falls into the hand of Mortola and Basta. Farid knows he has to catch up with Dustfinger to warn him, so he returns to Meggie who lives with her parents Mo and Resa, as well as her aunt Elinor and the reader Darius in Elinor’s estate. When Farid tells her about Dustfinger returning, Meggie is dead-set on going to the Inkworld herself – together with Farid, of course. But she’s not the only one looking for a way in. And once in, the Inkworld is not without its own dangers.

Much like the first novel, Tintenblut is not the easiest read and it does take a while to get through it (and that’s not just because it’s a pretty long book). But I did like how Funke continues her world and her characters. I’m looking forward to the grand finale.

The book cover showing a mosaic of illustrated letters like at chapter beginnings. There's also twi figures under a tree at night, a portrait of a lady, the toers of a castle, a bird sitting on an open book, and a few figures around an open fire in the forest.
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Die verdammte Karte: Dawid vs. Goliath (J.S. Hartmann)

Die verdammte Karte: Dawid vs. Goliath [literally: The Damned Card: Dawid vs. Goliath] is the first novel in the Die verdammte Karte trilogy by J.S. Hartmann. [As far as I know, there is no English translation yet.]
Finished on: 6.9.2021
[I received a copy of this book to review, or, as they say in German, this post is Unbezahlte Werbung.]

Plot:
Dawid is kind of famous in Russia – as a freeclimber, he has a very popular youtube channel where he climbs stuff, the higher the better, legality is optional. During his most recent endeavor, he falls, though – and wakes up in Germany instead of Russia, his legs buried in the asphalt of a busy road. Not surprisingly, this circumstance draws attention. On the one hand, there are Nora and Salim who work with Popov and who seem pretty worried about Dawid, but also don’t tell him much. On the other hand, there is the psychologist Dr. Manthey who Nora, Salim and Popov insist has sinister motives. Really, Dawid doesn’t want to know about magic or special abilities, he just wants to go home. But it doesn’t appear that he has this option anymore.

Die verdammte Karte: Dawid vs. Goliath is a good read with likeable characters in an interesting world. I enjoyed it – and I’m looking forward to the next installment that is due to be released soon.

The book cover is drawn like a playing card with white lines on black background. We can see the King of Diamonds, holding a card that shows himself in one hand and a pocket watch in the other. He is wearing a top hat and a monocle and mirrored at the waist.
(c) Chaos Pony Verlag
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Queer*Welten 04/2021

Queer*Welten is a queer-feminist fantasy and scifi magazine, edited by Judith Vogt, Kathrin Dodenhoeft and Lena Richter. Issue 4 contains three short stories and an essay.
Finished on: 23.8.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other issues.]

I’m not much of a magazine reader, but Queer*Welten is an absolutely lovely magazine that offers such a wide array of topics that I always find something in it that I love, and find more than a few somethings that I really like. This issue is no exception.

The magazine cover showing an illustration drawn with biro of two circles that seem mirror images at first, but differ when you look closely at them. They show rivers, plants, insects and fish.
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The Constant Rabbit (Jasper Fforde)

The Constant Rabbit is a novel by Jasper Fforde.
Finished on: 17.8.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism and fascism

Plot:
In 1965, an as of yet unexplained Anthropomorphising Event took place that transformed 18 rabbits into intelligent, talking human-sized beings. Ever since, they have multiplied and become a part of society. What part exactly that is, is a hotly-debated topic. The UKARP (UK Anti-Rabbit Party) that wants to see rabbit rights strictly limited has garnered much momentum. Peter Knox works for RabCoT, the Rabbit Compliance Taskforce, but sees the mounting leporophobia around him with concern. When a rabbit family moves in next door, and he realizes that he knew Connie, the mother, in college, it becomes ever more obvious that Peter will need to choose a side.

The Constant Rabbit is not subtle in its allegory, but its so supremely weird in the most wonderful way that it never feels preachy. It’s instead a deeply political, funny and revealing book.

The book cover, shwoing a white rabbit in a business suit in front of a red background.
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Pizza Girl (Jean Kyoung Frazier)

Pizza Girl is the first novel by Jean Kyoung Frazier.
Finished on: 11.8.2021

Content Note: stalking, alcoholism

Plot:
She is 18 years old, pregnant and works as a pizza delivery girl. Living with her mother and her boyfriend who seem way more excited about the baby than she is, she has no idea where to go from here. She doesn’t even want to think about it. Then she delivers a pizza one day to Jenny and her son. Something about Jenny’s apparently chaotic life and her ponytail draws her in, and Jenny, too, seems to take an interest in the “Pizza Girl”, as she calls her. She starts waiting and hoping for Jenny’s call to the pizza place every week – but soon that isn’t enough anymore.

Pizza Girl should be a heavy book but somehow Frazier manages to keep it light and quick despite the many difficult topics she touches on. While I appreciate that, I would have also liked to feel the heaviness a little more. That being said, it’s certainly a memorable novel and a very good debut that will stay with me.

The book cover showing a graphic of an open, empty pizza box in front of a black and pink background.
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The History of Bees (Maja Lunde)

The History of Bees is the first novel in the Climate Quartett by Maja Lunde. I read the German translation (Die Geschichte der Bienen) by Ursel Allenstein.
Finished on: 9.8.2021

Content Note: misogyny

Plot:
1852, England. William is a biologist who dreams of studying bees. But after a professional setback, he hasn’t managed to get out of bed for months now. Maybe he’ll find new energy, though.
2007, Ohio, USA. George is a bee farmer, hoping that his son Tom will follow in his footsteps. Tom has other plans, though.
2098, China. Tao is one of many human pollinators, doing her best to fill in for the bees who disappeared and left agriculture and with it humanity in a life-threatening situation. But the work is hard and pay is meager.

The History of Bees is an okay read, at least once you get through the first half. While I found the topic interesting, the execution was difficult for me to enjoy.

The book cover showing a bee lying on its side as if dead.
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Cry of the Firebird (Amy Kuivalainen)

Cry of the Firebird is the first novel in the Firebird Faerie Tales series by Amy Kuivalainen.
Finished on: 5.8.2021
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]

Content Note: fatmisia, racial slur (g*psy)

Plot:
Anya grew up right on the Russian-Finnish border with her grandfather. But he just passed away, and Anya is still reeling from the loss, and doesn’t really know where to go from here. An option she didn’t expect was that Tuoni, Finnish God of the dead would show up in person to leave her with hints about a magical world that her grandfather was somehow part of. And that Anya needs to become part of, too, and quickly before dark forces crosses through the border from Skazki – the border her grandfather maintained. The border she should be maintaining now. Fortunately Tuoni leaves her with a gift from her grandfather, and Anya soon finds not only danger, but also allies.

I really liked the setting of Cry of the Firebird, which was a bit like I thought the Grishaverse would be before I read it. The story didn’t work that well for me, though – but I do see potential that this series could grow.

The book cover showing a stylized silver firebird on a blue, starry background.
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Last Guard (Nalini Singh)

Last Guard is the fifth novel of the Psy-Changeling Trinity Series (or the 20th novel of the Psy-Changeling Series) by Nalini Singh.
Finished on: 1.8.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other books in the Psy-Changeling series.]

Content Note: child abuse, (critical treatment of) ableism

Plot:
As part of the Mercant family, Canto is well-connected and has always been protected by them – meaning that despite the fact that he doesn’t conform to Psy ideas of perfection as he’s a wheelchair user, he could still rise in the family ranks and is now in the unique positions to bring together a Psy designation that has been mostly forgotten: the anchors like him. One of those anchors is Payal Rao, tough CEO of the Rao family conglomerate and Canto know that he needs her cooperation to make his plan of an anchor union work. What he didn’t expect when they finally meet in person, was that he actually knows Payal from when they were children – and their old connection immediately comes back to life again.

Last Guard gives us quite a few new perspectives in a world that has been firmly established – not an easy thing to pull off without feeling shoehorned in, but Singh manages it. And I liked Payal and Canto, making the book a full success for me.

[Let me just take a quick moment to say that I can’t believe that I read 20 books in this series, not counting the short story collections, within well over a decade and I am still having fun with the series as a whole.]

The book cover showing an Indian palace with palm trees, overlayed with a woman standing, overlayed yet again with a man's face, all in pink and black.
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Ruin and Rising (Leigh Bardugo)

Ruin and Rising is the third novel in the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo.
Finished on: 29.7.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other two novels.]

Plot:
The Darkling has taken over Ravka, and Alina, Mal and the handful of grisha who still remain had to go into hiding with the Apparat and his worshippers, a solution that is uncomfortable to say the least. Plus, Alina has other plans than to remain the Apparat’s protectee-slash-prisoner. She hatches an escape plan to look for Nikolai, hoping he is still alive, and to find the firebird, the third amplifier that should finally give her the strength to defeat the Darkling once and for all.

Ruin and Rising is a fitting ending for the trilogy in as much as it has just as many issues as the first two books and I never really grew to love it, although it was good enough to keep me reading.

The book cover showing the shape of a phoenix or firebird in red colors on a black background.

[SPOILERS]

Read more, with SPOILERS