Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

Month: June 2020 Page 1 of 3

Feisty – guilty pleasure

Feisty by Julia Kent is the third book in her “Do-Over” series, published January 28, 2020.

Fiona earned her nickname ‘Feisty’ in seventh grade. She’s hated the name and the accompanying image ever since and did her level best to change into the Fiona people know now. An incident in her classroom not only brings Feisty back into Fiona’s life, but also her nemesis Chris ‘Fletch’ Fletcher. When the waters have calmed and Fletch seems to be interested in her, Fiona needs to ask the universe, this time not with her divining rod, whether the stars might align for the both of them.

Confession time, I read or listen to Julia Kent’s books whenever I need a break from what’s going on around me. You might expect a light, fluffy read with some sizzling sheet action, but Julia’s books also have well-researched depths where you might not expect them. This time one of the ‘extras’ is a woman with Multiple Sclerosis. As a fighter against the MonSter myself (that is not a typo, that’s how I call my MS), I wrote to Julia to let her know that those paragraphs made me cry and that I appreciate her putting real people into her stories, people with flaws, illnesses, problems.

Feisty has all the things I know and love from Julia’s books. There is a feisty (yes, pun intended) heroine, a handsome man who can handle her and her quirky besties (Fluffy and Perky – both have their own books), lots of banter, puns, double ententre, romance, realism, blind dates, and a lovely HAE.

Erin Mallon, the narrator of the audiobooks in this series, does a wonderful job. She managed both Fiona’s and Chris’s part very well. Her voice was the perfect accompaniment to my literal jam session.

July Buddyread Reveal

We received our next surprise packages and our July buddyread is The Sunken Land Begins To Rise Again by M. John Harrison.

The author is new to all of us, but comes with a big recommendation from our favourite bookstore. It’s supposed to be a weird ride, so let’s see where he will take us. In the blurb we get a hint about conspiracy theories, disappearing people and a Victorian morality tale. And what are those sunken lands again? With 250 pages it’s a rather short read that poses a lot of questions without even reading page one.

Urban Fantasy, not only for kids

The Identity Thief (The God Machine #1) by Alex Bryant, published February 29th, 2020.

This is a middle-grade or tween Urban Fantasy Adventure I’m glad I didn’t miss out on. It was well-written and well-plotted and, although targeted at the considerably younger than me audience, it wasn’t boring or patronising its readers. There is nothing worse than having the feeling the author has to explain everything because they think their audience is made up of rather uninformed (aka dumb) 12 year-olds.

The villain of the story is a person called the Cuttlefish, who is stealing magical books. Although stealing books seems pretty harmless, Cuttlefish goes to extreme lengths to get the full set of magical books, he’s stealing identities and nixing people all over Britain.

The heroine – okay, let’s say main character – is Cassandra ‘Cass’ Drake, 12 y/o. She lives with her mother near London’s famous Highgate Cemetery, where her father has been buried. Cass is a typical tween, seeking approval from her friends she can be quite unfriendly towards the new boy Hector, whom she met at the cemetery.

Hector and his mother live in an old mansion house, with Greek writing over the door. He’s trying to become Cass’s friend, but Cass is mortified by the idea, because her posse might find out. Hector being prone to seizures and socially awkward doesn’t help him making friends either.

For most part of the book we have two story-lines. There’s Cass and her friends, Hector, school, her mother, Hector’s mother – and lots of pre-teen drama. Bear with it, trust me. And then there’s Cuttlefish’s story, him stealing identities and books, for a reason we don’t know for a very long time. When the paths eventually cross, lots of stuff makes sense and the rest of the story is even more of a blast.

The magic system is based in ancient Greek, which makes people with Greek roots, like Hector and his mother, likely users of magic and therefore suspicious. Maybe that’s why Cass’s mother, a police officer in the special branch for magical policing, is so keen on befriending the family?

The story is full of twists and turns. To not overload the reader with lots of explanations the chapters are interspersed with pictures, notes, and newspaper clippings. This helps avoiding information dump. The Urban Fantasy setting, the humour, the slightly dark themes surrounding Cuttlefish reminded me of Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant.

I am looking forward to the next book in this series.

Proud to be a Bad Feminist

Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist is one of those books that pops up on every ‘feminist books you need to read’ list. I’ve read and loved Hunger and An Untamed State, so I was familiar with some of her background story and her gut-punching writing style.

While circling through different topics, this essay collection opens and closes with pieces on what it means to be a ‘Bad Feminist’ and I whole-heartedly agree with them. Gay’s bottom line in her last essay is this: ‘I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all’, summarizing my thoughts on the matter exactly. There are so many inaccurate myths about feminism that do not offer enough room for all the contradictions day-to-day life presents. Just because I identify as a feminist does not mean I can’t listen to bad rap lyrics or that I have to stop shaving immediately.

This essay collection covers more topics than I would have expected and I especially appreciated the section about race & entertainment. I remember enjoying Kathryn Stockett’s The Help a lot, but Gay’s essay about it really made me wonder if my brain was even turned on back when I read the book. Everyone of us needs more eye-opening moments like that.

Also, if you ever wanted to know something about the hidden depths of competitive scrabble, this collection has something for you.

This was only a 4/5 star read because I missed out on some of the political or pop culture references, but that might be different for readers from the US.

The Greek Mythology Fanfiction You Need

This is a public service announcement for anyone who – like me – has listened to Stephen Fry’s Greek Mythology books Mythos and Heroes multiple times and needs more while waiting for the release of Troy.

Some weeks ago I fell down a Goodreads rabbit hole and discovered Lore Olympus, a WEBTOON comic by Rachel Smythe. I’m usually not a big fan of romance stories, but you have probably never seen anyone tear through more than one hundred episodes as fast as I did.

It is a fun way to scratch that Greek mythology itch, although it does not strictly follow the original lore. I enjoyed the different take on Persephone and Hades’ story that manages without abduction and Stockholm syndrome. There are still some triggers, but there are always warnings in place if you prefer to skip those scenes. In the later episodes, trauma and grief are handled in a very delicate way.

While life on Earth takes place in the time of Ancient Greece, everything on Olympus is very modern – think smartphones, night clubs and Gods driving sparkling sports cars. It makes for a very entertaining contrast. I could go on and on about how I love to see all those mythological personalities portrayed in a very human way. Persephone and Hades have such a sweet dynamic, Hermes is the buddy we all need and a certain someone will forever be Asspollo in my mind. No, that’s not a typo.

Season 1 is done and the next season starts on August 2. So if I got you interested, right now would be the perfect time to jump on the bandwagon and start with episode 1.

June Buddy Read: Goldilocks

No, not the one with the bears. Laura Lam’s Goldilocks is about a team of female astronauts trying to save humanity’s future by embarking on a mission to a planet in the Goldilocks zone. Earth is on the brink of an environmental collapse, and their destination planet Cavendish seems like a perfect place for a new home.

Their mission is an act of defiance against the oppressive government – although their captain Valerie Black was the one who planned it, they were replaced by an all-male crew. But Valerie gathers her team anyway, stealing the ship to start for Cavendish.

Most of the story is focused on Valerie’s adoptive daughter, Naomi. The first half is told in chapters alternating between their time aboard the Atalanta and snatches of the past on Earth. In the chapters taking place on Earth we get the sense that while the planet is dying from severe environmental damage, especially those with the money to change something do not really seem to care. Ironically, this includes Valerie and Naomi.

On the outset, Valerie’s team presents a very united front, even as some hard choices need to be made. But soon some darker secrets and hidden agendas are revealed that unhinge the social dynamics on board. The plot twists are not extremely surprising, but make sense as you get to know the characters a little bit better. The ending tied up a bit too neatly. Nonetheless, it was a highly enjoyable read and I will definitely keep Laura Lam on my radar.

The book is marketed as a thriller and compared to The Martian and The Handmaid’s Tale – none of those qualifiers really fit. Yes, the main character Naomi is a botanist, but this is where similarities to The Martian end – it is nowhere near as scientific and definitely missing the humour. The parallels to The Handmaid’s Tale can be seen in the way the government treats women, although it is certainly not as extreme and throughout the book the focus shifts more and more towards the claustrophobic situation on the Atalanta. It is hard to say which genre describes this book best. The speed with which the plot develops is too slow for a thriller. It is not a typical action packed sci-fi plot, as the focus is almost completely on the characters. We Sceptres decided to go with the term literary speculative fiction.

If you are looking for a cozy space read, this is it. And if you want more like it, I would recommend The Wanderers by Meg Howrey.

4/5 Goodreads stars

Tea? Scones? Victoria Sponge?

The Official Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea Cookbook with a foreword by Gareth Neame, publishing date July 07th, 2020.

Battenberg Cake p.56

It was a delight to browse through this review copy. It’s full of wonderful pictures and quotes from the TV series Downton Abbey, mouthwatering pictures of delicacies and recipes, and lots of information about the British Afternoon Tea. Like, what to wear, which blend of tea to drink, which culinary delights to offer for which sort of afternoon tea event, and which tea service to use.

5/5 Goodreads stars

What if your Bodyguard is a woman?

Up Close & Personal by Kathryn Freeman, published June 12th, 2020, turns the gender roles around for a new twist.

Heartthrob Zac Edwards has a stalker and the film studio has decided he needs a bodyguard. Enter Kat Parker, the gorgeous woman, who had literally stumbled into Zac the night before at a studio party.

There is chemistry between the two, right from the start. But, of course, they can’t be together – the reasons why (he’s a job and she seems unqualified for it; she’s an ugly duckling and he’s gorgeous; they are both from the wrong side of the tracks, yada yada) made me strain my eyes rolling, and Zac’s backstory was also eyerollingly underdeveloped. Individually both main characters were good, but when they were together they were acting like angsty teenagers.

The idea behind this book was good, the execution of, though, could have benefited from less exaggerated drama and insta-love.

2.5/5 Goodreads stars (so that’ll be 3/5)

Beach Read on my balcony

Beach Read by Emily Henry, published May 19th, 2020.

It’s been a while since I was so tired from all that was going on around me that I just dove into a book and read it from front to back. When I opened Beach Read I plunged in and only came out when I had finished the book. It was perfect for a lazy Sunday.

Two writers stuck in a rut have nothing in common. They write in different genres, he writes rather dark literary fiction, she writes rom-coms with happily ever afters. They couldn’t stand each other at college. Now they have adjoining beach houses for the summer, either trying to write their next bestseller without much success.

One night they have the brilliant idea to turn this summer into a writing challenge. He’d try to write a book with a happy ending, she’d try literary fiction. He’d take her on interviews for his next book about a death cult, she’d take him on “not dates” that should inspire a rom-com. Neither is allowed to fall in love.

What could possibly go wrong?

This book made me laugh out loud very often, but it also made me cry at a few points. It had a happy ending, of course, but although it was the trope-y ending I might have expected from other romance books, it was totally unexpected in this case.

4/5 Goodreads stars

Spies and Aliens in Cold War East Berlin?

That’s basically what made me request the ARC for this GN Strange Skies Over East Berlin by Jeff Loveness and Lisandro Estherren, publisher Boom!, publishing date: August 18th, 2020.

The premise was very interesting, 1973 in East Berlin, a hot-spot of spies from both sides of the Cold War. Some of these spies so deep undercover that they themselves don’t remember who they really are. Into this keg of powder crashes an alien.

This is where the tropes start. Spies distrust each other and everyone else. Aliens are bad and drive the humans crazy. We never get to know why the alien crashed here on Earth, nor how it can and why it would draw out the secrets from a human’s mind.

It feels like two different stories, forced together; or one story where a large part of the plot is missing.

The story doesn’t contain any fresh elements to the tropes mentioned. The artwork is okay-ish, but nothing outstanding. There is nothing new here but the setting.

2/5 Goodreads stars

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