Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

Month: October 2020 Page 1 of 2

Clap When You Land

This story by Elizabeth Acevedo about two sisters finding each other in the aftermath of their father’s death is not something you should read right before boarding a flight. Which is exactly what I did, because my brain has its slow moments.

Camino lives in the Dominican Republic, Yahaira in New York City. Both have accepted that their father is absent for parts of the year. Little do they know that their father is dividing his time between their respective families. On his way to visit Camino, the plane crashes. Their father’s death leads to the sisters oncovering his secret, and they finally meet each other as Yahaira flies to the Domincan Republic for the burial.

This is my third Acevedo, and I have enjoyed every one of them. Her novels are always told in verse. This is something you have to get used to at first, but it really lends a beautiful frame to the stories. In Clap When You Land, different points of views slowly intertwining seamlessly reflects the sister’s evolving relationship. A little caveat – there are a lot of Spanish words scattered throughout the book. They really fit the mood, and my dusty school Spanish was more than enough, but it might be a little bit confusing.

If you liked Six of Crows…

… you might want to give this a pass. This being Adrienne Young’s latest YA fantasy book Fable, published 01 September, 2020.

Fable is the 17 year old heroine of this story. Left stranded on an island four years ago, she eventually has managed to scrounge away enough money to leave the island. Where to? In search of her father, who had left her on the island, right after his ship drowned with Fable’s mother on board; who had carved a mark into her forearm; whom she wants to prove herself to as a worthy member of his pirate crew.

In order to reach the island where her father has his home port she joins the crew of the Marigold under it’s helmsman West. A vessel Fable had been trading jewels with for the past years.

The premise for the book is great: female heroine, pirates, ships, a crew of misfits, found family, and romance. The delivery though.

Neither character feels fully fleshed to me, they are all rather shallow. Yes, of course Fable’s character has a bit more flesh than the secondary characters, of whom West and Willa are the two memorable ones. I have already forgot the names of the three other members of the crew.

The plot is slow paced and rather boring. Nothing much happens for the first two thirds of the book. The crew sails the ship from island to island to trade. There is banter, there are shenanigans, but it’s all just foreplay for the last third of the book. Then suddenly so many things happen at once that it is difficult to keep up and then we are left with a cliffhanger.

The romance also happens from zero to sixty. First West hardly interacts with Fable and then, after one kiss -granted that underwater kiss was well-written- there are confessions of love? That’s way too fast.

Other reviewers have compared this book to Bardugo’s Six of Crows. I cannot see the connection. Yes, we do have a crew of misfits. Yes, West might be the brooding type with a rather dark streak. Yes, there is two-facing, there is cunning, and there is “sleight of hand” involved in this story; but, in my opinion, it doesn’t even come close to Six of Crows.

Devils and Witches in Sicily

Kerri Maniscalco’s The Kingdom of the Wicked, publishing date 27 October 2020.

Kingdom of the Wicked is set in Sicily in late 19th century. We meet Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria, who are witches following a long tradition in their family. From birth on they have been inducted to protect themselves by charms and wards to avoid falling into the hands of the wicked princes of hell. Something they’ve heeded nearly always. Nearly always. When her twin is killed Emilia feels responsible. She raises a demon to help her find the killer and take her revenge on him, but she is in for a surprise.

Her ally soon turns out to be one of the seven princes of hell himself. Do I need to spell it out for you how close the two of them might become? Or will she keep holding up her torch for her childhood friend turned monk?

You might think it is a bit predictable. It is, but it has a very inventive magic system and the world building is executed quite well. If you like Kerri Maniscalco’s writing, you’ll certainly enjoy this first in a new series.

3.5/5 stars so that’ll be 4 Goodreads stars

Dead Mountain

As mentioned in a previous post, I am (perhaps weirdly) fascinated by mountaineering books and the disasters that often accompany them. Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar falls firmly into that category. It is an account of a mystery that leads to the death of nine experienced hikers in the Russian Ural Mountains.

In 1959, nine university students – all of them experienced hikers – set out on a trip that was supposed to earn them the next hiking grade. The group surrounding Igor Dyatlov died under circumstances that still lead to confusions decades later. The bodies of the hikers were found outside their tent, all of them without shoes and proper clothing. Their tent was cut open from the inside, giving the impression that all of them fled into the night in a panic. While most of them died from spending the pitch-black night in freezing temperatures, violent injuries were found on some of the bodies.

In his book Eichar tries to find a plausible explanation for the events on the titular Dead Mountain that does not involve conspiracy theories. In 1959, the investigation was wrapped up with the explanation that the hikers left their tent because of an “unknown compelling force”, after all. We are talking about Soviet cover-ups, rocket launches, strange lights in the sky and radiation readings. A big part of my fascination with this book was caused by the photographs reproduced from the hiker’s cameras, supported by translations of their journal entries. This made following their story almost a personal matter.

I was very satisfied with the (scientific) conclusion Eichar provides in the end, although probably only one of the hikers could have told us what really happened that night.

Alchemy might just drive you mad

A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe, published 13 October 2020.

I was drawn to this book the moment I saw the cover of the ARC on NetGalley. It’s gorgeous, don’t you think? Add to this the premise: Thea is a young female alchemist trying to make the Philosopher’s Stone. Although fully aware that the Alchemist’s Curse might hit her, as it did her mother, she pursues the idea even if the price might be her sanity or life.

It’s 1792 in France, Thea feels underappreciated by her mother. Her mother is close to finding the solution to making the Philosopher’s Stone, but the curse that follows every alchemist attempting to make the stone has made her mad. Thea has to flee to Oxford, to find her father, who doesn’t even know that she exists. She writes to her friend Will, her mother’s former apprentice, who had to leave for Prussia several months ago, hoping he’ll find her in Oxford rather sooner than later.

Trying to make the Philosopher’s Stone from her father’s laboratory in Oxford proves difficult. Soon Thea and her father’s assistant have to run for their lives, meeting up with her mother’s former apprentice in London. They aren’t safe there either, because, of course, the Philosopher’s Stone attracts attention from unsavoury characters.

I had trouble with the rather shallow characters, the pacing of the different parts of the novel is off, and I think not going deeper into the sexism towards women in science of the time is a missed opportunity.

3/5 Stars

Thank you to the publishers St. Martin’s Press and Wednesdaybooks for the review copy that I received through NetGalley.

This is How You Loose the Time War

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone is an unusual book which was suggested by Wolf when I visited Otherland a couple of weeks ago.

It is at the same time lyrical, poetic, and easy to read, straightforward and confusing, a sci-fi time travelling novelette and a romance novel as well. I think hardcore sci-fi fans might find this irritating, but I am always here to try out unique, genre defying books. I read almost everything in one sitting, and I think I only needed a day to finish the whole book (I was on vacation, so I had the time).

I read the book at just the right moment, it was the exact thing I needed. A solid 5/5 stars rating!

It’s May Day 1983 in Great Britain…

This is how Garth Nix’s latest Urban Fantasy The Left-Handed Booksellers of London starts. Published 22 September 2020.

Don’t you just want to know what the title means? And if there are left-handed booksellers, are there right-handed ones, too? And ambidextrous ones?

As I said in the title of this post, this UF is set in May of 1983. We follow Susann, who has just turned 18 and is moving to London to earn a bit of money before her first term at art school starts. Her mother gave her a few names of friends, who Susann intends to visit. Alas, on her first evening at her uncle’s place, she encounters her first Left-Handed Bookseller of London. Needless to say that this is where the fun starts. Susann will have to run for her life and learn about the secret world hiding behind the bookshelves of the regular world.

I liked it all. The characters are wonderful and lovable, or hate-able. The world-building is very inventive. Yes, it’s an UF built on the UK of the 1980s, using all the fads and fashions of the time. As soon as you enter the world of the booksellers though, you see the genius behind Nix’s work. It’s all believable. And that’s what makes a good UF for me. The pacing is medium to fast, which works well, given that the whole story takes place within the month of May.

Definite recommendation!

5/5 Stars

PS: there are ambidextrous booksellers *squeal* – Where can I apply? 😉

October Buddyread Reveal

Wow, the Otherland-Team really surprised us this time. Neither of us expected their pick for this month’s buddyread: Natalie Zina Walschots’ Hench.

It’s – and here I go by the blurb alone:

A sharp, witty, modern debut, Hench explores the individual cost of justice through a fascinating mix of Millennial office politics, heroism measured through data science, body horror, and a profound misunderstanding of quantum mechanics.

Natalie Zina Walschots, Hench – blurb

Our buddyread plan is to read it over the next four weeks, starting today. The book has 399 pages. We’ll read to page 99 until next week Tuesday, then until page 196, the next section is up to page 293, and the final bit brings us to page 399. I’m curious as to whether we can stick to this plan. It’s supposed to be a fast paced read, we might not be able to stop ourselves.

The Necromancers are back

… or in other words, the second book in Tamsyn Muir’s Locked Tomb Trilogy hit the shelves; Harrow the Ninth was published 4 August, 2020.

It’s a bit tricky to talk about the book without giving too much away. Harrow starts several months after the point where Gideon the Ninth left us with a cliffhanger. Harrow is a new Lyctor now and should be training to be a full Lyctor soon, but something is off. You’ll notice this right away due to the unusual POV. The other Lyctors around her, as well as God, have strange habits, interesting names and are more fully-fleshed people than deities that need to be worshipped should be.

I enjoyed this “middle book” very much, mainly because it does NOT suffer from Middle-Book-Syndrome!!! Muir manages to propel the story forward and give Harrow enough room to develop her character further. There is a cast of familiar and new secondary characters that enrich the mystery of what is going on around Harrowhark the Lyctor.

I am looking very much forward to getting my grubby hands on Alecto the Ninth. The epilogue of Harrow might have teased at her story.

5/5 Goodreads stars

The Year the Albatross Came to the South-Western Halls

… was a special one for Piranesi, but we will not tell you why. No, not at all. This month’s buddyread is a book that is best read without knowing anything about it. I will not even assign a genre to this one. Susanna Clarke’s newest book Piranesi is about it’s titular main figure, living in the mysterious House and trying to figure out it’s secrets and pecularities. That’s really all you need to know.

When starting the book, we set a schedule. That’s what we always do to space out the reading over the month so that it doesn’t feel like too much of a task. But it was such a page-turner that we couldn’t stop ourselves from overshooting. We all finished it within ten days instead of four weeks.

The epistolary novel is told through Piranesi’s meticulous journal entries, so we learn about everything that’s going on in his pace. Through it all you experience his sense of wonder and gratefulness for the House that is also home. His character develops over the course of the book in a very interesting way. Our own RightHonourableHarpyEagle enjoyed the audiobook as well, and the voice acting by Chiwetel Ejiofor reflected Piranesi’s progress as a person.

It was a five star read for all of us, and another amazing buddyread pick.

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