Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

Month: September 2020

Childhood Revisited

My childhood as a reader was influenced by the series we all know and love, mainly Harry Potter and His Dark Materials. But beyond that, I was obsessed with books by German author Kai Meyer. Last year I saw him at a reading and he announced that one of his trilogies was about to get a fourth book. I was hoping it would be one of my childhood favourites, either The Wave Walkers (US, or The Wave Runners in the UK) or Dark Reflections. Indeed, it turned out to be a fourth book for Dark Reflections and I was thrilled. Of course I had to read the original three books again – while I remembered loving them, the details were really blurry.

The three books (The Water Mirror, The Stone Light and The Glass Word) take place in an alternative reality, in which Venice is a city alive with magic, living stone lions and mermaids. But there is a threat from the Egyptian Empire, which has conquered most of the world except the Russian Empire and Venice. While the Russians are protected by none other than Baba Yaga, Venice is protected by a mysterious presence called the Flowing Queen. The story itself follows Merle and Serafin, who are at the right place at the right time to save the city from being handed over to the Egyptians on a silver plate. Which leads to Merle drinking the essence of the Flowing Queen, escaping on a flying stone lion to set off on a trip to literal hell to get help and Serafin joining resistance forces in the city.

I loved the books as a child – next to this paragraph you can see the German edition of the first one – but reading them again now I was often irritated by the wild mix of concepts. Magic, hell, sphinxes, mermaids, sea witches, flying stone lions, Egyptian priests, traveling through mirrors, parallel worlds, seasons incarnated, …. it’s a lot to take in and sometimes does not fit together seamlessly. I still enjoyed the reread because it was so nostalgic, and I’m looking forward to getting to the fourth book.

Reading it as an adult you may come across some weird plot devices that seem extremely far-fetched, but I think younger readers will still enjoy this as much as I did in the past. One of the main reasons is that Kai Meyer manages to write believable female main characters. Many (or probably most) of his books are centered around girls and they are most definitely not princesses who need rescuing. The Wave Walkers for example is about a pirate girl who can walk on water. Geeky twelve year old me was totally on board for that.

Everyone loves Murderbot

Murderbot is a security bot who hacked themself, is addicted to serials, and tries to make its way in a world where they would be instantly killed/reset if someone discovered them. Additionally, Murderbot constantly has to save humans either from the harm they try to bring to themselves or other catastrophes.

It has been some time since I read All Systems Red, the first of the Murderbot novellas, by Martha Wells. But I had a recent discussion with my boyfriend, who mostly listens to audiobooks while driving and slowly moves his way through my favorite books: He complained that he did not know any female sci-fi authors. He only listens to German audiobooks, and I am pretty devastated by the small number of audiobooks available that fit the pretty loose description of > sci-fi, female author, in German <. But there was Murderbot.

I devoured the other books in an effort to keep up, and now, after 4 novellas and a short story, I love Murderbot even more. I have read the English books, and cannot say anything about the quality of the translation or audiobook narration, but the novellas are a fantastic read.

Murderbot resonates very much with me, and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the next book!

September Buddyread Reveal

Our September Buddyread book arrived a little late because it was released in the middle of this month. But it is well worth the wait. Once again we managed to guess (and hope for) the right book.

This month we will be reading Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. Its description is wonderfully mysterious. A house with a labyrinth and an ocean in it, a friend called the Other and messages appearing out of nowhere. This is what we know about Piranesi’s life, and it is enough to become interested.

The cover draws you in, and because of it the book appears to have some ties to Greek mythology. But who knows what this slim book really has in store for us.

The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite.

susanna clarke, Piranesi

Seven more books, please!

I was so excited when I heard about this book! Seven Devils by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May is the start of a space opera duology and was an incredibly good read.

The Tholosian Empire is run by a cruel dictator and an AI that programs its citizens to obey. This is the story of seven rebels trying to bring it down. And it kicks ass.

The authors take the feeling of Star Wars, mix it with heists and sprinkle a fast-paced storyline on top. It works incredibly well and I would wish for a movie adaptation of this instead of Star Wars Episode “Let’s cut out diverse characters”.

I’ve already been a fan of Laura Lam’s books, and I’ll definitely check out Elizabeth May’s books.

Ugh, so cliché!

One To Watch by Kate Stayman-London, published 07 July, 2020.

Unpopular opinion! Contains spoilers!

The premise: plus size woman, who is body positive and fashionable, is looking for love on a The Bachelorette-like show.

Bea is a plus size fashion blogger. She’s been pining after her best friend for years. They share one night together after which Ray, who’s engaged, basically ghosts Bea. After a wine induced social media rant about a reality TV show, the producers of the show want Bea to be their next bachelorette to find love among 25 contestants.

Bea is hesitant to go on the show, knowing what kind of trolling she might have to deal with due to it. She still signs the contract and meets the initial 25 men. The majority of them are handsome and not at all what Bea had expected. Here we get my first big issue: although body positive on the outside, Bea is not very positive on the inside. She’s insecure and despite the evidence pointing to the opposite she thinks the men despise her for her size.

I have the feeling that the author had a list of boxes that needed ticking while writing this book. Include a gay person, a black person, an asian person, someone asexual, someone who’s gender non-conform, someone with a fat-fetish, … They are all there! Are they handled well? Nope! Scratched at the surface of what would have been possible. Used as cliché? You bet!

Same for the body positivity. Do we get to see Bea eat healthy? Enjoy a dance lesson? Nope! We are being told that she eats healthy, but then her shopping list contains only snacks, not a single veggie. She tells us she does yoga and cross fit, but nearly freaks out when some of the love interests are personal trainers. Perfect opportunity to show that you don’t have to be stick thin to be fit.

Ray! Bleurgh! A guy who cheats on his fiancée with his best friend? Then there is radio silence? And she keeps pining after this guy?! A girl who takes her best friend to bed knowing he’s engaged to another woman? *hand me a bucket, please* Suddenly he shows up, a week before the finale show, to make sure she knows he loves her before she accepts the hand of another man. Bea’s best friend Skypes in and tries to reason with Bea, but, of course, they argue about the idiot who has been stringing Bea on for the past decade. And, of course, on their date Ray has lots of arguments why he suddenly noticed that Bea is the woman he wants to spend his life with. *where’s that bucket?*

Cue the very predictable finale!

2 very generous Goodreads stars

Nuns in Space

I know it sounds weird, but Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather is indeed about nuns in space. It portrays the lives of the sisters of the Order of Saint Rita as they navigate among the stars on their mission of mercy.

So far I have enjoyed every single Tor novella I picked up, and this one is no exception. While the nuns’ initial mission was to spread the Catholic faith, their main focus has become answering calls for help, healing and blessing people. Although it is about a convent, there is not too much of a religious backdrop. At first it is a little difficult to differentiate between the sisters, but after a short while they evolve into a very diverse and interesting cast of characters. Even their Reverend Mother has something up her sleeve.

The plot itself revolves around what happens when the sisters answer a distress call from a recently visited colony. The sisters prove to be tough, intelligent and capable of making hard decisions to help others.

A really interesting aspect of the story is the convent’s ship, Our Lady of Impossible Constellations. In this version of the future, ships are living, breathing organisms bred for the different requirements of space travel and trade. I wondered how it wold be to live inside one of those ships, always hearing a faint heartbeat wherever you go.

It is always impressive when an author manages to build such an interesting world in the form of a novella. I would love to read more set in the same universe.

TheLadyDuckOfDoom update: Can confirm, this novella is fantastic. Go read it!

Glaswegian Urban Fantasy

Ink & Sigil by Kevin Hearne, published 27 August 2020.

Why haven’t I read any Kevin Hearne before? This was pure Urban Fantasy fun set in Glasgow, Schottland.

Al(oysius) MacBharrais, Scottish sigil agent in his sixties, is the sort of protagonist you seldom read about. The widower and grandfather was cursed in his past, which makes him rely heavily on a text-to-speech app. He has a fancy moustache and defies most cliches about old people. He is the unicorn among UF main characters.

Al is down-to-earth normal. His interactions with his employees, servants, the fairy deities, trolls, other sigil agents, etc are wonderful. The banter is witty and made me chuckle more often that I expected on the outset. Especially the interaction between Al and his hobgoblin servant Buck are often hilarious.

The magic system of specialised sigils written in handmade inks using strange ingredients and special quills and fountain pens is a very inventive and well-thought out, and yet simple way to build this UF world.

The plot was a bit like some of Terry Pratchett’s books. There was some plot: finding who trafficks fairies and why & finding whoever cursed Al all those years ago, but it got dumped under a load of character introductions. Fine by me, since this is the first book in a new series and the characters need to be introduced.

I loved the accent in the dialogue of the book. What was even better was the audiobook! I got it before I was approved a review copy of the book after it was already published. The narrator, Luke Daniels, although an American, which shines through here and there (*cough* iron *cough*), did a very good job handling the different accents of the extensive cast of characters – e.g. Irish, Scottish, American, Australian, Spanish, Chinese, London.

Last bit, as an anglophile: Dear Kevin Hearne, if you know that a Brit says “flat” and an American “appartment”, why does your British/Scottish MC use the words “cell phone” and “subway station” instead of the British words “mobile phone” and “underground station”?

4/5 Goodreads stars

PS: Cowslip reminded me of Matt Haig’s Truthpixie.

TheLadyDuckOfDoom has since also read this book, and liked it very much, just like all the others (she has read everything else by Kevin Hearne). It was not perfect, but TheLadyDuckOfDoom was in a sad mood and could not really enjoy the jokes. But Al was a really enjoyable main character, I love that he is not 20-something and a superhero, but an older person with a lot going on. She’s really looking forward to the next book!

Haunted on the High Seas

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton, publishing date 01 October 2020.

Here’s what I wrote after reading the sampler:

The excerpt of Turton’s book makes we want to read the full story. No, that’s not true. The foreword by Stuart Turton alone made me want to read this. Fortunately, I’ll only have to wait about 6 weeks until publishing day.

Bonus, one of the male characters shares a name, and some features even, of a family member of mine.

The Right honourable Harpy Eagle on NetGalley

I might have squealed, or done a little happy dance when I received an e-ARC of this book. Having enjoyed Turton’s debut novel The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, I was really looking forward to his new book.

The book is set in the early 17th century. A ship loaded with spices and other valuable cargo is setting off from Batavia (Jakarta in Indonesia) on an eight month journey to Amsterdam. On board of the ship are several nobles, lots of musketeers and sailors, the best detective in the world and his assistant, and ‘Old Tom’, the devil.

Turton writes very vivid main and secondary characters. His descriptions of the life on ship and the ship itself are detailed but never boring. The story’s pace is good throughout and keeps you turning the pages, because you need to know who’s behind all this.

Why am I not giving this book 5 stars? I kept wondering throughout the book how some of the characters managed to obtain their information; character A finds out something, which two chapters later is used by character D, who shares it with character F. But there’s no mention of A talking to D at all.

4/5 Goodreads stars

Vampires in the South

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix, published 7 April 2020.

It was hailed as “Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meets Dracula,” a fitting description, I think. It’s a story about middle-class ladies from the US South, endlessly polite and tirelessly slaving away at home to make life easier for their husbands and children.

Did I say polite ladies? I did. Well, polite until you start messing with children, especially their children. Then the book club ladies forget all about their nice Southern manners and realise that their new neighbour is more than just very charming.

If you like your books bloody, with pop culture and some satire mixed with your horror, then read this book. Better yet, get the audiobook. It might take you a moment to get used to the Southern Drawl, but it adds to the atmosphere.

4/5 Goodreads stars

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén